The first time I heard the sound, I knew I was in trouble. You know it, that swishing sound in Diablo when you open a chest and the loot flies through the air. A sound full of possibilities, endless possibilities. What could i get next, how could I improve, how could I become better?

I hadn’t touched Diablo in a few years, but when I heard that sound in Diablo 4, I knew it: the game immediately got me all over again. Diablo can motivate you like no other to keep playing in order to assemble ever better equipment, unlock ever better skills and tackle and hopefully defeat increasingly difficult bosses. This fourth part further hones that into an irresistible gameplay loop.

It’s a delicious feast of an endless stream of enemies and interesting skills to unleash on them. Diablo may sometimes feel like mindless clicking, but especially on higher difficulties you really need tactics. Especially if you play with several people at the same time, you can conjure up the entire screen with whirlwinds, fireballs, skeletons or landslides.

You start your journey by choosing one of the five available classes. Whether you go for the Barbarian, Druid, Rogue, Necromancer or Sorcerer, the skill tree allows you to completely adapt your character to your own playing style. The choice between these skills is better than ever because it offers a lot of flexibility without giving you too much freedom.

I myself chose the Necromancer, which immediately appeals to me. With a simple click you conjure up an army of skeletons at your feet that do what you want, attack whoever you want. From a distance I hurl bonespikes at the enemy and let my undead hordes finish the job. At later levels you can summon even bigger undead creatures including a golem.

Casting through the hordes of monsters with my karate was an immense pleasure. What makes it even more fun is that for each of the above skills I also had three or four other choices. For example, maybe you don’t want hordes of undead minions around you, but rather solve it alone. Or maybe you prefer to work with blood magic, kill your enemies and heal yourself in one blow. Each class is very well put together in that way, with at least four or five workable builds to go for.

Each choice also feels much more important. In Diablo 3 you could switch skills at any time, but in part 4 that comes with a price tag. In the beginning you don’t have to pay that much gold to ‘respec’ a skill and make a different choice, but later on it will cost a considerable amount of money. So you don’t have to be afraid of a wrong choice during the first levels, but you do have to make a clear decision in the end.

That may seem restrictive compared to the previous part, but it makes you feel much more connected to your character and his or her skills. You can also no longer turn off all your AoE skills just before a final boss, so you really have to make a balanced build. It’s a perfect balance between the freedom to make a wrong choice and the coercive hand to come up with a good tactic yourself.

The large amount of loot has also been improved in a way that was not obvious. Diablo 3 was packed with sets of awesome weapons and armor that you could combine for extra power. This seemed really cool, but also had a major drawback: some sets were clearly the very best, so most players only wanted those sets. That doesn’t offer much flexibility.

Diablo 4 doesn’t choose to make equipment even cooler and stronger, but instead scales back and makes it more flexible. You can improve almost anything you find at a blacksmith shop, change the properties of each piece of equipment, or even turn rare items into legendary pieces of equipment with special abilities of your choice. So the choice is no longer just: is this new weapon better or worse than what I’m using now? But also: can I make this new weapon even better, so that it is still useful? Only at the higher difficulty levels do you now encounter unique objects that offer some extra power, and even those often have limitations, so that the ‘ultimate’ build cannot be simply sketched out.

A change that immediately catches the eye is the dark style of this latest part. Some fans were shocked by the colorful environments in Diablo 3, although I was not one of them. I was charmed by the style, something different from the always so dark worlds of Diablo.

The game is beautiful and the new style often comes into its own. Environments are full of details, which can often be broken. The lighting in particular comes into its own, with lanterns swaying in the wind and bathing the dark streets in a wavering light.

However, the gothic style covers the entire game with a heavy blanket of dullness, which also makes everything feel a bit the same. In any case, the environments are not very creative and it mainly seems to be a list of hangouts for goths: a dark lawn, dark cave, dark desert, dark snow field, a castle that is on fire, but is still dark. I was never stimulated by anything new. They are mainly places that we have also seen in previous Diablos.

The story isn’t very impressive either. A bunch of fools summon Lilith, the daughter of Mephisto, who has a sinister plan to become more powerful than ever. You mainly follow her for the rest of the game, so that you never really meet her and are always too late to intervene. You especially get into trouble with the aftermath of her plans and the monsters she has summoned.

Normally I’d say if you’re playing Diablo for the story, you’re doing it wrong. But part four puts extra emphasis on it, with many more cutscenes and dialogues. That’s quite nicely done, with some emotional moments, but the game’s engine can’t really handle it. The camera is made to hover over the action, not to zoom in on someone’s face.

As a result, some videos are quite ugly. In any case, they are in stark contrast to the game’s CGI intro, which is so beautiful that it could have been shown in the cinema. There are a lot of cutscenes that have clearly been given more attention, but in normal conversation characters are sometimes wooden and environments suddenly much uglier up close.

The other big change: Diablo 4 is an online game. That works out differently, and depends a bit on your gaming taste. In any case, we do not yet know how well the servers will hold up, but that will in any case be fine in the longer term. A bigger downside is that the game cannot be paused. That’s quite annoying if you’re just busy in a dungeon and the doorbell rings, or your cat pukes on the carpet. Since you can be attacked at any time, only in villages do you feel safe enough to go to the toilet.

On the positive side, the open world feels much more social as a result. Everywhere you see other players walking around in villages, or you meet them at one of the random events on the map. It feels good to go into battle together, overcome a tough challenge and then choose your own path again. Although of course you can always become friends or join each other’s clan.

Diablo 4 is already a pleasure on your own, but especially with multiple players in a group of up to four, the game really comes into its own. The interplay between the different classes and the effects of all those different skills racing across the screen: it’s a pleasure to watch and to control.

Diablo 4 is a gigantic game, with more elements than we can describe in one review. The best part is how the game seems to find a solution for all the little problems that could ruin your gaming experience.

In addition to the aforementioned smart things about loot and respecting builds, for example, it does its best to make the open world manageable. Everywhere you will find dungeons, side missions and cellars full of monsters, but of course you don’t have to go through everything. However, optional dungeons grant Legendary abilities that you can craft on your equipment. Fortunately, you can see on the map which skill you find in which dungeon, so that you don’t waste hours in dungeons only to get skills that you can’t use with your class.

At the same time, the game knows how to motivate you to spend more time in the open game world. Each area discovered, mission or dungeon completed fills a reward meter, unlocking crucial items for that region of the world map. Consider, for example, extra skill points or more XP, but also an extra health bottle that you always carry with you. This way you are constantly encouraged to stray from the path and visit the optional villages, characters and dungeons.

The game is full of these kinds of elements. Just when you get the feeling that the open world is getting very big and difficult to navigate, you get a horse at your disposal to race through it a bit faster. You can put a pin on your map and the fastest route to get there will automatically be shown on your minimap. Anyway, you can teleport to any village you’ve been to at any time, sell your inventory and then go back to where you left off. These are all elements that reduce the friction of this sometimes overwhelming game and make it endlessly playable.

Of course a game like Diablo 4 is difficult to review. I have now put in a decent amount of hours and have only just got a taste of the game, in which you always complete new dungeons and other challenges at higher levels of difficulty. I have seen a solid basis there to want to continue playing the game for dozens of hours, but my playing time is certainly too little to know whether this will remain fun and challenging for hundreds of hours, let alone whether all classes will reach level 100 in their ultimate form be well balanced. Also, the first season doesn’t start until July, so I can’t tell you if the upcoming Battle Pass with cosmetic items will ruin the gameplay.

What I do know is that Diablo 4 lays an unprecedentedly good foundation that fans can use again in the coming years. The game seems even better balanced, loot has been cleverly adjusted and your heroes and gear feel more personal as you have to think more about your build.



+ Weighty choices in character development
+ Open game world that rewards curiosity
+ Loot system feels well balanced

– Story and environments are a bit disappointing
– Game cannot be paused