The original Diablo from 1996 has been a huge part of my early teens. It was one of those games you could play over and over again. And that is exactly what we did, in a hot attic with 2 more people, connected through a local area network, grinding our way down in the depths of hell. Being scared to face the Butcher after he screams “fresh meat!” and hiding behind a barred door so you could fire arrows at him and abuse a small glitch so he could not come after you.
This adventuring continued with the release of Diablo 2 and later Diablo 3, but no other ARPG ever came to the same experience we have had in those days. Sure I also had great fun with Marvel Heroes Online, which was made by some of the veterans of Blizzard North, but that game sadly is no more.
When Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal for mobile devices, I was (one of the few) who actually was excited. I knew they were also working on a Diablo 4, so was not bothered with all the negativity surrounding the announcement. And when the game finally released a couple of weeks ago, I was…. disappointed… the game – due to its monetization being based on gambling mechanics – would not be releasing in the Netherlands. However a quick workaround was possible with selecting a different App Store country and off we were.
Let’s start with the positive things first. The graphics are amazing, especially if you consider this a mobile first game. The game breathes Diablo atmosphere and at times I even forgot I was playing on a mobile device.
The gameplay is also very well done. Due to the nature of mobile devices, you do not have mouse input and often have to resort to dual (on screen) sticks and make do with that. I often dislike games which use dual sticks, mostly because it loses some feeling with the character you are playing. You feel more like maneuvering a tank than a real person. But the developers have introduced a sort of move auto aim direction system, which makes you auto target the closest or recently targeted enemy. This allows a player to not always having to rely on the right stick for aiming, which in turn makes it easier to volley a string of skills and spells at those vile demons from Hell. I hope more games will implement this. It makes for a much more fluid gaming experience.
However this is where the good things end and the mediocre to bad things start. Diablo Immortal tells a rather simple story, which is set between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3. The game starts strong and builds up nicely. A new demon arises, wants to be the big bad, somehow got possession of (parts of) the worldstone and wants to do evil stuff. But after you progress, you become gated behind power creep. You cannot progress before grinding side quests over and over again, which also want to incentivize you to spend real money. The more you start grinding at later levels the sooner you realize that this is just a stop gap due to the lack of content. Now do not get me wrong, of the content that was there, I enjoyed it. Would you compress it together, the game could be finished within a day. However these arbitrary goals diminishes what started as a strong story.
Now from what I have read on Reddit, I got quite lucky with my wizard and was able to get all the legendary items I needed for a fire tornado build quite early on. And I also had a “create decoy on teleport” legendary item, which you could easily fool AI with, making me a beast in PvE. I only died a couple of times, which could be accounted for by lag or distraction. This however also made it easier for me to just ignore the dozens of currencies you could collect or buy, to upgrade your character faster.
After playing for a couple of weeks, I was able to beat Skarn, Lord of Damnation. So what was next? Well there are still Rifts, Challenges and ways to grind to become stronger, especially useful for their PvP mode Shadows vs Immortals. But as a free to play player, who has no intention to pay or grind endlessly just to do PvP, my journey ended.
I got my character to max level, created a decent build for PvE and enjoyed my way down to Hell. It scratched the nostalgia itch a bit, but it is not as deep as previous Diablo games. All in all, if you are a fan, have no other games on your mobile and feel that same Diablo itch I had. Sure, try it out for the story and have some fun grinding. Just do not expect anything deep, both from a character customization side as from the story side.
As for the whole monitization, try if you can to not invest any real money in it. With the seasonal resets, the slow power creep which favors the big whales with big wallets, your time and money can be spend on better games.