Diablo 4’s early access beta has me very excited to play the full game when it releases in June. The combat is weighty, the loot changes how you play your character in novel ways, and the world beautiful. But some of its best features, and especially its core premise, were already available in another game: the much maligned Diablo Immortal, Diablo’s mobile cousin.
Many people did not play Diablo Immortal because, understandably, of the game’s exploitative and aggressive use of microtransactions. (I initially enjoyed the game despite the microtransactions until it locked end game content behind a near impossible grind or giving the game a fistful of cash). Underneath those very bad monetization strategies, was a central idea that has now made its way into the heart of Diablo 4.
With Diablo 4’s predecessor, Diablo 3 from 2012, I was used to running procedurally generated dungeons again, and again, and again, by myself. The other option was to play them in a very small group of up to four players. It was generally a very isolating experience.
Diablo Immortal did away with that. When I first played Diablo Immortal when it launched in June 2022, I was taken aback by the very clear strategy of making the game a social-first experience. In the central hub city, other players milled about, visited the bounty board, queued for portals to transport to hard end game bosses, or just hung out. You didn’t have to interact with these players, but they were there, and you could chat or party up if needed. It was more reminiscent of World of Warcraft than Diablo. It was alive.
Then outside of the hub city, you still saw players running around, perhaps completing the same quests you were. At certain times, particular world bosses spawned, meaning whoever was in the area often sprinted over to help defeat a gigantic beast. Organically, players came together to complete a goal. These were some of the best experiences I had with Immortal, with dozens and dozens of players crowding a certain area just to hunt out one giant boss. And then outside certain dungeons, players waited for others to come over, join in, and grind them together.
When I played Immortal, I asked myself, what if Blizzard took this new approach and applied it to a mainline Diablo release? How exciting would that be?
Now, Diablo 4 is doing just that. The main city was bustling with other players. The beta includes a world boss people can try to take down together. That social experience that was first shown in Immortal was absolutely there.
To be clear, Diablo 4 is absolutely a better game than Immortal. I played multiple different classes in the beta to get a feel for the various skill trees. Each has interesting twists while staying true to their respective archetypes. Once I reached maximum level with my rogue character, I spent time just respeccing my character over and over to see what builds I could make. My favorite to play was one that felt very much like the fantastic action rogue-lite Hades, dashing from enemy to enemy, plunging my swords into the demon’s back before sprinting away again.
There are smaller features that first appeared in Diablo Immortal which are now in Diablo 4, like an easier navigation system. All of this isn’t to say that Diablo Immortal directly gave Diablo 4 those features. Both games have been in development concurrently for years, not one after the other. But if you played Immortal, you could see where 4 was going to land.