Diablo IV’s open beta has finally come to an end, meaning we won’t get another opportunity to play the loot-grinding RPG until it drops on June 6. Now that most of everyone at Kotaku had the chance to check out Hell (or at least the emissaries from it you encounter in the early game), we decided to round up some folks to discuss what we loved, what we’re optimistic about, and what left us a little wary during our time in Sanctuary.
Ethan Gach, Senior Reporter: I was not really thinking about Diablo IV much heading into 2023. After this beta, it’s now probably the game I’m looking forward to the most this year after Starfield and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. It was completely unexpected, even though it is, on the surface, very much just more Diablo.
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Eric Schulkin, Video Lead: The most Diablo, Ethan. Like you, I hadn’t thought about Diablo IV a whole lot this year. It loomed in the background of my mind like the presence of a Prime Evil. It was nice to get a preview with this beta of how hopelessly obsessed I’ll become with the game’s full release in June.
Levi Winslow, Staff Writer: Obsessed totally describes my weekend with the beta, TBH. Like both of you, Diablo IV wasn’t something on my radar. I knew it was coming, sure, but I didn’t think I’d grow so enamored with the idea of killing hellspawn until I got some hands-on time with the game. Now, weirdly, it’s all I can think about. I assume rummaging through Hell is going to take up a helluva lot of my time this June. What classes did y’all check out during your time with the beta?
Ethan: I played around with Druid and Necromancer very briefly, but mostly just stuck with my Barb, who is extremely boring but I feel weirdly compelled to redeem. I can definitely see the potential at higher levels, but it’s definitely the least “interesting” class I’ve tried.
Eric: I played a lot of Rogue who, in my humble opinion, is rad. Setting up caltrops and traps, choosing when to hang back and use my bow while dashing all over the place, added variety to the fights for me. We’ll see how I feel through multiple acts. I also spent a little time with the Necromancer.
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Levi: This time around I played with the Necromancer. I still think the Rogue Is Dope, but IDK, something about the Necromancer is truly busted. Summoning a skull gang to aid you in battle (at one point, I had seven skeleton warriors with me, murking fools), siphoning health from enemies through blood arts, planting curses that deal damage and status effects, which could be coupled with passive abilities to deal even more damage and status effects…Necro feels OP at the early levels. Some of my power started tapering off as I approached level 20, but even then, the Necromancer was putting in work! It felt good being a goth, hell-raising chick. Maybe my fave class at the moment. Speaking of classes being OP, what do y’all think of Blizzard’s comments regarding how unequal each character feels in the beginning? Did you notice a power difference?
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Ethan: It’s clear it takes the Barbarian a while to come online, but I also like that classes have unique power curves. I’m used to MOBAs like Dota 2 where it sometimes takes some time for your investment in a build to pay off. A lot of that will definitely be mitigated by playing co-op.
Eric: Yeah. To that point, some Diablo classes and builds are better suited to being in parties. Especially in the early game, which I think is what that Blizzard comment was getting at. Don’t expect everyone to be the same level of strong right out the gate. The Rogue is your classic damage dealer but also has survivability options outside of the standard evade so I always felt like I could deal with what the game threw my way.
Levi: I agree it’s a little obvious not every class would feel equal in power off the rip. I’m not sure that would make for such a fun experience anyway. That said, I think there are two classes in particular—the Necromancer and Rogue—that get some benefits in the early game, particularly regarding their damage-dealing and maneuverability options. However, things changed right around level 20. My partner and I played much of this beta in couch co-op, with me as a Necromancer and her as a Druid. By the time we both hit level 20, I saw that she was bodying bosses a bit faster than I was. The damage difference wasn’t astronomical or anything, but I could tell she was hitting a little harder than I was. Still, there’s nothing like rolling up on a hellspawn eight deep and just jumping fools. That’s my fave thing.
Ethan: What else impressed you both about the beta so far? I think my lowkey favorite thing is the incredible soundtrack that leans super hard into the grim fatalism. Here I am bashing skulls and comparing armor rolls while violins weep like I’m in the middle of a black-and-white World War II movie. The mood shift from Diablo III is doing a lot of work to make me feel like there is a world worth investing in here beyond the multicolored loot slot machine.
Eric: You can tell real time and care was put into making that mood shift happen as the grim-dark gothic vibes were immaculate. Hearing goatmen bleat their last breath never gets old, it turns out. I was most impressed by the overworld. Uncovering the dark corners of Diablo IV’s map was a really satisfying experience. Cellars, dungeons, side quests and strongholds added a lot of richness to gameplay and felt well crafted. I did not love the Destiny-esque world events as they tanked my frame rate while playing on PC, and I sometimes felt forced to participate in them as I was funneled through areas of the map while advancing through the main campaign.
Levi: Yeah, I agree, the world events were the bane of my PS5's existence as well. Whenever I started one, the frame rate would plummet to almost stop-motion levels. It wasn’t good, and it probably didn’t help that I played co-op most of this weekend. That said, I think the world was the most impressive part. The grimness of the narrative juxtaposed with the lushness of some environments left a lasting impression on me. The variety of the locations, the characters you meet and how they interact, the way evil slowly unfolds as your progress through the story—Diablo IV has an evocative world that I could get lost in. I’ve called it the perfect podcast game. I still feel that way, but it certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t dead roses to stop and smell every now and then. The world’s teeming with life in all corners, which inspired me to turn over as many stones as I possibly could.
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Ethan: All of this is why I wish there was a way to play offline, or that the social aspects were more siloed. Having random strangers running around through a bespoke city street can break the illusion, but mostly it just led to some weird rubber-banding and other online connectivity issues. Did either of you run into the issue where your character can’t run to the next instance like they’re caught on a treadmill at invisible breaks in the map?
Eric: Yes, several times. When I’d try to run out of the main hub of Kyovashad or a smaller settlement, my character couldn’t advance further. I do wish there was an offline mode or even a way to opt out of these world events.
Levi: It def needs an offline mode. There were so many instances when my partner was like, “What’s happening right now?” as our characters ran in place trying to leave cities and settlements. Knowing games, I thought it was frustrating albeit hilarious. My partner? She didn’t have the same patience, finding the rubber-banding more frustrating than hilarious. The dichotomy of the two of us. That said, it wasn’t much of a nuisance after late Saturday into early Sunday. I didn’t encounter the issue nearly as much as the beta slowly wrapped up. Hopefully, that’ll be smoothed out in the full game. Speaking of the full game and as we start wrapping this up, is Diablo IV a day-one purchase for y’all? I think my partner is invested enough for me to pick this up when it comes out on June 6. She’s a fan of Gauntlet Dark Legacy and we’ve played Minecraft Dungeons to hell and back, so another couch co-op dungeon crawler is going to be great for us.
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Ethan: I do think that the beta, while a great first impression, is only one small glimpse into what this game might be, so I’m curious to see how the final product shakes out. Will the game feel polished or like an Early Access release? It was only a couple of months ago that some developers told The Washington Post that there was internal pressure to potentially crunch to get the game out by June. And the biggest question will be around monetization. The real-money auction house was such a spectacularly bad idea that it killed all goodwill and momentum for Diablo III initially. The game eventually recovered, but it was a huge misstep. I hope Diablo IV avoids that and keeps the seasonal live-service microtransactions as far off to the side as possible. Hopefully, that’s what Diablo Immortal was for.
Eric: I’d like to believe I’d have the self-discipline to wait out those first weeks and see what state the game launches in, but really, who am I kidding? I’ll be a day-one purchase, too, helping the people of Sanctuary sort through their collective mommy issues. The beta showed me enough of what I was looking for in a new Diablo game.
Levi: And we all have some mommy issues, especially when Mommy Succubi Lilith comes knocking. Yeah, the beta was a good glimpse into Sanctuary’s depravity. I’m stoked to see just how deep that hellhole goes.