Free-to-Play ARPG Diablo Immortal is actually good so far

A large demon covered in fire stares menacingly at you.

Picture: Blizzard

Last week, Blizzard was launched Diablo Immortal, the next entry in its long-running, loot-driven action-RPG franchise. However, unlike previous games, this is free to play and was built from scratch to be a mobile game first. Although it was also released on PC last week, the reality is that this is a completely different type Diablo. Between being a phone title, having F2P-style in-app purchases and being part of a popular heritage franchise, it has created a huge debate about the game and its true price.

Kotaku Staff writer Zack Zwiezen and editor John Walker have both played, so they got together to talk about the game, how much they like it, and why it might not be the evil, money-sucking monster someone has claimed. At the very least, it’s a perfect way to kill some time while watching old episodes of Simpsons.


John Walker: How many in the past Diablos have you played?

Zack Zwiezen: I played a a lot of Diablo III and the expansion and something Diablo II …

John: When you say a “a lot“, Do you mean that you got to the point of playing online with a regular group until it accidentally became your unpaid full-time job?

Zack: Well, not so much. However, I bought and played it on three different platforms over at least 250 hours.

John: It’s impressive that you did not turn around. You know. Into one of them.

Anyway, I’ve played a bunch of them all, but never “correctly”. I’ve always looked at them as single player ARPGs, something to click on while watching a cruel TV show. And absolutely loved them for it.

Zack: Same. Back in my prime Diablo III days, I would burn myself through podcasts and long YouTube video essays while killing thousands of demons and skeletons. It was a perfect thing to combine with another piece of entertainment, provided you did not want to focus entirely on any of them. And Diablo Immortal has started to play a similar role in my life.

John: Yes me too. Except that I constantly find myself in teams with other people.

Zack: Disgusting, John. I thought you were better than that.

A screenshot of Diablo Immortal shows a great battle between warriors and a demon.

Screenshot: Blizzard / Kotaku

John: I hate to do it normally. As soon as others play, I’m sure they all hate me and that I’m ruining the game for them. But here I both do not care and clearly am not.

Zack: This has also been my experience when I play with others in Immortal. Usually we just plow through a dungeon and create a mess of particles and fire that makes the iPad battery cry slowly while it dies quickly.

John: And then we part, without even saying goodbye. Cheap, pointless raiding. The best type.

Zack: Yes, it really is. I never feel like I need to look up a guide or yell at anyone to mess with. We all get the assignment and without voice chat we can quickly do it. Good shit.

John: Yes, I play it, sort of, all the time, both on my PC and continue where I left off on my phone, and I enjoy it, and the more I enjoy it, the more I am convinced that people who loudly likes Diablo must surely hate it. Because die-hard Diablo people usually hate everything i love. Like my wife and son.

Zack: But John, I’ve been told by people online there Diablo Immortal is actually bad and evil! That it will steal your bank account or something.

John: Have you ever felt that you had to pay for something?

Zack: No. I’ve definitely seen some ads pop up, and the game is not shy about such things as bothering you that a cheap coffin is for sale. But hours and hours into the game, at level 32 or something like that, I have never hit a paywall. And as someone who has played one a lot of mobile games in my life, that is not always the case!

John: Why did Blizzard just make this whole game for free?

Zack: I do not know. I’m constantly thinking about how this game with a few changes can easily be a thing for $ 40. And yet, if you just want to play the story of Diablo Immortal and run some raid online, you can do all that for … nothing? At least that’s how it feels to me. What level are you at?

John: I’m level 51! And I am a shadow!

Zack: And did you spend money on the game because you needed it or felt it was the only way to get ahead?

John: Never. I paid for a Battle Pass because I’ve never done it before in any game and wanted to know what would happen.

Zack: I am so proud of you. The grumpy old man can develop.

When it comes to buying things in the game, I know that if you want the best of the best equipment and things, the things you need to win in PvP and top the leaderboards, you’ll probably need a lot of money. But I just do not care about any of it. As we established, this is a game I play when I watch YouTube or old Simpsons episodes, so all the mind around it has confused me. You do not have to spend $ 100k on this game, as one YouTuber claimed. I promise!

John: Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. So, say, in a couple of days I hit a kind of playoff wall, Shadows vs. Immortals I think it’s about, and to take part in all that nonsense I need the best equipment? I want to say: “Yes, I completed this exceptionally detailed free game!”

Zack: Right. I’m on the same point. If the amazing free game stops letting me play after 30 hours or whatever, I just go ahead and enjoy something else.

All of this reminds me of how some people will waste days or weeks playing games they hate, which they find broken or unfair or bad. And I just wish someone would realize that it’s okay to hit a wall and move on. Not everything needs to be min-maximized and perfected. You do not always have to get the best of the best and win the whole thing. You can just … move on.

John: Yes! It’s like a Happy Meal toy that is surprisingly decent. You’re not going to play with it forever, but you did not throw it out the same day.

Zack: And yet there are people reading this who will leave angry comments below that say we are shills or ruining games …

John: Well, here’s the thing. The other thing that constantly surprises me is how unnecessarily detailed it is. I know this is Blizzard, and this is what it does, but at the same time the game says “NetEase” when it also uploads. But you make a dungeon and suddenly the boss fight turns out to be three stages, each with a big environmental change, and then there is a surprise bonus at the end. Or maybe I’m just doing some of the bounties from the bounty board, and instead of “killing 10 of them” as someone is, it turns out to be a whole little story, an investigation into a crime or something.

This is not a single use. This is a real Blizzard game. It’s weird, because it does not really feel like playing Diablo at all. It might feel closer World of Warcraft?

Zack: Yes! And all the tiny animations and details in the world as well. I saw someone being dragged to death, and it was a little shocking and cruel, and I thought … wait, this is on my iPad! This is not the type of game I expect to play for free on a tablet. I keep looking around and thinking that a cop will show up and arrest me for stealing this $ 60 game.

John: Well, I mentioned it before, but it’s both on my phone and my PC. I can really walk away from my desk and just keep playing on my phone.

Zack: Which is another really great thing Immortal.

John: You know what? If I had paid $ 60 for it, I would probably be a little annoyed by the graphics and how incredibly flaky and buggy it is. I forgive a a lot for $ 0 entrance fee. It disconnects me so often, and I have crashed on both the phone and the PC a large number of times.

Also, the PC version is lousy. It does not even have resolution settings, and looks like it is: a mobile game stretched too thinly on a screen.

Zack: I actually can not play the PC version at the moment. It’s too dark and the map breaks. But the credit to Blizzard for making a PC port at all so I do not have to try to emulate it with Bluestacks. And yes, the zero-dollar price helps me not to get too bothered by all these problems and shortcomings

John: It’s strange, given Blizzard’s PC origins, that the desktop version is pretty bad. Although quite rudely, it is called a “beta”. Mmmmmhmmm, this identical product to the phone version is magically in beta now as it is on my PC? Hmmm…

Zack: It’s probably a strange thing, but hopefully it’s getting better. And if not, the iPad version has worked well for me, even with the touch controls. But in the end, I keep wondering why this game has ruined some people online.

John: Oh, because it has the word “Diablo” involved. I remember I wrote in 2011 about how cruel it was that Blizzard imposed internet demands that were always on Diablo III, and was fried online for my dissent. Then the game comes out and I say that I’m having fun and that I’m just as harassed.

A screenshot of Diablo Immortal shows a large group of ghostly monsters attacking a single warrior.

Screenshot: Blizzard / Kotaku

Zack: Yes. I think Diablo tends, ironically, to drive people crazy. And I will admit that if this was the only thing Diablo the game we knew Blizzard was working on, I would be a little sad. But Diablo IV is coming. We’ve seen it. So I just do not understand the weird army of angry fans who seem intent on attacking people who like Immortal.

John: But is that it? Will ever really come out, Diablo IV? Want it? Also, if Blizzard had not wasted all his time making this really very good free mobile game, it would have finished Diablo IV over 40 years ago!

Zack: Well, the future to Diablo, the next game, and what happens next may be the perfect reason to make a new VGchat. But since you’re British, sarcasm is starting to creep into this current chat, so I think we should end it.

And also, to answer your sarcastic question, I guess Diablo IV will one day be finished and released simply because Diablo brand is…Immortal!

John: I feel good that I ironically mocked the people who have not read that far and who are already leaving comments, instead of acknowledging your terrible “joke”.