There was a beta for Diablo 4 this past weekend. It was limited to Act 1, with player level capped at 25, and only three of the five classes were playable (Barbarian, Rogue, Sorceress). A second beta next weekend will add the Druid and Necromancer into the mix. Progress doesn't carry to the full release, for what that's worth.
I was very interested to give it a shot, since I've sunk a metric crap-ton of hours into past entries. I love brainlessly hittin' me some loot piñatas, and Diablo is the basically the platonic ideal of a podcast game.
After spending most of the weekend playing it, I've come away pretty pleased. It ain't a flawless game, but it sure is more Diablo. Blizzard still seems to know how to make a compelling one of those, it's still got that certain je ne sais quoi. One could argue that it seems a little safe, but there's this "don't fix it if it ain't broken" thing that comes to mind. Pretty sure I'm going to sink 1,000+ hours into this one just like I did for Diablo 2 and Diablo 3.
Maybe it's easiest to start with some flaws:
- Boy is this game grimdark. It feels like a reaction to the outcry against Diablo 3's more colorful design... which was always enormously stupid. At best this makes the game look a little bland, at worst it actually makes it hard to "read"; e.g., it's hard to tell which environmental objects are interactable and which aren't.
- The current UI isn't always awesome. E.g., the new skill point system can be respeced for free at any time, but since later tiers of skills require a certain amount of points invested in previous tiers of skills, respecing an early "basic" attack skill often requires taking points out of later tiers to do so (hopefully this be mostly a non-issue with endgame builds). There's also a maze of menus for all sorts of stuff, some of which I never even figured out how to find again beyond when the game prompted me to open them.
- This is beta-specific, but the overworld seems very much designed with a mount in mind, because it can really take a while to hoof it out to objectives without one (see what I did there?). Odd choice for them to not give you a mount for the beta, especially since mounts are a new thing for a Diablo game, and I'm sure people were interested to try them.
- There were definitely technical issues, but I assume those will get sorted out eventually. The game crashed my computer once, and I experienced somewhat frequent rubber-banding.
But all of that is fairly minor stuff in the scheme of things.
I played a fair bit of all three available classes, if nothing else to see which one I wanted to start with when the full release happens. They all seem fun, and I didn't really settle on one. The Sorceress was the first I tried and has great area control, but her basic attacks seem to be the weakest of the three characters and she runs low on mana pretty fast. The Rogue has good single-target damage output--at least the way I spec'ed mine--and is probably the class I had the easiest time with overall. I didn't expect to like the Barb much, I've never been much of a Barb player, but I ended up liking how different he felt due to having much stronger basic attacks--undoubtedly because his resource is built from basic attacks and drains away rather than starting full and recharging back. But I'm very interested to give the Necro and Druid a shot, hopefully one of them will really jump out at me as the character I want to main.
It wasn't all a cakewalk, even on world tier 2. There was a vampire sorcerer boss guarding a castle that I actually never beat. I do know that I need to be using the dodge button more; IIRC this wasn't in the PC version of Diablo 3 but was added for the console versions. Now it seems like a core mechanic of the boss fights, and I haven't found a keyboard layout I'm comfortable with yet. I'm sure I'll figure something out when the full release happens. These days I almost always play with a gamepad, but I'm doing keyboard and mouse because, well... it's friggin' Diablo. I've always played these games with keyboard and mouse, and if nothing else it makes it easier to precisely place those ranged area attacks. But I should probably test it out with a controller just to see how it feels.
I had heard that they were designing this game so that equipment sets either weren't a thing at all anymore, or were much de-emphasized; in the latter years of Diablo 3, set equipment was the only stuff that actually mattered. This game seems to instead have a mechanic that lets you remove "legendary" effects from equipment and add them onto other pieces, not unlike unsocketing and adding gems. I guess we'll see how that goes, impossible to judge the end-game until I've actually played some of it. But from reading the descriptions of world tiers, it's not clear that "set" items even exist in this game at all.
Interesting that the entire game seems to be displayed on that one overworld map--and that it appears to no longer be procedurally generated. The procedural generation is now only for the instanced dungeons, while the overworld is occupied by dozens of other players, MMO-style, who might end up joining you for random world events.
I was amused to see that identifying items now seems to be gone as a concept, though perhaps it will make a return for items that can only drop in world tiers 3 and 4 (unavailable in the beta, since you need to reach level 50/70 to play them).
The new skill system seems interesting; I'm sure I wasn't leveraging it properly, I'll worry about that when the full game comes out. It's definitely much more complicated than Diablo 3's simple "pick six skills, you either have it or you don't." Now you can have up to five points in a skill, and modifiers on items can push it past that. My only general criticism of this system--and really all systems that work like this--is that it appears to add more freedom/choice to builds than it actually does, because one assumes that you'll always max all six of your active skills, and one-pointing a seventh doesn't seem to matter since you can only bind six, as far as I can tell. It looks like the actual choice will be where you spend your points on "passive" buffs on the tree--I didn't even really look at this stuff in the beta, I just wanted to try all the active abilities.
I do wonder if the game will have a way to do loadouts that includes both equipment and a skill tree setup together. If there's one in the game now, I didn't notice it, but then I wasn't really looking. But for endgame, I can see myself having entirely different loadouts for, say, running a dungeon vs. fighting a world boss.
Anyway, I could go on, but... anyone else play this thing and have some thoughts?