Blizzcon18: Diablo Immortal Gameplay Review

The most asked question I received from Blizzcon 2018 was what the Diablo Immortal gameplay felt like? I was lucky enough, among the many other Blizzcon attendees, to playtest the demo of the game.  I was even able to play all three character classes: Barbarian, Monk, and Wizard.  It was fun! I really enjoyed it a lot.  I share my playtest experience and gameplay review below.

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I’ll be honest at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the demo area. I was lead by the Blizzard staff to a long table with a row, on each side, of large rectangular smartphones secured to the table.  I settled in and was greeted by a character selection screen.  Basically, you’re asked to choose between the Barbarian, Monk or Wizard class, although six character classes will be available in the final game, including the Crusader, Demon Hunter, and Necromancer.

My first time to play I defaulted to the Barbarian character class.  Soon after selecting my character, a screen appeared which asked me to begin my adventure by placing my thumbs on-screen following a thumb outline on screen.  Basically, I put my thumbs on the left where a circle appeared for the on-screen directional pad and on the right where buttons for your characters special skills where positioned.

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There are 4 round buttons that surround a large circular button.  The large circular button represents your base move, e.g., slashing with a weapon as with the Barbarian.  The 4 other circular buttons represent your character’s special skills, each with a separate cooldown or delay between uses.  Now, most of these were similar to the skills used in Diablo 3, although I think there were others which looked new to me.

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I was surprised at how easy it was to maneuver around the map with the on-screen directional pad, especially because I’m used to playing Diablo on the PC.  There were times I got stuck beside a tree or couldn’t quite get out of a tight location, like a narrow corridor or when I was surrounded by a group of enemies, but I’d like to think this is more of a familiarity with gaming on a smartphone or handheld device.

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The demo basically walked me through how to use each skill, pick up items and show off the multiplayer features.  Personally, I wasn’t too fond of the Barbarian class.  I felt like I was tapping my right thumb a bit more than I needed to.  In contrast, I spoke to a few other players and they enjoyed the Barbarian class over the other two classes so that could just be me.  I personally preferred the Monk and the Wizard classes.  The Monk is my favorite class from Diablo 3 overall but I had never played the Wizard class before.  So I was delightfully surprised to enjoy how easy it was to pick up this class on mobile. As expected, there were definitely differences to PC gameplay though.

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For example, one of the Wizard’s skills initiates a meteor from the sky.  The skill requires you to direct the meteor on the screen with the directional pad.  It’s a bit different from the PC version, I am told, where you use your mouse to point to where you want the meteor to land on-screen. But I found it very effective, and fun, to use the directional pad instead.  Especially when I was surrounded by undead minions. It wasn’t too difficult to point the meteor on all of us together and get the desired area effect. I also fairly enjoyed dropping the meteor on a bunch of unsuspecting minions of darkness!  Although I was told others found this a bit clunky since they were used to using a mouse with much more precision.  Also, the teleport skill worked nicely, just pointing the directional pad out of a crowd of enemies worked well for me.

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Another skill I enjoyed, this time for the Monk class, was the Seven-Sided Strike. This is where the Monk performs a Dash rapidly between nearby enemies, exterminating foes. It was fun to get a group of enemies to surround me and initiate to the skill and deal with them in one go. I think this move translated very well to mobile too.

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Another thing that I enjoyed was the multiplayer feature.  When the demo was set up you are put in groups of four.  You’re all positioned next to each other, to smartphones which are already set up to play together.  When I started to play it felt mostly like a single player mission.  It was fun to play on my own when, quite seamlessly, I encountered another player on the same level.  We played together for a few moments, ganging up on enemies and showing the legions of undead who was boss! But later on, I decided to move on to the next level.  I was surprised to see that at the portal, e.g., between levels, it asked me to choose between going on on my own or waiting for the other players to join me.  I choose to wait and soon after, a bunch of other players characters showed up at the portal to go down one level together.  Gotta say, appearing together at the next level was pretty fun, just like old times but on mobile!

After playing more than a few minutes of the game in this way I could start to see how this could translate to some fun moments with friends.  For example, I could see me and my buddies just gathered around the couch pulling out our smartphones and going off adventuring.  I mean, there is some excitement in just being able to play Diablo with anyone, anywhere.  Usually, the logistics require everyone having at least a laptop computer, too bulky for today’s always on the go standards.  This way, we could all be waiting in line for something or just casually hanging out in Starbucks waiting for someone to arrive, fighting the undead horde until our names are called out to pick-up our cafe lattes 😉

Pros:

Solid mobile gameplay, especially for a casual gamer like me. Easy to pick up, and allows for Diablo play anytime, anywhere and with anyone, e.g., like with your group of friends on the go.  I can easily see playing this with all my buddies when we get together without issue.

Cons:

I personally felt like there was a bit of “button mashing”, a bit much for my taste, for the Barbarian class but I did enjoy playing the Wizard and Monk a lot.

In summary:

Overall a solid mobile game.  The gameplay was better than I expected, again for a mobile game, plus it allows for Diablo play anywhere, anytime and with friends too!  I believe that’s a great recipe for a good mobile Diablo game.  I’m excited to see where Blizzard takes this game.  My personal hope is that you pay one fee and get access to all levels, or at least most.  I’m not sure I’d be a fan of micro-transactions though.

Anyway, had a blast playing the demo at Blizzcon 2018.  So wish you were there to join me!  For more on Blizzcon 2018, keep following here at Skkaw.blog.

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