I am very fortunate to be included in the Diablo Immortal Technical Alpha. I wanted to share some initial thoughts here in a text format for those who don't have time to check out many of the great streams that are happening over on Twitch.
I will be updating this post with more thoughts as I dive into more parts of the game and do some more in-depth testing.
Please keep in mind these are just my initial thoughts, and that the technical alpha right now is primarily focused on the early leveling experience and mid-game systems.
Mobile controls feel very, very good. Those of you who played Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon will know what I'm talking about. I think one of the main innovations here that Blizzard is doing is that the on-screen joystick will re-center when you lift your finger off the screen. In other words, each time your left thumb lifts off the screen, it will re-center the joystick when you place your thumb down again on the screen.
Please note that the technical alpha is focused on the mobile controls, so bluetooth controller support is not available in this technical alpha.
There is a "quest log" on the left side of the screen. This takes up a significant amount of space, and often gets in the way of the left control stick. You can minimize it to get it out of the way, but overall it's poorly placed. This "quest log" will be replaced by the timer in Elder and Challenge Rifts, and similarly it takes up a large amount of space in those cases too.
Playing using mobile controls for more than 4 hours starts to enter "ow my thumbs hurt" territory. I was playing at my desk with my elbows resting on my chair's arm rests and my elbows hurt quite a bit after my 7 hour game session. I will be moving to the couch for future streams to make things easier on my elbows. As for ow-thumbs-problems, this problem would only be fixed by something like bluetooth controller support, which is not available in the technical alpha.
My first 7 hours of gameplay were focused on a single-player experience. Overall I felt like the game was very friendly to single-player, and never thought that multi-player was necessary at any point whatsoever. (So, if you're worried that this is a MMO-first game, it's not).
As you run through the world you do see other players, and it's easy to simply tap on other player's characters and add them your party or add them as friends. So the transition from single to multiplayer is much easier than, say, Diablo 3, since you can discover other players and party up without spamming a chat channel. You can run into players in town or out in the world.
Dungeons (Is that the name for these? That's what I'm calling them.) are probably my favorite experience in the game, next to Elder Rifts. Dungeons are small, instanced areas of the game that are typically story-oriented. Mad King's Breach is the first dungeon of the game, and so far my favorite. Dungeons are where the game starts to really get cinematic and have a rich experience. The Leoric boss fight, for example, has him mount his horse at 50% HP and change his attack pattern. The previous boss (I don't remember the name) crawls under the floor before you reach the spot where you fight the boss. Note that, dungeons aren't an end-game challenge, but feel more like a story-focused cinematic kind of experience. People who love Diablo lore will love dungeons I think.
It's clear that this is an alpha. The dungeons are often a bit too short, and some of them need some more work and polish.
The technical alpha goes from levels 1-45. (The released game will go from levels 1-60.) There are additional paragon levels after level 45 in the technical alpha. So far it appears that this game does not suffer from the hundreds / thousands of paragon levels that Diablo 3 suffers from — instead, there is a paragon skill tree.
The leveling curve from 1-30 is very fast. I was able to get level 30, on my very first playthrough in under 4 hours, completely solo. I suspect playing multiplayer and having a deeper understanding of the game will make 1-30 extremely fast.
After level 30, the leveling curve slows down tremendously. I don't have any exact numbers, but it's clear there's a massive shift in how xp-to-next-level is calculated after level 30. (Similar to levels 50 and 60 in Diablo 3).
I don't want to spoil anything because so far I am enjoying Diablo Immortal's story more than Diablo 3's story. There are many callbacks to Diablo 2 characters you'll recognize. The story in the technical alpha is unfinished. Especially after you reach Westmarch, much of the dialog is unpolished, and the polish of the story and quests goes downhill quite a bit — so it's clear that these parts are simply not finished yet.
The quest system holds your hand way, way too much. Outside of dungeons there is always feet on the ground and dots on the mini map showing you exactly where to go at all times. This really ruins in the immersion and sense of exploration. I think the mini map dots telling you where to go are…. OK… but the feet on the screen is really bothersome.
While in dungeons, an arrow will often appear right on your character telling you exactly where to go. Not only is this really annoying, but it gets in the way of gameplay.
The combination of the dungeon arrow, the mini map dots, and the feet telling me where to go feels like I'm being micromanaged, not allowed to explore, and overall being nagged into going to the next objective.
The Codex is a way to reward players for getting achievements in the game (ie: Do 5 Elder Rifts). This part felt like the game was nagging me, as your Codex will constantly show up in the quest log telling you to collect rewards. At first this was a huge problem – I'm getting rewards for literally just existing. This felt very similar to other games where you get achievements for turning the game on (I've had this experience on Xbox a ton). After the first 4 or 5 hours of gameplay however, the Codex rewards are starting to calm down, but I can't help but feel like there's a much better way to do this.
The graphics are great. I'm playing on an iPhone XS so I'm not seeing any problems. I know other folks who are playing on a newer iPad Pro at larger sizes are seeing heavier pixelation.
The music was sporadic, to the point that there was an entire hour where I didn't hear background music at all. When there was music, it was far too ambient. I never got the feeling I was in a particular "zone". Because of the lack of music, many of the areas lacked a good identity and mood. The music was one of the weakest parts of the game so far. After 5 hours of gameplay I ended up just muting the music and playing my own (Diablo 2 soundtrack mmmmm).
- Sellena's Iron – Main Hand – Leap causes the ground to shake where you land, dealing 654 damage to all enemies in the area over 3 seconds.
Effectively, this is leap-quake from D3. I LOVE LEAP-QUAKE! This was a huge game-changer when I found it.
- Svot's Reach – Main Hand – Cleave now strikes in a full circle around you.
Felt good but overall not a huge game changer for me.
- The Tempest – Main Hand – Whirlwind radius increased, but Whirlwind movement speed reduced.
Huge game changer, due to how good Whirlwind is right now.
- The Gathering – Chest – Whirlwind pulls in all enemies it damages.
Whirlwind already feels like an auto-include for any Barbarian build right now so this was a huge find. I got this in addition to Sellena's Iron (leap-quake) so it was awesome grouping up enemies and BOOM! LEAP-QUAKE!
You can turn off error voice messages in the settings. I wish you could do this in Diablo 3!
When I entered an area where I was underleveled, the "Monsters are dangerous!" warning was really annoying and took up a big part of the screen.
When quest objectives wanted you to look at them, there's a huge arrow on the screen pointing to them in the quest log that takes up a huge amount of space on screen and is quite annoying.
There are a number of quests that introduce you to Westmarch. It starts out with a number of quests that give you a tour of the city – why not just give all of the objective at once and allow the player to explore? This part felt very railroaded when I should be able to explore the city on my own.
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