We've spent a bunch of time in Blizzard's mobile RPG and we're excited for launch to say the least.
A few weeks ago, Blizzard revealed that Diablo Immortal would be entering its next testing phase, allowing a select bunch of players on Android in Canada, Australia, South Korea, and Japan, a chance to dive into its mobile version of Sanctuary, to take the fight to the legions of Hell that threaten the land. This iteration of closed beta was to serve as a more complete version of Diablo Immortal, and included a new character class to test (the Necromancer), new locations to travel to, as well as a whole range of fixes and improvements that came about thanks to previous alphas beforehand.
Despite the beta only being available in areas far away from Europe, I've been diving into this version of Diablo Immortal to see how the game stacks up, and whether we should be excited for the mobile take on Blizzard's iconic action RPG.
Right off the bat, it's obvious that this game is in a very good state. The gameplay is incredibly fluid, the visuals are impressive and look typically Diablo, and the general experience is tailored in such a way that it doesn't feel like a mobile game in any sense. I say that as someone who has frequently been burnt by mobile game tropes that see solid titles sabotaged by intrusive and truly expansive micro-transactions and barebones gameplay systems. Granted this is something that is changing on the platform, but it's also worth noting that while Diablo Immortal isn't perfect yet, the core experience is very broad and will keep you entertained without you ever feeling the need to splash out some cash to expand the experience.
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I wanted to lead with this as it was a concern of mine, and has been a concern of mine ever since this game was announced and since I had the chance to test it out earlier this year. But, after sticking far too many hours into Immortal over the past couple of weeks, I can say that the purchasable systems seem to be handled in a balanced and moderated manner, with a Battle Pass being the primary method. There is every chance that a fast one is pulled on us, but if this beta is anything to go by, then we shouldn't be worried about how Blizzard is handling the matter currently.
But anyway, the gameplay. Diablo Immortal still feels like a truly top-of-the-line mobile game. Every part of this title seems to have been thought out in great depth, and the result is a tight experience that I (despite playing on a Canadian server with over 200 ping) have yet to come into any issues with.
The touch controls are still very easy to use, and never feel like they are limiting the player, and the game itself also runs incredibly well. For this beta, I've been playing on a OnePlus 9 Pro (massive thanks to OnePlus for sending me a unit for testing), and the phone handles the game with ease, displaying smooth striking visuals, and with the performance mode enabled, fluid 60FPS gameplay (even if this mode does cause the device's battery to drain faster).
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The majority of the gameplay is traditional Diablo, meaning you wander around the world, slaying monsters to get gradually better loot to be able to tackle new, harder challenges. Immortal serves this core experience up well, as it features plenty of unique locations to travel to, such as the Shassar Sea and the Dark Woods, and has plenty of quests, bounties, challenges, and various other avenues to earn experience, loot, and items to aid in your journey of amassing more power and strength. It might seem like quite a fast levelling system at the start, but as you progress past approximately level 22, the amount of XP you need to rank up drastically increases, and it'll start taking you a while, and plenty of activities to continue to raise your core rank.
The importance of this system is that the main quest line, new locations, and new class abilities are unlocked when you reach a specific rank, meaning you might have to entertain yourself with Challenge Rifts (timed dungeons), regular dungeons, bounties, or various other activities before you can visit new places. This isn't dull in any sense as everything in the game acts as a source of loot, so you're constantly growing in power and becoming a deadlier combatant, even if your core level is taking a little longer to advance.
It's a system in general that is highly addictive, as you'll find yourself doing one more dungeon run, completing one last bounty, doing one last challenge, all in the everlasting search for power, alike a traditional Diablo game.
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This is also a title that is unapologetically an RPG. The player is served up an array of stats and methods to fine tune their character and builds to suit specific circumstances, through upgrading gear, crafting gems that grant attribute bonuses, and by socketing these gems into the right gear for the best outcome. It's a system that has a very high skill ceiling, but also can largely be overlooked for a more casual experience, i.e. those who don't intend to run the hardest dungeons on the hardest difficulties.
Since Diablo is a game where the endgame is also of the utmost importance, this beta has showed a look at what that will involve, with the revamped Circle of Strife introducing a unique take on PvP for the most elite of players in a server, and the Paragon level system being available to drastically increase the challenge of a PvE activity for greater rewards. And this all comes after you've reached quite a high rank, which isn't a swift or fast feat to accomplish.
As for the multiplayer aspect, be it PvP or grouping up for a PvE challenge, the game is supported with easy to use matchmaking, a text chat system, and several methods to access and directly communicate with other players. It's a truly competent system that is hard to fault, especially since this is still just a closed beta.
In terms of the classes, Immortal supports four unique saves, meaning you can have a Necromancer, Barbarian, Monk, and Demon Hunter character on the go at once. The characters all feel unique and bring something new to the table, be it the ability to soak up some more hits, deal massive damage to a single target, or instead excel at chewing through groups of minor enemies. I've found that the Demon Hunter, while fun, is a more challenging character to play solo, whereas the new Necromancer, and its skeleton companions is a great class for taking on the adventure of Immortal alone, as this class offers great damage and the ability to spread the focus of advancing enemy units among the Necromancer and its three resurrected allies.
I feel a little strange and to a degree uncomfortable saying this, as Diablo Immortal still doesn't have an exact release date, but from what I've experienced, this is one of the best mobile games I've played. The gameplay is fun, the performance and visuals are fantastic, especially on the OnePlus 9 Pro, and there's a lot of depth and promise for what is to come at launch and beyond. It's not perfect, and the extra time ahead of launch will be used to sort a bunch of areas, such as the controller support, which right now is quite hollow and limited, but aside from that, Blizzard is seemingly set to serve up a complex and highly addictive mobile RPG that could be regarded as the gold standard of mobile RPGs down the line.
Considering this will be a free game, I'm actually still shocked by how genuinely fun and well designed this game is, because I had been truly in fear of what optional in-game purchases and how the platform would limit the series. But Diablo Immortal is looking to be something special, and I really can't wait to see how this game looks when it does launch in 2022, as this is shaping up to be one of my most anticipated games of the year.