Diablo Immortal Hands-On - The Opening Hours in Portable Sanctuary
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 10:29am 18/12/20 | Comments
Diablo Immortal is Blizzard's new free-to-play mobile entry in the franchise, but you wouldn't know that from playing it.
Diablo Immortal has had something of a dark cloud surrounding its development, at least in terms of perception. Which came about when Blizzard made the error of announcing its existence prior to the big Diablo IV reveal last year. Semantics really, or as they say in a game of racquet-ball, an unforced error. Getting to play Diablo Immortal back when events like BlizzCon could happen in person, the touch controls and overall focus on action did a lot to dissuade concerns. It felt like an extension of Diablo III, both in terms of look and feel.
A sigh of relief that was. Plus, it had that level of polish or style that is pure Blizzard.
With early access to the Technical Alpha, and once again rolling a Demon Hunter (natch), there’s just nothing quite like getting to experience an action-RPG from the get-go. To get a feel for the pacing, the early progression, the loot, the combat, the flow. The stats, the skills, the levelling. When it comes to an action-RPG like a Diablo, there are so many elements in play that getting a sense of it all piecemeal or a bit at a time is the ideal way to go.
But, there’s also the matter of presentation. And it’s this side of Immortal that hits you immediately, from the wonderful score to the overly dramatic voice acting (very reminiscent of Diablo III’s campaign) and the characters and stakes. There's a story here, and plenty of it - with its timeline sitting between Diablo II and III. So yeah, Deckard Cain is back, lovable old coot that he is. And so is the Town of Wortham -- on the account of it still standing. The driver, outside of slaying demons, is to find all the missing pieces of the shattered Worldstone and to stop Skarn, the Herald of Terror, from resurrecting Diablo.
There's a story here, and plenty of it - with its timeline sitting between Diablo II and III. So yeah, Deckard Cain is back, lovable old coot that he is.
As with the audio design the art-style is reminiscent of Diablo III too, from monster designs to how environments look and animate. But a reskin or port this isn’t, Diablo Immortal has been built from the ground up for mobile and there are several new locations, variations, mechanics, and other elements. Everything looks familiar but also different. In many ways an evolution, like a natural extension of Diablo III’s visual language.
On that note the multiplayer and MMO elements like group dungeons and World Events and party queuing that unlocks at a certain point gives it a sense of the grand. And modern too with a Battle Pass system that works, well, like a Battle Pass system. As large as it is, the scale is smaller and in-line with the platform on which it exists. As someone who can’t really remember the last mobile game they played that features touch controls versus tapping on cards or crystals, there’s a surprising amount of polish here. And smart design touches from level design that presents snippets of action and story for those quick sessions here and there to the streamlining of abilities (they all feature a smart variation on cooldowns) and the introduction of ultimates and skill levelling as a means to keep the action fast and engaging.
Now, we would have assumed that based on its reveal two years ago that Diablo Immortal would have been out by now -- but what you find here, in the Technical Alpha feels like the best version of the game to date and then some. The pacing is spot on, being able to move and dodge in an almost ‘bullet-hell’ fashion feels different for the franchise, and the cooldown timers and abilities all execute without a fuss and your fingers never feel like they’re getting in the way. On that front the smart variation mentioned earlier can be seen in the Demon Hunter’s Strafe ability which builds up its own Hatred resource that acts as its own independent duration-style meter.
And even though there’s a lot of screen real-estate taken up by the controls and the quest dialogue boxes and little menu buttons, Immortal’s isometric framing is impressive in how you rarely feel like you’re missing out on seeing stuff.
The pacing is spot on, being able to move and dodge in an almost ‘bullet-hell’ fashion feels different for the franchise, and the cooldown timers and abilities all execute without a fuss and your fingers never feel like they’re getting in the way.
What is new in the Technical Alpha is getting to see how skills and abilities level up and how items look and some of the resources work. Now, will Diablo Immortal feature an end-game currency you can earn or purchase with real money? Yes. There’s also a player marketplace being introduced - on that front Blizzard’s approach there, from what we were told, is anti-Auction House. Anyway all of that stuff is end-game, and during the first few hours, where I got my Demon Hunter up to Level 25 - the loot drops were plentiful, the crafting and upgrading of gear simple, and enemies were more than happy to drop Diablo III-style piles of gold whenever they fell.
The good stuff being that there was nothing in these early hours where it felt like you needed to pay money or felt so underpowered or that the stuff that makes Diablo fun was nerfed to make room for a marketing department spreadsheet approach to progression. In fact the pick-up and play nature, the ease at which you can group up with friends, and the excellent production values and story make Diablo Immortal a treat.
Longevity is it’s own discussion, as is end-game, as is legendary gear, build diversity, and other elements. With items, gems, runes, gold aplenty, crafting, levelling, and a simple skill progression system - Diablo Immortal is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the franchise. It's deep. And as we all wait for Diablo IV, well, I’ll gladly spend at least a few more hours in portable Sanctuary.
The Diablo Immortal Technical Alpha is currently underway in Australia