When Blizzard first announced Diablo Immortal, fans were a bit wary about whether the game could live up to the Diablo name. Thankfully, not only does the game present a classic Diablo experience in a smaller form but it does so nearly flawlessly, albeit with a sharper focus on grinding than any other Diablo game.
- + Classic Diablo feel
- + Surprisingly deep leveling/crafting system for a mobile title
- + Controls are responsive and non-intrusive
- + Endgame content keeps you coming back
- Implementation of microtransactions still too iffy
- Cutscenes and voiceovers stutter and break at times
- Controller support still not up to par
From the very first day Blizzard unveiled Diablo Immortal, the game found itself directly under the microscope of criticism. Whether it be fans infamously asking if the game was some sort of joke to those all over the internet wondering if the game would end up filled with microtransactions, to say that Diablo Immortal has been a polarizing game would be an understatement.
It didn't help things much that Diablo Immortal's development cycle has gone on for a seemingly long time. After being announced in 2018, the game saw several delays throughout its creation that made fans even more worried. However, despite the trepidation, Blizzard has not only delivered a stellar mobile title but one that is more than deserving of fitting in alongside other entries in the Diablo franchise.
After playing the game for the past couple of months via intermittent alphas and betas, along with a review build, I can safely say that Diablo Immortal is every bit as fun as any other Diablo title, and feels almost exactly like the mainline games. Despite some flaws and a not-so-small concern about what the future might hold, Diablo Immortal has lived up to its namesake, and done away with any concerns that fans may have right now.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Blizzard Entertainment. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Diablo Immortal: What's great
First things first, it wouldn't be a Diablo game if it didn't take place inside the world of Diablo. Immortal doesn't disappoint here, as the game takes place five years after the events of Diablo 2 but just before the events of Diablo 3.
This means that a wide variety of characters that players already know appear inside Immortal, including Deckard Cain, who once again plays a pivotal role in the story of Diablo Immortal, which tasks players with once again trying to prevent a demonic disaster from destroying the world of Sanctuary.
While there may be a ton of things familiar to players who first jump into the game, Diablo Immortal isn't just rehashing the same old stuff. Areas like Westmarch make a return, but so do new areas, including the cryptic Ashwold Cemetery, the demonic Realm of Damnation, and others.
Although new areas to the game might sound concerning to players when it comes to a mobile entry, Diablo Immortal's new zones don't seem at all out of place and fit right in with the pre-established lore in the Diablo series. Of course, all of that would mean nothing if the game didn't quite play like a Diablo title, but thankfully it does.
|Developer||Blizzard Entertainment, NetEase|
|Minimum requirements||Android 5.0 and higher | Snapdragon 660 / Exynos 9611 and higher | Adreno 512 / Mali-G62 MP3 and higher | 2 GB RAM|
|Device used||TCL 10 Pro|
|Players||Single-player (8-player co-op available, as well as PvP)|
|Launch price||Free w/IAPs|
At its core, Diablo Immortal is very much a Diablo game. Not only will you find yourself traveling through different regions taking down enemies, but you'll also be grabbing loot and leveling up your character along the way. As is the case with past Diablo titles, you'll explore the entirety of any given zone via small story quests before unlocking the full area to play through and experience at your own leisure.
One of the biggest concerns many (including myself) will have when coming into Diablo Immortal for the first time is how the game operates on a much smaller screen, as adapting for a phone properly can make or break even the best mobile games. You'll be pleased to know that the answer is, surprisingly, pretty well! Despite not having the most customization options when it comes to control mapping, Diablo Immortal still plays exactly as smoothly as you'd expect a Diablo game to.
Without a ton of screen real estate, Diablo Immortal opts to fit most of its controls into the lower right of the screen, where you can quickly tap between attacks or special abilities while moving with your thumb on the left side of the screen. The game also supports controllers as well for those who wish to play that way.
The icons are spaced apart just enough to avoid becoming too much of an issue while also resulting in some great, fast-paced moments. More than a few times in my experience with the game, I found myself quickly dealing out various abilities and attacks all at once, which can really help in some bigger fights later on.
While the gameplay may be a key aspect to get right in the world of Diablo, the grind and how you progress through the endgame are also equally as significant. In Diablo Immortal, the folks at Blizzard and NetEase have continued to model their mobile game after its PC and console counterparts, with a surprisingly deep and compelling set of endgame content.
Almost immediately after beating Diablo Immortal's main storyline quests, you'll gain access to many new things, including the Paragon system, which returns from Diablo 3 and allows you to level up behind the max level cap of 60 in order to not only continue earning new powers but to customize your character to exactly your playstyle.
After becoming extremely popular in Diablo 2, PvP systems are back here via the Cycle of Strife, a gameplay mechanic that essentially operates as clans competing with one another to become the top group, with a rotating cycle of battles occurring that aim to keep the top clan fresh and promote as much PvP as possible.
Finally, new to the world of Diablo is the Helliquary, which basically operates like a bounty board for high-level targets that you can go after once you reach the endgame portion of Immortal. Taking down these monsters will then allow you to harness their energy and convert it into power that you can use for your own character.
Whether alone or with a group of up to eight other players, you'll be able to go out on what are essentially mini raids in an effort to take down some seriously tough bosses, with the possibility of big loot at the end. So far, Blizzard plans to introduce one new boss per month to the Helliquary, so don't expect too much variety in the enemies just yet.
Still, the inclusion of all of these gem mechanics shows Blizzard's dedication to making Diablo Immortal more than just a typical mobile port. Plus, with so much else to do once you beat the official storyline, it's very easy to find yourself picking up your phone to play during any lulls in your day.
Graphics have never been the biggest focus in a Diablo title, but Diablo Immortal still looks surprisingly great. Environments are crisp and feature some incredibly detailed work on them and character and enemy models have a vibrant look even from far away. Perhaps most importantly, the gear that you wear in the game all looks distinctly different and unique when you swap them out.
While the game does look stunning in almost every instance I tried it in, how the game runs might vary depending on what type of device you're using. Throughout the last couple of months, I've had the chance to play on a variety of devices (both Android and iOS), and almost consistently (and not too shockingly), the higher-end devices have almost always fared better.
Thankfully, Diablo Immortal has a ton of graphics options in the Settings menu, allowing you to toggle the framerate (between 30 and 60FPS), resolution, image sharpening, shadows, fog, anti-aliasing, and much more. The game also tells you what type of load you're putting on your device, similar to that of a PC when tweaking settings, allowing you to set your options just right before diving in and risking your battery life. Speaking of which, the game will drain your battery quite a bit if you're playing with some of the settings turned up to the max.
Diablo Immortal: What could use some work
As mentioned earlier, Diablo Immortal does support controllers as an alternative form of playing, but it's still not exactly a perfect system. One issue that has persisted through various testing phases is how controllers don't work while navigating menus. This means you'll essentially have to keep using your phone's touchscreen while playing with a controller. Thankfully, Blizzard has said it's aware of the issue, and will likely fix it sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere, throughout the latest phase of early access to the game, only a handful of controllers worked, many of which were the more popular Bluetooth controllers on the market, including Microsoft's various Xbox controllers, the Sony DualShock 4, and the Razer Kishi.
While Blizzard has said that it plans to continue expanding the final list of controllers that are compatible with Diablo Immortal, as of now, it's not the most comprehensive list.
Of course, perhaps the biggest question mark that lingers over Diablo Immortal remains one that fans have been skeptical of since the game was announced four years ago: microtransactions.
Inside Diablo Immortal, microtransactions can be used to purchase one of two different in-game currencies. While the currencies can't be used to explicitly level up characters, they can be used to purchase in-game items like Reforge Stones or Eternal Legendary Crests, which can be used to reward you with higher gear, and might be seen as a problem by some players.
However, during my time with the game, I never felt the need to put any real-life money into it. Diablo Immortal does a fair enough job at keeping you constantly rewarded with loot to the point that you never feel like you're lagging behind any other players, and Blizzard has said repeatedly that it does not intend to let Diablo Immortal's microtransactions circumvent its core gameplay and lead to a pay-to-win system.
However, due to how the game hasn't been available to the public long enough for tons of people to get through to the endgame, it's unknown just how microtransactions will end up functioning, and it's the microtransactions that will end up making or breaking Diablo Immortal from a long-term standpoint.
Diablo Immortal: Should you play it?
For those that might have been worried about Diablo Immortal feeling like a "cash grab" or just a quick mobile port to make Blizzard more money, I can safely say that isn't the case.
This game feels every bit like a Diablo title as any other, and it's clear from the very moment you dive into the game that Blizzard and NetEase have put a ton of time and effort into making sure players feel like they're playing a proper Diablo game. While there might be some hiccups early on in the game, and the lingering question of how microtransactions will shape the community continues to hang overhead, it's impossible to do anything but recommend this game to fans of the series.
The mixture of both old and new environments and characters keeps you tied to the main series just enough to see what's coming next, and the iconic Diablo gameplay has been shrunk down to fit perfectly on a mobile device. Combine that with a compelling library of endgame content, and it's more than deserving of standing next to its fellow Diablo titles as a fantastic addition.
Diablo Immortal delivers the world of Diablo into the palm of your hands with some of the most surprisingly well-adapted gameplay of any mobile title. Dive back into the world of Sanctuary and get ready to take down some enemies.
Download from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)
Anthony Nash has been writing about games and the gaming industry for nearly a decade. When he’s not writing about games, he’s usually playing them. You can find him on Twitter talking about games or sports at @_anthonynash.
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