Diablo 4: Thoughts from open beta
Diablo was one of the first games to resonate with me truly. I am still unsure how it came to be in my collection, but I vividly remember owning it for my Playstation. That’s right, I might be the only person who owned Diablo for the original Playstation. After talking with a few friends about how I enjoyed it, I learned quickly that I should be playing it for PC. Diablo was the first game that I purchased a second time, so I could get the whole experience on the PC, and at that moment I was officially converted from a console gamer to a PC game. Diablo was a formative game for me across multiple avenues, not only did it make me a life long lover of Action RPG games, it made me a life long PC gamer. Diablo 2 only deeper ingrained both into my identity. By the time Diablo 3 had come out, I was so deep into my love affair with Path of Exile, it didn’t bother me that Diablo 3 did not live up to expectations. Finally, Diablo Immortal shattered and belief that Blizzard would ever ship a Diablo game that would resonate with me again, I was comfortable with that, as I have Path of Exile releasing expansion-tier content every three months, and Last Epoch on the horizon with a very promising start.
I didn’t take much heed to the announcement and information coming out about Diablo 4, I had already made up my mind, I wasn’t going to play it. Although, there was no avoiding the details about the game, not that I was intentionally avoiding it, I was simply just not seeking it out. Slowly but surely my intent to not play the game had been eroded, and the early access event, which allowed those who pre-ordered the game by paying $100 dollars to play the game over a weekend had wiped away the last bit of resistance I had. The reports coming from many of the Path of Exile content creators, whom I trust, were positive at best and mixed at worst. With the open beta weekend coming, there was no reason why I couldn’t try it. So I did.
Diablo 4 is a fun game, I really have nothing negative to say about my experience in the open beta. Simply put, I enjoyed it. The game absolutely lacks deep systems which both Path of Exile and Last Epoch employ to keep it interesting and engaging, but that’s okay, Diablo 4 doesn’t need to be a replacement for those games, just a supplement to them. Path of Exile has 10 years of content releases to ensure that engaging systems exist in the game, it would be unfair to compare the complexity of a game that has not been released yet to it. Depending on how Blizzard chooses to handle seasonal content, it may have enough systems, to feel as complex and engaging as Path of Exile, and even if it doesn't, that’s still okay, the foundation of the game is still enjoyable. Ultimately, Diablo 4 is good, but not great. There are no glaring problems or issues with the game, but it certainly isn’t a contender for game of the year, in my book.
The open beta had no indication of monetization of the game, we know there is going to be something, but we don’t know in what form it will be. We have two data points to make assumptions from, the first is Diablo Immortal, the worst of the worst, the game that continues to hound you with pop-ups to buy more rewards upon completion of any content. The other is Blizzard’s word that they will not monetize Diablo 4 in the same way. Ultimately, I don’t believe them, there is absolutely no way that Diablo 4 will not have some sort of predatory tactic for monetization in the game, we live in a capitalist world after all. What I am unsure of is at what length they will go to monetize the game, there is no way they go as far as Diablo Immortal after the backlash they received either. How far do they go, and how much will it ruin the game experience for me? I am not against monetization of live server games, you have to pay for the ongoing cost of servers and development somehow, but I just ask that you do it with some semblance of ethics.
Regardless of how the monetization plays out in the short term, I won’t be buying Diablo 4 on release for one simple reason. The game is not worth paying $70 for. I have difficulty justifying paying $70 for any game, justifying it is even harder for a game that is good, but not great. On top of that, it is a game that still has question marks about the state of monetization. Diablo 4 is a game that I would rather miss out on than pay $70 for, simply put. In a world where there are an almost infinite number of games that I could spend my time playing, and the cost of many of them are half of what I would pay for Diablo 4, $70 is a hard sell, and I am not buying.
If Diablo 4 ultimately is the blockbuster that we all hope it is, then I can still buy it later. If the seasonal content provides the complex and engaging system which I love about Path of Exile, there is nothing stopping me from paying the $70 at a later date to play the game. In a world where Diablo 4 can still be a wasteland of exploitative monetization tactics or a bastion of ARPG game design, there is zero risk in simply waiting to see how it plays out. I have zero FOMO with this one, if I am late to the party, I will not regret the time spent playing Last Epoch or other games until I know for certain that Diablo 4 is world $70, let alone playing at all.