Diablo 4 Review: Hardcore Difficulty, Gameplay, Graphics & Music
Is Diablo 4 worth its $70 price tag?
In this article, I will be talking about a game I've paid $70 to play.
July 18th, 2023: Patch 1.1 changed some values, updated information.
July 2023: I'm slowly leveling a season 1 character (currently paused).
September 2023: After playing both Baldur's Gate 3 and Starfield, this is now un-paused. Compared to the start of season 1, the end of the season feels much better with more mobs/elites density making it more exp efficient and a little less boring.
I will be adding all season 1 information after killing S1 Uber Lilith, I'm currently 60 and unlocked World IV. I've also marked pre-season 1 Uber Lilith as such, it's considered legacy information and has no longer accurate values.
Diablo 4 standard edition released June 6th, 2023 for $70.
The game was playable since June 2nd, 2023, but only for people who bought either the $90 or $100 edition.
A race to level 100 in hardcore mode started that same day, making it mandatory to pay at least $90 to join it.
The reward, for the first 1000 people to get there, was getting their name engraved in the Diablo 4 statue.
A bad start.
Table of Contents
Diablo 4 In Depth Review
The following also applies to softcore. The difference between both modes is that you are not allowed to die in hardcore, you also get a cheat death elixir (2sec immunity instead of dying, once every 5min, 1 time use).
Diablo 4 Difficulty
Diablo 4's difficulty is not linear:
World I (1-50)
Nothing can kill you, really.
World II (1-50)
You never get real gear, some elite affixes like cold enhanced can be dangerous.
This is especially true when you have no movespeed to outrun fast cold elites, but their damage is still low enough to not be a real threat.
You are very slow until you get some decent movespeed on boots/amulet.
World III (50-70)
Entering this without movespeed can be dangerous, as the cold enhanced elites do damage now and can kill you.
Just running away when in danger is enough to not die.
Once you get some sacred gear it gets trivial.
As of patch 1.1 (July 18th), they nerfed the cold enhanced elites, the only potential danger is no more, making an easy game even easier. You should still avoid this affix in higher nightmare dungeons because of the chain freezes (stuns).
World IV (70-100)
You are most likely full sacred when entering this world, and nothing is dangerous.
Ancestral gear on top of it makes it even more trivial.
Overall, you are most likely to die when switching to World III with bad gear. There is no challenge at any other point in the leveling process. Making the overall process boring and repetitive, ultimately leading to burnout.
Note About Burnout
I did burnout during leveling. I didn't die once, but it took me almost a month from 70 to 100 playing an average of 2h a day. It is the first time that I burned out during a first character leveling (since I didn't die, I never had to start over, which would have made it even worse).
I did theorycraft some builds on the beta beforehand, but that was a low amount of playtime.
I had no issues playing Elden Ring for over 12h a day in comparison. Just a reference to my Elden Ring review.
I also had no issues playing Path of Exile (same genre as Diablo 4) for extended periods of time.
Diablo 4 Gameplay
Pretty much everything important:
Altars of Lilith
Collecting all the altars is a necessary step to maximise stats of your characters. They are account wide, so you only have to collect them once.
You get a total of 68 in each stat (2 each): strength, intelligence, willpower and dexterity.
A total of 4 paragon points.
A higher Obol capacity (up to 1000).
They also give you a little bit of renown (10 each).
Another necessary farm to maximise your character. It is also account wide so you only have to max all renowns one time.
Skills points (2 per zone), flask capacity (1 per zone), obol capacity (80 per zone) and paragons points (8 per zone) are renown rewards.
Each major zone has its own renown bar, and there is a total of 5 zones, so you will have to do quests and dungeons in all of them to unlock everything.
Each dungeon will give you 30 renown for the first clear and an aspect. When farming renown, the best way is to start with quests, because some quests will lead you inside dungeons. Doing so can get you 50 renown in one go, because quests gives 20, so the dungeon and the quest inside it equals 50.
Normal dungeons were better than nightmare dungeons to level until the late June patch that increased the experience gain.
As of patch 1.1 (July 18th), dungeons now give 40 and quests 30 renown (+10 to their previous value), so now you get 70 renown from doing what I just said above.
With 100 tiers, nightmare dungeons mobs level are calculated like this: 50 + World Tier level + sigil level.
Example: A tier 100 nightmare dungeon in World IV will have level 154 mobs: 50 + 4 + 100 = 154.
At the end of each of them you can level your glyphs, which provides you with more character power through your paragon board. Each glyph can be level to 21, and has its max radius at level 15.
The difference between a nightmare and normal dungeon is affixes, they come in a total of 4 on your sigil and will make each run more or less difficult.
Also, you don't have to push to T100, you can just craft sigils until you get some T100 that don't have awful affixes.
Note For Necromancers
As a necromancer, you can do a tier 100 nightmare dungeon pretty safely, by generating some corpses with blood mist and then pulling mobs to it, cc with corpse tendrils & curse them with decrepify (talented with cd reduction), then pop bone storm and start unloading essence. You will get a corpse tendril reset thanks to the curse, so they will be perma cc'ed until they become unstoppable or die. If you fail to kill them before, just run a little and repeat (try to not reset them, it takes like 10sec for them to not be unstoppable anymore, you can also use the aspect that does more damage on unstoppable ennemies).
Multiple boards that can be attached together, taking nodes one by one making a long path between each one.
Each board has one glyph that can be activated.
With a total of 255 paragon points, you can connect around 5 boards, depending on how many points you spend for glyph activations and single node glyph boosts. It really depends what you are trying to build for.
This is where most of your character power comes from, but they have been nerfed early after launch by 30% to 70% on a glyph per glyph basis.
Uber Lilith (pre season 1)
The final boss of the game, with very bad hitboxes not matching the visuals (phase 1 waves, phase 2 lines).
A camera zoom in & out mechanic that has no place here (be more annoying please).
The fight feels rushed, uncomplete & untested.
The following screenshot is what my stats looked like in my leveling/tank gear when hitting 100 with some 21 glyphs. I wanted to see what I could soak on Lilith, the answer is: everything except the important things (so yeah, nothing). Waves did proc my cheat death elixir, so did blood blisters when exploding. I also had a very high damage reduction on top of that (50%+), and the blood golem soaking 15% of the damage, plus a barrier.
After a few tries like this (I had no damage), I went back to leveling my glyphs and farmed some full damage gear. Even down to 8k armor and 13k health, I was not in danger of dying from anything but the one-shot mechanics and got some massive damage boost instead of useless defensive stats.
The best elixir you can use as a necromancer on Uber Lilith is the elixir of resourcefulness (+50 max ressource), thanks to the key bone talent (Ossified Essence) and the passive crit rate chance talent (Serration), you get 50% damage and 0.9 * 5 = 4.5% crit rate (while casting at full ressource). You can get it farming Helltide chests.
Note: On hardcore you are limit to 1 attempt every 5min because of the cheat death elixir, while you could log in & out to reset it, you would run out of the other elixir doing so (yes you can use both elixirs at the same time). It means that unless you want to farm elixirs for hours, you gonna have to take this annoying 5min break each time. Just another bad feature, increasing worthless time spend in the game, while they could just reset the cheat death elixir upon using the scroll of espace.
Waiting was the true end boss, not Lilith.
Necromancer Class Flaws
I played Necromancer only, so there will be some specific things about that class.
The following are the design flaws about the Diablo 4 Necromancer:
A limit of 14 corpses. Generating a new one will despawn the last one, but not immediately.
A delay of 2 seconds will occur, still rendering the corpse, but making it unusable during that time.
In AoE situations, you will often click on not working corpses (patch 1.1 increased the usage radius, which makes this less likely to happen, because it will target corpses further away).
On top of that, you always see 2 corpses when you kill something, the real mob one and the special necromancer one.
(Can't just despawn the real one for the necro class? Or you know, make the real one usable and never add an extra one to begin with?)
Playstyles inaccessible before World IV
Probably true for all classes with specific uniques requirements.
Example: Minions don't do damage without the unique minion ring.
It's still good to keep minions while leveling to distract mobs from attacking you, but that's it, they are just meatshields.
Once you start World IV you still have to loot the uniques, this can take many levels.
Global Game Flaws
General issues with the game itself:
Unjustified Extended Leveling
When something is very repetitive, don't make it overly long, you just burnout your playerbase.
It looks like an incentive for some future cash shop experience potions to me.
(A battle-pass is just a more "engaging" cash shop.)
1 Stash 5 Classes
There is already not enough space for 1 class with all the legendaries, uniques & roll range on those.
Now, add a total of 5 classes that just share the same (lack of) space...
Again, looks like an incentive for future cash shop stash extensions to me.
No Offline Mode
The game feels bad during the day because of the server load. Feels much better at night.
No offline mode for a game that is mostly single-player is such a bad decision (outside of world bosses and world events, I might have seen a handful of players only during my whole leveling).
The risk of losing your hardcore character to rubberbanding/server crash is even worse.
Failed Game Design
A more then questionnable decision making on a variety of features:
They can drop from any 85+ monsters.
The drop weight has been datamined and is 1 for Uber uniques, compared to 600,000 / 800,000 for normal uniques.
This means that you will find 1 Uber Unique for every, almost a million, other uniques.
In other words: you won't. Unless...
Uber Uniques Helltide "Bug"
A patch introduced Helltide chests being able to drop uniques.
Whoever took that decision failed to think 2 steps ahead, even 1 step:
> This feature was supposed to let people farm uniques for specific item slots.
> Some classes do not have any other uniques then the Uber uniques in specific slots (for example, the barbarian helmet slot).
> Barbarian gets a guaranteed Uber helmet if any unique helmet drops from the Helm Chest.
> Fix: All uniques can lot from any chest. ???. Was the initial purpose even what I said?
> Incompetence. Not bug.
No Single Player Dungeon Reset Option
Do you like waiting 1 minute outside a dungeon before entering again? Then it's the right game for you.
This only applies to normal dungeons, but still.
Just another awful feature that should not be in the game.
Elixir of Cheat Death (Hardcore)
The elixir of cheat death is a secondary elixir (meaning: can be used at the same time as your main one) and will proc a buff that will prevent you from dying. You get a 2sec immunity buff, enough time to safely press your scroll of escape.
The issue is, it doesn't get reset upon exiting the dungeon, you get a 5min debuff which prevents you from using a new one. This forces you to wait 5min between Lilith attempts, or run out of other elixirs if you want to disconnect to reset it. That would be a lot of time farming Helltides to get them back, way more then afking for 5min each time.
This feature was made by people that have no clue about what they are doing.
Getting time punished for dying (losing your character) is one thing, but getting time punished after each Lilith attempt is a whole new level of awful game design. You are already attempt limited by the amount of elixirs you can craft.
Stuff like this happens when casuals try to make rules for hardcore players.
Diablo 4 Graphics
The game looks great even without the 4K texture pack (it doubles the size of the game pretty much).
Each one of the 5 zones is unique and has a certain dark atmosphere to it.
From the mountains to the deserts, everything is worth exploring.
Animations and their particles for skills, are for the most part good.
Some need a rework, like the darkness corpse explosion from the necromancer, leaving multiple oversized black puddles on the ground that make it impossible to see what's happening.
Could not imagine using this on Lilith when she's already doing black strippes on the ground.
Decent for the most part, low when it matters. Like what I just said about Lilith, her black strippes are not easy to keep track of, they kind of blend in too much.
When you design dark attacks in a dark environment, you do visually impair your players.
That's called bad game design.
Normal everywhere, awful on Lilith.
Also the boar's charge hitboxes can hit you even when they are dead if they started their charge animation just before dying.
Diablo 4 Music
The soundtrack is really good. Kind of sad that a lot of music had to be cut out.
The following composers are credited for their work in the Diablo IV soundtrack:
Leo Kaliski, Ted Reedy, Ryan Amon, Derek Duke & Neal Acree.
The town themes are beautiful and melancholic at the same time.
The Kyovashad town theme might be the one that caught my attention the most.
All zones have some very unique atmospheres.
The only common denominator is Death.
A lot of the zones are part of the released soundtrack, so give it a listen.
This is where the game really shines. Towards the end of the campaign, you get a long cinematic. While watching it and listening to the music in the background, I heard something a little bit familiar, a feeling coming from World of Warcraft.
Neal Acree did co-compose the track playing during this cinematic with Ryan Amon. And the best thing, is that they did not cut out the chant at the beginning.
-1 slow & uninteresting character to 50
-1 long & repetitive leveling
-1 boring & easy leveling
Only Uber Lilith & T100 is technically difficult. That's not where you spend most of your time.
-1 class flaws
-1 global game flaws
-1 unobtainable uniques
-1 5min waiting time between Lilith attempts
Overall good experience (not the waiting part...), with some interesting aspect synergies.
-1 visual clarity
Great everywhere, except in some fights.
Listen to the soundtrack and/or to my playlists above.
Now to answer my initial question: is this game worth $70?
No. Maybe get it if it's 50% off, $35 sounds good.
-1 for overpricing
Real Total: 6.5/10
The game is being dragged down by incompetent decision making, the final score is saved by art & music.
It's just going downhill since launch, don't expect it to get any better. It's still an OK game it you play it casually.