Diablo Immortal is here to take over your life! Whether on Phone or PC the latest entry in the long-running Diablo series has been expertly crafted to give you the grind of a lifetime. All the Gacha mechanic hell of the mobile space here and it’s carried along by excellent visuals, solid performance, and a stupidly fun MMO-lite take on the Diablo III formula. The big question is, can you have fun without spending your life savings? I put nearly 40 hours into this title and spent $5 on the battle pass and came out quite satisfied with my experience. Let’s go over everything in this massive and excellent mobile take of the beloved franchise.
Your Soul (well money) Is Mine!
The biggest narrative around Diablo Immortal’s release has been about the monetization, so let’s hit that first. The game doesn’t so much feature pay-to-win as it delights in endless pay-to-skip. Timers and resource limitations exist everywhere in the endgame, and you can pay lots and lots of money to try and maximize your character’s gear if you so choose. I haven’t found anything that is inaccessible without paying yet, but there are multiple areas where things are far more readily available if you cough up some dough. This is the tried and true horrific monetization scheme behind nearly (all?) major mobile titles. It’s been interesting to see people’s first real foray into the world of Gacha mechanics, and I hope it signals a sea change though I doubt it. Enough “whales” are out there willing to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and they pay for the freeloaders like myself who might buy an occasional season pass for $5 at most.
The biggest offender in the MTX arena is the legendary gem grind, which is really hard to get after a while and incredibly expensive to upgrade. If you want to min/max your gear, the true focus of any Diablo title, as quickly as possible you need to run Legendary Rifts over and over again. You have a minuscule chance of getting a legendary gem drop which you can then use or destroy to upgrade a gem you already have. This treadmill is the heart of a diablo title but it’s time gated here because it’s a free mobile game. You can pay to bypass this limitation as often as you want, and that is the heart of how Blizzard and developer NetEase are making tons of cash.
The month-long battle pass has 40 levels and costs $5 while offering up tons of in-game resources and a few cosmetics. The Boon of Plenty adds extra resources, drops, and various inventory slots for more money but only lasts for a short period of time. It’s all gross, terrible, and not new. Yes, the monetization in this game is terrible if you have an addictive personality, and you should avoid it at all costs if you feel tempted to spend half a paycheck more quickly gearing up a single class that is tied to a single server. The other big issue with Diablo Immortal is this server system and its lack of cross-server play.
MMO-Lite? Alright, Alright, Alright
If you and your friends are looking to stomp some demon heads together you better, make sure you all start up your characters on the same server. In full old-school WoW style once you put a character somewhere that is the only place they can ever play, and unless NetEase has plans to change it you cannot play with people outside of that server from everything I’ve tried (I would love to be wrong). The reason behind having these servers is the rather cool almost an MMO style of everyone playing together. It ends up being one of my biggest complaints and most enjoyed features of the game. For all of its limiting factors seeing tons of people around me all fighting their (occasionally) invisible enemies as I fight mine is damned cool. Having dungeon runs that I can matchmake in seconds and complete in 5 minutes is perfect for a phone version of Diablo. They’ve brilliantly streamlined every single aspect of Diablo III into something both bite-sized but still massive.
The story begins like most, you’re a damned powerful adventurer looking to stop a new Lord of Hell. This one has a dumb name, Skarn, and he’s a big jerk. You’ll work alongside series familiar Deckard Cain as you look to banish the demonic horde and save Sanctuary. The story has been fine so far, neither fantastic nor terrible. The majority of it is voice acted and it is both well written and acted, for what it is. Its biggest strength is that it never gets in the way of me quickly going off and powering up my character just a little more in the short bursts of time I have/want to play. On mobile or PC (which is stuck at 1080p but otherwise looks/runs fine) it’s a decently large title. The full mobile install was a hair over 11GB total while the PC maxed out at 26GB.
Inputs on mobile are touch (of course) or controller, with mouse added in place of touch on PC. On both, I found a controller to be my preferred way to play, as the WASD and number key setup on PC ended up being difficult to use easily, and clicking to move mostly caused me to attack because of the mobile-ified UI size.
Diablo For the Masses
Everything in this game is highly streamlined to work with the limitations of a touchscreen UI. From the menus to your gear and combat it all works really damned well on a touch screen. Combat-wise though controller is the best for me by far, and quickly swapping to a mouse for the UI was my preferred combo for tackling the game’s various systems. Pressing right on the d-pad brings up a cursor to select things in the UI and it feels awful. The acceleration is all off and the cursor feels attached to certain UI elements in a way that makes it difficult to be accurate. On phone, you can just start pressing things with a thumb, but if you’re playing on a PC keep that mouse handy if you want to keep your frustration levels down.
One big way they’ve helped with frustration, in general, is how gear is handled. You now upgrade slots essentially instead of each item individually. Do you have an upgrade, but you’ve already leveled your previous item to rank 3? Once you equip the new one the game lets you simply swap any upgrades and gems you had in the previous one, easy peasy! Around level 30 or so (out of 60) I started getting Legendary drops which changed up my moves in fun new ways. Gear sets are in as well, though not many to start for each class and they are hard to get (which is good, it’s Diablo!). The controls are simple but fun with a main attack and 4 hot-swappable special moves. Each main attack has a meter built ultimate tied to it which helps in a pinch when things are getting tough, and you have a 3-charge potion that has the meter refill rather quickly.
Combat-wise it’s easier than Diablo 3 to start with. You are far more powerful and capable, which is good, because while the grind is the thing on mobile it needs to be less by default. The true brilliance of this game is how it accommodates both short and long sessions alike. There is a ton of content on offer but none of it ever takes longer than 10-15 minutes to finish, and if you have to drop out and rejoin you always come right back into where you last left off. I never felt punished for having to turn my phone off to take the dogs out or cook dinner. When I came back hours later, I was right back where I was and able to keep having fun, and this game is freaking fun. For all the MTX issues the endgame balance has I never once felt like any of the fun I was having was taken away by it. I don’t care about the leaderboards or PVP, so if you do then it will be a rougher experience for you though.
The Sites, Sounds, and Crashes of Sanctuary
Graphically the game looks brilliant on mobile and good enough on PC. I have a decently beefy rig and averaged between 250 fps in big fights and 1000 fps in most cities and menus. It is not a demanding game for most PCs but it did make the back of my phone feel like the surface of the sun when I dialed up the settings. 60fps is a must for me and my Galaxy 21FE ran it just fine with zero perceptible drops. Connections to the server could be more tricky as I felt the biting snap of lag often, but the game quickly corrected itself, never once kicked me, and always gave me the benefit during a disruption when it came to damage incoming.
Sound-wise the music is fantastic with a hard-hitting banger in the opening soundtrack, and the in-game cutscenes look awesome and are when the music kicks in most. Things can be a bit quiet while running around the world and punching things, but my female monk’s voice acting was well done and it helped set the desolate mood beautifully.
The last major negative though was the crashing on PC. I had the game crash roughly 15 times in my 40 or so hours. With how instant everything loads and the fact that the game always put me right back where I was it wasn’t nearly as frustrating as it could have been, but it still needs to be ironed out. I had no crashing issues on the phone client, and loading there was nearly as fast as on my pc, too.
Diablo Immortal is stupidly fun, looks great, sounds great, has a Diablo-assed Diablo grind, and features the now par for the course horrifically imbalanced monetization system that has plagued mobile for years. The good news is that you can enjoy the hell out of this game without spending a penny, but if you’re either prone to MTX-it is or really care about PVP it wildly throws off the endgame balance. For me, though this is a title I will be playing for a very long time while I wait for the next mainline entry in the series to hit. It is a great game, and with some love, care, and lack of greed it could become the best mobile title ever made.
|Reviewed on||Android & Windows PC|
|Release Date||June 2nd, 2022|
|Available on||Android, iOS, Windows PC|
|Developers||NetEase & Blizzard Entertainment|
|Rated||M for Mature|