One year after its disastrous unveiling, we've had another look at the Diablo game that's venturing into the mobile realm.
The prejudice from certain quarters against mobile games is very real. It doesn't matter if the numbers speak of millions of players; "real gamers" play on PC and console, while the mobile world is considered a mere distraction.
Last year, when Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, the reaction was rather negative. The announcement was inappropriately used as the icing on the cake of a rather weak BlizzCon, which resulted in the creation of more memes than news and it certainly disappointed a lot of players who had been waiting for Diablo IV. You may well remember the fan who stood up and asked the developers if the announcement of Diablo Immortal was "an out of season April Fool's joke". We're pretty sure Blizzard will never forget him; it was a cringeworthy moment that revealed fan frustrations regarding this unexpected mobile spin-off.
BlizzCon 2019, on the other hand, was defined by the announcements of Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 that, together, contributed to making this year's convention one of the best ever. But that's not all: Diablo Immortal was never mentioned by name during the opening show, and when we moved to the area reserved for journalists, the game was almost hidden, with two of the three tablets almost always inoperable. Behind us, a line of rather happy journalists playing Diablo IV for the second or third time in a row; in front of us, the solitude of a tablet with a dead battery. We sat down, facing a white wall and a sign reminding us not to take any photographs. In one word: depressing.
Now, even if it's easy to understand the reasons why so many have reservations about Diablo Immortal, we don't understand why Blizzard hasn't tried to further promote the game and give it more space at BlizzCon 2019. Why? Because Diablo Immortal has the potential to be very good - regardless of whether it's a mobile game or not.
For starters, it has many similarities with Diablo III; they share the same visual style and some of the same gameplay elements. For example, in Diablo Immortal we noted health potions with a cooldown timer and healing globes, and in general, we have the distinct feeling that this is the progeny of the third chapter in the saga. Immortal, therefore, lacks a certain sense of independence and originality.
The version of the game presented at BlizzCon 2019 was single-player focused, and therein we encountered the same feeling as we did in the most recent chapter of the series. There were secondary missions to accept, there were characters to talk to, and the whole thing was wrapped up in the same bleak atmosphere.
The developers seem to have done a great job when it comes to optimising the controls for mobile devices, and it takes only a few moments to get used to the touch controls, which are very responsive and are able to withstand the pace of the combat. Indeed, the fighting turned out to be much more frantic than we thought it would be. This accessibility, however, is made possible by the simplification of certain game mechanics. Talents, for example, are fewer than expected, and in general, the character builds seem to offer a lower degree of customisation. However, at the moment, we're talking about a demo build that may have been severely limited in terms of content, so we'll have to wait and see what the final version brings.
Regarding the content, BlizzCon 2019 was an opportunity to confirm the Demon Hunter class, which joins the already confirmed Barbarian, Monk and Wizard. The demo took us to the city of Wortham (as seen in Diablo III) aboard a raft, and we were immediately required to defeat a handful of undead enemies in a sequence that reminded us of the beginning of the last game. Regarding the multiplayer component, we know that it will be one of the most important parts of the game and that it will be accompanied by the presence of guilds and dungeons specifically dedicated to groups of players. Still, we're told that the single-player experience will be robust enough to please those who don't really enjoy playing Diablo with friends.
Thus, one year after its unfortunate announcement, we can say that Diablo Immortal is certainly not an "out of season April Fool's joke" but rather a game that should attract plenty of interest and could become a success in its own right. Of course, with Diablo IV on the horizon, the attention of die-hard fans will be elsewhere, but there's a potentially huge audience waiting and Diablo Immortal is shaping up rather nicely.