In typical Diablo style, Diablo Immortal grabs you within seconds, and definitely doesn’t want to let go. In typical free-to-play gaming style, you’ll gradually notice the encroaching matter of money and how paying up can make a huge difference to your long-term progress. Does it matter? That all depends on why you’re playing.
See, Diablo Immortal is a lot of fun. Not fun in a trifling, mobile gaming distraction way, but in a way that meant I favoured it on my iPad over the allure of my Nintendo Switch when looking for a handheld gaming experience. It’s snackable. You can play for five minutes and feel like you’ve achieved something, or you can also happily lose a couple of hours.
Part Diablo game, part MMO, Diablo Immortal is set somewhere between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, offering some areas and characters that may already be familiar to players (hey, Deckard Cain!) but without it being essential to have played previous instalments. All you really need to know is that it’s a game about going from quest marker to quest marker, talking to people, completing challenges, and mostly, killing an awful lot of enemies.
Killing those enemies is fun, too. Just like with past Diablo games and more recently, Lost Ark, you’re typically fending off swarms of enemies rather than individual foes. A choice between a handful of classes gives the option to focus on melee combat, ranged combat, or going down the magic route. There’s a barbarian, crusader, demon hunter, necromancer, and wizard, but I opted for a monk that loved to punch and kick everything in its way. Class roles aren’t as deep as previous Diablo games but that’s why this is Diablo Immortal, not Diablo 4.
Ultimately, combat is simple yet meaty. Virtual touch controls mean that the left hand side of your device dictates movement while the right hand side offers a button for your main attack followed by a string of skills buttons for special moves that get unlocked over time. Diablo Immortal isn’t about slow introductions, and within a short space of time, you’ll have a full arsenal of tricks up your sleeve. A mixture of targeted attacks and effect attacks are the name of the game here, with each cooling down at different rates.
It’s sometimes frantic stuff but always enjoyable, and it’s simple to get into the rhythm of working your way through the skills; even boss battles breeze by relatively quickly. The primary attack auto targets so you don’t have to worry about lining things up just right, and touch controls feel comfy and mostly accurate. There’s controller support but honestly, you don’t need it. On an iPad, it actually feels a little clunkier.
A lot of the time, you’ll be fighting yard trash, but the boss battles stand out. These tend to occur during instanced dungeons that are short yet sweet, giving you a bit more to explore aside from running around the outer world. While such boss battles are not massively challenging, many require a certain amount of strategy as you learn your latest foe’s attack patterns and figure out the best ways of dodging their blows. Often, bosses are accompanied by other, lesser enemies to pick off at the same time. Once that’s wrapped up, you get some time to pick up the plethora of loot before diving in a portal and returning back to the outside world.
Early on, after nearly every battle in fact, you’ll have achieved something. Levelling up is fast when starting out, and new items are frequently dropped. Like combat, equipping such gear is simple yet gratifying. Open up your inventory and you’re presented with arrows to suggest which piece of equipment will most improve your armour rating. It’s far from complex – which may disappoint hardened fans – but it taps into the snackable nature that Diablo Immortal is all about.
Unwanted gear, meanwhile, can be ground down into scrap materials and enchanted dust, before using it to rank up the items you are using. Nothing goes to waste here. There are legendary gems too – powerful pieces of jewellery that can be attached to your items and provide you with some impressive new powers.
And that’s where the monetisation side of Diablo Immortal starts to emerge. Sort of. Legendary gems aren’t equal and the best ones are going to be far easier gained if you spend some real money. That’s because they’re dropped through dungeons called elder rifts. These rifts only take a few minutes to complete but you can use legendary crests to improve the chances of gaining a legendary gem at the end of it, and the best way to gain those crests is to pay money. It’s not essential but it’s fairly obvious that the end game is going to turn pay-to-win in time.
Does that matter? Not necessarily. Diablo Immortal is a lot of fun, regardless. While there are various slightly dubious monetisation features scattered around the place and they’re certainly insidious at times, the journey is still pretty fun. In my mind, it’s like not going near World of Warcraft simply because you’ll never be able to devote every weekend to raiding with a guild. The end-game doesn’t have to be the most important part of a game when simply playing it for a couple of dozen hours is a blast anyhow.
It’s clear that the production values are high. Diablo Immortal looks and feels great to play. Visually, it’s dark and moody, and while you may find yourself skipping the storyline in favour of moving onto the next quest, it’s worth paying attention to. The only thing to be aware of here is that on iPad at least, the game continues to download in the background. That means you can keep on playing, but at times, you may outrace the download bar and be stuck waiting for the game to catch up. It only happens early on in the game and your mileage may vary depending on your connection, but it can be a minor nuisance.
Much like Lost Ark, momentum is lost a bit once you hit a certain level range. For Diablo Immortal, that’s around the level 30 mark, leaving you to grind more than you once did. However, that’s when you’re likely to drop down to short sessions throughout the day rather than diving in for extended sessions. You’ll still feel a sense of accomplishment, even if you stoically refuse to pay up.
Diablo Immortal is still a terrific ride. It’s hard to say at this early stage whether the end-game is truly only going to be for the elite (or the rich) but don’t let that stop you playing it for now.
Diablo Immortal is a ton of fun. A five minute session can soon turn into an hour or more, with constant gratification keeping you hooked for a number of hours. The end game may turn prohibitively expensive for the perfectionist player but for everyone else, simply enjoy the experience in the meantime.
- Instantly compelling
- Intuitive controls
- Great production value for a F2P game
- End-game is likely to get very expensive
- Lacks some depth