Diablo Immortal is, quite literally, a game that no one wanted. Back in 2018, fans of the franchise were eagerly waiting for the fourth main instalment in the series and were instead greeted with the announcement of a Diablo game made for smartphones.
The fans were not in the mood to play along and the live audience quickly went silent and booed at the officials on the stage. And they were responded to with “do you guys not have phones?”
Years went by and an actual Diablo 4 did get announced eventually. But to no one’s surprise, Diablo Immortal is the game that got released first.
Saying that the reaction to the game is mixed would be very generous. While some admit that the game does resemble the Diablo franchise in some ways, the pay-to-win elements and unsurprisingly persistent microtransactions earned the game the lowest user rating ever for a video game on Metacritic.
So, what went wrong? A lot, actually.
Diablo is not a mainstream franchise. It has always had its audience filled with fans that are very precise about what they want to play. It’s not a game that belongs to a casual genre like FPS where any game can take its liberties with how the shooting mechanics work. Instead, Diablo is a game that requires strong core gameplay that retains its true identity.
Diablo Immortal has a few changes that players aren’t a big fan of. Since mobile games generally have shorter sessions so that players can stop at any time, Immortal reduced the time of the game activities. For example, dungeons last roughly 10 minutes per activity and other things are even shorter, as they only last 1 to 5 minutes in total.
There is also a lack of class-specific resources and things like mana, so that a cooldown system is focused on more instead – which is more in line with how mobile games usually work.
The core gameplay of the game does reflect the Diablo series and even people who dislike the game admit that to some extent. But it’s without a doubt that Immortal was developed with smartphones in mind and as a result, it loses a bit of its hardcore identity.
Money Sinking (and time, too)
Diablo Immortal has several pay-to-win aspects because by spending a lot of money, you can obtain a lot of powerful items. As usual, you can still grind for hours and try to reach that level of strength manually too – which does work sometimes.
But anyone willing to spend money onto the game can still end up becoming stronger much faster than others, which adds a pay-to-win element to the game.
None of this is new for mobile games, but Diablo is a title that you wouldn’t normally expect this from. And it is exactly why fans were afraid of the game being announced too.
Aside from the pay-to-win elements, the game is generally being compared to the ‘Gacha’ genre because of how randomized its loot system is. You can either spend dozens of hours to unlock gear, or you can spend real-world money to speed up the process.
However, many players and streamers have experimented with this system and it has turned out to be far more complicated than what you usually experience in Gacha games. For example, if you spend a lot of real-world money on greedy mobile games, you end up getting the overpowered items that you are looking for.
However, Diablo Immortal is even worse than those games in this department. A streamer called Quin69 spent approximately $4000 dollars into the game in an attempt to obtain a 5-star legendary gem.
However, he was unable to obtain one even after spending $4000 dollars and was given lower tier items instead – which is insanely frustrating.
If you compare this to how much time a free-to-play user of the game would need to get to this point, it estimates to an entire year. And thus, it shows that even after spending a full year of grinding into the game, the free-to-play user will be unable to get 5-star legendary gems.
It’s entirely possible that after learning that people have figured this out, Activision might balance the drop rates in a future patch. But at the moment, this is how horribly unbalanced it is.
Diablo Immortal is not ashamed of its Gacha-like model and constantly pushes ads to your face. Every time you complete a substantial part of the game, such as the lengthy tutorial story missions, you are very likely to get an ad thrown in your face. The most common of which is the ‘Beginners Pack’ that has a +800% value.
Not to mention that this type of advertising is incredibly insincere. If the game is giving you an 800% bonus for the first purchase, that implies it’s everything that you need. However, if you’ve learned anything from this article thus far, it’s that the game does not give you the right items even after you spend thousands of dollars into it.
So, does that mean a non-800% value pack will be a complete waste of money? Not exactly.
This is simply a case of misadvertising value, as we’ve seen throughout our lives when a sale removes an exaggerated point of an item and then offers the original price as the ‘discount’.
Blizzard’s senior game designer does insist that you can play through the game with ease without spending any money, but we know better than that with the player feedback and personal experiences that we’ve seen so far.
Not so Immortal
With such a rocky launch, there are three things that can happen with Diablo Immortal.
The first one is that the game might become hated and ignored by fans of old Diablo games – but it might find its place among mobile gamers. After all, compared to how MMOs on mobiles generally are, Diablo Immortal is not a bad game whatsoever. And it might even be better than some other popular games on the platform.
The second one is that Blizzard might find a balance between appealing to new people and still satisfying the older audience. After all, the game does have a PC port too which runs pretty well. So, all they need to do is to fix the microtransaction model.
And lastly, the game might fail to appeal to either of the two audiences and it might die a premature death. This is an entirely possible outcome since we already have games like Raid: Shadow Legends that are doing incredibly well on the smartphone market.
And there are smaller-scale games like Eternium too which capture a bit of the Diablo magic but without the insane grind.
We’ll see where this goes in time. But for now, Diablo Immortal is a mess.