I’ll be the first to admit that I really championed Diablo 4 before launch and on release. Diablo is one of my favourite gaming franchises and I’m always drawn to the impeccable world-building and storytelling of its universe. I kept my hopes up that Blizzard Entertainment might’ve learned some valuable lessons from the misfire of Diablo Immortal and for a while, it seemed like Diablo 4 was actively steering away from those faults. Nearly two months later and after one truly awful patch, Diablo 4 is a tragic mess and very hard to recommend.
At its core, Diablo 4 is a good game – great, in fact. It presents some of the finest storytelling that the writers have ever done for a Diablo game and the gameplay seemed to be giving fans everything they’ve ever wanted out of a modern, grittier experience in the vein of the first two Diablo games. After the betas and even at launch, the game was phenomenally addictive and enjoyable. Unfortunately, Blizzard can’t seem to let good things last very long.
Before the game was even out, Blizzard was already implementing class tweaks that nobody really asked for after beta “feedback”. Sure, the Barbarian and Druid classes were given welcomed buffs but it came at the cost of nerfing the Necromancer and Sorcerer – two of the most played and popular classes in Diablo 4. Initially I understood that Blizzard probably wanted to level the playing field and make all classes viable choices to players before launch, so I let it slide.
On release, my entire undivided attention was focused on the excellent story of Diablo 4, so I paid no mind to everything happening around it at the time.There was a store icon in the menu that I scrolled over faster than the speed of light because I feared it would only bring the game’s core issues to light and ruin my otherwise positive perception of the game. Turns out I was right and the truth was a very tough pill to swallow – but not all that surprising once you attach Blizzard’s name to the product.
Let’s look at the in-game currency called Platinum first. While reading this, keep in mind that you had to pay around R1500 to buy Diablo 4. The store strictly sells cosmetic items only, but I’ve heard enough “it’s only cosmetics and you can ignore it” comments that entirely missed the point of why this is an egregious and predatory system. Platinum is an expensive currency that requires shovelling out big real-world bucks to accumulate. One cosmetic armour set can cost you R200 and upwards – items you normally wouldn’t get in the base game by grinding.
Unfortunately, Platinum in Diablo 4 also governs your ability to buy battle passes and the hard truth revealed itself just earlier this week. Blizzard’s latest, laughably disastrous patch for the game revealed that completing season 1’s content only nets you 666 Platinum. The cost to buy the next seasonal battle pass is 1,000 Platinum. This means that if you’re running through endgame content and, you know, playing the game as a live-service, you’ll be forced to cough up real money to make up the difference in Platinum costs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The patch also brought a number of unwarranted “balance” changes and adjustments to classes that, yet again, nobody really asked for. Lessening the impact of certain abilities, prolonging cooldowns, making some builds essentially useless and needlessly stretching the time it takes to exit a dungeon from 3 to 5 seconds – it’s baffling to think that these decisions were intentional by Blizzard to simply keep players invested for longer hours.
Congratulations Blizzard, you achieved the complete opposite effect. After the patch released, players announced that they’d be quitting Diablo 4 in droves including some of the game’s biggest streamers like Asmongold. Keep in mind, Asmongold grit his teeth through Diablo 3‘s lowest post-launch points so it takes a special kind of f*** up to make him jump ship after only two months. For some players, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back while the camel barely left the oasis.
I’m actually astounded at how quickly Blizzard made a complete U-turn on Diablo 4‘s post-launch support. The company made its money initially on the good word of mouth from early positive reviews before pulling the rug from under everyone’s feet when it got what it wanted. Now, after 10 million players devoted their time and money into the game, Blizzard is finally showing its true colours and honestly, nobody is really surprised that a company known for anti-consumerism is being anti-consumer all over again.
It’s a guessing game how many more times Blizzard is gonna patch Diablo 4, realise it’s losing players and apologise afterwards. It’s the same old song and dance that a lot of fans, many who have supported Diablo for decades now, are frankly getting sick and tired of. Particularly, when it dawns on us that Diablo 4‘s patches and updates are probably less about improving the game and more about keeping fans playing and artifically inflating the play time so that they’ll eventually buckle and give into the “it’s only cosmetics” Platinum.
This hurts because I was a big supporter of Diablo 4 and as a Diablo fan, I can only express disappointment in Blizzard (again). I still reckon that it tells a great story with addictive gameplay and terrific voice acting but the entire system crumbles when some of its gears are constantly breaking – by design – and turning slower than others. It’s a mess and I feel terrible for the hundreds of developers that clearly poured their hearts into this game only for executives to destroy almost all of its goodwill.
Diablo 4 is a tragic example of how to win players over only to completely shatter their trust. Granted, there’s still time for Blizzard to make up for all these missteps but very few players are actually holding their breath right now. Maybe only after a number of controversial patches, only after several years of seasonal content, only after Blizzard has bled players dry of every penny, Diablo 4 will be a game I’ll actually recommend… at a discounted price. For now, play Path of Exile.