After two weekends of lengthy server queues, and a brief taste of the game’s opening areas and five classes, the Diablo IV beta is officially over. I personally didn’t get to play too much since I was doing other things, but I enjoyed the brief time I got to spend in Sanctuary.
I went into both weekends as a Barbarian. I played a Sorceress in Diablo II, and the ill-conceived Witch Doctor in Diablo III so I wanted something with a bit more in-your-face brutality. As a relative newcomer to the series, Diablo IV seems like a perfect “no thoughts, head empty” kind of game. Spam various attacks as your focus, mana, or spirit meter allows against enemies that really like to group up for maximum area-of-effect damage. Even bosses require no more consideration than “stay out of the red glowy areas.” Combat is therefore utterly mindless but in a way that doesn’t bother me. I am perfectly content to mow down hordes of similar looking enemies in similar looking dungeons for what I assume will be 80+ hours of gameplay.
However, not everyone at The Verge felt that way. I’ll let them tell it.
“It’s a mixed bag for me,” said The Verge executive editor T.C. Sottek. “I love that it is more open world and I really like the concept of world events. However, and this is just a personal preference at this point, I am feeling less enamored with the ability spam / lootfest of games like Diablo. I would have really loved something to evolve in Diablo IV where you have to plan a little for the enemies and be more thoughtful about your approach, perhaps more like Dark Souls.”
The Verge commerce and deals writer Antonio Di Benedetto was in a similar boat. “The two weekends of Diablo IV left me with very mixed feelings,” he said. “There’s a part of me that appreciates how Blizzard is trying to thread the needle of Diablo II and Diablo III to try and satiate the whole fanbase, but it felt a little milquetoast. I kept feeling this is Diablo 3.5 with a darker tone and a skill tree. That’s not terrible, as I played many hours of D3, but I fear I may get incredibly bored without a dedicated friend group to share the experience with. Diablo IV doesn’t feel like a premium $70 game ($140 for me, personally, since I need at least my wife to accompany me to keep it interesting), it feels and plays a bit like a free-to-play action RPG with MMO-like tendencies. One that I fear will get tiresome with non-stop reminders that you should buy a season pass or other bonus content.”
News writer Jay Peters agreed that co-op was the beta’s saving grace. “Don’t sleep on Diablo IV’s couch co-op mode — it’s delightful,” he said. “My partner and I spent hours in the beta running around the game’s world, crushing baddies, and looting dungeons, and it was an absolute blast to do that while snuggled up on the sofa. Diablo IV’s UI is also well-designed to let each player manage their own inventories and skills simultaneously, which was really nice when I spent some time respeccing my entire character.”
Overall, the sentiment seems to be that the Diablo IV beta was generally great. But there is one glaring omission that seems, at the same time, both innocuous and momentous — you cannot pet the dogs. Throughout Sanctuary, dogs will roam the various quest hubs and I was genuinely surprised that there was no option to pet them.
Petting the dog (or cat or cute fantasy animal companion of dubious canine or feline ancestry) has become so endemic to video games that it’s a given. In fact, the curator of the popular Twitter account Can You Pet The Dog, is run by The Verge’s social media manager Tristan Cooper. (Cooper, consummate Can You Pet The Dog professional, has just informed me you can actually use the ‘hello’ emote as a way to get around not actually having a ‘pet’ command.) Here in the US, we’re obsessed with fictional dogs and are at times too extremely emotionally invested in their fate and, in this case, pet-ability. I don’t know if this is a glitch or something Blizzard plans to add to the live game, nor is this an exhortation to Blizzard to add the action in. In fact, dog lover though I am, I’d be okay if the developers didn’t — if only for the nice change of pace.
Diablo IV launches on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on June 6th.