The Diablo 4 early access beta that ran this weekend got off to an entirely predictable rough start, as players struggled with overlong queue times and dodgy stability. Shortly after it began, Blizzard reported "an issue affecting our authentication servers" which could result in slow or failed login attempts, which immediately dredged up memories of Diablo 3's dreaded Error 37.
Even we weren't immune.
But once things had settled down and stabilized somewhat, the whole thing actually went pretty well. There were of course individual problems and complaints, and some odd bugs like the infinitely lootable corpse, but there were no major service issues or downtimes, and by Saturday morning most people were able to get in with minimal waits, and stay connected once they were in.
But even more important than basic functionality, the general feeling seems to be that the beta was good. Like, really good. Diablo 3 took a lot of heat for its auction house, but it also faced pointed and persistent criticism for its bright, colorful visual style, which stood in sharp contrast to the shadowy bleakness of the first two games. Diablo 3 lead producer Keith Lee told MTV in 2008 that the "stylized" new look was "sort of a Blizzard philosophy," and "pushing the envelope in terms of the visuals so that everyone is excited about how everything looks." It was definitely a bold move, but it didn't look much like Diablo, and that left a lot of fans cold.
Diablo 4, at least as much of it as we saw in the beta (the prologue and first act, enabling players to reach level 25), seems to have made a much more positive first impression.
"Call me a boot licker, say that I'm rubbing it in, but I'm just happy to play the game that Blizz made," Redditor DogSoggy441 wrote in the Diablo 4 subreddit. "I closely followed the dev blogs and leaks, and I would just nod and smile every time. I felt that this team was their A-team, and that they would come up with a very solid product. It seems to be Blizzard back in their old form here."
That's the kind of post that tends to invite vicious backlash from people with a bone to pick over one point or another, but it didn't really happen here. Instead, there was an awful lot of agreement, in this thread and others. A selection:
- It’s close to a masterpiece for me. The aesthetics and ambiance let me disappear into another world. It’s like reading a good book.
- I like how the game plays a lot slower than D3. It's a fantastic change of pace that I didn't realize I wanted until actually playing it.
- Barbarian in D4 is amazing so far, because there's actually some semblance of positioning and timing with abilities like Upheaval or Hammer of the Ancients having noticeable delay.
- The only thing I didn’t love was when a barb named helicopterdikc whirlwinded across my screen.
- I stayed up all night playing, and got up really early the next morning to jump back in. Felt like I was 12 playing D2 all over again. Haven't had that feeling from a game for a loooong time.
- I immediately got goosebumps. They nailed the atmosphere, creepy and uncomfortable... love it.
- I hit 25 early morning yesterday on my Barb, but I wanted to play more. I thought that was it for the weekend. But luckily, D4 has mob upscaling! So I got another 5 hours of gameplay on my Barb by completing all the dungeons and side quests."
- I came in playing, first thoughts were "This feels like Diablo 2", then 5 hours later I was like "Holy shit, feels like I just sat down to play."
- I hit 25 on sorc and rogue. Haven’t pulled an all-weekend gaming session in I don’t know how long ... The environments look fantastic. And I love how there is some nice dungeon boss variety - it wasn’t just champion versions of regular mobs, at least not in Act 1.
- One of the best weekends I’ve had in a while. Now I just can’t wait til this upcoming Friday to do it all over again.
- I have thousands of hours and twenty years of playing with all the Diablo games. I seriously LOVE where Diablo 4 is going.
- I was so fkn excited for this game and this weekend has ended up being the best weekend I've had in a long time.
Similar reactions are plentiful in response to the announcement of the beta closure on Twitter:
There are plenty of complaints to be found too, but they seem to be relatively granular: Repetitive dungeon design, the need for an ultimate-exclusive ability slot, gripes about fonts and the UI, that sort of thing. And even though it was a pretty meaty beta test, what we played was still only a small slice of the overall game—I guess it could still go sideways past Act 1. But unlike its recent predecessor—and not just Diablo 3, but also Diablo Immortal, which triggered an immediate and furious backlash—there seems to be deep and genuine excitement for Diablo 4.
"The only thing about this weekend that makes me sad, is knowing we've gotta wait another almost 2 months to start our real progression," redditor wegbored wrote, capturing a sentiment shared by many. "But I'm so hyped."
The Diablo 4 open beta that anyone can jump in and play is set to begin at 9 am PT/12 pm ET on March 24, and is set to run until 12 pm PT on March 27. You can (and probably should) begin preloading two days in advance, beginning at 9 am PT on March 22.