Diablo 4 Beta – Is it Wise to Reinvent the Wheel?

Blizzard's Diablo IV Beta was met with a wave or criticism

by Vlad Turiceanu
Vlad Turiceanu
Vlad Turiceanu
Passionate about technology, Windows, and everything that has a power button, he spent most of his time developing new skills and learning more about the tech world. Coming... read more
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  • Blizzard's Diablo IV may be the rebirth of the saga, but many look at it with criticism.
  • Diablo 4 has taken a completely different route from former entries and will please the MMO community.
  • The game lacks a solo experience that defined the older iterations and was loved by so many.
First look of Diablo 4 beta

Blizzard has once again opened Sanctuary’s doors to intrepid adventurers willing to participate in the open beta of the company’s newest addition to the Diablo IP – Diablo 4.

The open beta has run for three days, during which all of Act 1 could be played to test game systems and servers and for the public to give feedback on bugs.

In an interesting departure from the previous formula, Blizzard has opted for an entirely multiplayer experience where other players can be encountered in the world and take part in events scattered throughout Sanctuary.

How well does Diablo 4 perform?

As stated by Blizzard, the minimum and recommended system requirements are as follows:

Minimum requirements (1080p native resolution / 720p render resolution, low graphics settings, 30fps)Recommended requirements (1080p resolution, medium graphics settings, 60fps)
OS64-bit Windows 1064-bit Windows 10
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2500K or AMD FX-8100Intel Core i5-4670K or AMD R3-1300X
Memory8 GB RAM16 GB RAM
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon R9 280NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 470
DirectXVersion 12Version 12
StorageSSD with 45 GB available spaceSSD with 45 GB available space
InternetBroadband connectionBroadband Connection

The open beta was off to a rocky start, with many players having to sit through long queues and disconnects. These issues have gradually improved as the weekend went on, with players reporting fewer error 34203 messages after following the troubleshooting procedure.

Compared to the closed beta that ran in the latter part of 2022, the game performs much better. Most assets and textures from Act 1 seem finalized. We were able to take advantage of nVidia DLSS during the playthrough, and with it set to the Quality mode, we saw average framerates of 130-144Hz at 3440×1400 resolution for the most part.

Low FPS issues not fixed by our guide are mostly encountered when you change zones and teleport back to town. This can be attributed to either optimization or latency issues. Less frequent, but still worth mentioning, are FPS drops where multiple players are engaged in events.

Whilst many players have reported issues with Diablo 4’s memory usage, we did not suffer from this issue during our playthrough. Memory usage was consistently around 22 GB of DRAM and 10 GB of VRAM.

D4 renders the player’s character in cutscenes, which helps with immersion, but these cutscenes are shown at a locked 60 FPS, which is very obvious when playing on a high refresh rate monitor with a higher FPS.

One area where developers will have to focus is the slow loading of some textures in cutscenes. We’ve had several instances where low-resolution textures are shown in a cutscene, only for the high-res versions to load after a few settings. A drop in FPS usually accompanies this until everything has completely loaded.

More optimization is needed in this area, as we have seen FPS drops during these cutscenes (down to 16 FPS), as well as armor pieces not rendering correctly.

Overall, performance throughout the playthrough has been slightly lower than in Diablo 2 Resurrected, on average achieving 25% fewer FPS. The two share similar implementations of Ray Tracing and HDR calibration and highly detailed textures lighting.

Graphics, Textures, and Models

Living up to the next-gen moniker, Diablo 4 has major improvements over Diablo 3 in all aspects related to graphics and playable characters. You can now customize your character; whilst not something groundbreaking in the modern area, it is a tasteful first for Diablo.

Character details are amazing

NPC/monster models retain enough features to make them recognizable whilst adding a layer of realism that hasn’t been seen in the franchise before.

All the returning monsters are highly detailed versions of their previous selves. The new textures complement the muted color palette, and the dynamic lighting enhances the scenes and ties everything together.

One area where we hope Blizzard will improve is the close-up look of the player’s character, where the skin has a leather appearance and tattoos look more like gloss paint applied over a plastic model. This is best seen in the menu and during character creation. It is important to mention that this isn’t noticeable during regular gameplay.

Differences between the Low / Medium / High graphical presets are minimal, with the game looking stunning on both high and low settings. Keen-eyed players will notice the harder shadows and the lack of tessellation in certain scenarios, but during intense gameplay, these are details that most will never notice.

Graphics levels of detail

Compared to D3’s criticized design, D4 has returned to its dark roots, and it wants you to know it from the opening scenes.

Diablo 4 Level Design

Diablo 4 has taken a completely different route from former entries in the series. Gone are the flat, linear levels focused on advancing the narrative as they’ve been replaced with an open world that merely nudges the player in a particular direction.

This departure is quite noticeable for returning players and will feel natural to MMO aficionados. This choice seems to be the driving force behind the always online gameplay as well, where players are encouraged to party up and work together to do events and defeat world bosses.

A world boss that may creep you out in Diablo 4

Regions are far larger than we’ve seen before, and the open world only amplifies the feeling of exploration. You will take part in events that change parts of the world, making your actions feel impactful.

In Act 1, we traveled from snow-capped frigid peaks to putrid green forests and descended into foul caverns overflowing with Lovecraftian horrors.

Altars, chests, and stashes are scattered throughout the massive world for players to discover. Some of these count towards your area Renown, which is the completion goal for each zone.

To uncover Sanctuary’s hidden secrets, players now have the use of amount. This is again a move lifted straight out of the MMO world, which serves to distance Diablo 4 from the past familiar formula.

Much emphasis has been put on the verticality of D4, where past games had nested levels, the developers opted for larger maps that traverse different elevations by use of the ability to crawl, climb or zip across. The novelty of this level design in a Diablo game is much appreciated, as it sometimes allows for shortcuts in certain locations.

Everywhere you look there is something to draw you in and away from your quest. Be it an ominous shrine in a meadow, a demonic altar covered in viscera, or a howling ghostly figure. Lore books have yet to make an appearance, but the telltale signs are scattered throughout the world. We expect the final release of the game to have many objects of lore for players to discover.

One of the issues we’ve had with the level design during the beta is the repetition of map chunks in dungeons and cellars. Whilst there are many dungeons throughout Sanctuary, there aren’t enough to mask the lack of variation and the repetition of the same pattern, sometimes within the same dungeon only meters apart.

Sound Design

Sound is an integral part of any game, a crucial part that, if overlooked, can ruin the experience and break immersion. Diablo 4 nails sound effects and elevates the environment. Echoing caves, claustrophobic dungeons, demonic muttering, and powerful spells are all part of Diablo 4’s sound stage.

Voice acting is on par with modern games. Most of the time, characters deliver their lines with emotion, which makes them relatable and believable. The accents complement the setting and help immersion.

Playable characters around the Diablo 4 campfire

That being said, we had a few instances where the protagonist (in this case, the Rogue) delivered lines in a flat tone that does not fit with the overall gravitas of the situation. Whilst few, they did stand out.

An aspect that we hope Blizzard changes in the final release of the game is the initiation of dialogues. As the player, you will select a line of dialogue from the list, but this line will not be spoken, yet NPCs will respond to this telepathic exchange without skipping a beat. This might sound like a small thing, but once noticed, it’s hard to get over.

UI and Gameplay

Comparing Diablo 4’s UI with previous installments, at the moment, it’s usable but most certainly unrefined. Menus and UI elements are too clunky and scattered behind multiple menus. This is certainly an effect of trying to implement too many systems.

Even though we only experienced Act 1 during the beta, the story does feel captivating and well-written, but ultimately, it has to constantly battle with the rest of the game for your attention.

Emotes and titles are two such systems inherited from the MMO world. For seasoned Diablo players, these are just more clutter to deal with. This looks like Blizzard is throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

Diablo 4 inventory

On a more positive note, the gameplay does feel good. Hits weight them, and skill upgrades have an impact. You feel a dagger cutting deep into hell’s minions, and you wield the power of lightning when you cast a spell.

This is where the improved graphics and the powerful sound effects come together. Diablo 4 feels good to play. A much-appreciated side effect of the large, open maps is the lack of loading screens, now only encountered at dungeons’ entrances.

Blizzard always introduced online gameplay with Diablo 3, but this time around, they doubled down on it. Diablo 4 does not have a single-player mode. You will be playing in a world with other players of different levels. This is probably the most divisive aspect of the game.

During our playthrough of the Diablo 4 beta, it happened on multiple occasions that a killing blow or a boss fight was finished by another player who happened to be in the area at the time. Whilst you still get the loot, it goes without saying that this is frustrating.

Fractured Peaks, one of the regions depicted in Diablo 4 beta

The game needs a purely solo experience. Whilst offline mode is essentially off the table by now, we are hoping that Blizzard will consider adding this game mode in the future.

This is the biggest gamble Blizzard took with the newest entry, which is surprising after the release of Diablo Immortal and the backlash received from the fanbase.

Diablo 4 is a noticeable departure from the tried and tested formula of games past. There is no denying that Blizzard pulled all the stops to create a platform to add (and monetize) in the coming decade.

Who is Diablo 4 for?

After 3 days of playing Diablo 4, we are left with the impression that Blizzard is trying to modernize the franchise by implementing too many systems and game mechanics simultaneously. There is no denying that they’ve achieved something truly great here.

A modern game that looks outstanding, plays well and will generate massive profits. But we’re left with the thought that, somehow, Diablo has lost some of its essences.

Diablo 4 looks to be aimed at a new audience more familiar with and accepting of multiplayer experiences and less geared towards a single-player, story-driven game. Maybe fans of the IP might be looking at the past games through rose-tinted glasses, but even so, sometimes less is more, and limitations breed creativity.

Undoubtedly, Diablo 4 will mature and become better with time, as did Diablo 3 before it and countless others before that.

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