Diablo IV Review – A glorious return

Reviewed May 31, 2023 on PC


Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


June 6, 2023


Blizzard Entertainment


Blizzard Entertainment

Activision Blizzard is facing serious allegations of harassment, mistreatment of marginalised workers, and a toxic work environment. For more information, please click here.

Aspiring to be bigger than its predecessor without getting caught in the same controversies that plagued Diablo III, this Blizzard release has a lot to prove. Diablo IV presents a decade’s worth of learnings applied to a long-standing and iconic franchise that deserves only the best. With a grandiose open world and so much of that classic Diablo flavour, it’s safe to say the inevitable hundreds of hours you’ll spend in Sanctuary will be full of catharsis and delight.

From its opening cutscene, Diablo IV paints itself as a monumental release. Summoned from blood and presented in intimidating glory, the game’s key antagonist, Lilith, The Daughter of Hatred, has a formidable presence and a motivation that’s not as straightforward as your average arch-evil. Your pursuits of Lilith take you through the realm of Sanctuary, following a path of blood petals that give a glimpse into the destruction she leaves in her wake.

Art direction alone gives Lilith incredible power. It shouldn’t be a shock that the production value—especially as an Action RPG—puts Diablo IV at the top of the pack. The opening cutscene is a prime highlight of the talented animation team, Lilith emerging from a fine sheet of skin and the fear reflected in the eyes of the sacrifice – it’s jaw-dropping horror. Even the in-engine cutscenes offer superb style that drives the narrative with its demonic beats and monstrous twists. Although they aren’t as spectacular as the cinematics, they all maintain the same quality of terror.

That’s not to say the game maintains the same tone, atmosphere, or storytelling prowess from start to finish. In fact, it can vary quite drastically in all three. Particular sections of the story and certain bosses feel inspired by heavy metal album covers and other moments along the journey are like something out of a Hellraiser film. The game varies in its tone and atmosphere between gameplay and cutscenes, but remains self-aware of its legacy – a dark tale about demons and angels.

From a visual and audio production level, it’s hard to look beyond the impact of Diablo IV. It’s a world you’re constantly drawn back into for its worldbuilding, lore, and presentation. That’s a mighty big compliment for a genre and franchise that is undoubtedly loved more for its gameplay and less for the qualities listed above.

“…the game constantly walks a tightrope and finds the balance between readability and impressive visual butchery.”

With a camera positioned closer to your character than in previous iterations, Diablo IV lets you see and feel the carnage of your actions. The animations and spell effects look great, as the game constantly walks a tightrope and finds the balance between readability and impressive visual butchery. Enemies fill up the screen and surround you as their attack animations and spell effects light up the battlefield. Weaving in and out of explosions and poison pools whilst peppering in your own powerful spells and attacks makes for a dynamic and engaging battle system.

Diablo IV’s combat can give you that Musou feel of power and spectacle you’d know from franchises like Dynasty Warriors, yet with an amount of elegance and precision not found in the aforementioned genre. It just feels right. On the odd occasion, visuals could clutter and overlap, such as one particular boss that used a tornado attack visually very similar to my own. Though for the scope and size of the game, these moments were relatively few and far between.

Significant changes to the skill tree and mechanics are an intuitive update. Skills are now assigned via points on a branching vein/root system. Each main node of the skill tree requires a certain amount of allocated points to unlock before it can be invested. These class-defining abilities have a variety of minor upgrades to invest points into. Running two Druids with completely different builds showcased the diversity of the new system. Having a shapeshifting Werewolf/Werebear critical damage-dealer and a master of elemental lightning/air area of effect attacks made for a powerful duo. It’s quite an exciting change to the formula, adding depth to how players craft their perfect build.

At first, Diablo IV doesn’t give the feeling of evolution too much when compared to previous iterations. It does rely on the formula that came before it, never adjusting things too drastically for it to feel wildly different. Though, as playtime progresses, you begin to see and feel that evolution from the size of the world alone. Sanctuary is huge and you can spend hours chasing side quests, engaging in dynamic events, delving into dungeons, and taking over Strongholds without ever progressing the campaign. It’s all really good content too, with only some slight repetition to quest design reminding you that what you’re doing is ultimately padding.

Though, for a gameplay and looting cycle as strong as Diablo IV’s, padding isn’t even that terrible. It’s always exciting to see that new piece of loot drop to help you improve your build. Whether you acquire it chasing a Loot Goblin, defeating a boss, clearing a dungeon, or just through general play. The constant improvement of stats and working toward your perfect build is the name of the game here and it remains as horrifyingly addictive as ever before.

“The constant improvement of stats and working toward your perfect build is the name of the game here and it remains as horrifyingly addictive as ever before.”

The sheer depth, variety, and number of different side quests, enemy types, spells/attacks, and more is all very impressive. It gives the game this sense of scale and grandeur that really carries it from a simple sequel to something much bigger. This variety all starts with character selection as you pick from a set of five very different classes. The class differences go beyond what kind of abilities you can tap into and extends to different gameplay mechanics. Increasing weapon proficiency as the Barbarian or hitting vulnerable enemies as the Rogue opens up what is essentially a new minigame specific to that class. It’s lovingly implemented, feels good to engage with, and gives yet another solid reason to kick off a new playthrough with another class.

The quest design in the game is commendable, providing a satisfying experience. Alongside the main yellow quests, you’ll come across blue sidequests that are conveniently located along the path to your main objective. This setup allows for seamless progression, as you can easily tackle the sidequests while making your way towards the big bosses. Not only does this provide additional rewards and experience points, but it also adds depth to the overall gameplay by offering engaging diversions along your journey.

Dungeons offer variety to the experience with randomly generated layouts and foes that are hidden within. They’ll often use similar assets and environmental features to the respective area, but each dungeon encountered is a step up in difficulty and a worthwhile endeavour. In one devious dungeon, we encountered the menacing Butcher boss who was not locked to a small area and chased our party around the entire map until either it or we were eliminated. At the end sat a challenging boss and usually legendary items or useful gems to help us continue the journey.

You’ll also encounter a range of temporary events across the now MMO world of Sanctuary. Orange circles indicate a world event that delivers fairly good rewards for completing within the time limit and requirements. There are also legion events and Strongholds, the latter of which can become teleportation points, that are more challenging endeavours and will likely require a buddy or two to defeat easily. Whilst the always-online nature of Diablo IV certainly caused the occasional latency issue or two, it’s hard to deny how effortlessly and respectfully the game’s multiplayer elements are implemented. It’s just nice to see other players milling about the town or on their own adventures in the wild. Joining another party to take down a tricky encounter and then going on your merry way is just a nice subtle touch that connects you to other players without interrupting your own solo journey.

There’s so much content in just the first playthrough of Diablo IV’s open world. There’s variety in the individual journey you take to complete the main quests, the chosen activities you tackle with your party, and the situations you’ll likely get stuck in when recklessly entering a dungeon unprepared for a real fight.

Diablo IV is supported through nostalgia and that feeling is very tastefully captured through music and sound effects. Every time a piece of loot drops onto the floor you get a warm rush that harkens back to your days playing the original games within the series. It’s all very intelligently incorporated to marry the old and new in a seamless package.

The cooperative play feels as good as ever and it all works intuitively. Progression and loot are independent which means there’s no fighting over drops and you can comfortably join a friend’s game with the progression you make there carrying over into your own solo experience. Enemy’s scale nicely and the whole online system just seems to work effortlessly. Even the long wait times and server issues that usually plague an online game’s launch (and definitely impacted Diablo III’s launch) didn’t cause issues here. There’s definitely a feeling that lessons were learned and you have to give props for that.

After level 50, players gain access to the Paragon board, which sort of looks like a mahjong game. Instead of infinitely becoming stronger like in Diablo III, this game concentrates on curated and custom-difficulty experiences for players who venture through the Paragon ranks. Trying to perfect your build with item perks that support your abilities and the ideal gems for your selected gear is as addictive as ever. Diablo IV supports the player’s journey to build perfection with smart systems that just allow you to feel more and more powerful the more you finetune and grind. It’s in these systems where you can see the longevity of the experience. Safe to say I’ll likely be playing Diablo IV for months to come.

The game’s microtransaction economy can feel greedy at times, with small cosmetics costing the price of a newly released indie game. Pair these costly cosmetics with an equally greedy ‘early access’ buy-in and Blizzard may find themselves disappointing their most loyal fans. It’s unfortunate that certain elements of the game feel greedy rather than generous, though at least these microtransactions aren’t influencing gameplay and online economies. Blizzard are far from perfect, but their ability to learn from past mistakes and improve in these areas helps ensure the health of titles like Diablo IV.




  • Polished to perfection with high production values
  • A huge game with so much variety to gameplay
  • A return to form with learnings from past mistakes
  • Addictive and engaging systems
  • Good online implementation


  • Some room for improvement with storytelling
  • Expensive microtransactions feels greedy

Whilst Diablo IV could have done more to advance the genre or perfect its writing and tone across the entire experience, there’s no denying just how impactful this release is, especially for those of us who grew up alongside the series. The game is demonically big and beautiful, allowing players to get lost in Sanctuary and constantly engaged by the looting and upgrading loop that continues to fire endorphins from the moment you boot it up until you finally and begrudgingly turn it off.