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KitGuru Games: Diablo Immortal is great… until Blizzard asks you for $100,000

Blizzard first announced Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon 2018 and as many of you will remember, the announcement was not received well. After playtests, some positive impressions of the game began to surface and ultimately, Blizzard decided to release the game across mobile and PC this month. To my surprise, I was having a lot of fun running through the campaign and the game didn't seem hampered by the jump to mobile at all. Unfortunately, things quickly go down hill once you reach end-game content. Remember the Diablo 3 Auction House? Immortal's end-game gear system has somehow managed to be much, much worse than that. 

Let's start with the good – I actually like Diablo Immortal. I've spent about 12 hours playing the game over the last few days on my iPad with an Xbox controller, as well as on my iPhone using touch-screen controls. The game runs at a perfect 60FPS – it looks and feels like Diablo, and I've been having a blast levelling up my Monk and grinding the main campaign, bounties and Rifts.

The game starts off fast-paced, levelling up to 30 doesn't take that long, but after that, you will notice that your progress slows and you'll need to do more grinding between major campaign missions, just like most MMOs and online RPGs. Currently, my Monk is level 40 and I noticed myself needing to grind at around level 32. Grinding in this case means doing all eight daily bounties and several Rift runs. I have also begun levelling up a Wizard and I'll probably end up doing a Demon Hunter or Necromancer run in the future too.

I didn't go into Diablo Immortal expecting much, but I was surprised to find that the game wasn't held back by being on mobile. There are lots of enemies on screen, plenty of visual effects and the frame rate is steady. It just felt good to be playing new Diablo content after all these years and the touch controls are surprisingly good too. If you hate touch controls, you can hook up a controller instead, and the game plays equally well that way too. Alternatively, you can install the game on PC and play with a keyboard and mouse. I have not tried the PC version yet, which I think is a testament to how good the mobile version looks and how well it runs.

So Diablo Immortal offers a decent campaign with no time gates or progression blockers – what's the catch? Well the first negative point is that you will get a ‘special bundle' advertisement the first time you clear each major dungeon. However, the game is currently set up in such a way that you don't need to engage with these microtransactions at all while levelling. You are going to be powerful enough just playing the content normally. The real issue kicks in once you hit max-level, and you want to start min-maxing your build to become as powerful as possible.

In traditional Diablo games, you reach the level cap, and then you grind activities at harder difficulties to obtain more powerful gear and upgrades. These legendary items and gems are rare and a lot of players enjoy running end-game Diablo content in search of gear that will perfect their build and enable them to climb the leaderboards.

In Diablo Immortal, you are capped to 1-star or 2-star gems while running Rifts. To get a chance at 3 to 5-star rated gear, the best gear in the game, you will need to purchase Legendary Crests from the store. You will get a couple of free crests as part of the free-tier Battle Pass in the game, (yes there is one of those too), but after that, you'll need to buy crests and if you are really determined to get the best gear in the game, it is going to be very costly.

In Diablo Immortal, you purchase legendary crests from the shop using premium currency that you can't earn in-game. You then apply those crests to a Rift before entering and that will enable the chance at higher-tier loot drops once you complete the level. The drop rates are as follows:

  • 1 star capped – 75%
  • 2 star capped – 20%
  • 2/5 star – 3.75%
  • 3/5 star – 1%
  • 4/5 star – 0.20%
  • 5/5 star – 0.05%

As you can see, even after buying expensive crests, your chances of obtaining the gear you really want are incredibly slim. Like other gacha systems, there is a pity timer in place. If you use 50 legendary crests without getting a single 5-star drop, the next time you apply one, you will get a guaranteed drop. The most expensive premium currency pack in the game costs £89.99 and that will only get you 45 legendary crests.

It is an incredibly greedy system that manages to out-do other infamous gacha games, like Genshin Impact, or Arknights. By some calculations, creating a full 5-star gear build in Diablo Immortal will cost you over $100,000, which is absolutely insane.

When Blizzard removed the auction house from Diablo 3, it did so specifically because its existence compromised the game, particularly end-game content. Now a decade later, Blizzard has run into the same problem and somehow made it much, much worse. Not only are the drop rates abysmal, but the system in place also ensures that you have to spend money. There is no way to be a free player and save up on in-game earnables to eventually unlock a piece of gear you would typically have to pay for – at least, not without major lottery-winning luck on your side. Once you finish the campaign, the façade is completely dropped and Diablo Immortal devolves into nothing more than a net to catch whales.

Ultimately, this is a free to play game and you do get a lot of good content for free. If you don't care about min-maxing your build or obtaining the best gear possible, then you will have a fun time just running through the campaign. When you consider that there are six classes for you to play, you'll get a lot of playtime here without ever needing to spend a penny. However, I think it is clear that Diablo Immortal's end-game experience needs to be reworked to be more rewarding to the average player, rather than exclusively catering to those with big pockets. As it stands, Diablo Immortal is indeed a ‘pay to win' game.

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KitGuru Says: Have many of you played Diablo Immortal over the weekend? Did you play it on PC or mobile? 

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