Under normal circumstances, I don’t see the point in reviewing a game that’s free. Why read a review when you can just play the game yourself? And while that’s certainly true for the free-to-play third-person fantasy action / adventure game Diablo Immortal (iOS, Android, PC), it requires so much of your tablet’s or phone’s memory that you might wonder whether or not it’s worth it. But take it from someone who deleted multiple games, some photos, and a bunch of apps when I say that yes, yes it is.
Set between the events of Diablo II and Diablo III,
Diablo Immortal casts you as a human on the hunt for remnants of The Worldstone, a pretty bauble that held the power of creation, but was broken into pieces that are now causing corruption throughout the land.
And no, to answer your next question, Diablo Immortal is not a match-3 puzzle game. Instead, it’s just like all the other Diablo games, especially Diablo III. Played from an aerial perspective, you — as a barbarian, a crusader, a monk, a wizard, a necromancer, or a demon hunter — have to explore scary forests, dark dungeons, and other vast locations that are infested with huge spiders, famished zombies, and other horrific creatures.
Good thing you’re armed with a melee or ranged weapon, or the ability to cast magic spells, all of which you deploy by mashing buttons as fast as your fingers will allow. Well, assuming you wait a moment for your more powerful attacks to recharge, that is.
Of course, as a free-to-play mobile game, Diablo Immortal isn’t exactly like Diablo III. Just in the ways that really matter. It still has the same great combative action, the same variety when it comes to your enemies and the means to vanquish them, and similar amount of intricacy when it comes to dungeons and other places you explore.
But there are some subtle differences. Take managing all the loot you, uh, loot, an essential part of any dungeon crawler role-playing game. Like Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and other games in the Borderlands series, you pick up a metric ton of weapons, armor, and pieces of gold as you cut a bloody swath through the land. But managing all your new stuff is rather easy since items are clearly marked when they’re better than what you’re currently using, and the lesser stuff can be easily marked for destruction. Some dungeons even end with a ghost of a blacksmith waiting to turn any unwanted items into helpful resources.
The world in Diablo Immortal…
is also relatively simpler. While the dungeons are similar in how they have multiple pathways, they don’t have as many levels. Meanwhile, the above ground areas are not as open or as large as those in Diablo III, though they still have tons of pathways and areas to explore.
There are also some issues that are only present on the tablet and phone versions of Diablo Immortal. For starters, the gameplay screen often becomes rather crowded, especially when you’re being attacked from all sides. And that goes double if you opt to make the minimap larger. Not that it helps; by having the pathways be dark grey against the black background, they’re nearly impossible to see, rendering the minimap largely useless.
More importantly, Diablo Immortal‘s touch controls are also somewhat problematic. Not the combat buttons, those are laid out well; and thank you, Blizzard, for making it easy to drink a health potion during the heat of battle. But the same can’t be said for the virtual joystick, which isn’t the most accurate and, more importantly, can make it tough to play this for a long stretch of time. Though it gets easier (and no less fun) when you unlock the auto navigation option, which you can turn on and off easily as you’re walking around.
There’s also a unique aspect to Diablo Immortal that’s annoying if, like me, you don’t play well with others: the game is always open to other players. Like Destiny and Destiny 2, there are times in Diablo Immortal when you’ll be running around, minding your own business, when someone else will run into the battle you’re fighting. And while there are dungeons that require you to go it alone, there are otherwise no options when it comes to limiting interlopers to just your friends or, better, no one.
But uninvited guests are not the issue.
No, the problem with Diablo Immortal being open to everyone is that it means this doesn’t have a pause button, nor does it pause when you open the menu to see what new sword or helmet you just acquired, or what new spell or special attack you just earned by leveling up.
It also means Diablo Immortal has almost no options when it comes to difficulty. Well, mostly. There are some dungeons that give you the option of making things more difficult if you’re looking for a challenge. But these are the only times when you can make things tougher on yourself, and there’s no options to make them easier if, like Lisa Simpson (and me) you’re looking for a challenge you can do.
That said, Diablo Immortal‘s difficulty is nicely balanced. It’s never so easy that you’ll start to wonder what’s on TV, and it’s never so hard that you’ll throw your iPad across the room in frustration.
While being a free-to-play mobile game does give Diablo Immortal issues that its console cousins don’t have, it does thankfully avoid some of the problems that have undermined other mobile games, free and otherwise. For instance, while this has microtransactions, they’re not aggressive about pushing them, while this is clearly designed to not be a game where you can pay to win. You don’t even pay to play; you’re not, say, limited to five dungeons or 10 minutes of gameplay time or whatever, you can play as long as you want.
Even better, you can basically ignore the microtransactions in Diablo Immortal. I did.
if you ignore all the issues in Diablo Immortal — easily done since none are all that annoying — you’ll find it might as well have been called Diablo IV. (Well, if there wasn’t a Diablo IV already in the works, that is). It is every bit a true Diablo game, one that’s definitely worth your time…and your space.