Diablo: Immortal Closed Alpha First Impressions
This week, we finally got our hands on Diablo: Immortal. While it's still in a closed alpha state, the game feels quite a bit like a fully-fledged Diablo experience, though obviously with some free-to-play hooks thrown in. Check out some footage of the game just as those hooks kick in to get a sense of what Blizzard and NetEase seem to be planning for Diablo's eventual emergence onto the App Store.
I chose to spend my time with Diablo: Immortal as a Monk, figuring that a combo-heavy close-range fighter would test any limits imposed by touch controls. To my surprise, I found it easy to flow between activating abilities and auto-attacks, though I will say some of the buttons feel a little too close together, to the point that I would sometimes activate a health potion instead of an ability. Unfortunately, there are also no settings as of yet to address this as control changes are restricted to two pre-defined layouts that don't affect button spacing.
The only other issue I had while playing Diablo: Immortal was managing my health bar. The game doesn't give great feedback about when you're getting hit, and your lifebar in the upper corner just doesn't grab your attention like the classic Diablo life and mana spheres I'm used to. This actually didn't affect me all that much while actively playing (perhaps because I was accidentally activating potions a bunch too), but there were times when I would go to change my character's gear, and by the time I closed the menus I was surrounded by enemies attacking me. There was also a select moment in the video above where I was watching a cutscene between two NPCs and I died in the middle of it because I was being attacked while watching the story play out.
Despite the issues it causes, having this "always moving" world gives Diablo: Immortal the feeling of an MMO like World of Warcraft. This is especially true once you start seeing other players wandering areas alongside you. Perhaps the biggest flash of nostalgia I got while playing the closed alpha was actually a story mission where you have to kill bosses at three pre-defined points on the map. What I found when I wandered up to these points was a handful of players all clearly trying to complete the same objective, just like you'd find queues of players in WoW waiting for world bosses to respawn (or might still. I don't know. I haven't played WoW in years).
Outside of these elements, Diablo: Immortal feels very much like a Diablo game. You pick a class, talk to Caine, kill stuff, get loot, and repeat. When you aren't fat-fingering the controls, everything feels nice and fluid, and the whole thing looks pretty great as well. I could maybe do without the HUD elements reminding me about daily activities and premium currencies, but other than that, Diablo: Immortal seems really promising.