The problem with Diablo 4's endgame is that it's already happened by the time you hit max level

Diablo 4 - Inarius hovers in front of a sorcerer during a campaign quest
(Image credit: Blizzard)

I'm only level 65 but I'm ready to quit Diablo 4 until the first season arrives later this month: I've had my fill of the endgame grind, even though I'm not even close to the game's level cap. No one is forcing me to play, I know, but having the most fun part of any ARPG play itself out before you reach max level honestly just feels strange—what's left to look forward to? 

If this were Diablo 3, I wouldn't think twice about stopping now, because I'm at the exact same point as I'd be progression-wise if I was level 70 with a couple of hundred paragon levels under my belt: I have the gear I need for the build I want, so now it's just a case of getting stat upgrades from higher power level pieces or a lucky unique drop—basically fine-tuning what I already have for additional damage increases or mitigation. But those that are new to Diablo or ARPGs may be put out when they finally reach level 100 and realise that, aside from one, admittedly hard, repeat boss fight, the endgame stuff has already happened. 

I've played a lot of Diablo 3 over the years, and the gearing process is always the best part; I love the excitement of getting a legendary item drop and looking to see if it's one I need, and I like to watch my damage numbers jump up as I put together my build, piece by piece. Even so, my interest usually drops off significantly once I've gotten my gear and the novelty of being able to instantly vaporise hordes of enemies wears off. That's fine—it's a cycle that I've repeated with most seasons since Diablo 3 first introduced them, and the journey is fun even if the destination is fleeting. But this isn't Diablo 3—in Diablo 4 I've got another 35 levels to slog through.

I understand Blizzard's attempt to get away from the "get a friend to boost you to level 70 in 20 minutes flat so you can jump straight into endgame" mentality that Diablo 3 became each season: ignoring the bulk of what the game offers can't feel good for the people that spent years creating it. But Diablo 4's solution presents the opposite problem. Levelling does feel more meaningful now because you have to get a working build pretty early on to push through the difficulty spikes, but having to craft the same piece of gear multiple times to allow for level progression, and the natural gear upgrades you get, is incredibly tedious when you're forced to do it over and over again. 

Gearing is no longer the fun endgame activity that it was in previous games because you've been doing it for the last 30 or so levels, and you'll be doing it for the next 40 as well. Having the level cap bookending the gearing process makes you feel less comfortable opting out at any point because it makes you feel like you're quitting.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

In a way level 50 is the real max, I suppose. That's when you stop getting skill points and the game switches you over to the paragon point system for more attributes and bonuses instead. But Blizzard has made some of those paragon boards—and the glyphs that they house—super powerful for many builds, so you want to unlock these nodes to do even more damage on the demonic battlefields. That'd be fine in theory, but XP slows down to an actual crawl from this point onwards, and just looking at the number of nodes (and levels) you need to unlock to get to them is enough to make me feel queasy.

The power level of items muddies the waters of post-campaign progression too. Stats jump significantly if you can find (or upgrade gear) past the 725 power level, making me feel insecure about investing in crafted legendaries for gear that is below the highest power breakpoint. But then it's hard to complete the content to get the gear, and on and on it goes. It's a shame that some of the better unique items are locked behind higher levels too, because it feels like you've got to do a ridiculous amount of grinding to even be in with a tiny chance of getting what you need for your build.

I spent the next handful of levels trying to convince myself I was still having fun.

Despite all that, I've enjoyed Diablo 4—I just think some of the progression is pretty skewed. Anyone that's played Diablo 3 will recognise the endgame stages that kick in after level 50—paragon boards/paragon points, Nightmare Dungeons/Greater Rifts, Glyphs/Legendary Gems. Even so, Diablo 3's paragon levels felt more organic. They were a welcome consequence of looking for your tier set pieces and farming your gear, not something to be strived for specifically. And they certainly didn't have you religiously monitoring the progress of your XP bar, unless you were min-maxing the absolute crap out of your build.

It's not even about time; I'm always prepared to spend far too much of it playing games that I love and I have no problem doing that, provided I'm enjoying it. The issue for me is that Diablo 4 got pretty stale once I reached level 60, and I spent the next handful of levels trying to convince myself I was still having fun.

Clearly, the gear grind of the ARPG isn't exclusive to Diablo 4—it's the part that kept me going back to the previous game, but you can have too much of a good thing. Diablo 4 has basically done away with "endgame" by making it part of the levelling process, and therefore, mandatory if you want to hit level 100. It's far too high of a demand, especially with the first season looming and the threat that I'll have to do it all over again. And again, and again.

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.