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Diablo 4 Preview: An impressive prestige RPG that shows its age

Blizzard has been busy, and Diablo 4 is a step up for the series. It introduces action-packed combat, an atmospheric world to explore, and crossplay, among other pluses. While the core gameplay does feel repetitive quite quickly, Diablo 4 is a triumph so far from the beta released in March. And no, it’s not just a better version of Diablo Immortal… in fact, let’s forget about that game altogether, ok?

The combat can get repetitive


Diablo 4 does have improved combat from the previous game, but it can’t help itself from getting repetitive. For this preview, I played as the Barbarian. They have multiple weapons, like the axe and the sword, that can be used simultaneously. In addition, there are a few impressive attacks like Upheaval, which digs your weapon into the ground and flings debris forward and Whirlwind, which has your character spin around like a Beyblade. A lot of the attacks are impactful, but the combat feels so stiff, that it’s hard to appreciate them.

One of the biggest issues with the game is how your dodge ability can’t be used over and over again. There’s a cooldown to the dodge, slowing down the functionality of moving out of the way. Many other action RPGs allow you to dodge one after the other in succession, so it’s confusing why Diablo 4 is different. It feels sluggish because of this.

It’s also annoying how little the game tells you you’re low on health. You’ll have to keep looking at your HP to know when to use your potions, and they can be taken out in a matter of seconds. It would be nice to have a deeper tinge of red on the screen to remind you that you need to heal.

Oh, and if the game tells me that my character’s out of fury for special attacks one more time, I’m going to lose it. This is one element of the game that shows the game is slightly out of touch with a modern audience.

Despite the combat system’s issues, it’s still thrilling to take out a horde of enemies in one fell swoop. Going back to the Upheaval attack, there’s a cone of AoE (Area of Effect) damage you can cause. If you’re against some meager enemies, it feels incredibly satisfying to take them all out with one powerful attack. There are also nail-biter moments with a boss when you’ve lost all your potions, and you try to get that one last strike to finish it off; that’s when Diablo 4 is at its most fun.

In addition, it’s neat that random players across the world appear in your game. Whenever there’s a world event occurring, strangers can tag along with you and help you defeat tough enemies. It’s definitely a departure from the prior mainline three Diablo games and adds an MMO-isque feeling to the game. Speaking of world events, they’re often entertaining. You’ll be offering blood to deities within circles that you have to stand on, or you have to take down a certain amount of enemies before time runs out. They’re relatively simple but fun to carry out with friends through crossplay on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. You’re also rewarded with precious loot.

Even though there’s some great online functionality, one issue that drew its ugly head is lag. This is a beta, so hopefully, this can be fixed by Diablo 4’s launch, but in multiple instances, the game skips ahead or takes you back to a previous spot. It’s super jarring and could be the difference between life and death.

An impressive world


Diablo 4 will pull you into its world and never let you go. While the game’s colors are regrettably dark and plain at many moments, the environments more than makeup for it. The gothic architecture of the buildings is splendid, and the environments themselves tell a story. For example, in a hellish landscape, you can see a skeleton reaching out for help from an entangled bush of bones and dried blood. It’s impressively detailed. Diablo 4 is not afraid to get gross, and that’s what makes the game stand out.

There are seamless open zones that stretch across different towns and significant locations like Alabaster Monastery. Unlike the flat explorable areas of Diablo 3, that game’s sequel has more verticality as you go up snowy hills. As a plus, you can see your character’s footsteps marked in the snow.

A grander focus on the story


Diablo 4 does a smart choice and has the camera closer to the characters during important elements of the story. This helps to connect to the main protagonist and the people he meets more. If you’re keener on the gameplay and nothing else, you can skip them easily. However, if you want to be involved with the narrative, Blizzard does a great job of relaying it through great performances and a decent script that has twists and turns along the way.

An RPG to look forward to


Despite some gripes with the overall combat system, Diablo 4 is still set to impress players when it releases in June. The world is impressively detailed and the magnified focus on the narrative will be welcomed by many newcomers to the series. Some of the special moves in Diablo 4 are badass and teaming up with your friends will make for thrilling adventures. However, the overall combat feels sluggish due to the annoying cooldown of the dodge, and battles can be repetitive. 

The Diablo 4 release date is June 6, 2023, for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.