It’s really slow on a summer Friday, so let’s talk video games instead. Diablo 4 came out in June and I’ve played enough of it to give a solid B grade. It’s a flawed product, but zero games are perfect when they come out. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that Diablo 3 was complete ass before they fixed it up and turned it into one of the best games of the mid-2010s.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of D4:

The good

  • gameplay is excellent
  • mechanics are smooth
  • skill tree and paragon board is solid enough
  • darker themes

Why did anyone play Diablo 2, Diablo 3, Path of Exile, Torchlight, or any other ARPG? They played them because they wanted to hammer a bunch of monsters into the dirt. That’s the whole point of these games, to line up a bunch of enemies and “smash your boy” like Khabib smashed Conor McGregor. D4 gets that absolutely right. It’s satisfying to obliterate an entire horde of demons and grab the loot. Rinse and repeat. The best ARPGs reflect that beauty in simplicity.

Going hand-in-hand with that thought, the actions that mesh with the annihilation are smooth. It’s very easy to string a couple of skills together and then trample some idiot goatman into a wall. And there’s enough variety in the skill tree and late game paragon board to build a unique character with some flexibility.

The other thing that D4 developers absolutely got right is that they made the game a lot darker. D3 was panned because it was too light and fluffy, but there’s a lot more sinister shit in this one. It almost feels too bleak at times, but that’s kind of the point. D2 had haunting vibes, and so does this game.

The bad

  • loot system isn’t as good as D3 and D2
  • endgame is hit or miss
  • crafting/jewels/etc is linear

The best part about D2 was that you’d run the cow level or Mephisto or whatever over and over again and be genuinely excited to see what loot pops out of their dead bodies. You’d get basic items, rares, legendary/unique and/or set items and runes as well. Tons of variety that made it worth doing these activities over and over again.

The D4 system has a pointless “sacred” and “ancestral” setup, where rares are split into two different categories that are equally useless. And then the legendary drops come with customized skills that can be removed from those items and enchanted onto different items instead. It seems cool in its flexibility, you quickly get bored of seeing the same “aspects” drop over and over again. You end up just selling them or “salvaging” for materials. And the best unique items seem ultra-rare, as though the drop rates are counterintuitive. I’ve been playing on and off since the beginning and got my character into endgame and only saw four of these items drop.

Beyond that, the endgame is just whatever. You have these “Helltide” areas, which are okay. One portion of the map turns red and a bunch of demon enemies roam around, so you fuck ’em up and they drop special currency that can used to open chests in the same area. It’s basically an overworld jaunt where you’re continuously mowing down enemies, which works.

But they replaced the rift system of D3 with something called “nightmare dungeons” that basically turn normal forays into more difficult runs where you get some okay loot at the end. Nothing amazing. It feels more repetitive and less exciting than running rifts and seeing how far you can push your character.

There’s also a “renown” system that allows you to build up your status in the game’s five regions, earning skill points and paragon points in the process. It’s a good system in theory, but feels grindy and repetitive and obligatory. There’s nothing fun about going around and finding “Altars of Lilith,” which grant you bonus stats, it just feels like something you have to do to keep pace with the game.

The ugly

  • grindy/repetitive stuff that just doesn’t interest

Going with the theme above, there are things in the game that feel totally uninteresting. Quests are boring. It’s the same “run here, kill some stuff, come back to the quest giver” type of thing. The side dungeons are the same way. You get some decent class-specific rewards for completing a portion of them, but the designs are so frustratingly lazy and linear that it’s almost insulting. Every dungeon involves some sort of thing where you kill X enemies, or collect a key to open a door, or pull two levers to advance to the next section. It’s super basic and boring. Even a Geico caveman could design it.

As for the campaign itself, there’s a lot of just walking from section to section. The premise is interesting, but I didn’t feel very compelled by it, especially when it asks you to go to some random new spot to do some random new thing. When I finished the story, I didn’t feel one way or another. I just moved on to the next part.

Similarly, the towns are all the same. There’s nothing separating one from the other. Each spot has the same armor dude, weapon dude, jewelry dude, etc. They opted for this WOW-esque open world and got away from Act 1-5 theme of the previous Diablo games.

The verdict

Again, it’s a solid B for me. You’ll read a lot of complaints about the game online, and they’re mostly valid, but Blizzard absolutely nailed the one thing it needed to nail, which is the smoothness and simplicity of just mowing down a bunch of enemies. If you’re like me, and you’re “older” and have kids or whatever, you’re probably not putting a lot of time into video games to begin with. So if you want to log on for 30 minutes, clobber some monsters, then log off, the game works perfectly.

The main thing they need to do is revamp the end game, fix nightmare dungeons and/or bring back the rift system. Bring back the Horadric cube. Bring back runes. Bring back recipes. Bring back all of the stuff that made D2 and D3 great, because it feels “thin” right now. The loot table just does not “pop,” for lack of a better word. The monster annihilating is fun, but the item collecting is meh.

I have no doubt they’ll get it right, assuming the Blizzard devs listen to the player base and take the feedback seriously. Diablo 3 at launch was a crap husk of what would ultimately become a fantastic game, so that’s the thing everybody has to keep in mind here.

D4 is worth playing. It’s not perfect, but the framework is there to build on. Now let’s get it back to the Philadelphia Eagles.

(apparently people like this dude on YouTube, so I’ll share one of his videos) –