Just how many times can Diablo be killed? Clichéd as it sounds, evil never dies – it just takes on a different form.
Diablo, one of the three Prime Evils that plagued mankind since time immemorial (the other two Prime Evils being Mephisto, the Lord of Destruction, and Baal, the Lord of Hatred), does not even appear in this game.
Adventurers in the past have thwarted the Prime Evils’ machinations to unleash hell on Sanctuary – the primary setting in the series – numerous times, so how does Diablo himself tie in to all this?
He doesn’t. US gaming studio Blizzard’s “Diablo IV” continues the story from the third instalment of the series, where the Lord of Terror was thoroughly defeated, apparently once and for all.
With its latest release, out since early last month, the game’s atmosphere is a return to form, delivering a dark and gothic setting where all hope seems lost as you attempt to stop Lilith from ruling supreme.
Wait, who? Lilith is Mephisto’s daughter, the offspring of a Prime Evil. She decides to take matters in her own hands by seeking patricide, having created Sanctuary in hopes of ending the Eternal Conflict many years ago. (Longtime players of the game would understand all this without need of further definition. Others would likely not be too interested in reading this anyway.)
As usual, you are a wandering adventurer roped in to save Sanctuary from utter ruin. You spend most of your time chasing after Lilith’s shadows, but eventually you’ll catch up with her and, by then, you will hopefully be powerful enough to stop such madness and evil.
Choose from five different character classes: barbarian, druid, sorceress, rogue, and the much-loved necromancer from “Diablo II” (also in “Diablo III” via an expansion pack). Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, with different build options to suit your play style.
The barbarian is a melee character who loves to jump into action at any point, while the druid commands nature to aid him in battle. For those who prefer stealth and ranged characters, the rogue and sorceress are good picks. If you hate going it solo, the necromancer and his minions will ensure you will never walk alone.
Whenever your character dies, you revive at the nearest checkpoint with a 10% penalty to your equipped items’ durability. Getting back to monster- and demon-slaying readiness is as simple as visiting the town’s blacksmith for a quick repair job.
Just like before, those who are a sucker for punishment can use the option to create a Hardcore character, where you only have one life. Die, and you will have to start all the way from the beginning.
Levelling up is rocket science
To obtain the most fun results, you would do well to explore the different builds without referring to online guides. Each time you level up, you gain a skill point, which you can then assign to an ability of your choice.
Take your time to go through the entire skill tree and see how you can best synergise the different abilities to chart your character’s path.
Once you hit level 50 (out of 100 in total), you will no longer be awarded skill points. Instead, you will earn “paragon points” that will allow you to expand your character’s development in aspects such as intelligence, dexterity, strength, and willpower. There are also various nodes you can branch into.
If this sounds overwhelming, fret not. You can reassign skill points at any point, allowing you to change your character’s entire build in the blink of an eye.
Early in the game, you will be able to do so without any penalty, but later, reassigning your skill and paragon points will result in a financial penalty – which will be negligible since you’ll be worth millions by then with the amount of loot you have.
A new salvage system allows you to collect raw material that can be used for future upgrades. You won’t obtain any cash, nor does it cost anything. Legendary Gear also comes with different aspects that can be extracted and imprinted onto other gear when you stumble upon something more powerful.
Expect to be psychologically challenged. Will there be something better down the road? Most definitely, if you play long enough. Should you save the upgraded gear and aspects for your “final” piece of armour or weapon? You could – but you don’t actually know whether something superior is going to come along.
It’s a gamble, really, but this is what makes the game so exciting.
“Diablo IV” will get you hooked right from the very beginning. Unlike Geralt of Rivia in the “Witcher” series, you might not feel as emotionally invested in the character, but the story is fast-paced enough to make you want to finish all six acts as soon as possible.
Completionists might want to consider finishing the story campaign first before tending to the hundreds of available side quests.
That said, those who are purely story driven might find less impetus to obtain better gear and items. Still, it would not be Blizzard if there weren’t any upcoming expansion packs for “Diablo IV”. After all, the story concludes in an open-ended manner, leaving room for evil to return once again. When will the madness end?
Those familiar with Blizzard’s action RPGs should dive right into the Veteran mode (the regular difficulty level). You can unlock the Nightmare tier (recommended for characters between levels 50 and 70), and truly test yourself with the Torment tier (levels 70 to 100) if you want access to the best gear and items.
Feel like certain segments are more difficult and challenging than others? This is where Battle.net comes into play. Call upon the help of your friends (or vice-versa) on Blizzard’s dedicated interactive platform to allow the synergy of different character classes to shine in clearing out dungeons and defeating world bosses.
There is also player-versus-player mode for those who wish to test their build against others. It can be a real confidence booster when you sweep all before you, but the opposite is also true: you might wonder how come your character is so weak even when you are the same level as your opponent.
Crossplay multiplayer is supported, meaning you can play on your PC and have gamers on the PlayStation or Xbox join in without knowing the difference. Overall, the social aspect shines with “Diablo IV”.
The bottom line
With Blizzard rolling out new updates from time to time to keep things fresh in-game while making balances, it might feel as though you are playing “Diablo IV” anew every single time.
Even if you completed the campaign using all five different character classes, you would not even have scratched the surface of the game.
The asking price might be quite steep at US$69.99 (RM326.45) a pop for the standard edition (the deluxe and ultimate editions offer exclusive cosmetics), but you will find yourself spending hundreds of hours clearing Sanctuary of demons and all other unsavoury characters, venturing into Hell itself to save the world you know and love.
Edwin Kee dreamt of being a pro-gamer only to have circumstances mould him into a programmer in a past life. He has since moved on to write about consumer electronics and other topics.