Diablo IV Open Beta Impressions

Screenshot of Waypoint in Kyovashad in Diablo IV Beta
Yep. If there's a blue town portal in the game, very likely to be Diablo

Yesterday (25th March 2023), I managed to get several hours in playing the Diablo IV Open Beta. I actually tried to play the game earlier in the morning but with the below screenshot popping up, my reaction was "yeah.... nah..." and I decided to try later in the afternoon.

Screenshot of long queue times in Diablo IV Beta

Come the afternoon, it was much easier to get in and it gave me the choice of five characters to play: the Barbarian, the Necromancer, the Sorceror, the Rogue and the Druid. Just like in Diablo III you can choose the sex (or its more misleading term "body type", since you can't actually change your body type in this game) and you've also got quite a few customisation options which is good to see. I ended up picking the Rogue because I'm an original Diablo player and wanted to play one of the original classes (the Rogues being members of the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye - although I don't know how that explains the male Rogue's story then. A different faction perhaps?). After watching the gruesome but well animated introductory cinematic (Blizzard and Square Enix are two companies that know how to make a good cinematic) you're treated to an in-game cinematic with your character wandering the frozen wastes. I think it just goes to show you how good the Diablo IV engine is with respect to graphics since in-game cutscenes are highly detailed and convincing.

Screenshot of character customisation in Diablo IV beta
Character customisation

Screenshot of in-game cinematic introduction
In-game cinematic

I levelled my way up to about level 13 before calling it a day (the beta allows you to max your character out to Level 25 and experience most of the first Act of the game). Despite not playing any of the Diablo expansions in any of the main iterations, I was still able to follow the plot and the game satisfies my basic understading of Diablo lore. I ended up focusing on rapid fire and a caltrop skill which allowed me to setup a trap to slow down enemies while simultaneously leaping back from it. It was rather useful and in most situations, I didn't have any issues. I was playing on the easiest difficulty though so that also may have had something to do with it.

Screenshot of Rogue dodging in Diablo IV beta
It's important to dodge as a Rogue

Screenshot of Rogue fighting in Diablo IV beta
Time to set some caltrops methinks

All the hallmarks of the Diablo series are back including much loot to collect of varying quality, town portals, waypoints, etc. Conversations with characters tend to be curt and linear which is what you'd expect from a Diablo game. However, the voice from your character, while it's fine for the main quests, can sound rather stupid and inappropriate during side quests. For example, one side quest involved me rescuing a villager's brother. They both wanted to escape in secret but they request your character to not tell a soul in their home village. So, the conversation went a bit like this:

Villager (pleading): "I'm going to flee to a far away place with my brother, but please, don't tell a soul in our village, okay?"
(slight pause)
Hero (monotone): "Yes."

Not very reassuring and obviously a generic response not a tailored one for the quest. Might've been better if she just said nothing at all...

One feature I like, which is similar to Hogwarts Legacy is that you can change the appearance of your armour to another one you've already salvaged but still retain the armour's stats. This helps if you want to achieve a consistent look with your character so you don't look like some hobo with mismatched armour pieces. So, the game is keeping up with the times, even though I'm not actually sure which game in the last decade actually introduced the feature first!

Screenshot of Rogue in Diablo IV beta
I tried to model the Rogue on the original in Diablo 1

Performance wise, the game was running pretty poorly. I'm hoping the reason for that is simply because it's an open beta and they haven't ironed out all the bugs yet but it's only a couple of months before release so there's not much time left. I was experiencing a lot of stuttering and freezing (which eventually resulted in disconnects) so I thought maybe the reason it was doing that was because the game was on the SSD. After switching the game files from my HDD to my SSD, the stuttering did seem to reduce in frequency but the freezing still occurred, so I'm not really sure what is causing that. Again, I hope it's just a lack of optimisation and not a permanent issue.

Overall, Diablo IV looks promising and something that fans of the series can legitimately be excited about. As usual, it doesn't try to change the formula too much (I rarely needed to consult the key bindings when I played since much of it made sense and the tooltips were usually informative enough) and that might just be enough for the die-hard fan. Does it stack up against other competing hack 'n' slash RPGs that have been released in the decade since the last iteration was released? I cannot really say as I haven't played enough to make that judgement call.

Did any of you play the beta? What were your impressions?