Sanna Kramsi - Blog A peek into my life

Diablo 4 - a disappointment to the Diablo legacy?

September 16, 2023 | Games

I was waiting quite enthusiastically for the release of Diablo 4. As a Diablo 2 sorceress and Frozen Orb lover, I was excited to see that the skill actually looked like something I'd be interested in. Especially since Diablo 3 had a wizard I didn't enjoy one bit and my opinion of the Frozen Orb in Diablo 3 was purely negative, I was happy to finally get my favorite class back.

Alpha and beta - a quick look into how the game might look and feel like

This was one of the first games where I've taken part in an open alpha or beta. I even reported quite a few bugs. The game felt quite fun, though it did have a lot of bugs and issues, but those were to be expected. In hindsight, those bugs probably took the attention away from the other aspects of the game I might not end up enjoying that much. And of course, you couldn't progress far in the game, so you could only play the very beginning. I ended up testing a sorcerer, a rogue, and a necromancer before the launch. All seemed more or less okay to play for the first 20 levels.

One of the funnier bugs I encountered were corpses that kept doing something after dying. I think I  have a video somewhere of a wolf wagging its tail after dying. I found that hilarious for some reason.

My initial thoughts after the game launch

When the game launched, I finally got to create my sorcerer. I struggled quite a bit with mana from the very beginning. And to my surprise, it didn't really get that much better later on in the game. But Frozen Orb did feel like a nice skill... apart from the unfortunate fact that it didn't do much damage on its own. So not a really viable option if you like to progress in the game. And that felt a bit sad, especially because they kept telling us we could utilize variating skills and different builds should be viable. But apparently, that didn't apply to my skill of choise.

Once I switched to another build, I started to actually do damage. And I did that every 12 seconds or so while spending the rest waiting for both cooldowns and resources. While it was an improvement to the no damage and wait times, I still felt like I was often just running around waiting for the ability to do anything. And with a sorcerer they designed to be a glass cannon even without said skill... well. If there was even some monster density, I was not really enjoying that downtime.

The game is visually pleasing

It's fun to get to choose what your character looks like. But I did notice that once I found a look I liked, it was hard to create anything else. Though it seems like there are a lot of different style options, it's not that many after you find your favorites. But since Diablo is about killing monsters and not looking at your character, it is absolutely fine that you can't choose between, for example, all the colors possible for the character's hair.

Unfortunately, the amount of transmogs for your gear is a bit limited. A lot of the things look quite similar with small differences in detail. In Diablo 3 there were a lot more different types of looks. But I suspect more of these will come along with season items later on. The color schemes are also a bit limited, which I did find a bit sad. I like my blues and purples in quite specific hues. I would think more coloring options are probably going to come later as well. And again, since this game is more about killing monsters and not about the character itself, this is fine as is. But since we do have the possibility of making our characters look like we want them to, it would be fun to have a place where you could show your character. Standing in town isn't really it, at least for me. In Diablo 2 we had the lobby where you'd often spend some time checking the gear on other players and fantasizing about becoming as powerful. Something that would achieve that would be fun.

The visuals in general look really nice. I did spend some time looking around while standing at the edge of cliffs. Impressive. Visually this game is to my liking.

The player skills are often too visible, though, and they will cover enemy skills or traps and such on the ground. And if you play with a friend, even though the skills of the other player are not as visible as yours, they will still cover too much. I don't know about you, but I don't think it's really all that fun to walk into a room and explode immediately because you can't see the freeze or poison on the ground behind all the skills already up in the room by your allies. Don't get me wrong, the skills look really nice. But to me, the looks aren't worth dying for.

The devs have used a lot of excuses for a party limit of four and one of the excuses has been the skill visuals. A lot of players would probably be fine with playing with less visible and impressive skill visuals and instead get more players to their party. But it was the same already in Diablo 3.

The music is as good as always if not even better

I usually mute game music at some point and start listening to my other music. But with Diablo 4 I haven't yet felt the slightest urge to stop listening to the game music. But to me, the Diablo franchise has always been about great quality music. The music brings a lot to the game.

A big pain in my butt was the low monster density

The game has had real issues with monster density. Blizzard kept bringing up reasons why there couldn't be a higher density but they seemed made up. And to be honest... if they weren't, something had clearly gone wrong with the game design. The whole point of a Diablo game is to kill monsters and a lot of them. So to find yourself struggling to find something to kill felt really weird.

The density is ridiculously low from time to time. And while a lot of the viable character builds have been based on killing monsters constantly to be able to keep their resources up... it felt absolutely crushing to run through several empty rooms. Especially without access to any kind of resource replenishing bottles, some of the game features seem mostly like punishments. Or then you'd be on such a high level that you just couldn't leave a single monster standing... and all you got was one monster in one room and then another in the next while you were waiting for your cooldowns. Hopefully, they will bring the monster density way up. They have already made some improvements, but I hope they will keep at it because it's not nearly good enough at this point.

The story is good and interesting

The story in itself was enjoyable, I liked it. The quests had quite a bit of running around, which I didn't particularly enjoy. But during the first playthrough, it was okay because then I got to take a better look at the scenery and all the visuals. But I wouldn't want to do it again. The monster density was often really low during the story as well, and it reduced the feeling of playing a Diablo franchise ARPG. Many boss fights were boringly long. And I talked about this with other people, who all felt the same. It didn't feel like we were doing nearly enough damage.

One of the most captivating things for me in the game was the voice actor for Lorath, Ralph Ineson. Something in the voice and expressions just really brought the character to life. While I had no problems with the other voice actors in the game, Ralph Ineson just stood out for me.

Another thing I did not enjoy much was the side quests. They didn't feel like they were deepening the story much. And the running around I already saw with the main quests felt worse, for many quests you had to teleport and run around the map and get something from one person to another. If there would have been a lot of monsters it would have been more tolerable. But no, just running around on the horse and bumping into a lot of things. Then there were drops from specific monsters or corpses I had to hunt from specific locations... where both said corpses or monsters were extremely scarce and I spent a lot of time just trying to get the drops. But luckily some quests were interesting and fun even. But I noticed skipping some conversations just because the questing felt so boring and I just wanted to get the quests done and move on.

Gathering renown has already seen some changes to it - and for a good reason

There are a few ways to get renown. Renown is used to improve your character - you get more potion slots and you get more room for obols etc.  One of the ways to collect renown is to touch the Lilith statues that you see on the map. Those bring also some slight buffs to your characters in addition to the renown. Then there are map visibility, side quests, and dungeons. Originally the thought was that you'd collect them all each season. And within a season, all characters would share Lilith statues and map visibility but the others you'd collect on all characters. Collecting the renown is not really all that fun. You have to do a lot of things you wouldn't necessarily otherwise do just to get renown. Running regular dungeons you don't need the rewards for felt quite boring. But still, I'd rather run the dungeons than do side quests.

Luckily they have now made changes to the renown so that you don't have to grind it every season. First, they announced map visibility and Lilith statues wouldn't have to be collected again. But now the whole renown will get transferred from season to season if I understood correctly. A good change. While collecting renown as an idea is interesting and fun, doing the same unrewarding things all over again is not the way I want to spend my gaming time. In order for that approach to work for me, I'd like to see more activity possibilities and some rotation in the activities or something like that.

Having a mount to run with is fun - for short distances from time to time

The mount seemed like a fun idea. And while it is faster to run with the horse than on foot... if I wanted to spend my time riding a horse, I would choose another type of game. Getting off your mount was punished with a time penalty which was fine for the cases where you had monsters to force you down. But if I would either by choice or accident toggle the mount, I would have to wait 10 seconds to get on again. Really annoying, especially when the reason for getting down in the first place was to go up or down a cliff with no way around it. Then I'd get to stand at the top or bottom for a while before getting on my journey again. Nothing that is too annoying, but still from time to time it really disrupted my gameplay.

But having the mount is still a good thing. You get from one place to another faster. And the mounts looked fun, especially when there were bugs with the visuals. For example, I'd sometimes see only the rider and the horse was invisible. Quite a silly thing to see going past you.

They've already also changed some things for the horse riding. It gets stuck less, and you can get through barricades. For some reason, they thought it would be a fun way to play that you get constantly interrupted by barricades and battle the two monsters behind the barricade before you can continue towards whatever it was you were doing. Sometimes I felt like the developers weren't really gamers themselves.

The end game is boring

There are several end-game activities. There are the world bosses, there are nightmare dungeons, and of course, you can run other things like legion events as well. Personally, I'm not too fond of the world bosses. The amount of players is limited to 12 if I'm not mistaken. And while I understand why they did it, it was still quite different from the hype they originally span around the world bosses.

The nightmare dungeons are fine for the most part. But what was absolutely ridiculous at launch was the fact that they expected you to run to each nightmare dungeon you spawned. Luckily they did hear the complaints and added a teleport feature with an update. But we still teleport to the entrance instead of inside the dungeon, which feels a bit stupid. But better than running around on the horse!

I play mostly with my fiancé and we noticed quite quickly that if we built our characters according to a nice sounding build, some of our skills would completely mess the other player's skills up. For example, a lot of sorcerer builds rely on the monsters being in a specific place - whether it be near you or a certain width apart. And just as I'm launching all my skills, my fiancé would launch his and the monsters would move. And my damage would not happen. And the problem of course is the over 10-second wait until I can attack properly again. One of my builds had the unique Raiment of the Infinite, which pulled the monsters to me when I teleported. Imagine a melee character running and planning to attack a monster... that got teleported away just before you hit it. And yeah, technically we could have chosen a different skill. But then the build would not work solo as well. So we often felt punished for trying to play together. We did make changes and avoid using specific skills when playing together but again this feels like something we shouldn't have to struggle with.

I really hope they can improve the end-game because, in its current state, I don't like it very much. And for a game that is all about grinding that is not a good thing.

The first season is almost over already

In general, I dislike the speed the seasons are planned to change. I'd like each season to last longer. I hope they will change that later too or then I'll likely start skipping seasons so I can also play some other games.

To me, it felt a bit weird that they already brought a mechanic to alter the character's powers in the first season. While it did bring me a build I could enjoy more than the one I used at launch, I still would have expected these types of things to come later in the seasons.

The season story felt a bit painful to play through, and I didn't really particularly enjoy the season dungeons either. The story didn't really feel like part of the game story to me. I'm not even exactly sure why that was, but it felt painted on. Many of the season dungeons were quite far away from the teleports so again I had to run around on the horse. And they got too easy in the later end game so grinding them for the season items later in the game wasn't that great of an experience.

I originally started the season with a rogue, as did my fiancé. And our builds were absolutely incompatible. Playing was a pain in the ass. Neither of us really enjoyed playing the class, so after a while, I went back to my sorcerer and he went back to a druid, which he had experimented on after launch. Our builds weren't that compatible with those classes either, but at least it got a bit better. And I even found a build that didn't struggle as much with mana! And which wasn't unpleasant to play with. But still. I want my Frozen Orb! Blizzard skill isn't it, and neither definitely is Ice Shards. I haven't given a go at fire or lighting sorcerer but that is because by default I prefer ice skills. And I did find it fun that we used Mortal Kombat character names and tried to get them to look at least in some way like the MK characters. We had Kitana and Mileena and then later on Sindel and Raiden.

Will I keep playing?

I've talked with a few of my friends who all feel the same way about the game. I might even have the most positive opinion about the game. But this game is honestly not better than Diablo 2. And it isn't really about the nostalgia in Diablo 2. I still enjoy the game a lot. Besides, in that game, I finally can create a sorceress with a fully upgraded Frozen Orb due to the cold charm! Oh, it was so fun to play with the orber sorceress. But back to Diablo 4. I feel like if this wasn't a Diablo game, I wouldn't have played it even this long. And my friends agree. Some already went back to Diablo 2 and some still occasionally play Diablo 4. But nobody is constantly playing Diablo 4. Diablo 3 had a lot more activity from my friend group.

I'm not completely giving up on the game yet, but I did decide not to push the first-season character to level 100. There are better ways of spending my time, to be completely honest.

The second season has already been announced. It has a vampire-like theme... and I love me some vampires. So I'll probably give the new season to go. Especially because they are also bringing some more quality of life improvements. Such as having the gems not use the stash spaces from other gear. Maybe I'll finally get to create a Frozen Orb build that is viable in the end game. However, it is probably more likely that I'll need to experiment with the other elements instead. But in any case, I do think I might just keep playing the sorcerer instead of trying the other classes. At least for the time being.

I hope they will bring a companion to the game at some point. Kind of like in Diablo 3. Someone who would collect the money spawning behind my back after I've already moved on. Running back to collect a little bit of money is quite annoying in the long run.

All in all, I'm glad that Blizzard seems to be listening to the players, at least somewhat. But it seems like they focus a lot of effort on new players and not their regular player base. And while I can understand trying to grow the player base with newcomers, punishing long-time Diablo players because you want to try to lure new players with the BS features in some modern games... not fun. The old Diablo community is after all the players who will play the games year after year after year. Well, might not if this is the direction the game will move into. But Diablo 4 can still be a great game if the developers just make good decisions and bring out the features the players want. That remains to be seen. And I'm sure a good compromise can be made that will work for many types of players. It's all about just making the right kinds of compromises and listening carefully to the players.

Got the image from Blizzard site.