First things first, let’s get one thing clear in our honest Diablo Immortal review: Diablo Immortal is a brilliant app game. As a first-time player of any Diablo game, I have started to see what all the fuss is about. As an app gamer, it’s on another plane of existence. Quite literally.
Diablo Immortal takes place between the events of Diablo II and III. And while there were moments throughout my playthrough where I thought a little extra knowledge on the world around me would have been rewarding (we all love an easter egg or returning character), I never felt lost by the lore. Though that’s probably because it’s pretty cookie-cutter RPG stuff: collect special stones (Worldstones) across several regions to stave off the apocalypse brought about by a demon. It’s standard RPG fare – and I love it.
A compelling sinister plot, a dark and brooding atmosphere and grotesque creatures that would make Lovecraft proud – it’s themes like these that bring out the inner edgelord in all of us. So naturally, I chose to play as a Necromancer.
It’s entertaining to watch a professional death desecrator get all high-and-mighty about the evil deeds of your enemies in the first few chapters of Diablo Immortal. Particularly the one that involves good Necromancers vs. bad Necromancers.
But it was this that placated my otherwise indecisive nature and stopped me from switching classes. When the situation has got a bonafide defiler all morally riled up, you know that stuff’s messed up. Count me in.
And I’m glad I stuck with it. My cowardly sensibilities were more than satisfied as I commanded my two skeletal minions – Skelly and Tony – to fight my battles for me as I pelted my foes with soulfire from afar. It’s not like I couldn’t just re-raise them to subject them to my sadistic bidding ad infinitum anyway. Just to reiterate: I’m still the ‘good guy’.
And I’m not alone in my thinking. I saw many fellow Necromancer running around in my playthrough – and even tackled my first dungeon with one, plus a Barbarian.
To be honest, finding other people running around took me a little off guard. I’m typically more of a solo player – and to Diablo Immortal’s credit, the game can be played solo. Though it is recommended that dungeons are tackled as part of a group, with extra rewards and experience to be gained. But obviously the real rewards are the friends we made along the way.
The controls are among the best I have experienced in an action app game. Moving, interacting and attacking are as smooth as butter in a way that feels almost indistinguishable from using a console controller. In fact, the scheme has been so well optimized that it feels like controller support would be less preferable.
One small touch (pun intended) that I really appreciated was the way in which the left ‘thumbstick’ caters to sausage fingers by jumping from its usual spot to the area you clumsily placed your thumb. Which provides a real boon to maneuverability in the thick of battle.
Everything feels streamlined. You can blitz through the first portion of the game at breakneck speed and really get the impression that you’re a hellish hotshot. Until level 30 that is, where things get decidedly grindy.
Basic attacks are auto-targeted while skills are where quick-thinking and knowhow shine. For instance, one of the most satisfying moments as a Necromancer is managing to time your Corpse Explosion skill perfectly, doubling down on the death-dealing capabilities by blowing up stronger enemies with the corpses of their brethren. It’s devilishly fun.
But will skill alone see you through to the end of Diablo? Of course not. There’s a lot to be said for managing one’s skills and keeping abreast of the action in a dungeon. But there’s a lot more to be said for the loot on one’s back. Ironically, this is where we find the chink in Diablo Immortal’s excessive armor – but more on that later.
Looting, for better or worse, is one of Diablo Immortal’s most defining features. Players are constantly barraged with a deluge of equipment, gems, stones, money, and every other knickknack one can imagine tumbling out of a gaudy treasure chest placed in the middle of a graveyard.
But despite being constantly beset with loot, managing your haul is extremely easy. Gear that is better than what you’re currently wearing is clearly marked by green arrows, and you’ll never feel the need to hold on to one piece of armor or weapon as you turn it all to scrap which can later be used to upgrade rarer gear.
In fact, never get too attached to one ‘look’ as you crawl your way through the main story. Because after donning your badass horned hat, you’ll only be met with an even more audacious looking helmet five minutes later. This does lead to moments of looking pretty ridiculous as you parade around in a mismatched outfit – but there’s always skins. A feature that Blizzard are all-too happy to remind you of.
And with that comes the *sigh*…Diablo Immortal cash shop. Far be it from me to decry the tried-and-tested model of a free-to-play app game beckoning you to spend your real-world money on fancy skins and upgrades. But if you haven’t already heard, or gathered from the rampant Diablo Immortal review bombing among players, Diablo Immortal is particularly gung-ho with its own monetization.
To make things clear: Diablo Immortal’s main story can 100% be tackled without spending a penny. And the vast majority of players, myself included, will do just that. Playing a F2P title without being forced to watch a 30-second ad every ten minutes is refreshing. And for that, the constant gestures towards the shop can be forgiven.
But the first red flag doesn’t take long to materialize as the first bundle rears its head: the Beginner’s Pack worth $0.99. Within it are 60 Eternal Orbs – the basic in-game currency – and an Inferno Within cosmetic for your weapon. A big banner beside it reads ‘800%’ value.
What isn’t obvious at first, however, is that the same amount of orbs can be bought directly at the same price. Meaning that the ‘800% value’ is reserved exclusively for this random cosmetic – which Blizzard have, frankly, pulled out of thin air. Impish stuff. But $0.99 is $0.99 so why not treat yourself anyway?
Well put simply: this is the very tippy-top of the cash-berg. Spending out on the gaudiest set of armor you can find is one thing – you do you, you rampaging peacock. But the end game is rife with dungeons and challenges that call for the best gear. And let’s not even mention the PvP implications.
While there’s no such thing as superior gear that can be bought with cash – there is such a thing as Legendary Gems. These are powerful gems that power up your gear significantly when attached. And yes, they can be grinded (if you have a spare decade) – but they can also be bought far more quickly.
Top-tier Legendary Gems aren’t guaranteed, either. The Legendary Crests spit out a random assortment of items that hopefully contains the Legendary Gem you’re looking for. Many are calling these lootboxes – and I think the fact that the game is banned in Belgium might speak for itself.
Gacha mechanics, however, are nothing new and are received with open arms in games like Genshin Impact. But according to some reports, fully decking out one’s character in the best gear in Diablo Immortal would end up costing upwards of $100,000. Yes, you read that right. By any measure, that’s a lot of dough.
The long and short of it is that Diablo Immortal could have been a paid app game with in-game cosmetics. Maybe even the best, in fact. I would have happily spent upwards of $30 on this title knowing that I could grind my way to the top and enjoy the endgame with everyone else. And I’ve no doubt that Diablo Immortal wouldn’t currently be languishing in the user Diablo Immortal review hell of its own making
But the endgame in its current state is pay-to-win, and unfortunately there will be plenty of people dropping hundreds, if not thousands, of their hard earned dollars on the game to become ‘El Diablo’ himself. This sets an unfortunate precedent that, for all its positives, drags the title down.
I still think Diablo Immortal is an amazing game. I’ll still play through as a lowly grinder. I may even show my thanks by buying a cosmetic or two. But until they alter the monetization model to be fairer and, frankly, cheaper, this Diablo Immortal review cannot award top marks – so here’s a 7/10.
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