During BlizzCon, I went through the Diablo IV demo twice and had the chance to check out both the Druid and the Barbarian. The demo gave us a level 20 character to do some quests and explore a bit. Sadly, there wasn’t the opportunity to change skill selection or vary the build outside of random equipment, which dropped while playing. However, it was a nice slice of gameplay to give a feel for how everything works in this game.
I played the Druid first, and I immediately noticed how great the shapeshifting felt. Since it’s tied directly in with using specific abilities, there was no need to stop fighting to shift forms, which helped combat flow greatly. Of course, the other side of this was it was a bit of a surprise when I shifted forms, but that’s mostly due to not actually having played the character from the beginning and just dropping into a progressed character.
There were two skills on the Druid which I particularly enjoyed. The first one is he could call up rocks from the ground and summon a giant boulder and send it towards your enemies. This is a directional ability, so making sure I was facing the correct direction was important; otherwise, the boulder would go rolling off uselessly in whatever direction I had been facing. In addition to dealing damage, the boulder also acts as a push and could affect multiple creatures at a time. This was particularly helpful if I was getting a bit overwhelmed by a large group of enemies. I could push some of them away while I focused on killing the ones left behind. Likewise, if it seemed like my wolves were getting overwhelmed, I could easily get mobs off them with the boulder.
The other really fun ability was a smash down, which is best described as a hulk smash. This is one of the abilities that would turn me into a werebear, jump in the air, and then smash down on everything. This ability is utterly devastating and honestly made me giggle with glee every time I used it. During the demo, there were a ton of opportunities to use this ability as well because it seemed like all the mobs were constantly swarming, especially when I joined a public event.
The only thing I didn’t like about playing the Druid is there seemed to be no real way to interact with the wolves. They would often run off after any enemies regardless of if I was fighting them or not. There were a few times where I was looking at items I looted, and they would suddenly run offscreen because some mob got one step too close. For the most part, this wasn’t a huge issue, but it could be problematic in dungeons, so having some way to direct them a bit would be helpful. It also would have been nice while out of combat to be able to pet them. Not being able to show my appreciation for them made me sad.
Barbarian was also a ton of fun, but it is more of a straightforward “bash all the things” type of character (obviously). I will say the Barbarian abilities felt more natural, and combat had a more fluid flow than Diablo III did. I’m not sure if they had the switching between arsenals aspect disabled or not, but I couldn’t get that aspect to work. This is a shame because that is the most significant update to the Barbarian, and I was hoping to be able to get a feel of how well that works in combat.
As for the demo itself, there was a sizable section of the map to run around in and explore, or there was a series of quests to do. The questline was to help a mother with her son who’s been having troubling visions. As a result, the townspeople want to kill him in an assumption it’ll cause the drowners to leave them alone. I won’t spoil what happens in this quest; however, the stated goal of emphasizing the feeling of consistently being “a day late and a dollar” short is on full display here. The world is in a hopeless state so if our heroes showed up and were just able to fix everything wherever we go, that would greatly undermine the dire state of the world. As such, it makes sense not to have everything go right. However, there is a line. If everything we do doesn’t work out, it’ll just make it feel like there’s no point us even trying at all, which would be counterproductive to players sticking with the game.
During one of the panels, they also mentioned the dungeons were now seamless. They specifically said switching floors in dungeons would be seamless, but I also thought entering the dungeon would be seamless. However, there’s still a loading screen when entering them which makes sense. If the world at large is open for players to explore from the beginning seamlessly, then loading up all the permutations for the dungeons at the same time would be a whole lot of info to load up at once. This would probably have a negative impact on gameplay. Aside from the initial loading screen, the rest of the dungeon was seamless, though.
I also believe they probably increased the drop chance of Legendaries for the demo because I saw a lot of them drop. This was probably done so we could see some of the abilities on them. The two most interesting ones I saw was one which would periodically spawn lightning storms. These seemed to spawn all the time and were highly effective. The other notable one said it would periodically spawn a hydra to fight for me. I never actually saw this happen. The rest had affixes that weren’t particularly interesting to me but could potentially be useful in various builds.
As this was a demo it was a limited one slice of the game. The parts I played were a lot of fun. I wish I had more time to go back and play a third time. Also, it would have been nice to play around with some of the other abilities, and change builds up. There’s no word on a release date, but what we got to see in the demo looked good and was fun. We’ll have to see what happens during the rest of development, though.