Slaying demons in Diablo IV’s beta is a blast

I spent several hours playing the upcoming game's closed beta this past weekend

Over the March 17th weekend, Blizzard launched a closed beta for its upcoming top-down role-playing game, Diablo IV, and I spent a lot of time playing it. Development of the game is still in progress, so I won’t be reviewing it yet, but I have a lot of thoughts about my experience so far.

Diablo IV is interesting because it shifts away from the traditional RPG style of previous Diablo titles and borrows more from massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. The game’s world is big, looks great, and offers a lot you can do with your character. However, I also encountered several of the negative aspects tied to big online multiplayer titles, including long queue times and the looming fear of a pricey battle pass.

With this in mind, Diablo IV likely won’t be for everyone, including maybe even long-time fans of the series.


Lilith, the Mother of Sanctuary (the world Diablo is set in), has returned, and your character will do whatever it takes to defeat the demon daughter of Hatred. This is the premise of Diablo IV‘s story, which is filled with entertaining cutscenes and, so far, surprisingly interesting twists and turns.

If I’m not playing a shooter or an ultra-difficult game like Elden Ring, I’m typically playing games that feature interesting storylines and cutscenes, and Diablo IV’s beta offered this in spades. During my time with the beta, I made it to the end of the playable campaign — there was still a lot for me to do outside of it. I particularly enjoyed Diablo IV‘s cutscenes because they showcase beautiful animations with detailed character emotions. It was thrilling to see Lilith first emerge from a bloody ritual. The Mother of Sanctuary looks haunting and beautiful, and when the full game launches, I’m looking forward to learning more about her, as she seems to be able to bend people to her will.

I also really like Diablo IV‘s overall art style. While Diablo III features a more hand-painted, cartoony graphical style, Diablo IV utilizes hand-crafted renders that offer a great blend of fantasy and realism that throwback to the look of Diablo and Diablo II. Having recently played Weird West, I found that the two titles have several similarities, including their top-down gameplay and graphical style.

Further, Sanctuary offers an eerily-dark sense of fantastical whimsy. For instance, part of the map is a frozen tundra, with a blizzard that renders snow beautifully without making it too distracting. At the same time, there’s a forest area with dreary yet charming trees — and tree monsters that can best be described as monstrous versions of Middle Earth’s Ents.

While Diablo IV‘s creatures are overall cool, I grew tired of repeatedly seeing the same monsters towards the end of my time with the beta. I’m hoping the full game offers more variety in enemy types.

It’s worth noting that I’d occasionally encounter too many enemies on the screen at once, which can quickly become overwhelming, but in most cases, this can be solved with a few moments of spell-casting.

Earth, Wind and Fire

Speaking of spell-casting, I played as a sorcerer created from the ground up with the game’s character customization system. The customizer offers three classes: Barbarian, Sorcerer and Rogue. Necromancer and Druid will be available during the next Diablo IV beta. There are eight face presets, two body types, four face variations, 11 hairstyles, many skin tones, jewelry and more. As a Black person, I was able to make my character look Black, which I always appreciate in video games. However, there aren’t many Black hairstyle options. In comparison, even Elden Ring’s character customization system offers more depth.

Moving on from character customization, I selected the Sorcerer class because without spell-casting, what’s the point of a fantasy game? I’d heard that Sorcerers are Diablo IV‘s glass-cannon character, as they do a lot of damage but can’t take a hit and might experience issues early on. I didn’t find being a sorcerer all that difficult, and didn’t die until I reached level 23 after moving through a dungeon a little too confidently.

I like that Diablo IV offers several skill options; being able to cast a meteor, followed by a blizzard, and then shooting chain lightning not only looks cool but is satisfying. Further, you can swap out a skill you don’t like with another, allowing you heavily customize your build — as long as you have ample in-game cash.

Sorcerers offer several enchantment slots, allowing you to enchant your character with a spell of your choosing. I decided to enchant my character with the Blizzard spell, causing a blizzard to form over my head every 15 seconds without spending any mana. I also tried slotting in spells like Fireball, which causes every few spells to feature an explosion, and this lightning teleport spell, which replaces the simple dodge mechanic with a teleport.

During the beta, you can only enchant one of your spells, but levelling your character to level 30 unlocks another slot. However, you’ll need to wait until the full game to use this feature.

Like the Sorcerer’s enchant ability, each class has its own special mechanics. The Barbarian, for instance, can use up to four different weapons simultaneously.

You can only slot in roughly six of these skills (or spells for Sorcerers), but your character also has passive skills, and for sorcerers, the enchantment mechanic offers the player a lot to play with and try out. The robust number of skills can also make it so that you and your friend can play the same class but ultimately have none of the same skills unlocked, which I appreciated. With Diablo IV being MMO-like, it’s likely specific “meta builds” (builds that the community deems the best) will quickly take over, but it’s great there are enough options to still make your character strong if you want to diverge from that path.

There are also dozens different ways to customize the look of your characters, including weapons and armour that offer different stat boosts and effects.

Possibly too online?

Diablo IV feels like an MMORPG, which is different from previous Diablo titles. Like Diablo III, you’ll need a solid internet connection because you can only play the game online. While I didn’t have any friends join me over the weekend, they can enter your world, just like with Diablo III. Where IV differs from its predecessor is that you’ll actually see random players in your Sanctuary playing alongside you.

You’ll also encounter other players in your town, which can make going to your weaponsmith or blacksmith a crowded experience. Further, you’ll also see characters interacting with enemies in the world, and you can join them in fighting creatures if you’d like. However, you won’t run into random players in dungeons, which I appreciated because I’m not interested in completing a dungeon with a group of randoms.

There are also raids where you and your friends can try to defeat World Bosses, including in the open beta, World Boss Ashava. Unfortunately, I missed out on this as raids only happen at certain times of the day. Some players reportedly got destroyed by Ashava, and I look forward to taking on World Bosses in the final game.

While MMOs are great, they aren’t for everyone. Given Blizzard is behind the biggest MMORPG ever, World of Warcraft, I have faith that the developer knows what it’s doing. However, on the beta’s launch day, I tried logging into the game and was forced to wait over an hour to get in due to queue times, and this was after several failed login attempts. I also encountered several server crashes that completely booted me from the game.

This beta was only open to those who pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition of Diablo IV, along with media and streamers who received a code, and there were already long queue times. The situation will likely get worse with the upcoming Open Beta on March 24th-26th. It’s also possible that if the game gets big seasonal updates, we might also see long queue times on launch days. That said, the queue times weren’t bad all weekend, and after that first day, the longest I had to wait was 10 minutes.

It’s also worth noting that I’m concerned about how the battle pass system for the title will work. If it’s anything like Overwatch 2‘s battle pass, it won’t be pay-to-win and will focus on costly cosmetics, which is definitely a good thing.

If you’re like me and not a big fan of MMOs like WoW or Final Fantasy XIV, you’re probably at least a little worried about sharing your RPG experience beyond a close group of a few friends. This is a valid concern, and I’m interested to see how Diablo IV‘s MMO-like features play out in the long-term.

Final thoughts

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Diablo IV‘s closed beta. It features stunning cutscenes, a pretty world and ample customization. The various spells and interesting monsters also had me playing for hours throughout the weekend. Knowing that there are still some spells I have yet to use and two other classes to try out makes me excited to check out the upcoming open beta and the final game in a few months.

I just hope I won’t still sometimes be waiting for hours in queue times.

Diablo IV launches on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC on June 6th. An open beta for the game runs from January 24th to the 26th. For more on the controversy surrounding Activision Blizzard and sexual harassment claims surrounding the company, follow this link.

Image credit: Activision Blizzard