I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the launch of Diablo Immortal ever since I participated in the closed alpha test last year. In the intervening time, I hadn’t found another mobile game that could come even close to filling the void left when closed alpha ended. There were quite a few things that I couldn’t get a look at during the closed alpha, so there were still a lot of questions about how Diablo Immortal would feel at launch. Over the last week, I have had the opportunity to delve much deeper into the game and get a good feel for it. So let’s dive into what it’s been like playing Diablo Immortal over the last week.
I’m happy to say the core gameplay that I loved in closed alpha is still intact. Having the primary ability, which is spamable, surrounded by four other abilities which I could switch out as I wanted, is excellent. I still prefer to tap the primary ability, so I have the occasional issue of accidentally setting off one of my secondaries when I don’t want to, but I’m working on retraining myself to hold it down instead. That feels less satisfying to me in some way, though.
Initially, I focused on the story and only did the challenge rift and elder rift when I was prompted to and didn’t veer off the main path when traversing the zones. This worked well until I reached the part of the story where I was supposed to go to a library. To make it through that part, I needed to be level 35, but I was only level 32. Initially, I thought maybe I could push through, and it would be ok. I found that I probably could have made it through, but it was going to be a much bigger pain than it seemed like it was worth. That said, being only three levels behind from just focusing on the main story isn’t bad.
Most of the time, I resent it when I hit walls where I need to level up to continue the story. However, this time it didn’t bother me. It wasn’t a hard roadblock; although the codex popped up saying that I needed to get to level 35, and I got warnings about a mob being too high level for me, I wasn’t prevented from continuing if I wanted. Additionally, three levels weren’t a big deal to get. I did a few bounties, ran rifts, and went back and did some more exploring in the zones. Getting those extra levels was something I enjoyed and allowed me to focus more on other aspects of Immortal I had been skipping over.
The biggest gameplay issue I ran into was when playing at night, I needed to remember to change the brightness settings on my phone. I have it set so the brightness naturally dims at night, making a better nighttime experience. However, Immortal is a reasonably dark game, and having the game dim and my phone dim made it extremely hard to tell what was going on. For example, I often like to do a rift or two before going to sleep. One night I forgot to turn up my phone’s brightness before going in, and I found that I couldn’t see anything on the mini-map at all, and it was almost impossible to figure out which direction I needed to go. I came close to completely failing that rift because I spent too much time walking in circles. That one is more on me than the game, though.
During closed alpha, the cash shop existed, but it wasn’t functioning, and there was no way to see the cost of things. In early access, I could finally see how all of that worked. Eternal Orbs are the main paid currency, and 60 could be bought for $0.99 USD. There are other bundles with them, and you can buy larger quantities, but 60 for $0.99 USD is the baseline, so that’s what I will go by.
Legendary Crests are probably the most significant sticking point for me with the cash shop. Buying one from the rift vendor costs 300 eternal Orbs ($4.95 USD). That isn’t terrible, but Legendary Crests vastly increase the drop rate of legendary gems and the materials to craft them. Legendary gems are so crucial to the progression of a character that when class change is implemented, all of the legendary gems you have collected will be retained and usable with your new class. Having any paywall with them can be a problem. This is somewhat lessened by the fact once a month, you can buy a Legendary crest from a different vendor for 1600 Hilts (a currency you get for many activities in Immortal). Therefore you can get them through gameplay at a significantly reduced rate. This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it is a grey area.
Further greying this area is that after finishing the dungeon at the end of story chapters, there’s a special bundle unlocked which contains Eternal Orbs, a Legendary Crest, Rare Crests, and normal gems. These bundles can only be bought once and don’t appear to be available for a limited amount of time. They seem to be excellent deals since the price seems to be set to the cost of the Eternal Orbs, and everything else is a bonus. I think these bundles are likely to be the best value for players looking to limit how much they spend in Immortal.
I also took a look through some of the options for cosmetic skins to see where we are starting with those. I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice mix of flashy and more subdued cosmetics available. It also appears that only complete sets are sold, for now, so no buying just a weapon or helm skin. These sets were going for 1000 Eternal Orbs ($16.50 USD), which feels slightly on the high side. However, I do feel the need to point out that the armor I found in-game also looked really cool and has some neat effects on them; this isn’t a case of what is in-game for free being lower quality. As much as I liked the look of some of the cosmetic skins, I didn’t feel like the armor I had from playing looked bad or less than at all.
What Remains to Be Seen
As I mentioned previously, this is a review in progress and not a final review. The main reason for this is that there was just too much I couldn’t check out and experience yet. The biggest one for me is the play experience with the general public. Early access was extremely limited, so seeing how well the party system or even things as simple as the leaderboard for challenge rifts wasn’t testable. I did slightly more than nothing in the challenge rifts, and I was ranked sixth among Crusaders. That isn’t a realistic experience that most players would ever see.
Another big piece is, that I didn’t make it to the endgame in the early access period, so I need to take some time to dive into that. I especially want to see how the Cycle of Strife plays out and what that experience is like, and there was no way to do that in early access. Plus, I’d like to see what Diablo Immortal's endgame has to offer PvE players and dig into all the nitty-gritty of that. Lastly, the Battle Pass wasn’t active during early access. With it having paid and free options, there’s a lot of potential for the battle pass system to negatively or positively affect the overall experience of playing Immortal.
I see a lot in how they have set everything up that gives me hope, but it wouldn’t be right to put a score to this game without all those pieces in place. So I’ll be back with a full review soon.