Diablo Immortal (PC) 6-month review: Visceral fun, if you don't take it too seriously
Diablo Immortal 6-month review: Visceral fun, if you don't take it too seriously
Note: This feature was first published on 31 January 2023.
Six months on, Diablo Immortal has turned into a roaring financial success for Blizzard. The game has earned US$284 million in mobile revenue, according to data.ai estimates, despite controversy around the game's egregious microtransactions and pay-to-win incentives.
I went into Diablo Immortal with no prior experience in the Diablo franchise. Immortal was my introduction to the series, a simplified version that could be played in open beta on PC or on mobile. Despite the numerous prompts to shell out for something in the shop, Immortal still offers plenty of gameplay for newcomers not looking to pay their way to the top.
Set five years after the end of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, Immortal begins with your character arriving at the beleaguered town of Wortham, which players should recognise from Diablo 3. I started out as a Necromancer, drawn to the class's ability to control the undead.
I did most of my playthrough on PC. It's difficult to beat the comfort of a large screen, even if the PC version is still woefully missing many key features, including the ability to change the resolution it is played at. The ability to continue your gameplay on mobile is also really nifty, and you can pick up from where you left off no matter where you are.
Immortal turned out to be extremely forgiving for a newbie like me, particularly in the early game. But as I progressed past level 50, monsters appeared to scale more quickly, making your character feel slightly less powerful. Having said that, Immortal offers visceral and satisfying gameplay for the most part, allowing you to cut through hordes of enemies like a knife through butter.
It offers a decent balance between challenging gameplay and still making players feel good about the character they wield. The Necromancer's abilities are incredibly fun to use, with the ability to summon various types of undead to do your bidding, and then weaponise the corpses of your enemies into deadly explosives that inflict punishing burst damage.
The world of Sanctuary also continues to offer diverse zones to explore. From the funereal Dark Wood to the dunes of the Shassar Sea and the frigid landscape of the Frozen Tundra, each region offers unique enemies to battle and its own distinctive world design.
The story hardly felt repetitive, with engaging cut scenes that tell the story and history of Sanctuary. If character dialogue is not your thing, you can easily skip through them as I did. After all, some of the villains do tend to have long drawn-out lines that you will hardly miss.
And like a game designed for mobile-first, most quests are bite-sized adventures that can be completed very quickly. This makes it easy to squeeze in a few quests while on the go.
At the same time, the game pushes you toward frequent daily log-ins, as opposed to extended grinds. In fact, some players have discovered certain hidden caps in place, which limit the number of legendary drops you can get in a day from everything from side quests, purple bosses, hidden lairs, and more. With daily log-in rewards, players are encouraged to log in for a few hours every day, instead of dropping 12 hours in a single stretch.
Elsewhere, you will also find yourself spending a lot of time on side quests and contracts, especially as the game requires you to reach a certain level before continuing with the main story. The experience rewards from these tasks are fairly generous, and I was able to reach the required levels without it being overly tedious.
But for a beginner, a big part of the fun is growing in power as you progress through the story, learning new skills and acquiring better and more elaborate pieces of equipment that make your character look like a serious badass. It is an almost addictive gameplay loop, as you click through your inventory and look for the big green upward arrow that indicates that you can equip a better item.
While enemies drop items liberally as you explore Sanctuary, you will find better loot from activities like dungeons, challenge rifts, or turning in monstrous essence to the bestiary.
Certain legendary items can also modify your skills. For instance, the Crown of the Gilded Leash allows the Necromancer's Command Skeleton skill to raise a single powerful skeletal captain instead of four weaker skeletons.
However, despite the simplification of certain game mechanics, Immortal seldom feels like anything less than a full fat MMO. It may not appeal to players who prefer the complexity and customisation offered by games like Path of Exile, but it feels more than good enough for casual players looking to have a good time.
The most problematic aspect of Immortal rears its head at the end game. Players have the option to enhance legendary items with gems. There are two types of gems in Immortal: normal and legendary. Normal gems are easy enough to earn, but the more potent legendary gems are far more difficult to come by.
There are also different grades of legendary gems, ranging from one- to five-star. You can obtain legendary gems from main story quests, daily login rewards, the battle pass, auction house, and opening the elder rift with a legendary crest. You can also craft them yourself using runes, which are obtained from the elder rift as well.
Unfortunately for free-to-play players, it can be an interminable grind in search of a particular high-level gem. But for those willing to pay, it is possible to guarantee a drop from the elder rift by equipping a legendary crest, which is mainly obtained by purchasing a pack using the game's currency.
This gives paying players a huge advantage in the late game, particularly when it comes to the PvP aspects of the game.
Having said that, Immortal is a fun enough way to spend your time while waiting for Diablo 4 in June. The main story is enjoyable and the game is welcoming to new players, giving them an opportunity to get to level 60 and then decide if they actually want to commit money to it to get more out of their character.
The biggest downside is the shadow of monetisation that is constantly looming over the game — even as my character became more and more powerful, I couldn't shake the feeling that the fun was about to end soon if I did not pony up.