I still remember when Diablo Immortal was first introduced to us at BlizzCon 2018. It was a moment that would live in infamy for game reveals. A Diablo game on mobile? Ridiculous. Where much of the world was already going all-in on mobile, North American audiences believed with fickle resolve that a beloved franchise “reduced” to a mobile game could be little more than a cash grab. I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical too, but my view on mobile games has changed in the years since Diablo Immortal was announced, and more than that, this game has become far more than I ever expected. I got to sit down (or rather be on the go) with an early build of Diablo Immortal and it’s every bit a proper Diablo game, full-fledged and as enjoyable as its PC and console counterparts.
A familiar fire burns beneath
Diablo Immortal’s setting takes place between the events of Diablo 2 and Diablo 3. Deckard Cain and a number of familiar faces are still trying to keep the raw power and corruption of the mighty Worldstone out of the hands of hellish forces and the creatures and cultists that serve them. To that end, you arrive in the hotly contested region of Wortham where a fragment of the Worldstone has been discovered by evil forces who are trying to secure and deliver its almighty power to demon lords. The player takes on the role of an adventurer who makes contact with Cain, and embarks on a quest to secure the various Worldstone fragments scattered throughout the lands before evil beings can get to them first and harness their power to bring ruin to the earthly world.
There are six player classes in Diablo Immortal and much like in Diablo 3, players can take on male or female versions of any of them. The Barbarian, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Monk, Crusader, and Necromancer return for players to explore. Character creation isn’t all that bad either. It’s not a wealth of options that would put it on par with something like Monster Hunter or anything, but I still find there to be a decent number of options to make the kinds of characters I wanted to build before I was off on my adventure.
Diablo Immortal supports controller connection whether directly or through Bluetooth, but I played with the touch controls for much of my time with it. It was relatively easy to handle as well. You have a main attack button which can be held to autotarget the closest enemies, up to four skill buttons which can be swapped and assigned as you gather more abilities, and poke-and-drag movement button for moving your hero around. Menus such as equipment, skills, quests, map, and more were also fairly easy to access and understand.
For this early build, I started a melee-focused Monk character and a range-focused Wizard character. With the Monk, I developed a sort of combo methodology where I would draw enemies in, let loose on them with a flurry of teleporting kicks and strikes, and then use thunderous blows to kill what stragglers remained. On the Wizard, distance and keep-away was my game, flinging magic missiles and fireballs, hitting enemies with ice to slow them, and using wind blasts to blow them away. In both cases, I felt like the controls handled well enough to let me do the kind of directional and targeted damage I was trying to do depending on what the situation called for. It was also fun unlocking abilities at higher levels and seeing how they’d slot into my kit.
Diablo Immortal’s progression is built on story-driven quests through various areas, as well as unlocking of dungeons in which players will delve to defeat the monsters and bosses that lurk therein. That said, there are also a cavalcade of discoverable events occurring across the land with which to challenge the player for a chance at gold coins and stronger gear. In all cases, while the story quests, side quests, dungeons, and further challenges are fully fleshed out, Diablo Immortal was also designed for a more bite-sized approach to accommodate its mobile setting. In an early story quest, I chased down a female necromancer hoping to acquire the power of an undead king and awaken the power of a Worldstone fragment she possessed. Each section of the journey never felt like more than about 15-20 minutes long at most. It’s a very easy pick-up and put-down game.
Even so, there’s also plenty of challenge afoot and the loot grind in Diablo Immortal is as addictive as ever. Whether you come across special occurring camps of enemies in hostile territory, cursed chests that require a fight with unique foes to open, or higher levels of dungeons suited to multiple and/or stronger adventurers, there are tons of increasingly difficult battles ahead and rewards for overcoming them. Each new piece of gear or weaponry was a gift to my overall arsenal and assembling a full set of equipment with bonuses made my zero feel like a proper hero in a jiffy. Whereas a lot of dungeon crawlers make all that extra gear feel pretty useless as you find better things, it also incentivizes collecting it all so you can salvage it at a blacksmith for parts to upgrade the gear you really like so it becomes stronger.
Of course, getting together with other players is also at the heart of Diablo Immortal, and it’s pretty easy to access those features thanks to the fact that you can link your Battle.net account to the game. Whether you want to search your pals via Battle.net usernames or simply find a band with which to throw your lot, the Party Finder makes this task pretty simple. It’s a one-icon press and then you’re off to access friends or other searching adventurers, whether you want to invite them into your world or join theirs. There are also a number of features like clans and activities catering to both PVP and co-op focuses. Connection was pretty easy and stayed stable throughout my time playing with others in the game.
An eternal gauntlet
With Diablo Immortal about to launch, I was thoroughly impressed with what it offered as a free-to-play, mobile version of one of the most beloved dungeon crawlers of all time. And there’s just going to be more. More classes, more quests, and more features are coming to what already feels like a solid first step onto mobile devices. Even if there wasn’t, Diablo Immortal has more than what it needs to feel like a proper Diablo game and has shaped up to be a full-fledged adventure fans shouldn’t overlook just because of its platform.
These impressions are based on an early access build supplied by the publisher. Diablo Immortal comes to iOS and Android devices on mobile and PC on June 2, 2022.