I’ve had the opportunity to play in the closed alpha for Diablo Immortal for a little over a month now, and I finally feel like I’m at a good place to talk about it. I enjoy a lot about it, a few things that are a bit odd, and one aspect that could be problematic, but it’s hard to get a feel on since it is closed alpha and everything isn’t fully implemented yet. For anyone who has missed it, the story of Diablo Immortal takes place five years after the destruction of the Worldstone. It bridges the gap between Diablo II and Diablo III. In this overview, I’ll go over how Immortal’s general gameplay works, some aspects of the Crusader, and then get into more about the systems that will help Immortal continue to be fun after you finish the story.
The general look and feel of Immortal reminds me a lot of Diablo III, which is a huge bonus for me because I loved that game. Currently, I can make five different characters, which works out because there are five classes available: Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter, and Crusader. I’m unsure if more slots will be available to create more than five characters in the future, but currently, the character slots do not appear to be expandable. Each class has its own flavor and unique feel from their varying skills, but in general, they all seem to play similarly to each other. One nice touch on the class selection screen is that the male and female heroes have separate animations for each class. This adds a bit more variation between the two but still upholds what each class is.
Each class starts with a primary attack, which is the main “spamable” attack and can be used by tapping or just holding the skill down. It has no cooldown and will build energy for their ultimate attack. Once the ultimate attack is charged up, I could use it immediately or wait until fighting a boss to utilize it. Once activated, the primary attack changes to the ultimate, and I could go to town. I could also use other skills while the ultimate attack was active, but I generally wouldn’t because there’s only a limited amount of time to use the ultimate skill once activated.
In addition to the primary attack, various secondary attacks are unlocked during the tutorial and while leveling. These are slotted into four slots around the larger primary attack, and as such, only four secondary skills can be active at any one time. Some of these skills also have a charge-up component where I had to press that skill for a few seconds before letting it go to activate it. Many of these skills also have an aiming mechanic to them, but that is a bit touchy to use. If I twitched my thumb slightly while holding a skill down, it would change the aiming to be different than I intended. Hopefully, this will be tightened up a bit in a future build, it shouldn’t too difficult to aim, but the way it currently is set is a bit too sensitive.
I like the whole combat system and how it works currently. I like having the choice between what secondary skills I have equipped as it gives me the ability to tailor my skills to what I plan on doing. There are also alternate primary skills unlocked while leveling and provides another way to tailor the combat experience to how I wanted to play. My only real complaint is that the secondary skills are too close to the primary skill for my liking. Since I mostly tended to tap the primary skill rather than hold it, I would often find myself accidentally hitting my secondary skills when I didn’t mean to use them. Since they all have cooldowns associated with them, accidentally hitting and wasting them was quite frustrating.
One aspect of Diablo Immortal, which isn’t at all frustrating, though, is inventory management. The UI made it clear if an item was an upgrade over what I was currently wearing by putting a little green arrow on it in the inventory screen. Additionally, all gear was automatically grouped by type of gear and had a color border to indicate quality (common, uncommon, rare, legendary). All gems and crests are kept in separate tabs of the bag as well. I’m unsure if there is a max amount of gear that can be carried or not. I thought I was creeping up on the max at one point, but it seemed like more spaces just appeared where I got near the end. I hope it is an endless inventory because I hate being limited in what I can carry with me.
I was also surprised to see challenge rifts and elder rifts introduced relatively early as I worked my way through the story. Challenge rifts are mini-dungeons which you work your way through the various levels. Their layouts seem to be randomly generated, and players are ranked depending on how good of a job they did of clearing it out. The prizes for ranking seem to be gold and honor mostly. Elder rifts are essentially the same, but rather than just clearing out the whole area; there’s a timer which you have to stay ahead of or fail. Currently, the timer seems to be set to reasonably easy to beat, though. Elder rifts can also be augmented with crests that will randomly give either a boon or debuff for the run duration. I honestly have enjoyed elder rifts more than the challenge rifts even though they are essentially the same thing, but I find the random buffs/debuffs to be quite fun. Elder rifts are also the primary way to obtain legendary gems.
More often than not, I tend to prefer Barbarian or Druid playstyle in these types of games, but I fell in love with the Crusader when it was released in Diablo III. So I was incredibly excited when I saw the Crusader was coming to Diablo Immortal with the start of Closed Alpha. For the most part, all of the excellent abilities from Diablo III seem to be present here, except the cool health regen on hit gear. I massively exploited the health on hit setup and made it to where it was almost impossible for my Diablo III Crusader to die. There could be health regen on hit gear in Diablo Immortal as well, but if there is, I haven’t come across it yet.
One aspect of Diablo Immortal I am particularly enjoying with my Crusader is the interaction between gear and skills. Some equipment has effects on them that will change how a particular skill works, and I’m enjoying it because it allows me to use skills I’d otherwise ignore, and sometimes it completely changes things. For example, the skill Falling Sword usually allows me to place a sword in a particular spot where it will deal damage over 5 seconds. Activating the skill a second time while the sword is down allows the Crusader to jump to the sword and deal a bunch of damage around her. However, the sword I’m currently using changes that skill to a dash that deals damage to all in my path and is a blast to use. There’s also a mace that causes Falling Sword to create a bladestorm around it but removes the second activation.
I’m also a massive fan of the two AoE skills, Consecration and Judgement, which allow me to deal a ton of damage all around me. In the case of Judgement, it isn’t just damage but also a slow and a stun which is an enormous help for anything which isn’t a boss. Most of the Crusader’s toolkit seems to be AoE focused, but I haven’t quite hit max level yet, and I can’t preview the skills I don’t have yet. That said, I haven’t at all felt like I was hurting on single target bosses, though all of them seem to summon ads while fighting them. Also, small caveat there, a considerable balance pass needs to go out in all parts of the game. Everything, in general, feels easy currently, but I’m sure that’s not where they intend it to be for launch.
Battle Pass and Other Systems
What I really can’t get a solid feel of currently is how the monetization of Diablo Immortal will feel. The battle pass is currently in, and leveling up is easy; just pretty much do any activity in-game, and you’ll earn pass experience. However, only the free track is currently active, and we can’t even see what rewards will be offered on the premium line. Also, ranks can be bought with eternal orbs for 150 per rank up. Currently, 500 eternal orbs are sent to the highest level character in every account every day. So there’s no shortage of them at all. They can also be used to buy special reforge stones, legendary crests, and platinum. According to the in-game info bubble, eternal orbs are meant to be a rare commodity, so it’s safe to assume the stipend won’t continue after launch.
There is also a daily login reward, but I like the Diablo Immortal take on it where it isn’t simply logging on to collect a reward. Instead, it’s a first kill of the day reward, so you have actually to do something to get the reward. There are various rewards from various currencies to a random legendary item which can be the day seven reward. Also, it doesn’t have to be sequential days logging in, which is a massive help for a mobile game where logging in every day might be less likely for some people.
When it comes to gear, it isn’t always just a matter of finding better gear to equip; well, it is often that. In addition to finding new equipment, I could also rank up my gear to make it more powerful and add various gems to it as well. At first, I was hesitant to do this, though, because I didn’t want to waste resources improving something I would replace before too long. Well, Diablo Immortal has thought of that. Anytime I equipped a new item that was a lower rank and didn’t have a gem, a popup asked me if I wanted to move the ranks and equipped gem to the new item. Currently, swapping ranks and gems appears to be free and doesn’t cost any resources. I didn’t even need to visit a blacksmith or jeweler to do it. It’s honestly one of my favorite systems in Diablo Immortal.
Overall, I am having a ton of fun playing Diablo Immortal. The game and core systems are a lot of fun, and I have enjoyed the story as well. My only real complaint is how early elder rifts and challenge rifts are introduced, but that is more of a problem with me not focusing on getting the story done and instead wanting to hop in for short stints and kill many things in the rifts. The whole monetization scheme for it is still the big question mark. If it’s done well, I could see this game being a huge hit, but there is also the potential for monetization to be overbearing. On that note, only time will tell how everything will work out.
[Diablo Immortal Closed Alpha Version was played on an iPhone 11 Pro]