I'm happy that Diablo 4 is just a prettier Diablo 3

Diablo 4 - the archangel Inarius is hovering in the air in front of the player character
(Image credit: Blizzard)

I've been looking forward to diving into Diablo 4 for a long time, but my excitement for the next instalment of Blizzard's popular ARPG has been far more muted than it should have been. Nobody likes change, and the news I'd been hearing about Diablo 4 over the last year or so made me feel uneasy: you can see other players out in the world? There will be open-world PvP? An overhauled skill system? No, thank you—just give me a prettier Diablo 3 and we'll be good. Thankfully, that's exactly what Blizzard seems to have done. 

I've played during many of the Diablo 3 seasons for close to 9 years. I enjoyed the story when I first played through the campaign, I love the combat, and most of all, I love mindlessly running through dungeons or rifts, vapourising the hordes of demons in my path while listening to the game's classical soundtrack. 

(Image credit: Blizzard)

I'm also aware that it's not a universal opinion and that some people prefer the grittiness of the earlier games, feeling that Diablo 3 was too arcadey. I only have Diablo 2: Resurrected to compare it to, and I only played a little of the early campaign, but I understand the appeal. It felt like I'd expect a Diablo game to feel, but the first few levels were pretty painful to get through. I was scared that Diablo 4 would be made to mirror the difficulty of the earlier games or, worse, that it would try to incorporate too many complex systems in an attempt to compete with the likes of Path of Exile.

At a glance, Diablo 4 seems quite different from Diablo 3. The entire game has a much darker tone—something that the opening cinematic effectively conveys with the gut-filled demonic ritual that frees Lilith, and the threatening audio that accompanies it. Once you get into the game itself, the skill tree is much bigger and looks more complex; healing potions have charges rather than a cooldown, and you can see and interact with other players once you reach the first town. Under the surface, though, I was surprised to find that it shares more with the previous game than I initially thought.

I picked Sorcerer to try out during the open beta, mostly because I usually play Wizard, and while I didn't recognise the names of the signature abilities, once I gained control of my character, a quick browse through the rest of the skill tree revealed some familiar names: Teleport, Hydra, and Meteor were all there, to name a few. Skill Runes are still a thing, too, though they're implemented in a slightly different way.

There's even a Kadala, though in Diablo 4, she's been replaced with NPCs called Purveyor of Curiosities. You can also extract powers from gear as you could with the Kanai Cube, though a specific vendor performs this service for you this time around.

Of course, the game looks much nicer than its predecessor, and this is shown off particularly well in character creation. It's not an in-depth system compared to other ARPGs but it's nice to have some control over how your character looks. The only real downside is that you don't ever get to see your character close up in-game without heading to the wardrobe to transmog your gear. RIP the Esc key, giving you quick access to your character's appearance.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Combat feels pretty much the same, and for that, I'm also grateful. Killing demons wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun if you didn't end up suffering from repetitive strain injury from the endless mouse-clicking after an hour or so. 

In all seriousness, though, I'm glad Diablo 4 feels so familiar. Change can be a good thing, but I feel like developers can get caught up in trying to keep a game relevant by reinventing it to the point where it can lose some of what made it popular in the first place—yes, I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy. 

Diablo 4 seems to have kept a firm hold on its Diablo-ness. If I wanted to learn how to play an entirely different ARPG where every class has approximately 67,000 skill tree nodes, I'd pick up Path of Exile. I've heard good things about Grinding Gear's take on the genre, but it's not for me. That's fine, because I've always had Diablo. And thank god I still seem to have it with Diablo 4.

That said, it's hard to judge a game by its first 25 levels when most of the gameplay happens after you reach endgame, have access to all your skills, and can start fine-tuning your gear. It's enough for now though—the open beta has finally allowed me to get really excited about Diablo 4 for the first time, and the June release can't come soon enough.

Sarah James
Guides Writer

Sarah started as a freelance writer in 2018, writing for PCGamesN, TechRadar, GamingBible, Red Bull Gaming and more. In 2021, she was offered a full-time position on the PC Gamer team where she takes every possible opportunity to talk about World of Warcraft and Elden Ring. When not writing guides, most of her spare time is spent in Azeroth—though she's quite partial to JRPGs too. One of her fondest hopes is to one day play through the ending of Final Fantasy X without breaking down into a sobbing heap. She probably has more wolves in Valheim than you.