Blizzard is launching its first major Diablo mobile game this week, and I’ve had it on my phone for the past few days and sent it through hell for review. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything that Diablo Immortal has to offer after spending over 15 hours playing the free-to-play handheld action RPG, but rather than a full review I’d like to share some thoughts on my time with Immortal , as the game will soon be available for everyone to play on mobile and PC.
Much of Diablo Immortal is designed to look, sound, and feel like Diablo 3, and in my time leveling a Crusader, it easily lives up to those high expectations. During my time killing the minions of evil, I’ve never felt that this is a reskin of another mobile game, a scam using the Diablo name, or that it falls short of what feels like a Diablo game feels. From the effect of the weapons to the fluid and intuitive use of abilities, Immortal feels like a true Diablo experience. Its responsive controls have some of the best virtual analog sticks and buttons I’ve used in a mobile game. As is usual with mobile action games, your main attack is the largest button in the lower-right corner of the screen, with four additional abilities fanned out around it. Pressing one of these special abilities often causes a crosshair or area of effect indicator to appear on the ground. Holding and moving my thumb in any direction around this button naturally targets my chosen implementation of Havoc. You can customize this system a bit in the settings, but I found the default setup worked for me.
Combat is fun and fluid. Because of the analog control over the character, there is more mobility than the traditional point-and-click diablos. Rifts return in Immortal and are just as fun as their D3 counterparts, albeit a little faster to accommodate shorter mobile gameplay sessions. Due to the added mobility and smooth controls, I enjoy breaking rifts and rebuilding my character’s equipped abilities to fine-tune my path of destruction.
Legendary Armor and Weapons make their return, once again modifying an ability for your class that can range from a damage buff to completely changing characteristics for an attack. For example, my Crusader comes equipped with a chest piece that turns Sweep Attack, which usually hits in a cone-like area in front of me, and turns it into a spinning flail that can be used while an energy bar drains and hits everything in a circle around mine Character. There are tons of options for each class in terms of legendary gear builds and mods that will most likely keep the endgame meta of the Challenge Rift leaderboards and PvP arenas fresh for quite a while. Additionally, Immortal offers a rotating selection of recommended builds for people who may not have the ability to put together optimized gear builds, intelligently enabling ideas and aspirations for specific pieces of gear for players.
Speaking of PvP, I’ve only just started to get a taste of what these modes offer, but I can’t go too deep into them here as I have no experience playing them. Once a player reaches level 43, they have the option to join one of two factions, the Immortals, a group sworn to keep demonic forces at bay, and the Shadows, who keep the Immortals on their toes to ensure that they are worthy of their duty. Because Early Access had so few people to play with and fewer players to make it to that level, I wasn’t able to properly test how PvP and factions work in a meaningful way. There are also eight-player PvE raid encounters, but once again I couldn’t find enough participants to try them out before launch.
Immortal’s main story drives the leveling experience until it becomes a dreary, desperate grind, often stopping the experience adversely. The story takes you across the world of Sanctuary, meeting new characters and old favorites like Charsi the Blacksmith and Akara from Diablo II’s Rogue Encampment. Immortal takes place between D2 and D3 and pairs players with Diablo’s mainstay Deckard Cain – who thankfully is still alive at this time. Their common goal is to collect and destroy the shards of the Worldstone that shattered during the events of Diablo 2. A new terror from the ranks of Diablo called the Skarn rises to fill the void in the demonic powers left in the Lord of Destruction’s absence. I love that Immortal unfolds in the 20 years following the assassination of Baal in Diablo 2, and cleaning up that chaos is a logical way to build around the events of this game and visit new and old areas of Sanctuary. It often feels like a more cohesive world than other Diablo titles, with zones that are custom-designed areas rather than randomly generated, which surprised me at how much I don’t miss the world every time I enter it , is a mystery. That could change as I roll new characters on the live servers, but for now I’m fine with the procedurally generated environments of the Rift content, in favor of a more living world.
Unfortunately, the main story quest is level locked at times, which caused a lot of frustration when trying to get my crusader to Immortal’s endgame. Once you run out of single player content and achievements to gain experience, you only have a few finite opportunities to level up, such as Zone. However, once I mined these cleanly, the resulting opportunities to farm mobs in the world or repeat rift grinds for little gain made me feel like I was spinning my tires and wasting time. Immortal lacks Diablo 3’s difficulty options that would give bonus experience for fighting tougher enemies, and similar mechanics are sorely lacking here.
Given the free-to-play model it’s built on, how I feel about monetizing Diablo Immortal is still up in the air for me. A lot of what’s for sale in the Immortal Shop are cosmetics like armor and weapon skins. However, there are also crafting materials for sale and Eternal Legendary Crests that guarantee to drop a Legendary Gem from Elder Rifts (which you still have to play through and defeat) that can be used by a player to slot into their own gear or for sale in the in-game auction house. The same Eternal Legendary Crests can also be bought with currency earned through playing, but only one per month, while spending money doesn’t seem to have a limit. None of the monetizations feel exceptionally dingy on the surface, but I also don’t have enough information to know how much items like legendary gems affect gear and progression over the long term.
There’s still a lot I need to see to max level, experience group content in PvE and PvP scenarios, and see what this game is like with a full server of players. So far I’m really enjoying my time with Diablo Immortal, and like I said above, it brings that modern Diablo feel to mobile. I had a great time on my brief journey through this unexplored time in Sanctuary’s history. It’s hard not to recommend joining the fight against the hordes of Hell, especially when it feels so damn good to play.