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Diablo 4 Review: Perfect Darkness

Our Diablo 4 spoiler-free review dives into every single aspect, from gameplay and the leveling experience to the diverse lineup of endgame content.
Diablo 4 Review: Perfect Darkness

I've been a Diablo fan since the original's release in 1997. It is one of the titles that got me deep into gaming, specifically ARPGs. When I got word I would be reviewing Diablo 4, spending ten days in the world of Sanctuary pushing back the legions of the Burning Hells and cleansing various regions from Lilith's followers' influence, I ran outside and praised the Mother of Hatred.

After 87 hours with Diablo 4, completing the game's campaign, and diving deep into its endgame systems, I'm ready to deliver my verdict on everything the game has to offer, bar the story, as this is a NO SPOILER review. I will touch on the story we've seen in the Open Beta.

Diablo Returns To Darkness: Story No Spoilers

Diablo 4 is as much a return to darkness as a refinement of systems, taking everything that made the original and Diablo 2 so iconic. The bold story features the Daughter of Hatred, aka the Mother of Sanctuary, Lilith, and her return to the mortal realm.

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
As seen in multiple Diablo 4 trailers and in beta content, Inarius does play a role in the story...(Picture: Blizzard)

Lilith quickly gathers followers, and in the prologue, Blizzard throws out a nice twist for fans to digest. After slaying some demons for a small town in Fractured Peaks, they celebrated my success, and we had some drinks.

However, I was quickly drugged and hauled off to be sacrificed. These cutscenes are portrayed with the player character (and your customized look), so you always feel connected to the story.

The main story and the side quests are grim, showing the world of Sanctuary years after the events of Diablo 3's Reaper of Souls expansion and Maltheal's decimation of most of the world's inhabitants. Thanks to excellent environmental storytelling, cutscenes, and voice acting, Diablo 4 shines in story, lore, and worldbuilding.

That's my experience in Fractured Peaks and Act 1. 

While I won't go into any story spoilers for Act 2 and beyond, I can say that the game surprised me occasionally and that the story is exceptionally well-paced and grim...

Diablo 4 Gameplay

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Looking awesome for a fresh level 50, right? (Picture: Blizzard)

The general gameplay loop in Diablo 4 kills demons, loot, head to town, and repeat. This goes for dungeons, events, side quests, and everything else. It is an addictive loop that any Diablo fan should know well.

I played Diablo 4 on World Tier 2 difficulty (change to the lower difficulty at any time), and it was both a challenging and rewarding experience. By no means did any fight feel overturned at the recommended level as I went through the Diablo 4 review period. It is important to note that due to the limited time of the Diablo 4 review period, I could only take one class (an Ice Sorcerer) to the max level, unlock Nightmare (World Tier 3) difficulty, and more.

However, I tried Hardcore Mode with a Barbarian and died, its corpse rotting in the Dry Steppes as I type this Diablo 4 review. This was one of the most exciting experiences of my gaming career, and the death came swiftly, but due to my own failures and not any bug or latency issue, of which I found none.

The most important thing about combat is that it feels impactful. It is challenging to describe, to be honest, but every swing of a weapon from my Barbarian felt like it hurt, almost like a "thud" as I smashed demons. On my Sorcerer, enemies shattered into icy pieces, and it felt, looked, and sounded amazing. This type of impactful combat is accompanied by a diverse skill tree, allowing players to enjoy the game with their power fantasy of choice. 

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Our Sorcerer Popsicle build turns enemies into shards of ice! (Picture: Blizzard)

The freedom to reset all your skills and test out a new build (for a hoard of Gold), combined with powerful shrines out in the world and a large variety of elite monsters to overcome, made every encounter feel fresh. Zone events add a layer of depth and complexity to the world, while dungeon bosses have a variety of mechanics you need to learn to succeed and get all the shiny loot.

Arguably one of the best experiences in Diablo 4 has to be the world bosses, with three available at launch. I joined the event on a Saturday evening with 11 other players and faced the massive boss Ashava as the camera panned out to accommodate the scale of the fight. With a 15-minute timer, Ashava fell with just eight seconds to spare. It was, by far, the most exciting and nerve-wracking experience I've ever had in a Diablo title...

Throughout the Diablo 4 review period, I am happy to report that there was never any grinding required to get to the next part of the story, as it all progressed naturally. This includes plentiful item drops, and with every quest completed, or every dungeon purged of evil, I had a few upgrades in my ever-trusty inventory.

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Sometimes, the end boss in a dungeon is a giant spider...ew! (Picture: Blizzard)

There's much to do and see throughout each main region of Sanctuary. Exploring is worth it because the Altars of Lilith are hidden across the huge open-world areas. Then, there's the multitude of side quests with unique stories to complete.

I spent hours just exploring a region, completing a diverse lineup of events as they spawned, participating in the Gathering Legions mega events with some fellow reviewers, and completing dungeons as I encountered them. The dungeon layouts have improved since the beta, and there's now much less backtracking to complete objectives.

Diablo 4 doesn't force you into doing one activity you don't particularly enjoy. 

Diablo 4 Endgame Activities Explored

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
The first Diablo 4 endgame activity we encountered was a tree with talking heads...(Picture: Blizzard)

For most ARPG fans, the variety in endgame activities is the most important aspect. I didn't take a break after reaching level 50 and slaying the final boss. Instead of napping, I immediately jumped into the first endgame activities for the next eight hours.

Diablo 4's endgame activities are so diverse and fun that I couldn't put down the controller. It started with visiting the Tree of Whispers for my first round of Grim Favors (bounties) to complete. These Grim Favors are diverse enough to feel fresh with every round of 10 you must complete before returning to the Tree of Whispers for fantastic rewards.

Grim Favors include clearing specific dungeons, participating in Fields of Hatred PvP with objectives such as taking down an Abomination, clearing a Cellar, hunting for an elite, and much more. There are also specific time limits for each Grim Favor, and more spawn as others disappear, taking me to places I skipped during our run through the story and each of the five zones.

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
You can choose between three random Caches once 10 Grim Favors are collected. (Picture: Blizzard)

The next endgame activity I want to touch on is even more exciting. Helltides take over huge portions of the map on Nightmare (World Tier 3) difficulty and above. It was the most intense experience I've ever had in an ARPG, with swarms of demons flooding the screen. 

I slayed countless demons in less than 10 minutes, collecting a horde of Aberrant Cinders. This is special, Helltide-specific currency used to open chests inside Helltides. I died several times against powerful Helltide Harbinger elite demons, losing some of my Cinders. At the last minute, before a Helltide disappeared, I frantically made my way to the location of a chest I remembered seeing.

Helltides lead to player choice, as chests to claim a Tortured Gift feature items for a specific slot, such as a two-handed weapon or a headpiece. They are not marked on your map, so remember where you saw one and note the remaining time. Once a Helltide ends, all your unspent Cinders are lost.

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Helltides are the most fun we've ever had in a Diablo title, and incredibly challenging. (Picture: Blizzard)

Then, we have the Fields of Hatred, portions of Sanctuary that players can PvP in. During the Diablo 4 review period, I didn't run into many players at all, and those we did run into were helpful, attempting to complete events or kill the huge Abominations roaming the area. 

Players can collect Seeds of Hatred from events, killing enemies and other players, and then purify these Seeds into Red Dust at an Altar of Extraction. Other players can stop you from purifying the Seeds of Hatred.

I did manage to purify some Seeds of Hatred at an Altar, but it took quite a long time, with enemies spawning. Thankfully, the player I encountered helped me instead of killing me where I stood. When I saw that same playing fighting an Abomination, I killed that player with Ice Shards, looting their Seeds of Hatred and finishing off the big demon. Why did I do that? Because Fields of Hatred in Diablo 4 is not supposed to be fair...

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Purifying Seeds of Hatred is not a trivial feat. (Picture: Blizzard)

I believe Nightmare Dungeons will be the endgame activity players focus on the most. After you get some Nightmare Sigils in World Tier 3 difficulty and above from completing other endgame activities, you can start this endgame activity.

These items turn a regular dungeon into a Nightmare Dungeon with unique affixes. The range of affixes is tremendous, making every Nightmare Dungeon run a fresh,  utterly challenging experience.

For example, in my first Nightmare Dungeon during the Diablo 4 review period, enemies dealt poison damage with every hit and threw out lighting lances for good measure. However, the positive affix I got saw my character call down lightning strikes occasionally, helping to clear some tough packs.

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Clearing the Cathedral of Light Capstone dungeon unlocks Nightmare difficulty. (Picture: Blizzard)

Last but not least are Capstone Dungeons. Only two are in the game, and they are once-off experiences to unlock World Tier 3 and 4 difficulties. These are massive dungeons, and I recommend setting aside at least one hour of gameplay to complete one.

There's the Cathedral of Light and Fallen Temple Capstone Dungeons; the former should be completed to unlock Nightmare Difficulty, while the latter is reserved for players level 70 and above to unlock Torment difficulty.

These two mammoths, unique dungeon-crawling experiences were just the icing on the ARPG cake that is Diablo 4 and utterly challenging. I won't spoil them for you!

Diablo 4 Review Verdict: 10/10

Diablo 4 review story campaign endgame systems helltide tree of whispers gameplay fields of hatred nightmare dungeons capstone no spoilers
Diablo 4 sets a new standard for the ARPG genre, without the need for a summoning ritual. (Picture: Blizzard)

Diablo 4 doesn't reinvent the wheel but instead builds on ARPG systems and throws some magnificent, addictive endgame activities at prospective Nephalem. It makes up for the shortcomings of its predecessor and sets a new standard for the ARPG genre with a dark, twisted tale, five massive and unique regions to explore, brilliant ARPG gameplay, and a wealth of diverse endgame content.

The TL;DR version is:10/10 would slay again, and again, and again.

I can't wait to see what the future holds for Diablo 4, as the launch is only the beginning, with seasons coming every three months starting mid to late July 2023.

Review code provided by Activision Blizzard.


For more Diablo 4, be sure to check out our dedicated section or some of our Guides & Tutorials just below:

Diablo 4 Class Builds - Best Barbarian Build |  | Best Necromancer Build | Best Sorcerer Build | Best Druid Build | Best Rogue Build | All Classes Tier List | Best Class For Beginners | Build Calculator

Class Mechanics: Sorcerer Enchantment System | Barbarian Arsenal | Rogue Specialization | Necromancer Book of the Dead | Druid Spirit Animals | Unlock Golems

Items - Healing Vial | Item Slot Types | Transmogs/Wardrobe | Salvage Items | Durability & Repair | Trading Items | All Unique Items & Stats | Set Items | Item Quality/Rarity Levels | Elixirs | Butcher's Cleaver | Cry of Ashava Trophy

Features: Beginners Guide | Impressions From Beta

Quests: Ritual Tower Key | Forgive Me Side Quest | Traveler's Prayer Side Quest | Secret Of The Spring Riddle | Raising Spirits Side Quest | Woodsman Of Nevesk | Fiend Rose

General D4 Guides: Legendary & Gold Farming | Town Portal | Inventory Size | Stash Size | Beat Lilith's Lament | Beat Den Mother Boss | Beat Lord Avitus Boss | Beat Blood Bishop Boss | Reset Dungeons | Gathering Legions Guide | The Butcher Boss | Leave Dungeons | All Stronghold Locations | Hardcore Mode | Change Difficulty | Unlock/Launch Time | Balance Changes | Patch Notes

Diablo 4 Tech Guides - Ray Tracing Support | Couch Co-Op | Server Regions | PC Requirements & File Size | Diablo 4 Servers Down? | Connection Issues Fix | Crashing Issues Fix | Unable To Install or Patch | Low FPS Fix | Error Code 34202 Fix | Disable Fog & Glare | Stuck in Queue Fix | Console Issues | PC Issues | Enable & Disable Chat Bubbles | Hit Max Level Fast | Best PC Settings High FPS | Error Code 395002 Fix | Error Code 316719 Fix | D4 on Steam Deck | Offline Mode | DLSS 3 & NVIDIA Reflex

Crafting/Vendors - Jeweler | Gambling & Obols | Occultist | Alchemist | Blacksmith | | Monster Parts | Skins | Ore | Plants

Legendary Aspects - Codex of Power | Sorcerer Legendary Powers | Barbarian Legendary Powers | Rogue Legendary Powers | Necromancer Legendary Powers | Druid Legendary Powers

Activities - Strongholds | Nightmare Dungeons | Silent Chests | Altars of Lilith | Helltides | Endgame

Story & Lore - Campaign Length | Who is Lilith? | Who is Inarius | Deckard Cain | Secret Cow Level | All D4 Acts Listed

Zones - Fractured Peaks Overview | Scosglen | Kehjistan | Dry Steppes | Hawezar | All Waypoint Locations | Full World Map | Fractured Peaks Chests | Fractured Peaks Cellars

Stronghold Guides - Kor Dragan | Malnok | Nostrava |

Mounts - Temptation Mount | Diablo 4 Class Dismount Mechanics | Unlock & Customize |

Seasons - Battle Pass Price | Diablo 4 Season Duration | Battle Pass Differences | Get Favor | Next Season Start Date | Season Blessings | Season Journey | Diablo 4 Content Roadmap |

Gameplay Systems - Armor System | Clans | Primary Stats & Effects | Shrines & Buffs | Renown & Reputation | Max Level & Paragon Cap | World Tier Difficulty Levels | Followers/Mercenaries

World Bosses - Ashava | Avarice | Wandering Death | Beat Ashava | Ashava Spawn Location

Diablo 4 Misc - Statue of Inarius Price & Specs | Wolf Pack Cosmetic | Codes | Diablo 4 Free-to-Play? | Mother's Inked Title | Collector's Edition | How To Respec | Stagger Mechanic | Patch Notes | Asmongold Diablo 4 Beta Thoughts | Item Shop | Wings of the Creator Emote

Challenges/Achievements - Necromancer Challenges | Barbarian Challenges | Druid Challenges | Rogue Challenges | Sorcerer Challenges | Crafting Challenges

Diablo 4 PvP - Coming soon!

Our section keeps growing, so check for new guides daily! Don't forget to pick up one of the Diablo 4 Editions and join the fight to save Sanctuary soon.