Is a pre-order still a pre-order if you can play the game immediately? Isn't that just an order? Well, whatever the case, the full version of Diablo 4 is playable in "early access" now for anyone who's pre-ordered the $90 Deluxe Edition or $100 Ultimate Edition, while owners of the $70 Standard Edition won't be able to start playing until June 5 at the earliest, depending on their time zone (see our breakdown of the Diablo 4 launch times for details).
I pre-loaded Diablo 4 and jumped in a moment ago, and good news: There's so far no sign of the infamous connection problems that scarred the words "Error 37" onto the minds of the first Diablo 3 players all those years ago. There was no queue time at all when I launched the game from California, though some other PC Gamer writers were slowed up by 5 minute waits. The player population is bound to increase into the evening Pacific time, so we'll keep an eye on it.
For some, this early access launch isn't so much the start of a dark fantasy adventure as it is the start of a race. Diablo 4's MMO-like design has led to some MMO-like behavior: a sprint to level 100. The race is manifesting in a couple ways:
- A Blizzard-run contest in which the first thousand players who reach level 100 in Hardcore mode (and tell Blizzard about it on Twitter) will have their usernames engraved on a statue of Lilith.
- A livestreamed race to level 100 put on by Diablo Builds, which is similar to the "world first" races that WoW clans undertake when a new raid releases. The participants are big streamers like Kripparian, Wudijo, PalmBee, and MrLlama, and the race will be tracked on the Diablo Builds Twitch channel.
And then there's the rest of us, who are also free to forfeit any healthy habits we normally maintain to grind out 100 levels as fast as possible, but will possibly enjoy Diablo 4 more by playing it at a normal pace, perhaps with a cup of tea. That's my plan, but I will be watching the level 100 races to see what classes and builds are employed, for science—I'll let you know if I learn anything interesting.
And for those who are watching and waiting on the reception to Diablo 4 before deciding whether or not to play it, we'll have more to share soon.
So far, critics like it: Diablo 4 has received dozens of positive reviews based on pre-release campaign playthroughs, including several perfect scores. We weren't quite ready to put a score on it following that pre-release review period, however, so reviewer Tyler Colp is starting over with a new character in the live version. He'll update his in-progress Diablo 4 review with a final verdict after spending more time with it, but the short version so far is that clicking on demons remains fun, but Diablo 4's full embrace of live service-style game design harms it in some ways.
If you're jumping into Diablo 4 today, that means you've also got some Deluxe or Ultimate Edition items coming your way—here's how to claim Diablo 4 pre-order bonuses.