Diablo Immortal: To Play or Not to Play?

Does Diablo Immortal do the Diablo series justice and is it worth playing?
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Our rating: 4/5

Diablo Immortal, the newest addition to the Diablo series, is a mobile MMORPG meant to bring this fan-favorite series to mobile for the first time (though it's also available on PC). So, it's not surprising that it has caused quite the stir in the gaming community. The general consensus: it's fun, but...

It's fun, but too easy. It's fun, but has been overly simplified. It's fun, but it's not as good as Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo III, etc., etc. The biggest complaint, however, is that Diablo Immortal is marketed as a free-to-play game that isn't actually "free" after all.

Truthfully, misleading monetization strategies and play-to-win games are such a normalized part of mobile gaming that Diablo Immortal could have easily coasted by with the rest of the not-so-free mobile games out there, but the Diablo series has been in the hearts of PC gamers since 1996, and Diablo gamers love the game so much that they have understandably high standards.

As a long-time Diablo fan myself, this review is in-depth, covering everything from gameplay to character customization. I will also address the misleading monetization strategies, game-economy, and answer the question: "Is Diablo Immortal actually free-to-play?" so that you can decide if Diablo Immortal is worth playing after all.

Developed by

Blizzard Entertainment NetEase Games

Platform(s)

Android iOS Windows

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Usually, I would have lumped my review of classes in with character customization. However, I think it's important to talk directly about the different classes provided in Diablo Immortal, since I found some to be more enjoyable and well-executed than others.

Players can decide to assume the role of Barbarian, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Monk, Crusader, or Necromancer. Of course, many of these roles are designed to later provide a well-rounded party for dungeon-raiding and battles, but since the game is also marketed as "peerless" and designed to accommodate single-player or multiplayer gaming, each role should be sustainable for solo-players. While each role can certainly sustain solo-play, some do better than others.

Pros

  • Various classes and styles of gameplay provided for every kind of gamer.
  • Most classes hold up well for solo-play.

Cons

  • Wizard (otherwise referred to as sorcerer/sorceress) is not as powerful as in previous Diablo games and not well adapted for solo-play.
  • Skills "cool" level varies with each class, some skills being more fun and more graphically gripping than others. Though this is subjective and often part of the RPG experience, there is a clear divide between solo-playability and skills from class-to-class.

As it says in the App Store, Diablo Immortal "gives you unprecedented flexibility to be who you want to be in the vast world of Sanctuary." Developers certainly intended to provide PC or console level character customization to mobile, but were they successful? At first glance, I thought they were. However, after three separate character creations and hours of game play, I can tell you that goal was not fully realized.

While players can change their character's hair and eye color, skin tone, hairstyle, and facial structure, changes are minimal and almost inconsequential. Maybe I grew up playing too much Sims during the age of MySpace and dial-up internet, but character creation is a vital part of an RPG, and it is simply ineffective in Diablo Immortal.

While some customization features like eye makeup and markings are impactful and help customize characters, others flop. No matter how much players adjust forehead, cheekbone, cheek, jaw, or chin tip position, they will end up with a character that looks more or less exactly like the character they started with.

Pros

  • There are in-depth character customization options.
  • Custom hair and eye colors can be created.
  • Eye makeup, markings, and pupil colors are pretty striking, varied, and effective.
  • Most characters look pretty cool already, without customization, that is.

Cons

  • Facial restructuring adjustments change very little and aren't effective or impactful.
  • Hair color changes are often muted, even when choosing neon colors.
  • Minimal hairstyles options are provided.

Gameplay is great. There is very little I could decide to nitpick or complain about. It's stayed true to the Diablo series. It's absolutely fun and immersive and addicting. Diablo Immortal is just plain fun.

Players get to experience a PC game, a game both originally known and loved by PC gamers, on mobile or PC. They get to experience in-depth gameplay that most mobile games don't have. All in all, it's probably the best mobile game I've played in years. So, for players who like RPGs or love the Diablo series, the gameplay is certainly not disappointing.

Pros

  • Great graphics (especially on a mobile game).
  • Great feel and controls.
  • True to the Diablo series in gameplay, storyline, and included NPCs (Deckard Cain, for example).
  • When considering mobile games as a whole, this game doesn't sacrifice much to make itself available to mobile players.
  • Seamless navigation.

Cons

  • Sometimes the MMO gameplay gets in the way for solo-players. I have experienced glitches when multiple players are trying to complete the same quest in the same area. Players may have to wait until another player is done with their quest to move forward (though this is not frequent).

The skills in Diablo Immortal are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are amazing, making gameplay more fun and addictive. Others seem pointless and anti-climactic, making them useless to equip over other skills.

Likewise, when it comes to skills across classes, some classes simply have better, "cooler" skills than others. I found that the Demon Hunter, Necromancer, and Crusader has better skills to equip, and were more effective in solo-play as a result.

Of course, different gamers find different skills an asset, so subjectivity plays a role in how each player perceives the skills from class-to-class.

Pros

  • Skills are varied and work well in combination (i.e. well-thought-out when thinking about effective combos).
  • Skills slots are easily customized and switched out to the player's preference.
  • Most skills look pretty darn cool and help create fun gameplay.

Cons

  • Most Rank 1 skills seem unnecessary since they do very little and there are limited slots, meaning most players won't use or equip them.
  • Some skills for some classes are just better than others. Again, this is really up for debate and based somewhat on personal preference, but I found the Wizard skills particularly lacking.

When I first started playing Diablo Immortal, I didn't see how detrimental the monetization strategy was. However, I think that's kind of the point. As players get further into gameplay, they start to realize that their ability to play the game is inhibited by the pay-to-play scheme occurring.

Early game play isn't impacted (particularly prior to around level 22), so players get addicted to the good graphics, great gameplay, and portability, only to find out: yes, they can keep playing, but the gameplay isn't exactly equally distributed from player to player. So, young players, players on budgets, players without the means to shell out hundreds and thousands of dollars, aren't playing the same game as those that can.

And while players can certainly keep playing, they don't necessarily have "free" full-access to the game. They will be limited and have to be strategic as to where they allocate money and resources. They won't be able to upgrade gear and add gems, etc., the way that those who pay-to-play will. In fact, that aspect of the game is incredibly limited, and the higher players level-up, the more limited it is.

So, in full, instead of paying $30 for a game, and getting full-access to all that game is capable of offering, they get a "free" game they can't go full-force on unless they are willing to pay the price.

Pros

  • There are daily free rewards and first kill of the day rewards.
  • Players can still technically play the game without paying.

Cons

  • Daily free rewards are not enough to get the best gear, providing incentive to pay-to-play.
  • Though players can play without paying in a technical sense, they miss out on the best gear, and as they level-up may find some battles more difficult.
  • Though the game is "free," I think most players would rather pay for the game and have full-access than be forces to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for full-access, meaning the ability to upgrade their gear and get the best gear possible.

In summary, I really enjoy Diablo Immortal. There are a lot of mobile games, and only a few of them deliver the way that this MMORPG does. It's an immersive, fun, in-depth mobile game that RPG and MMO lovers can easily get addicted to, whether they previously loved the Diablo series or not.

Regardless of the problematic monetization strategy, there are few mobile games this fun to play, this graphically detailed, and this true to the original. While I do think the monetization strategy puts a damper on gameplay and is hugely disappointing, I can't say I won't continue to play Diablo Immortal.

Yes, this game should be priced reasonably to gain full-access right off the bat. Yes, players would much rather pay for the game than deal with misleading monetization strategies. Yes, it is disappointing and manipulative, especially when so many gamers have loved the Diablo series since the '90s. But, does it make me want to stop playing it? No.

So, monetization problem aside, this is a great game. Let's hope that Blizzard and NetEase Games hears the consistent complaint from players: This game is not free, and costs much more than any game should to actually gain full-access. Charge players upfront, so we can keep playing this otherwise rad game!

Pros

  • True to the original Diablo series that gamers love. VGM (video game music) and voice acting is all true to the Diablo series.
  • Gameplay is awesome.
  • Graphics are great, especially for a mobile game.
  • Not much, other than character customization, is sacrificed in this mobile RPG. In fact, Diablo Immortal rarely feels like a mobile game.
  • Immersive and addicting. Once you start playing, it's hard to put it down!

Cons

  • Monetization strategy impacts gameplay as players level-up and realize they have to pay-to-upgrade. Gems and all the fancy upgrading that make players so powerful in gameplay simply isn't fully accessible unless players are literally willing to pay the price.
  • Character customization is limited and ineffective.
  • Some MMO messiness occurs when multiple players are on the same quest in the same area (i.e. hard to see, may have lag, may have to wait for the other player to complete, and/or all components of that quest may not be available at first).
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Odin Odin (172)
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