Even with just two initial difficulty levels and enemy scaling, difficulty in Diablo 4 is pretty subjective. We've gotten our co-op-playing editors together to weigh in on whether their time campaigning with a crew of friends so far has turned Diablo 4 into a lukewarm day in Hell.
Diablo 4 co-op is way too easy
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: The first steps you take in a new game with your friends are sacrosanct. You've all set aside time to be in this little, demon-filled world together, and you want that pristine first playthrough to be memorable, grounded in a shared feeling of discovery.
But the four hours I've so far put into Diablo 4 co-op with my friends were seriously disappointing. I was shocked by how night-and-day different co-op difficulty was from the time I put into singleplayer as a Druid last week. It genuinely felt like something was broken, like Blizzard had set enemy damage to 0.1 rather than 1.0 in the game's code, and I know how ridiculous that sounds. I've never played a game that I've enjoyed so much solo but enjoyed so little in co-op.
We'd all rolled fresh characters—a Barbarian, Rogue, and me as the Necromancer—setting the difficulty to the maximum World Tier 2 that Diablo 4 allows for anyone who hasn't completed the campaign. (As we note in our Diablo 4 world tiers explainer, you have to complete the campaign and finish the Cathedral of Light Capstone dungeon in Kyovashad in order to unlock World Tier 3.) We hit level 20 in our first night. Every miniboss, world event, story boss, and other named enemy we encountered was strangely easy, inflicting significantly less damage than when I was playing singleplayer. Bosses maybe forced us each to drink one or two health potions each, and I barely had to worry about positioning or optimizing my ability cooldowns. Low-level mobs of spiders, ghouls, or bandits were effortless fights.
I should say: I'm not a hardcore Diablo player. I didn't return to Diablo 3 after the first few months. But now I'm questioning whether I want to play co-op at all until I've completed the campaign, which puts me in the not-great position of telling my friends I'd rather not play a game with them until I've played it solo.
Actually, the difficulty feels fine
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Evan came with video clip receipts so I fear my friends and I must be less talented than his crew because I've found Diablo 4 to be only slightly more easy in co-op. I had some difficult solo fights against bosses as a Rogue in the beta—specifically the final encounter at the stronghold in Nostrava against three succubi and Tchort in the Horadric Vault in Act 1. Tchort's V-shaped electric dash, a real pain in my ass while solo, was easier to avoid with three total players for her to target. But she still hurt, and my crew of two rogues and a sorcerer did have to manage our health potions and revive one another. And that was on Worth Tier 1, even.
I got dragged into World Tier 2 with a different friend, making us a rogue and sorcerer pair as we attempted that fight against Negala and her succubus sisters. We wiped that fight three times in a row, more even than I did while soloing it, actually. That fight has a ton of AOE and electric spinners to avoid and they sure did hurt. I'm not slouching on gear and XP either, wearing all Rare or better gear appropriate to my level 35.
I've only had minor complaints about multiplayer so far in Diablo 4 and they're not really specific to Diablo or difficulty—synchronising side quest status is a pain in most games and my friends have always dragged me through the main story without letting me stop to obsessively clear the map. Random enemy groups in the overworld are definitely steamroll-able in a group, as are quite a few dungeon bosses and world event bosses. So maybe I agree with Evan more than I thought and it's only the main story bosses keeping things a bit difficult.
Your team comp might be the 'problem'
Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: Admittedly, I haven't played as much co-op as Evan and Lauren, but my brief experience in both the betas and the final game was as tough as I'd expected. I normally play solo on World Tier 2, which is only really slightly harder than 1. Most of my friends play on World Tier 1, and when we grouped up together, the difficulty didn’t seem to substantially increase outside of boss fights.
It's difficult to gauge how Diablo 4's enemy level scaling works. Playing through the game twice on my own revealed how your power level tends to spike as you pick up new skills and gear. In co-op, it sort of feels like you’re always in that window, but to make up for it, it seemed like the game would spawn more enemies at once.
A Sorceress, Necromancer, and Barbarian happens to be a very potent combo of two casters and a melee-based character, so most combat encounters were a distraction as we chased down campaign objectives. The first major boss in Act 1 felt considerably harder than it was alone. The fight takes place on a small platform and fills it with dangerous projectiles that would knock our health down by half with each hit. It was on the cusp of being too chaotic, but a little bit of target focus and health potion spam got the job done with only one of us dying mid-fight.
Like many of the game’s boss fights, this didn't stick out to me as egregiously hard compared to fighting waves of demons—some bosses punish certain classes more than others. But it does make me wonder if the co-op difficulty fluctuates more as you get closer to level 30, where at least the solo experience starts to drag in terms of power levels. I imagine the early game is where the challenge is rather smooth, but once enemies start to become more lethal and have unique traits, it might require more intentional teamwork for clearing out packs of enemies. Or maybe it won't, and the real friction only arrives once you’ve unlocked endgame activities like Nightmare Dungeons and Helltide events.