Review: 'Diablo 4' – A game world teeming with life (or death, rather)

The battle between heaven and hell continues in Diablo 4, the latest chapter in the series with the chief villain Lilith. Hidden within is a gigantic action role-playing game. — Photos: Blizzard/dpa

BERLIN: A universe in which heaven and hell are eternally doomed to fight each other and where humans crushed in between. This is Sanctuary, the game world of the “Diablo” series. And with the latest instalment, “Diablo 4”, everything gets a little worse.

At the beginning of the game, the demon Lilith is resurrected. She’s the daughter of hate and at the same time the co-creator of the human world. She seduces people to give themselves fully to sin and it doesn't take long for this to lead to problems.

"Diablo 4" has become much darker than its predecessor and uses a lot more elements of horror and gore. It's true that the story itself isn't necessarily worthy of an award, but Lilith, for example, is a complex villain who has clear motivations for her actions.

Things remain as dark as ever in Diablo 4.Things remain as dark as ever in Diablo 4.

But if truth be told, that's not really what “Diablo 4” is about. Rather it’s mostly about slaughtering monsters and demons, and getting better and better with your chosen hero or heroine.

Choose your character

At the beginning there are five character classes to choose from: Barbarian, Necromancer, Wizard, Hunter and Druid, each one available in male and female form. All of them bring their own talent trees, specialize in certain weapons, and play very differently.

For example, while the barbarian jumps straight into the fray, the necromancer instead creates a small army of skeletons to fight for her. With the talent trees, a lot can be adapted to your own playing style.

A class of their own: Necromancers in Diablo 4.A class of their own: Necromancers in Diablo 4.

On the one hand, the characters get better and better through experience points, which they get for completing tasks and killing monsters.

On the other hand, it's mainly about loot – weapons, equipment, and items that fall out of killed monsters or crates. Every item that appears is a potential upgrade for your character.

And because the unattainable goal is to get the perfect hero or heroine, things really pick up after the main story. Then it continues with a greater level of difficulty and you are introduced to the endgame.

Open world with MMO elements

In the game world, which is quite open compared to its predecessors, there are events. For example, there’s the Hell Flood, in which you fight strong enemies and collect things that you can use to get crates.

Huge world bosses appear at certain times and are very difficult to beat. Then there are nightmare dungeons, which are filled with lots of strong monsters and good loot. You can also engage in direct combat against other players.

"Diablo 4" has taken on more elements from massive multiplayer online games (MMO). In the overworld, especially in cities, you meet other players, with whom you can kill monsters together or complete events.

However, the game is not primarily intended as an MMO, the game’s director at publisher Blizzard, Joe Shely, told dpa: "There are many who play Diablo alone or with only a small group."

Riding through the forests of Diablo 4 is one of the easier ways to discover the big, wide world of Sanctuary.Riding through the forests of Diablo 4 is one of the easier ways to discover the big, wide world of Sanctuary.

He said the world was designed according to what kind of content people play: story and dungeons are reserved for individual players or fixed groups, while the overworld events such as world bosses that are played online include random game endings.

You don’t have to spend money to win

A major criticism of the "Diablo" series in the past has been the game's post-release monetisation with players required to invest real money to get the best loot. However, in "Diablo 4,” only cosmetic items will be sold for real money.

You can't pay for strength, there's no pay-to-win, Rod Fergusson, general manager for "Diablo" at Blizzard, told dpa.

"Part of Diablo 4 is an homage to what came before," Fergusson said, pointing to the dark atmosphere from "Diablo 1", the progression system from "Diablo 2" and the exciting combat from "Diablo 3", combined with innovations like the split open world and freedom of choice in "Diablo 4".

And that sums up the new game pretty well. "Diablo 4" has become a great, modern, action-packed RPG with a fascinating game world full of life (and death). It feels like everything has been well thought out: an interesting story, varied characters, and extensive endgame.

Maybe it lacks a bit of innovation due to the approach of uniting the three predecessors, but it really is a lot of fun to fight through the countless monsters and demons.

"Diablo 4" is available for PCs, the PlayStation 4 and 5, the Xbox One, and the Xbox Series and costs around €70/US$70 (RM320 in Malaysia). – dpa

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