Diablo 4 review: Evil evolves for a new generation of loot chasers

Sam Smith
diablo 4 heroes

Diablo 4 has finally risen from the Burning Hells to once again assume the throne of the action RPG genre. However, should the devil have stayed in his pit, or is Diablo 4 the game fans have been waiting for?

Blizzard has had 11 years to craft the follow-up to the excellent, yet controversial Diablo 3. That game took the series to new levels of popularity, though it alienated some purists at the same time. Despite having 29 seasons of content, and a dedicated community, that initial launch of Diablo 3 is infamous.

To avoid falling into a similar trap, Diablo 4 has abandoned much of what frustrated long-time players about its predecessor whilst doubling down on most of what worked. The cartoonish elements of Diablo 3 have been replaced by a grimdark style that often feels more like Diablo 2: Resurrected than Diablo 3.

Blizzard has crafted something hellishly good here, building an excellent platform for the developer to build upon. If you were worried, don’t be. Blizzard has executed on the promise of what Diablo should be in 2023.

Diablo 4 key details

  • Price: £59.99/$59.99
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 6, 2023
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Diablo 4 trailer

Grimdark never felt so good

Diablo 4’s world is a depressing one. Life is a struggle for the denizens of Sanctuary and every choice has a cost. Unlike Diablo 3, humor is used sparingly. This darker tone is reflected in the art style, the story, and more subtly, through gameplay where things are less flashy and exaggerated.

Those coming from Diablo Immortal may find this a little jarring too. It works, though. This is the Diablo of old in many ways, and those who enjoy the dark and morbid world of the early games will be happy to see it return.

It’s not all blood rose petals though, as we miss the follower system from Diablo 3. This time, you’re unable to buddy up with an AI companion such as a Templar, Scoundrel, Enchantress, or even a hired mercenary. This was one of Diablo 3’s best features and the banter and camaraderie of having a follower is missed here. The game often pairs you with characters on story missions, but it’s not quite the same.

However, this does lend itself well to Diablo 4’s darker tone, forcing you to feel more isolated, and ultimately, alone – at least when venturing solo. A silent mercenary, à la Diablo 2, wouldn’t have hurt though. The good news is Diablo 4 has been designed with multiplayer in mind, even more so than previous entries, so joining a clan of like-minded heroes may be more fun than AI ones anyway.

diablo 4 world
Diablo 4’s world is full of different biomes all linked by a world map.

Vast open demon-infested world

The world of Sanctuary is more open-world-like than it was in previous entries. Acts are no longer bookended by a cutscene showing a journey to a new location. Instead, you can travel nearly anywhere from the start and then use the fast-travel system to warp between locations you’ve discovered. This leaves you free to carve your own path and complete missions and side missions at your leisure. You can also traverse the world on horseback, a first for the Diablo series, significantly increasing your speed.

The enemies and quests, for the most part, level with you, so you can engage in side content as often or as little as you like. You’ll never become over-leveled or need to leave an area to grind experience for a few hours. If you ignore a few early side missions, they’ll still be worth completing later – they may even have better rewards! Or you can simply clear quests as you go and still find the game flows at your pace.

While some fans worried that decisions made around the much-maligned Diablo Immortal would seep into Diablo 4, those fears are unfounded. If anything, Blizzard has learned from Immortal’s mistakes and seems committed to not repeating them. It leans into the live service elements of Immortal, but thankfully all microtransactions will be optional and only for cosmetic content.

Diablo 4 does not offer a pay-to-win model and the premium seasonal Battle Pass won’t give players an advantage over those who choose not to part with their money. It will, however, offer some exclusive perks and rewards for committed players to enjoy. We will be keeping a keen eye on the first season releasing later this summer, as this will set the tone for the game going forward.

Diablo is as compulsive as ever.
Diablo’s gameplay is as compulsive as ever.

All hail Lilith

Speaking of the story, Diablo 4 manages to tell a more complicated narrative than the simple good versus evil plot of previous games. The villains can be sympathetic, making it more difficult to predict how events will unfold. Lilith represents the main antagonist of the story, but the threat of Diablo and the other Prime Evils hangs over the game like a fog.

Diablo 4 is more than just angels versus demons with humanity caught in the middle. Instead, we get a twisted version of Romeo and Juliet where the two star-crossed lovers are both out for blood – including each other’s. There’s plenty of fan service for returning players, but Diablo 4 mostly feels like a new generation for the series, meaning new players won’t need to play Diablo 1, 2, and 3 to get up to speed.

Once the credits roll, you’re far from done. Diablo 4 then opens up its endgame content such as the Tree of Whispers and other fun elements that are sure to keep loot-seekers entertained until Season 1 begins. While Diablo 4 does deliver a satisfying ending, we can’t help but feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of what the game will offer going forward.

inarius lilith diablo 4
The story of Lilith and Inarius is the bedrock of Diablo 4.

Modern trappings and pitfalls

While Diablo 4 is excellent, elements can become repetitive. In making the game a vast open world, it loses some of the intimate attention to detail that Diablo 1 to 3 had. It falls into the same trap Elden Ring and Zelda: Breath of the Wild fell into. It’s important to point out that these two games went on to be Game of the Year classics though, even if the personal preference for curated vs. open world will vary from player to player.

On this occasion, Diablo 4 is bigger, but not universally better than what’s come before. It’s just different. The developers are keen for players to make their own moments by having unparalleled freedom from the start, but this can be a double-edged sword. Many of the moments you make will feel the same as the last, and while the world is breathtaking it often lacks the curated character of previous Diablo games and set pieces.

Sometimes, it’s the moments that are artfully created for us that are most memorable. While we enjoyed slaying wave after wave of demons during the plentiful World Events in Diablo 4, this repeated approach doesn’t compare to the terror of seeing the Butcher for the first time in Diablo 1, or when we were wowed by the perpetual battlefield outside Harrogoth in Diablo 2, or when we defended Bastions Keep against the army of Azmodan in Diablo 3.

Verdict 5/5

Diablo 4 is a mighty sequel, but it can feel more like a grand buffet of tasty demon-slaying treats. It offers something for everyone but misses out on that acquired yet curated taste of the older entries.

This doesn’t take away from Diablo 4 representing the next evolution in the series. It is a stellar sequel – and one that works hard to appeal to every fan of this beloved franchise. Diablo 4 will be supported for years, and this is a great introduction to a saga that we hope is just beginning.