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'Diablo Immortal' hands-on review

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At BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard revealed Diablo Immortal, an upcoming Android and iOS mobile game entering the Diablo series. Reactions to the game’s trailer from Diablo fans weren’t exactly enthusiastic but after playing a short demo, I have to say, Diablo Immortal is fun – because it plays like Diablo.

It’s literally Diablo on mobile

Just like Nintendo did with Animal Crossing, Blizzard didn’t give us Diablo IV but a Diablo mobile game. The collective groan and fretting about microtransactions was hard to ignore, but I did my best to give the game a fair chance.

The demo gave me a choice between three classes: Wizard, Barbarian, and Monk. I selected the Wizard because, well, she looked badass. Jumping in, I saw a familiar but simplified interface with a mini-map on the right-hand corner, five action skills, an item on the bottom right corner, touch controls on the bottom left, and your character’s level and health bar on the top left. Interacting with NPCs, chests, dropped items, and most everything else is done by tapping on them, or the prompt that pops up when you’re close.

I embarked on my quest and explored but was, of course, ambushed by waves of enemies. Instead of pressing a button or key to initiate an attack, I tapped on the skill icons repeatedly to take enemies down. It was easy, and it was only made easier as my character automatically targeted nearby foes.

Even with enemies that were more difficult, I found the remedy for that was also simple. I just tapped on the equipped health potion, and my character’s health bar was restored. Then I continued using a barrage of attacks until the enemies were gone.

Yes, Diablo Immortal is a mobile game, but it’s also another important franchise first – an MMO.

The simplicity makes it hard to see Diablo Immortal keeping its players entertained for very long without upping the difficulty or adding some worthwhile incentives. On the other hand, all past Diablo game were easy at first, and Diablo III is never a challenge if you don’t turn up the difficulty. Blizzard promises we’ll see a similar difficulty curve in Diablo Immortal, but I wasn’t able to see that in my demo.

I can say that if you’ve played a Diablo game before, this game will sound, look, feel, and play like you’d expect with little explanation required. If you’re new to the series, then you’ll pick up on it quickly and in return, learn to play a minimalist version of a Diablo game in the process.

It’s a social experience

Diablo Immortal is a mobile game, and that’s taken most the headlines. Yet the game makes another important franchise first – it’s an MMO. I encountered many other players through my exploration. We often helped one another in enemy dense areas, and it was explosive chaotic fun. I also grouped with others for a dungeon and killed a boss together, which was where the demo ended.

Playing with others online added to my enjoyment of the game. That was especially true when we used our abilities to help one another. A fellow player could use their Monk’s skill Eye of the Storm to pull a group of enemies in, and then I’d use my Wizard’s skill Meteor to crush them. Past Diablo games supported up to four players in one game, and Diablo 3 even let random players drop in and out of games. Yet Diablo Immortal focuses far more on social by making others more present and allowing larger groups.

What about the loot? Oh, don’t worry. There’s no shortage of loot in Diablo Immortal. Items can be found lying on the ground after defeating an enemy or opening a chest, and after tapping on it once to interact with it, you can tap on it again to equip it. Before equipping, an icon will appear that shows you how much an item affects your stats.

Mobile game or not, Diablo Immortal is fun and feels authentic in both gameplay and art style.

Inventory management is still a mystery as the demo wouldn’t allow us to access character inventory so it’s unclear how and if this system will change. It worth mentioning that loot is not shared, so what you see is yours for the taking. Legendary items will also play a big role in the game, as in past titles, though the demo didn’t hint at just how powerful those items will be.

During the Diablo Immortal group interview, Wyatt Cheng, Principal Game Designer at Blizzard, said the Diablo Immortal team is looking to Diablo 3 for inspiration.

“What I can tell you is that it’s an online social experience and we expect the social aspect to playing a part in the end game. We are looking to have legendary items,” Cheng said. “We love the way particularly in Diablo III: Rebirth Souls, the legendary items really allowed you to change the way that you play and change the way skills worked. So, we’re looking at a lot of those types of endgame systems, and kind of figuring out what makes sense.”

Diablo Immortal is mobile, and it’s fun

I came away from Diablo Immortal with hope. It’s fun because, despite the fact it’s now on the phone, it feels authentic to the series in both gameplay and art style. It’s Diablo made simple, and with the introduction of legendary items and some late-game difficulty bumps, it could be a great Diablo game in its own right.

Yes, you’re looking for a Diablo 3 sequel in Diablo Immortal, you will be disappointed. But if you crave an authentic Diablo experience curated specifically so you can play your favorite action RPG on the go, or with friends, you’ll want to give the game a try.

Want to hear more about Blizzard’s announcements? Check our full Blizzcon coverage.

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