The short version of our take is that it's fun, but the MMO-like live service structure stretches the joy of clicking on skeletons for loot in uncomfortable directions. That's not an uncommon opinion among other reviewers, but for several publications, Diablo 4 is a masterpiece, live service features or not.
We're going to dig into the live version of Diablo 4 before we score it with our final review, but a number of other outlets have already stamped verdicts on the action RPG, and several have given it their highest review honors.
One of our sibling sites, Windows Central, awarded Diablo 4 five-out-of-five stars, saying that it may be Blizzard's best game yet. Our friends at TRG also dropped a perfect score, as did PCGamesN, VideoGamer, and a handful of other outlets.
The lowest Diablo 4 scores so far are in the 70s, which isn't very low at all. Here's a selection of reviews that cover the current spectrum:
- Windows Central 5/5: "Diablo 4 might be Blizzard's most important, pivotal game since World of Warcraft."
- PCGamesN 10/10: "I'd argue it's the best Diablo game of all time"
- ScreenRant 4.5/5: "a must-play experience for any fan of dungeon-crawler ARPGs"
- GameSpot 8/10: "feels like the new standard-bearer for action role-playing"
- Destructoid 8/10: "the specter of cosmetic microtransactions and live service elements hang heavy over this refined action-RPG formula"
- LevelUp 7/10: "Quizá la única faceta desalentadora de Diablo 4 radica en su modelo de juego como servicio" ("Perhaps the only disheartening aspect of Diablo 4 lies in its games as a service model")
The reviews praise Diablo 4's gorier art style, its story ("far more engrossing" than previous Diablos, said GameSpot), and combat design.
"I cannot overstate just how satisfying it is to play Diablo 4 on a moment-to-moment basis," wrote Twinfinite, "and with so much replay value to be had from its various classes and build possibilities within those classes, Diablo 4 feels like a true return to form for the series,"
Our in-progress review is among the more critical at the moment: Tyler Colp writes that "by reconfiguring its entire structure around what used to be relegated to the endgame," Diablo 4 loses much of what appealed to him about the series. Other reviews also point out friction between Diablo's best qualities and the live service structure, though. In its unscored, positive review, Polygon expresses "mixed feelings" over the "MMO-ification of Sanctuary," for example.
One caveat to these reviews: the battle pass and real-money cosmetics shop were not live during the pre-release review period. Reviewers did see a video of the features, though, and that was another focus of the live service-related criticism. Destructoid, for instance, found the shop's placement in an in-game menu unseemly.
"If we're treating the game like an MMORPG, I can allow some leeway for cosmetic microtransactions," Destructoid writes. "However, the avenue to purchase them has no business within the core gameplay loop of a $70-$100 game. Not only is this immersion breaking, but it also subtly inflicts a psychological temptation that builds over hours of playing and seeing that 'SHOP' tab stare you in the face."
That complaint didn't hold Destructoid back from awarding Diablo 4 an 8/10, and that's representative of the overall landscape of Diablo 4 opinions so far: Fun game, even where the modern live service features may be detrimental. It's reminiscent of Diablo 3's reception: That game futzed around with 2012's hottest new games-as-a-service ideas, with its unpopular always-online requirement and real-money auction house, but was also a critical success at the time, despite now being seen as a black sheep in the series. (Diablo 3 improved a lot over the years, though, and is a great game if you ask me.)
We'll publish our final review after we've spent more time in Diablo 4's live environment—here again is our review-in-progress with our preliminary judgments.