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Diablo 4 Leveling Early Impressions

Blizzard gave us access to a Press Preview build of Diablo 4 for a whole week. While most of our other posts cover class & game mechanics in detail, here we share our overall impressions of the campaign, the leveling process, classes, gameplay and feel in a more anecdotal manner.

All information in this article is from the Press Preview Access of Diablo 4. The content presented here is subject to change, and will be updated as we learn more.



The Campaign

We can't talk much about the campaign as we were specifically asked not to spoil anything regarding the story but we can tell you as much: After a short prologue you end up in Kyovashad, the main city in Fractured Peaks. The cool part about the campaign: You can choose multiple paths to go after the prologue as you unlock Act 1, 2, and 3 at the same time. As long as you meet the relatively low minimum level requirements for any of them, you can pursue them in the order you wish. In addition, you can branch out and do side content as you please and come back to the main story line later, too. We also have been told that the individual storylines will converge again at a later point towards the end of the campaign, so nothing is lost on the way.

We were able to complete the full Act 1 questline which sets up the story and introduces multiple important characters. You get immediately immersed in the gritty world of Diablo 4, learn about your connection to it and sense the looming darkness that is about to cover all of Sanctuary as you follow the trail of a rising evil. Completing the entire Act on a fresh character without exploring any side content took roughly 3 hours going at a moderate pace.


How the Classes Feel

Class Selection

In the preview version, only 3 classes were available: Barbarian, Rogue, and Sorcerer. The other two, Necromancer and Druid, were unavailable for our playthrough. Each of the classes has a distinct feel and fantasy that clearly separates them from the others and they all intuitively work as you would expect based on their name and appearance. Here is a short write-up for each of them:

Barbarian

The Barbarian is an absolute blast to play. You are a tanky pack of muscle that fearlessly jumps into the fray and destroys their enemies with impactful moves. You also have access to the unique Arsenal System that allows you to swap between two different Two-Handed Weapons and dual-wielded One-Handed Weapons at any time to combine attack abilities with supporting skills such as shouts and movement.

Check out the full Barbarian Class Overview to learn more.

The Barbarian
Rogue

The Rogue has a wealth of tricks up their sleeve. You dash around quickly and combine both melee and ranged abilities to your liking. You can also employ traps, grenades, and other tools to outsmart your foes. In addition to Physical attacks, you can also Imbue your damage into Cold, Poison, and Shadow types for special effects. The Specialization feature allows you to further enhance your build with one of three impactful choices.

Check out the full Rogue Class Overview to learn more.

The Rogue
Sorcerer

The Sorcerer wields the three elements Fire, Cold, and Lightning. As a spellcaster you stay at range and let the magic do the work. The unique class mechanic allows you to allocate two spells into your Enchantment Slots, giving you passive bonuses and Lucky Hits activated through other effects. With a wide range of skills available you can mix and match the elements to your liking, allowing many interesting combinations.

Check out the full Sorcerer Class Overview to learn more.

The Sorceress

Graphics, Sounds, & Immersion

All of these topics are part of the game's strengths. From the get-go you can feel the incredible attention to detail that is going into building the world of Sanctuary in Diablo 4. Even with just Fractured Peaks (1 out of 5 major regions) available in the demo, the world feels huge and is filled with tons of things to discover. In towns, you can explore the area and interact with various objects and NPCs to learn more about their backgrounds. There are even stray dogs running around which you can pet! Yes, you can pet the dog, by using the action wheel to emote Greetings to the dog. (This is the most important part of this entire post).

Combat is fluid and fun; when you defeat monsters, different body parts can fly off or on-death effects applied depending on how you hit them. When you hit some debris next to the wall, objects will shatter and fly across the screen. You see dark, violent and yet realistic scenes and feel the danger lurking just around the corner. Meanwhile the ambient noises, sound design, and the music keep you grounded in the world at any moment. In fact, as I'm writing this article, I'm just sitting in town with my character, enjoying the Kyovashad background music (not the same as in the below video, but this is the place and it's amazing).

Yes, you can pet the dog!


Leveling & Combat

If you have played Diablo 3, you will recognize the smooth and fluid animations that the game is known for in this game, too. That said, the gameplay at least in the early levels available in the preview version is much slower than what you encounter in the endgame of other modern ARPGs including Diablo 3. Fights require a lot more tactical thought about when you use abilities, as most of them have long cooldowns. Most medium and large enemies have dangerous telegraphed abilities that you should try to avoid. With an open world and always-online multiplayer mode, it can be expected that the pace will never reach the lightning speed of its predecessor where you can zap through entire maps in seconds and explode screens of enemies at a time.

Every class has access to an Evade ability from the start, an extra button that allows you to dodge incoming attacks. As you level up, you unlock skill points that you can spend on active abilities or passives to build your character and unlock more and more skills. As you progress, the monsters and zones level up with you, keeping fights engaging at all times. The Skill Tree is designed such that you are presented with a tough decision to make with your precious few points. Luckily, you can also respec them quite cheaply (but with a rising cost on higher levels) so you can always adjust and experiment.

Check out our Skill Tree Overview to learn more.

Sorcerer casting Inferno

The items you find work in a similar fashion to previous Diablo games: There are common, magic, rare, legendary and unique quality items with generally increasing rarity and power levels. In the early levels you replace loot quickly. As you progress, you can find pieces that are more and more interesting and tailored towards your build, with more stats and options unlocking as you go. We only got to experience the very start of it as legendary drops were infrequent on these low levels and only a few unique items have been found so far. We expect a lot more will unlock later in the game.

Check out our Equipment & Gear Overview to learn more.

While the pace is overall relatively low at the start, there are certainly tools available to speed things up later on, most of which were barely reachable in this preview version. Overall we feel the combat is great and together with the world, graphics and sounds described above contributes to a great base game that the devs can expand on over the seasons. Depending on your build and the content you are doing, you can decide to take a more easy or more difficult approach to the game.


Video


Summary

  • Diablo 4 is the newest game in the Diablo series, set to release in 2023.
  • The world feels massive and is built with an incredible attention to detail and great immersion.
  • As you level up, you progress your character through skill points, items, class mechanics.
  • Combat is fluid and fun with engaging enemies and impactful abilities at your disposal.
  • The campaign is non-linear and while exploring side content you find many tasks to complete.
  • Maxroll is here to cover it all with detailed guides on anything you can imagine.

We'll see you around!


Credits

Written by wudijo
Reviewed by Echohack


Changelog

Dec 6th 2022
Article Created from the Press Release Version of Diablo 4.