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Hands-On With The Diablo Immortal Alpha: It Sets The Bar Very High

Diablo Immortal 11
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Stay a while and listen.

Last week Friday, Blizzard released Diablo Immortal onto Android and iOS in a limited technical alpha phase.

But, only for players in Australia, and a handful of content creators and press. I was lucky enough to secure access to the alpha. Transforming my more than a year of unparalleled excitement from just hopes and dreams into reality. A reality of finally getting to play this game.

The main purpose of the alpha though is of course to gather feedback from players. Blizzard wants to make Diablo Immortal the best it can possibly be. So it was eager to get the game into the hands of players for test feedback.

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After spending an entire weekend playing nothing but this game, grinding toward the alpha's level cap of 45 on one character (so far), I finally have some thoughts to share on how things are coming along. If I'm keeping things short and sweet, Blizzard is setting the bar very high with Diablo Immortal.

Not just for games in its immediate genre, but for all mobile games. It's good. Really, good. And if there's anything Blizzard could learn from the Diablo Immortal alpha from its players, it's that it should keep on doing what it's doing. Mostly. Things aren't that simple though.

The Diablo Immortal alpha sets the bar very high, but it can still improve

No one is perfect. And for that matter no games are perfect. There are plenty that come close, but there's always room to improve.

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This is basically where Diablo Immortal is sitting right now with its alpha phase. For the first time in a long time, I'm playing a Blizzard game that feels like a tried and true quality Blizzard game. I am a long-time WoW fan. I don't play the game anymore. Not after the colossal misfire that was the game's last expansion, Battle For Azeroth.

But WoW is a good example of a Blizzard game that sets the tone for things. It has on many occasions shown that, when Blizzard does something well, it does them extremely well. And this is quite honestly how Diablo Immortal feels.

Perhaps the biggest shock, isn't that the game is actually good. Personally, I always had faith it would be. As, I've never been let down by a Diablo game. No, the surprise was that the game would be this good in the alpha phase. That bodes well for the game in its future. So long as Blizzard keeps things up.

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So where can the game improve? There are a few areas. But keep in mind this is an alpha. So there should be some leniency here.

Cooldowns on the town portal need to go

First things first, Blizzard needs to get rid of the cooldown on the town portal. It has no business being in a Diablo game. And I really hope that down the line, Blizzard doesn't turn this into a way they can insert micro transactions. By letting you buy scrolls or some other item that refreshes the town portal immediately

Blizzard's Wyatt Cheng said in a 6+ minute long video last week during the alpha test launch, that there would be no energy systems for playing content. And he was being truthful. There are no energy systems. Anywhere.

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I played through almost five hours of the game last Friday night without a break. I couldn't put the game down. And I didn't have to because there was no need to wait for any timers that would refresh to allow me to continue my journey.

But, there is a cooldown on the town portal. And this felt, really bad honestly. I miss being able to toss up a town portal so I can stash, sell, or salvage items when my inventory becomes full.

You can certainly do that in this game. But you have to wait a a minute or two between town portal uses. This will become more of an issue for some players at higher level content. Once you start doing the higher difficulty rifts or dungeons, more loot is likely to drop. And the more loot you have means there's more of a chance to fill up your inventory more often.

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And if you have to wait for a cooldown on the town portal that would allow you to free up that inventory, then you're more or less having to wait to play. Blizzard, please get rid of this.

Loot… disappears?

This has happened to me maybe once or twice so far. And I'm not sure if it was a glitch or if this is the way things were developed.

But after talking about the town portal cooldown I felt it was a nice segue into the next point. Loot left on the ground after using a town portal to free up inventory may disappear.

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If this is intentional, it's a terrible design decision for the game. Especially since you could easily grab that loot once you go back through the portal. As noted this has only happened once or twice. But those are also the only times I've ever needed to drop off inventory when there was still more to go back and pick up.

Health pots could use more charges

One of the things people will probably realize once they get their hands on this game is that there are no stacks of health pots in your inventory anymore.

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Instead, Blizzard has gone all-in on a cooldown and charge system for your health potions. In Diablo Immortal you will have three total charges for your health potion that can be used at any given time.

Once you're out of those three charges, you have to wait until they recharge till you can use them again. I don't necessarily hate this method for refilling health. I just think the game could do with letting you stack those charges a little higher. Say, a max cap of ten charges instead of just three.

Also worth noting is that your health potion charges can more quickly refill as you pick up health globes that drop from enemies.

You level up way faster early on, making leveling feel uneven late-game

This isn't that bad of a thing really. And, for the sake of argument, it's entirely possible that Blizzard may have scaled things for the alpha to give people a better chance at getting to cap before the alpha is over. That way they could experience the higher difficulty end-game content.

I'm not sure if that's the case, but when grinding levels in the early stages of the game, it goes by so quick it feels like you could blink and miss it.

Once you hit level 30 or so, XP gains feel like they drop off a cliff. You're still gaining XP. Lots of it. But it's right around then that the climb to get to the next level feels very, very steep. Again, I'm not entirely sure if this was intentional or not.

But things could be evened out a bit more for a smoother climb all the way through. Or, Blizzard could label the kinds of content that afford more XP gains so it's easier to distinguish. Perhaps I was just doing content that was too low.

There needs to be a more organized quest/task tracker

I'll say this. Thank god for the quest and task tracker. That said, it needs to be more organized. As it stands in the alpha, the way Diablo Immortal handles quest tracking is just to dump every quest you pick up into this rolling list that you can scroll through. Once you get enough of them in there it feels clunky to use. Pro tip: Don't try to scroll through your quests and tasks when enemies are close by.

It would feel much better if Blizzard would let you prioritize which tasks to display in this rolling tracker. It would just look and feel cleaner and the functionality would be a more user-friendly experience.

Now for the good stuff….

Loot rewards for some content feels underwhelming

I know I won't be the only player that feels this way. Loot for some content feels very underwhelming. And that's not the best thing in a game that is, at its core, all about the loot and getting stronger because of it.

I'm not just talking about loot from random enemies either, but rather, more so about the loot from quests and dungeons. You would think that some of the mainline quests that tap into the story of the game would give you better rewards, but that isn't the case for a large chunk of quests in this game.

That being said, the loot system in general feels great. And I find myself wanting to dive back into the game more and more to get better gear.

Diablo Immortal does so many things right, even in the alpha

Now that I've put out a few things that I felt need some improvement, let's get on to the best things about this game.

First, the combat feels structurally sound and slaying demons in Diablo is just as fun as I remember from the last time I launched Diablo III. Attack and ability animations are gorgeous, and it makes you want to keep playing just to see more of your enemies fall to your devastating attacks.

Then there's the loot. While it does feel underwhelming in some instances, overall it feels fantastic. That familiar sound of a legendary item dropping on the ground basking a shining pillar of orange light is still there. And it feels every bit as enjoyable as it always has.

Visuals for the character and the world are incredibly appealing too. A good example is the use of light and shadows in the clip below as my character passes through the set of towering lamps. These little details make for a very fun experience. Even if it doesn't play much into the actual core content.

 

The in-game chat is another really great element. While I do wish there was a way to immediately get rid of it after open it up, the cool thing about it is that you can drag to expand the chat to a much larger box.

This will make it much easier to see what everyone's talking about.

Legendary loot changes the game

Legendary gear in this game feels polished and well-thought out. While I only have a few pieces so far, and I've only played one class, the Monk, the gear pieces I do have are awesome.

So far the legendary gear is blending well with the class abilities of the Monk. And I suspect it's the same for the other classes as well. It's entirely possible that not every piece has a huge impact.

But the items I have equipped personally change the way I have played the game a little bit. For example. My off-hand weapon, the Reaching Rebuke, has a crushing palm transcription on it that transforms my exploding palm technique into a crushing palm technique. Letting me launch into the air and come down on my enemies in a raging fury.

This is much more powerful than the regular exploding palm, but it has a longer cooldown. So it has caused me to shift the way I approach large groups of enemies to account for the longer duration of the cooldown. The fact that most or all legendary gear in this game could impact the playstyle that much is a really, really, cool touch.

And as a game that's built on the loot you acquire, that's a very good thing for Diablo Immortal. For any interested parties, don't listen to the naysayers. Diablo Immortal is a mobile game. But it's a top-notch implementation of a top-notch game franchise.

Everyone needs to at least try Diablo Immortal before making quick judgements. Because there is very little to dislike. And it's only the alpha. Which means the future of this game is very promising indeed.