Diablo 4 shows Blizzard is finally learning from the series’ previous mistakes

Sam Smith
diablo 4 how many acts

Diablo 4 is starting to look like the culmination of all of the series’ successes and missteps – and it’s the players who will benefit the most.

Coming off its third and final beta test, Diablo 4 is shaping up to be one of the biggest games of 2023. Blizzard has welcomed the franchise‘s fanbase in the latter stages of the development cycle, listening to feedback and responding with relevant action when needed. Not only that, the team has also been active on social media, creating a back-and-forth between fans and devs which other studios would do well to copy.

The Diablo series‘ road here has been bumpy. From what we’ve played of Diablo 4, Blizzard has not only found new ways to capitalize on what makes Diablo great – it’s learned from mistakes of the past.

lilith in diablo 4 cut scene
Lilith will be Diablo 4’s big bad.

Back to basics

When Diablo came out at the end of 1996, it was a little dungeon-crawling RPG with a simple premise. You entered a cathedral overtaken by demons, then carved your way deep into the darkness. Your character ventured beneath the world, through catacombs, cave systems, and finally, the bowels of Hell, where you faced off with Diablo, the Lord of Terror.

The first game had a devilishly grimdark setting that was at odds with Blizzard’s more vibrant Warcraft series. It’s what made it so compelling. Diablo 2 kept this going, however, the franchise struggled to break into the mainstream like Warcraft, and even StarCraft. It wasn’t until 2012’s Diablo 3 that the series attracted the attention of broader audiences, especially with it’s later launches on PS4 and Xbox One.

The threequel launched with a new art style and began to establish aspects of what would come to be modern live service games. For some older fans, the art style was too cartoonish, and many of those legacy players went on to establish a love-hate relationship with Diablo 3 over the years. While it’s hard to deny that it’s an excellent RPG, the game failed to capture the deliciously oppressive grimdark vibe of the first two.

player crossing bridge in diablo 4
Diablo 4 embraces a darker less cartoonish tone than Diablo 3.

A more modern Diablo

While seasonal content and multiplayer were not new concepts to Diablo fans, Diablo 3 put them front and center. This appealed to many, but some purists preferred to play it as a solo experience.

2021’s Diablo 2: Resurrected gave purists some classic Diablo to enjoy, alongside overhauled visuals and a legion of new players. The game started very rough due to soul-crushing server problems, but things have leveled out since its release. While to some, the damage was done, D2R reminded players what a Diablo game could look like and gave newer players a taste of a grim, less cartoonish version of the series that many first fell in love with.

That was short-lived. The most controversial game in the Diablo series came soon after in the form of Diablo Immortal. In fact, the mobile/PC title was troubled from the moment it was announced at Blizzcon 2018. For starters, the game was announced before Diablo 4, which was what players really wanted to see. Things compounded when the player base learned that Immortal was a microtransaction-filled free-to-play mobile focused game. It was soundly rejected by a huge swathe of the player base on the spot. When the game was released, it was panned further due to the astronomical amount you could spend on gems and jewels, but more than that, it made fans worry that Diablo 4 would suffer a similar fate.

The good news is that Blizzard listened and Diablo Immortal has been mostly salvaged. Once again, the damage is done to the title, but those looking for mobile Diablo will be well served. It can now be enjoyed without following the pay-to-win model, and as was also true at the time of release, there’s a fun game hiding in Diablo Immortal. It’s just a shame about it took a while to find.

diablo 4 drop rates
Diablo 4’s combat is fun and addictive.

Diablo 4 rises

Fast-forward to now and hype for Diablo 4 is at a fever pitch. Not only has the game embraced a more photo-real art style, but the cartoonish elements from Diablo 3 and Diablo Immortal have been replaced by a more serious, horror-infused tone. The gore and atmosphere feel like a return to the disturbing and that bodes well. The combat also feels weighty with every hack feeling satisfying, regardless of the platform.

Blizzard has seemingly learned its lesson regarding microtransactions and monthly Battle Passes. Like Overwatch and the newly reformed Diablo Immortal, players will have the freedom to spend real money on cosmetics and other fun items to tailor their experience – but will receive no in-game benefit or advantage over players who choose not to part with their cash.

Expansions and DLC have always been part of the Diablo experience, and we welcome that if each piece of content represents value, such as a new Act or a new character class. From what we’ve played and what the development team has said, Diablo 4 looks like it represents the best of Blizzard games and the series so far, combining all the things that fans loved about the earlier games while leaning away from the aspects that were less popular or controversial.

As a result, Diablo 4 may be the best and most definitive Diablo experience yet. We look forward to finding out on June 6, 2023, when the game releases.

In the meantime, check out some of the other Diablo 4 guides we’ve put together for you:

All Diablo 4 beta rewards & how to unlock them | Is Diablo 4 coming to Xbox Game Pass? | Will Diablo 4 be on Steam Deck? | How to get Diablo 4 beta wolf pet cosmetic | Diablo 4 system requirements | Will Diablo 4 have microtransactions & is it pay to win? | Is Diablo 4 coming to Nintendo Switch? | Diablo 4: Who is Tyrael? | Will Diablo 4 have controller support on PC? | Will Diablo 4 beta progress carry over to the full game?

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