Diablo Immortal Beta: A Fun Mobile ARPG
Over the past week, I’ve sunk a number of hours into the Diablo Immortal beta, and I’ve gotta say I’m impressed. I don’t regularly play many games on my phone besides Wild Rift, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, PUBG Mobile, and the occasional puzzler, so dipping my toes into an online action RPG was a fresh experience. The last time I tried one of those was some Diablo clone which couldn’t retain my attention past the tutorial chapter.
For context, I’m currently not the biggest fan of Diablo-style games. While they were fun at times, especially with friends, the whole loop of slaying monsters for loot so you can kill tougher ones for more loot isn’t my favourite kind of game anymore (as evident in my Diablo II: Resurrected beta impressions). Back in the day, I’ve played my fair share of Diablo and many other action RPGs that followed but these days I avoid 'grindy' games. And after seeing all the bad press that Diablo Immortal got during its announcement, I didn’t have high hopes for the game. However, I booted up the game with an open mind because I wanted to see how well Blizzard/NetEase could translate Diablo to smartphones.
In short, I was not let down. The game is fun and satisfies the criteria for a well-designed mobile game. Is it a great Diablo game? I’ll leave that for the hardcore fans to decide but personally, I think it’s an enjoyable action RPG title that makes good use of Blizzard’s IP.
Getting into the game was easy. All I had to do was log in with my battle.net account and was almost good to go. Character creation was merely selecting a class and typing in a name. A short tutorial followed and immediately after, I was thrown into the world of Sanctuary with quests to tackle.
It’s easy enough to understand what you have to do and even if you don’t pay attention to the dialogue, the quest markers make it straightforward for you to accomplish all your tasks. I never felt lost playing the game despite the large, sprawling map.
Quests are also broken down into bite-sized chunks. It was very easy to pick up your phone, finish a quest or two and put it down, which makes it great for quick sessions. You’re not committed to spending too much time on your phone (unless you’re dungeon-questing with a party). You can also quit the game at any time to resume right where you left off. The quests themselves are nothing unique to the genre - a lot of "go to location X to kill Y and bring Z back to me" type of missions.
The UI is decent. It might be a tad too cluttered for smaller devices, but you can close most menus for a cleaner look. Game controls are also easy to use and figure out. If you’ve ever played a MOBA on a smartphone, you’ll feel right at home. Dragging to aim your spells feels great and I never encountered any problems doing it.
While the graphics aren’t mind-blowing, they’re good enough and it looks and feels like a Diablo game. The characters, world, monsters and spell effects are cohesive, I haven’t noticed anything out of place yet. However, this could change in the future, depending on how wild Blizzard/Netease decide to go with the cosmetics. The game runs fine on a Pocophone F1 but i’m sure it’ll be smoother on newer or more powerful devices.
Inventory management - the bane of my existence (one of my least favourite things about games in general) is bearable here. You’ll pick up and replace a lot of your gear throughout each session so it’s something to get used to. The pros: it’s easy to identify when you have better gear - there’s a green arrow signifying an item is better than what you have equipped, so it makes sorting your trash quick and easy. On the plus side, you only seem to get drops for your class so you won’t have unusable loot. Cons: you have limited inventory space so you’ll need to clean out your inventory every now and then (not as frequent as in Diablo II) but it’s not something you can ignore. You do this by either destroying the item from your inventory screen or going to a blacksmith to salvage them for upgrade materials. Upgrading your items require a lot of materials, so this will be what you’ll be doing with most of the loot you pick up.
Since Diablo Immortal is played online, you’ll be encountering random people every now and then in your world. The best part is, you don’t even have to party up with them to work together - you can fight alongside anybody, clearing mobs in an area without initiating any sort of friendship. The other night, I cleared a quest line together with a total stranger. I bumped into them on the way to an objective and we helped each other out without saying a word. This silent cooperation worked all the way until the final quest which had to be completed solo. After the dungeon ended, they were nowhere to be found.
There are dungeons in the game where cooperation is recommended and the game makes it easy to find a party. Just hit queue on the in-game party finder at the dungeon entrance and wait for the slots to fill up - it’s that simple.
I experienced lag spikes once in a while but nothing game-ruining. I suspect it was because I was connected to the Australian server for the beta (the alternative was Canada which had double the latency) so I can only hope that such issues disappear once we get SEA servers.
You’ll have plenty of reasons to play Diablo Immortal if you enjoy the core gameplay loop. There are many quests, challenges and a battlepass to keep you busy ala typical mobile game ‘incentives’. Monetary wise, I haven’t spent any but here are the price of things:
Blizzard has mentioned that they want to keep things fair for everyone. All purchases made during the beta will be refunded when the game launches (beta progress isn’t saved) so we’ll have to see how they handle it when the game is in the public’s hands.
The game is huge - it currently takes up over 7 GB of storage and this is only the beta. I can only imagine how large it will be when it is finally released. Fortunately, you can start playing it without downloading the whole game. If you don’t have a fast and unlimited data connection, it’s something to keep in mind.
In conclusion, I think Blizzard and Netease have delivered a solid action RPG title that’s bound to satisfy most mobile gamers out there. Because the game is free to play, the only thing you’ll lose is time (and phone storage) if you give it a shot. I think it's worth checking out for that point alone. Personally, I feel Diablo Immortal does a great job of introducing the gameplay loop of the series to a wider (and more casual) audience. It could possibly serve as a gateway for folks to get into the console/PC mainline titles. No word on when the official release date is yet, but if you’ve pre-registered, keep an eye out on your notifications for a beta invitation.