Diablo 4 preview: delicious plastic curd

Update: preview updated

Unfortunately, lately Blizzard has been slowly digesting its own innards fattened during the prosperous years. This includes Diablo 4… Is it a success or just another commercial reflection of the legendary Diablo 2?

Let me start by saying that this article is written based on a trial version where you could only reach level 20 in a couple of days. So, this is a preview, not a full review (which will come a bit later).

So, first, let’s talk about the pros of Diablo 4… although, there are some cons leaking through.

Pros of Diablo 4

  1. Compelling story (it’s overall worth playing the game for it).
    But… some secondary characters are poorly done (Neyrella) – at times, it seems that her lines were generated by ChatGPT. However, the main plot points and cinematics are good, as always.
  2. Decent combat, interesting skill design in places, successful implementation of the skill tree (stolen from PoE and improved).
    But… The number of builds does not exceed the old D2, and at first glance, the design of some classes is worse than in the second part (necromancer, rogue).
  3. Stunning effects. The effects designers outdid themselves.
    But… The game consistently crashes and glitches. Surprisingly raw product, considering it was released almost half a year ago.

    One of the best effects – portal blur. Needs to be seen live; it’s not the same in a screenshot.. )

  4. More gore (inspired by Game of Thrones). More than even in the torturous Diablo 3. Not everyone will see this as a plus, but it’s something new in the series, so to speak.
    But… Too much soap opera and melodrama in the plot dialogues (I want to emphasize again the unnatural, soapy dialogues of Neyrella).
  5. Elixirs crafting. A small, but rather organically fitting feature in Diablo.
    But… itemization itself is as bland as in Diablo 3. No runes, no charms. Mounts were added… which are as redundant as a fifth leg to a dog; I think they were added not because they are “needed” from a game design point of view, but to make money through the in-game store.
  6. Good exploration. Stolen from Guild Wars 2. This is a case where you can praise without any “buts…”. If you like exploring every nook and cranny on the map and marking every place in your achievements list – Diablo 4 has plenty to offer.
  7. Pleasant interface. Some good solutions here and there. The map is very well designed. Convenient teleport system; resource storage; inventory panels.
    But… Illogically set up necromancer summoning skills on the panel. I had to look up a guide online to figure out how to do it. Curses on whoever designed it so poorly.

That’s where the pros end.

The best thing in the game – the effects. Especially well-drawn is the lightning. Lightning Spear – my favorite skill.

Cons of Diablo 4

  1. Dull gameplay in open-world. Outside dungeons, the game is a set of scripted events. There’s no random generation of open-world locations in the open world; only their content is generated… Result: trigger on trigger in narrow static locations. Essentially, the player is a sheep in a narrow pen (hello, Albion Online!). Dungeons are fine; but sometimes you want to breathe some fresh air. Even in Diablo 3, open locations were done better (not to mention the second part).
  2. Level scaling. An attempt to adapt the idea from Guild Wars 2. In Diablo, it didn’t work very well, as it breaks the thrill of treasure hunting, which is quite important in the action-RPG genre. As a result, the gameplay feels like plastic porridge from The Matrix.
  3. Bland loot. A consequence of scaling. It significantly reduces the fun of clearing dungeons – there’s no hype from finding something really valuable and unique. Trading is virtually absent (although they seem to have fixed something in the second season).
  4. Camera angle. Not the most successful (it’s worse in Lost Ark, though).
  5. Drab graphics. The game is not dark (like in D1-2), but pale. Moreover, “saturation” in the game settings can’t be increased. Coupled with flat itemization and level scaling, it’s too… bland.
  6. Very poor music (c). Passable musical theme. Done well – in another game, I would even praise it, but here we have something to compare it with.. Apparently, they skimped on paying Matt Uelman.

In conclusion, we have a commercial project with a large budget, but lacking the soul of Diablo… without the divine spark and with some game design mistakes.

Game Design Features and Mistakes

  • Not-quite-MMO, Not-quite-RPG: Blizzard had the idea to combine elements of MMO and RPG in the Diablo universe. The budget and time were clearly not enough to implement a full-fledged MMO, so what we got is a half-baked product; sort of a pâté made from pigskin that marketers tried to wrap in foie gras.
  • Level scaling kills itemization. No comment needed.
  • Static open-world: By the end of the second day, open-world events start to get boring due to repetitive gameplay. Better no events at all if they can’t be made more diverse.
  • Game price. Undoubtedly, the game is worth its money, if you base it on the calculation that 1.5 hours of entertainment (like going to a movie) costs 300-500 rubles. You’ll spend a good few dozens (hundreds?) of hours before you really start getting bored.
    But.. on the other hand, in terms of money – it depends on what you compare it with. The masterpiece Diablo 2 (costs 10 bucks). There’s the free Path of Exile, where you are given mountains of quality content for free. There’s Torchlight, Last Epoch, and a bunch more. Compared to these games – Diablo 4 is clearly overpriced and should cost $30-40.


I don’t think you can appreciate the beauty of a slowly boiling cauldron, emitting the finest scents…

Diablo 4 definitely has potential, but it’s unlikely to be fully realized. Of course, they will release an add-on(s) and keep making money. Maybe they’ll even add runes or something. But the open-world will still remain a dreary pen; the unsuccessful level scaling and itemization, which can only be fixed by breaking everything and starting over… Will it work? We’ll see.

So, my recommendations regarding the current state of the game: complete the story, try out the season, and then delete it until the next one. Repeat 3-4 times. Wait for the new add-on. Repeat.

This preview is based on my videos about Diablo 4:
1) First Impressions: https://youtu.be/VtfS0IlemO4
2) Early Gameplay with All Classes: https://youtu.be/6QXZD92q_LY
3) Video Preview of the Game: https://youtu.be/cgL4PsNR2us

The game is likely to become (conditionally) free in 2024 (with the release of the new add-on). Currently, it is being sold with a 25% discount to all interested parties, plus invitations are being sent out with a 50% discount – I actually bought the game with such a discount (after this preview).

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