Do you remember back in 2018 when Blizzard unveiled the plans for Diablo Immortal, a mobile instalment into the iconic RPG franchise? Truthfully, it's hard to forget because that announcement has been forever immortalised as a meme, but what about the game itself? Well recently, I had the opportunity to get hands-on with it, as part of the early alpha technical test where a lot of what will be coming was open for me to explore. Without foreshadowing too much, I can say there seems to be plenty to be excited for.
Diablo Immortal is set between the events of Diablo 2 and 3, right after the World Stone is shattered into several pieces and scattered over Sanctuary. In Immortal, you play as a character who travels the lands of Sanctuary looking to reclaim these shards to protect humanity, cutting down any demon or evil being that crosses your path. With this title being a hack and slash MMORPG, you have the freedom to explore the vast world with loads of other players, and even though it's a mobile game, you can do so freely, without any form of cooldown mechanics, energy system or need to buy anything - as Diablo Immortal is entirely free-to-play and it really does mean that.
You might think that with Immortal being a spin-off and a mobile game that it wouldn't be a reflection of the Diablo experience, but it really is. From what I played (a version of the full game we can expect to see) this is a Diablo game through and through. The questlines are expansive, the combat enthralling, the customisation deep, and it even looks and feels great to play, which to be frank surprised me.
The early alpha technical version I have been playing is tuned to be progress a little quicker than what will be reflected at actual launch, but I still couldn't put it down after three hours playing, and even more so, I couldn't wait to dive back in the following day. It has that MMORPG addictive effect that makes time just slip away, and to me that's pretty incredible for a mobile title.
Being an entirely new Diablo experience, Immortal does feature new enemies, unique itemisation and RPG mechanics, but there are also plenty of similar aspects. At the beginning of the game, you are asked to pick a class out of four (more will be available at launch and over time), with the options being the melee focused Barbarian, the magical Wizard, the zenful Monk and the ranged Demon Hunter. Each class has their own set of abilities and general mechanics, and there's opportunities to create multiple different characters in one server, similar to that of World of Warcraft.
After picking a character, you're thrown into the world and tasked with completing a series of Demon slaying quests. For some of these, you'll meet familiar faces such as Deckard Cain, and likewise you'll frequently be tasked with slaying returning foes, i.e. The Countess. Completing quests and defeating enemies will reward experience and have the potential to drop loot, which you can then equip to further increase the capabilities of your character.
This brings me to itemisation, a crucial aspect to any successful MMORPG. Diablo Immortal has different ways to expand and personalise your character, and to start with are the many abilities that can be swapped around into the four active slots available to use. These abilities can be levelled up to increase their damage by simply using them and then to further build on this, you can use a huge number of lootable items, each with different tiers of rarity and unique, random stats to increase your health, damage, armour, critical hit chance, etc. The list really is sweeping and for anyone unfamiliar with the expectations of an MMORPG, it might be a little off-putting.
On top of this, you will collect various currencies to be able to upgrade and enhance items at Blacksmiths around Sanctuary. Each item can be levelled five times, where upon reaching the cap, a new random perk will be unlocked to accentuate that item. And then, for even further customisation, you can add normal and Legendary Gems to each item to spice up what they offer a little more. Essentially, the concerns of this game being a more simplified, less broad Diablo experience has been completely shattered, because this title seems to have an extortionate amount of content to chew through.
As a quick note, the touch screen controls work fine. Personally, I don't particularly care for touch screen controls, but for Immortal's sake, they didn't distract from the gameplay experience, as the auto-aim and the UI combine nicely to allow you to keep running and gunning, or slashing I guess...
Diablo Immortal feels like an MMORPG first, mobile game second and while I've only been playing for a relatively short amount, there are still countless things to do. The crazy part, and any MMO fan will know this, is that the endgame is where things really take off, and for Immortal that means adding two more difficulties (at the moment) and a plethora of ways to expand your character through the Paragon system. This will allow you to explore new skill trees and grow further in power, and there are plans to explore this system to an even deeper degree.
To expand the experience a little more, there will be a Battle Pass system available to work through. While the free track is well... free, there is a paid track also, offering up items that don't affect gameplay, and simply enhance the user experience with fancy, appealing loot. Also, if you are worried about certain players cheating the game or holding a dominion over the market system, don't. Immortal has an anonymous market system that only allows material trading, and everything across it will have a fixed price set by Blizzard themselves. So, you can expect a fair deal all the time.
From what I've seen, Diablo Immortal has the potential to engage you for a long, long time. Again, this was only an early alpha technical test, so there are areas that might not be a reflection of what I played when it launches. Similarly, there could be new things, such as controller support and more characters, but either way, whenever the full game is available (and I have no official information here, but BlizzConline is just around the corner, if you get what I'm saying), then returning and new Diablo fans can look forward to what has the potential to be the gold standard of mobile gaming.