Diablo Immortal Review: Fit for Phones

In just about every way it possibly could've been, Diablo Immortal has been a surprising experience. Its touchscreen interface handles Diablo's ability-based inputs far better than anticipated, the voice acting and sound effects will make you forget you're playing on a mobile device, and there's a welcome number of things to do beyond barreling through the main story. That makes it sting that much more then when you find that, despite its successes, Diablo Immortal's economy couldn't resist reminding you that you're playing a mobile Diablo game filled with bundles and microtransactions as opposed to just a normal Diablo game.

Diablo Immortal starts much like you'd expect a Diablo game would. Things are bad with demons and other foulness afoot, and after embarking with some class-specific ambitions just broad enough to mesh with the main story, you're off to meet Deckard Cain and other citizens in need. Abilities are unlocked gradually through leveling as one would anticipate, so whether this is your first Diablo game or far from it, the onboarding process is quite the simple one.

One of the first concerns about Diablo Immortal immediately done away with is the possibility of an overcluttered screen. The new Diablo game smartly keeps its interface free of distractions for the most part by allowing you to swipe away quest information and chat boxes until you need to revisit them. Even when additional inputs like the hand icon shown below show up during select moments, the interface remains crisp and readable. The option to equip different abilities in different slots makes muscle memory a breeze, and if you're like me and have had difficulty grappling with touch controls in the past, you'll be surprised at just how naturally you grow accustomed to chaining your abilities together with only the infrequent accidental input.

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Couple those smooth inputs and Diablo-esque sounds with the 60FPS mode (which made my iPhone 11 run a bit hot but was too pretty to give up) and you're off to a good start. It was so, so disappointing then to find that after one of the first big milestones a player could reach, the game rewarded me with not only the usual array of in-game loot but the "opportunity" to spend money. Other milestones lead to similar pop-ups, but they stick around in the shop's "Bundles" section so that you can revisit them if you ever change your mind.

Diablo Immortal is a free-to-play game. It needs to make money somehow, and if it's not through upfront purchases (which, after playing it, I would've paid), battle passes and in-game transactions are the only alternative. The most expensive bundle of this kind I came across was $1.99 and came with some Eternal Orbs which serve as the game's premium currency, some Legendary and Rare Crests used to augment Elder Rift runs, and some gems used to customize weapons. Check out the "Specials" section and you'll see a bundle priced at $99.99.

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Not a terribly bad deal for the first bundle, it seemed – purchases were turned off during the early access period, so I couldn't say whether you'd experience buyer's remorse or not – but Diablo Immortal does all it can to make sure these purchases can't be overlooked. When you open the main menu, the shop is in the top-left spot slot which means it's the first option you'll see. When you collect your daily login rewards, you do so by visiting the Bundles section which means you'll see offers each day. While you're there, Blizzard likely hopes you'll be enticed to check out the other sections including Featured items, Crests, Cosmetics, Services, Currency, and Materials.

Things get more complicated when you consider the different vendors and currencies available in Diablo Immortal. Simple navigation systems thankfully make the former more manageable by guiding or teleporting you right to vendors when you tell the game what you're looking to do, but the currencies are noticeably split up into all sorts of different resources. The menu below shows some of those including the aforementioned Legendary Crest, resources used to upgrade gear and craft runes, Gold, Platinum, and Eternal Orbs. Selecting the "Get More" option sometimes points you to in-game activities, while other times, you're directed to the store.

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The fact that you can purchase Gems and resources that naturally lead to more loot may furrow some brows where game balance is concerned, but in the PvE aspect of the game at least, I never felt like there was a paywall where the game got so tough that purchases were incentivized. On the contrary, I felt like I was leveling up far faster than expected by just doing normal side activities like completing Rifts and the optional bounties. The journey to Level 33 was a brisk one accomplished only after a few hours of play, and after a while, my blinders filtered out the purchases and pop-ups to focus only on the Diablo tasks at hand. Completing Rifts was one of the more enjoyable parts of Diablo Immortal which naturally means that Crests aren't exactly abundant unless you purchase them. You get one of those and more rewards simply for playing Diablo Immortal each day, and doing "dailies" is a tried and true live-service practice by now, so it's difficult to be too annoyed by that.

I've mentioned a few surprising aspects of Diablo Immortal here, but what's most surprising of all was that even after seeing all of those mobile game-isms at play, Diablo Immortal still remains the only mobile game I've ever been interested in playing. Past mobile games have only been ways to kill time, and even when it's a franchise I've enjoyed that's been adapted for mobile, I always found myself feeling that the mobile version just made me want to play the "real" deal instead of the phone version.

Diablo Immortal, a game I spent hours playing and want to see more of both in terms of its events, story, and roles beyond my Monk, has broken that trend. It does not at all play like a game to be booed on stage, and the planned PC version should make it even more accommodating for those who prefer that platform. Whether you're playing it to stay occupied until Diablo IV comes out or playing it out of excitement, Diablo Immortal is simply worth playing.

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Rating: 4.5/5

An early access version of Diablo Immortal was played on an iPhone 11 for review purposes with a code provided by the publisher. Diablo Immortal releases on June 2nd for mobile devices and in early access on PC.