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Diablo IV is the high point of the saga with an infernal villain

Diablo IV has a tricky task. In addition to the pressure that the name of the franchise brings, the current world already has so many games of its genre that, even though it was the colossus that gave rise to competitors, it ran the risk of ending up being just one more.

The proposal then was daring: to take its design philosophy to an open and persistent world, with a new villain for the saga and a mix between the heavy setting of Diablo II with part of the fluid gameplay of Diablo III. The result, to our delight, is incredible!

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The Mother of Sanctuary

Despite being the fourth game in the franchise, Diablo IV is in some ways almost a soft reboot. The game takes place years after the events of the predecessor and, although it uses the established story of the celestial war between heaven and hell, it has explanations for everything that occurs on the journey, even being a great starting point for those who have never played anything in the franchise. This means that iconic characters like Tyrael, Deckard Cain and more are at most referenced and not necessary for understanding the plot.

The player is once again a powerful hero with abilities capable of rivaling angels and demons. The big villain this time is the Mother of the Sanctuary, Lilith, the daughter of hatred, or the superior evil Mephisto. Released in a macabre ritual, shown in an incredible and chilling opening, she has a score to settle with her former affection, the angel Inarius. Her plans, however, are unknown and the journey involves chasing the horned one throughout Sanctuary.

The decision to focus on the daughter of hate turns out to be the right one, as Lilith’s development is a lesson. Her every appearance is hellish and noteworthy, with nothing appearing to be random. She causes pain to everything and everyone in her path, including the good cast of secondary characters that accompany the player with each new act. When dealing with loss, the game manages to explore good themes with each of these Sanctuary beings. Lorath is the prime example, being the Horadrim who will replace Deckard as the hero’s guide – brilliantly played by actor Ralph Ineson..

Reckless as he is wise, his arc is one of constant development and ends up truly becoming a friend by the end of the journey. Several others manage to stand out and, because the story is not accelerated, everyone ends up going through enough situations to connect in some way with the player. There are exceptions, like the angel Inarius himself, who could have been better used, mainly due to the focus on the hypocrisies and disasters that the celestial world itself causes in humanity, but in general everyone is used.

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Another point that is worth a positive note are the secondary missions. It is a surprise that several of them are so well crafted. Although each region has an average of 40 of them, a good part of that number are sequels to previous missions, which add a lot of immersion in the world and more knowledge about the history of the franchise as a whole. In the first map there are several missions of an exorcist who ends up being possessed herself, showing how humans suffer from demonic interference in everyday life. In another place there is a daughter who has the special abilities of a swamp witch, but ends up harming her village by not being able to control them. These mini-adventures are a breath of fresh air in the campaign and lead to often unexpected and interesting places.

In the end, the balance is very positive and the end of each act is especially striking, almost always with painful endings but full of messages and reflections. In my opinion, mainly having recently played Diablo 2 and 3 back in a row, Lilith is easily the best villain in the saga in terms of development and this is the best campaign on many fronts. However, that doesn’t mean this Diablo is problem-free.

Not everything is perfect

The decision to turn Diablo into an open world game is an extremely bold one. The main point is that we are now playing in a world shared by several players on the surface and which is largely persistent rather than randomly generated, including fixed locations for collectibles. While the concept scares veterans, in practice it works well most of the time.

Each of the regions is vast and filled with sub maps. Within the regions themselves there is a lot of variation in biomes and activities, ranging from small events and challenges to global bosses that can be tackled in a group. During the analysis period, it was not possible to test how the dynamic will work with more players connected – there is a map just for PVP, for example – but those who played the Beta realized that there is no competition for spaces and rewards.

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The main problem I found here was perhaps the repetition of enemies. Due to the size of the world, even the great variation created is not enough to take away the feeling of repetition when you arrive in a new area and there is nothing new to kill, something that is a hallmark of each act in previous Diablo. This is even more evident in the final areas. Arriving there and facing again the same succubi and horned brutes that have been present since the first act, without any new enemies, was disappointing.

Dungeons also have ups and downs. Aesthetically they are quite varied, with spider lairs, bandit bases and caves of all kinds. However, mechanically they are quite repetitive and simplistic. Most of the time it’s corridor, combat area, corridor and repeat until a boss. At the end of the dungeon, you gain a new Aspect to use on your gear. It’s worth remembering that there are variations of these dungeons in Nightmare difficulty, which I haven’t reached yet because it’s only released at level 70.

The exception are the excellent fortresses, which are present in smaller numbers in each region and are handcrafted with the care you expect. In these challenging areas there is always something very interesting also in terms of the story and a huge boss that challenges your character. By releasing them, the location becomes a fast travel point with vendors, which is really cool. Playing in co-op, all this change on the map concerns the host of the group, that is, if he has released it, it will be released for everyone.

The combat itself is a very fun mixture of Diablo II and III, with the first influencing more in the creation of builds and the second in the dynamics of action. There’s a constant focus on not being too complicated for more casual gamers, which will turn off some veteran users, especially those who have migrated to more hardcore games over time, like Path of Exile. There are no stats to distribute, which limits builds a bit, and the skill tree isn’t as vast as it could be.

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However, there is still enough variation for players of the same class to have wildly different builds and focuses. I, for example, played Assassin with a focus on Shadow damage, abusing traps. My main weapon was the bow and arrow, but it was perfectly possible to create a build completely focused on melee attack and critical damage with daggers, for example.

The endgame progression still hasn’t convinced me. After level 50 it is possible to improve passive skills in a new tree, but the options are not very interesting and seem more to add attributes you already have than to present new possibilities. The content after finishing the campaign is vast, with many new activities, including hunts and new dungeons, in addition to the greater difficulties. You can fight boss echoes, but there’s no replay cycle, and the world is still there for you.

Conclusion

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Diablo IV got the setting right and its campaign is one of the best in the franchise. As far as gameplay is concerned, there is a significant evolution from the previous game, but it still doesn’t seem to know if it will focus more on casual or hardcore players. With a few slips, it’s still a great game, unmissable I would say. In such a busy year, it’s good to see such an important saga get a great continuation.

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pros

  • Impeccable graphics, animations and technical part
  • Sinister setting worthy of the best moments of the franchise
  • Lilith is hellish and well developed
  • Campaign at a good pace
  • Open world works well and activities are fun

cons

  • Dungeons are simple and predictably designed
  • Repetition of enemies and bosses sometimes bothers

Grade: 9.0/10.0

A PS5 copy of the game was provided by Blizzard for the purposes of this review.

Diablo IV is the high point of the saga with an infernal villain

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