Diablo 4 review

by on May 30, 2023
Release Date

June 6, 2023


The world of Sanctuary is, by design, a pretty unpleasant place. From the frozen climbs of Fractured Peaks to the murky swamps of Hawezar, there’s little respite from the doom and gloom of simply existing in this realm. It’s a cloak of despair that Diablo 4 wears well, draping its world in an all-pervading dankness that really makes you question whether there’s any point saving it at all. But save it you must, for you are the Wanderer, a lone hero (sort of) bound by blood to Lilith, the Daughter of Hatred and Mother of Sanctuary – the demonic queen who created this world and may ultimately destroy it.

Diablo 4 has been a long time coming. The third game was originally released as a PC exclusive in 2012 and despite its long-running seasonal model, fans have been waiting for a full-blooded sequel for some time. Not content with a full remaster of Diablo 2 nor fully sated by the money-grabbing Diablo Immortal, we’ve been waiting impatiently for a proper continuation of the series for eleven years. And here it is, in Diablo 4 – but is it everything we wanted it to be? Very probably almost.

Diablo 4 review

This new entry is set some time after the events of Diablo 3. The Prime Evils are still imprisoned, but a misguided sect has resurrected Lilith, the daughter of Mephisto and niece to the titular Diablo. The opening cutscene wastes no time in establishing this world as violent, bloody, and pitch dark, and the rest of the game continues apace. As the Wanderer, your fate is tied to both Lilith and her father, as you must race to stop her from consuming his trapped soul and becoming powerful enough to control or destroy all of Sanctuary.

The campaign story does a solid job of pulling you through the massive open world, introducing new characters and reminding us of a few old ones along the way. You’re primarily aided by Lorath and Donan, former Horadrim mages who are all that remain of the once-powerful order that has battled against the Prime Evils for centuries. There are few major surprises in the narrative, but as in previous entries, the story isn’t afraid to get very dark, very quickly, and it’s certainly an entertaining, if bleak, tale. The action will shift into cutscenes quite often, offering much more of a cohesive plot than in previous games, but now and then you’ll be treated to a full CGI cinematic and each one is, as usual, breathtakingly well made.

Of course, this being Diablo 4, the story is secondary to the gameplay in every way. Those familiar with the series or the genre will know what to expect. You create your character from one of five classes, and begin as a lowly nobody who will eventually become a god-slaying powerhouse regardless of class. The campaign leads you from place to place completing multi-branching quests within a 6-Act arc, but dozens and dozens of side quests, world events, hidden shrines, altars and dungeons will vie for your attention every step of the way.

Diablo 4 review

Diablo 4 is a huge game. Indeed, Sanctuary is a huge world, and even after almost 35 hours, with the campaign finished, I hadn’t uncovered all of the map when I jumped into the endgame. Blizzard have promised that each of their upcoming seasons will have a new theme and self-contained story which will revisit areas all over Sanctuary, but there are lots of reasons to simply explore. There are 120 optional Dungeons, each one quite large with multiple objectives and boss encounters that reward powerful loot and Aspects, which are unique effects you can apply to your gear to make it Legendary. Added to this are single-room cellars and sprawling Strongholds.

These Strongholds, such as the village of Nostrava, are long-form, higher level challenges but well worth doing for the loot and Renown they grant. Renown is a measure of your overall fame in each of Sanctuary’s main areas, and is earned mainly through exploring and uncovering fast travel Waypoints or the hidden Altars of Lilith. It’s worth grinding, too, as Renown grants things like skill points, and extra health potions for all of your characters.

It’s hard to talk too much about the loot economy. The build we played for review wasn’t the final version (for example the real money storefront wasn’t live or even present – though we were given a glimpse of how it should work), and so it’s hard to know whether Blizzard will tweak drop rates. Rare items seemed to drop most often after around level 25 (the soft cap is 100), with Legendaries being much less common. It did feel like items dropped far below my current level a lot, which meant I was upgrading my gear more often than changing it. Which may be deliberate, as there’s more of an emphasis on improving what you have than constantly swapping gear out. The transmog system allows you to break down any new item to unlock it as a cosmetic skin, so you won’t get bored of looking at the same set of armour for hours.

Diablo 4 review

Diablo 4 often feels at odds with itself in terms of accessibility, though. While there’s a host of new or improved features such as the transmog system, the mount, and being able to transfer unique effects between your gear, it’s really not very kind to new players. The onboarding isn’t great, very little is tutorialised, and things like Aspects, Strongholds, and even some of the skill effects aren’t properly explained. Veterans, particularly those who played Immortal, may have an easier time, but newcomers will likely be scratching their heads over exactly what Overpower does, for instance.

And yet, despite some small issues in terms of design, Diablo 4 is still a fantastic game with so much content to get into. Once you beat the campaign you can choose to skip the story with subsequent characters, and start tackling Whispers of the Dead quests, which is this game’s answer to Diablo 3‘s bounties. These are events that pop up on timers for you to travel to and complete in order to earn Grim Favors, which you can turn in at an endgame vendor for special rewards. After beating the game in World Tier II, you can opt to tackle a Capstone Dungeon and unlock the next difficulty tier to keep the challenge feeling fresh and worthy of your might.

Everything can be attempted in co-op, with up to three others. Monsters scale with you and the game will favour the host’s world state, but it’s a great way to get through tougher content. While you will see other players out in the world, this is promised to be minimal, though you can see other players in towns and safe zones to socialise and trade items. Interestingly, the difficulty scales with you in every area, so even returning to Fractured Peaks at level 50 won’t be a total pushover. It’s a great way to ensure that nothing ever feels trivial, and even if it does get too easy you can always up the world tier or grind Strongholds and World Bosses.

Diablo 4 review

If there’s one huge, glaring issue though, it’s the forced online aspect. In real terms, there’s no reason for this game to have an always online requirement. It may help Blizzard track analytics and will certainly ensure that the storefront and Battle Pass are ever-present, but in terms of benefit to the player, well, there is none. If anything, it causes issues with stability and performance. Although Blizzard assures us that crashes and rubber banding won’t occur when the servers are live at launch, I’m not convinced. Without an always online requirement, these things wouldn’t be an issue at all. It’s especially frustrating as a solo player who isn’t interested in microtransactions that you’ll be forced into a suboptimal environment for reasons that even Blizzard can’t fully explain with a straight face.

Sadly, this aspect simply holds back what is otherwise an excellent game. I played through with a Barbarian having taken a Rogue and Necromancer to level 20 during the Beta test, and then jumped in again as a Druid after I finished the campaign, and I can honestly say that every class so far feels great. There’s so much build variety that I was constantly respeccing my skills and adjusting my character, eventually settling on a Thorns/Bleed build that made mincemeat out of almost anything. Yet it never felt super easy on World Tier II.

It’s also a stunning game. The atmosphere is exceptional throughout, each area truly standing out with its own personality and ambience. From the frozen north to the deserts of Caldeum, from Kejhistan to swampy Hawezar, it never stops impressing. Even individual dungeons, caves, and towns feel different, and while many enemies are re-coloured later, there’s a rich variety of design. But perhaps more impressive than the visuals is the sound design. Not only does every score evoke a sense of the grandiose and the macabre, but the ambient sound is also spectacular. Playing with headphones, you can’t help but be immersed. Corridors echo with faint cries for help, creatures scurry in the shadows, growls and howls peel across the walls towards you. Outside, the wind and rain lash the world, as fires crackle and ancient signs creak in protest against the weather. It’s some of the best sound design in the genre, and never fails to convey the grim essence of Sanctuary.


Whatever your views on the online element or the premium store when it goes live, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Blizzard has built a game for the fans. Newcomers will muddle through and eventually pick it up, but veterans will feel right at home with Diablo 4. Despite a few odd design choices and a campaign that arguably goes on a few quests too long, there’s so much here to get into that it’s difficult to muster any real complaints where the gameplay is concerned. Loot economy and build diversity are impossible to really analyse until after launch, when more people are in the endgame sharing details, but it’s unlikely to disappoint at release.

Diablo 4 is no great evolution of the franchise, but it’s a solid entry nonetheless. It may not reinvent the wheel, but what it adds to the experience is, mostly, very welcome. There’s more scope for building a character truly unique to you, more content than any game in the series has ever offered at launch, and a hugely addictive, rewarding gameplay loop that will continue to evolve season after season. If you can make your peace with the online element and get your head around some of its more complex systems, Diablo 4 is an incredible adventure in a dark, compelling world.

Note: We played a pre-release version of Diablo 4 on a low-population server, and our progress was deleted after the review period closed.


Massive world to explore
Diverse, exciting character classes
Huge endgame to build on
Looks and sounds great


Always online hampers the experience
Doesn't explain much for newcomers

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Diablo 4 may not be the huge leap forward some were hoping for, but it still offers an incredible adventure through a dark, compelling world.