Diablo Immortal impressions — The real cost of free to play

Diablo Immortal Impressions Pay To Win Featured Image

Since its inception, Diablo Immortal has not been a particularly popular game. It sparked the now legendary “Don’t you guys have phones?” meme, and has more recently been brandished as one of the most egregious examples of pay to win in the industry. But are those complaints fair? This is our impressions of Diablo Immortal, which looks to answer if Blizzard and NetEase’s new action role-playing game is worth playing.

Before we get into the juicy stuff, I just want to address the gameplay. A lot of people seem to have this idea that Diablo Immortal is an incredible game held back by terrible monetization. While the latter half of that statement is true, the first half is not. Although Diablo Immortal is not terrible, it is by no means a great game. There are several other action RPGs I’d recommend playing before you even consider trying this. You know, like Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, and literally any Diablo game that isn’t this one.

 

Aesthetically, the dungeons look great and the general flow of combat is decent. Each class’ abilities chain together reasonably well and using them feels intuitive enough. Despite this, the gameplay does have some flaws. For one it’s pretty easy, and never really challenges you to get better or use abilities in a certain way. Another issue is that the limited build variety and overall lack of abilities mean that combat gets very repetitive after a while.

Since the story is about as uninteresting as one would expect of a Diablo game, the gameplay has to carry the burden. Unfortunately, it isn’t diverse or interesting enough to do so. For the first few hours, it’s a blast, but sooner or later you’ll realize that you’re doing the same things over and over. I could see Immortal being a decent option to jump on for 30 minutes a day when you’re bored. Anything beyond that, the game gets dreary.

This is a mobile game

Diablo Immortal is a mobile game. By that, I don’t mean that it began life as a mobile game and has been adapted to better suit PC. That’s what you would have expected. Instead, what we got is a literal mobile game. Despite it claiming otherwise, the adjustments made to put this on PC are minimal and even a little insulting.

Diablo Immortal Options No Resolution

This might be the first game I’ve ever played that has framerate settings but no option to change the resolution.

Perhaps the craziest omission is that Diablo Immortal has no resolution options. You have to play it at what looks to be 1080p. Those using higher-resolution monitors will be forced to see the game stretched out. On a 1440p display, it’s pretty rough to look at. On a 4K display, Diablo Immortal looks embarrassingly bad. You can actually see the individual pixels at times — like in an NES game.

If that’s not bad enough, the user interface also sucks. Not only is it awkward to navigate with a mouse, but basic interface features aren’t included. You can’t even hover over dropped loot to see its stats before picking it up. Plus there are some interface issues. If you’re in the inventory screen and press escape, it closes the inventory as expected, but then opens a different menu straight after. If something as basic as how the escape key should interact with the UI isn’t done right, then what hope is there?

Some players may excuse these oversights by pointing out that Diablo Immortal is a beta. However, being a beta doesn’t excuse the most basic features of a PC port not being considered. If you are planning to charge players in any way for a game on PC, it needs to have these features. These aren’t just quality-of-life options that make the playing experience easier. They are core features that make a game functional on PC. Not having them included is unacceptable.

Diablo Immortal Ui Scaling Not Available

The UI is not well scaled and there are no options to fix that. It’s obvious that this was designed with a small phone screen in mind, not a 27″ monitor.

Payday

Given Activision Blizzard’s rough reputation as of late, you’d think it would make the slightest effort to improve its standing. Even if it’s just an act to buy time before getting acquired by Microsoft. But apparently, the company’s goal is more to catering players with deep pockets.

Members of the Diablo community have already figured out that maxing a character in Immortal would cost over $110,000. That is a terrifying fee, but it doesn’t necessarily showcase the game’s real problem. What makes Diablo Immortal so astonishingly awful is just how unapologetic the game is in trying to milk customers for money.

Take this for example. When you finish a dungeon, you get some loot. This is the core progression of basically any action RPG, and especially the Diablo series. However, you then get an additional option to pay money to receive more rewards. In other words, your rewards for finishing a dungeon are limited by your willingness to pay out.

Diablo Immortal Skeleton King Boss Fight

But before you even go into a dungeon, you will first want to use crests. Crests are consumable boosts that improve your odds of getting loot. You get these by spending money and can use up to three in a dungeon. At least, that’s what you would assume by looking at the initial interface. Except when you put three in, you are then prompted to add an additional seven. If you decide to add all 10, which costs around $25 USD by the way, you receive greatly improved loot. We’re talking maybe 10 to 15 times the number of legendary items dropped per boss. When you see a player in amazing gear, it’s no longer as impressive when you consider they most likely got that loot by just being rich or by being exploited.

Stay well clear

My initial impressions of Diablo Immortal are really not good. As far as I’m concerned, this is a mediocre mobile game with predatory microtransactions attached to every significant form of progression. Free-to-play players will hit a point where Immortal becomes a second job, and those who are more vulnerable will sadly be taken advantage of. It’s games like this that show the absolute worst side of capitalism, as every hint of developer passion is outweighed one hundred times over by the sheer greed on display.

Mind you, even if Immortal had a more approachable business model, it still wouldn’t be that good. The gameplay is fine, but the lack of build variety and dumbed-down mechanics makes it a poor fit on PC. Even worse the state of this port is so inadequate that I genuinely wish it never came to be. I now understand why Wyatt Cheng asked us if we don’t have phones; there’s no good reason to play Diablo Immortal on PC.

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