Diablo Immortal came out last week, and I've gone ahead and committed to playing a bunch of it to put out a review after going in-depth on such a meaty release. While I still plan to do exactly that, I've hit a bit of an unexpected snag along the way. From the outside working my way in, I was fully expecting for its lavish production values and loot lust to draw me closer and closer toward a seductive paywall. To my surprise, that hasn't happened, and even more surprising are the reasons why.
I've put quite a few hours into Diablo Immortal's story and other side quests so far and haven't really felt a hint of need explore any of its monetized aspects. In theory, this is good news, as everyone's speculation heading into the game's release would be that it would be some horribly monetized bastardization of Diablo (which it is obviously not). In practice, though, I'm having a hard time mustering much enthusiasm or curiousity about just about anything Diablo Immortal has to offer, regardless of quality.
To clarify, I don't mean that Diablo Immortal is bad. Keep in mind this isn't a review. I am not quite prepared to render a conclusive opinion like that just yet. But, what I will say is Immortal's brand of rpg action seems so smooth, streamlined, and focused on player comfort that I don't really feel like I have much agency in the world it's created. Yes, of course, I can control my character and mix-and-match their abilities and I use those tools to go on quests to kill demons and such, but there's no snag that asks me to do or think much about any of this while I do it.
So, while Diablo Immortal definitely operates a lot like a traditional Diablo game, I keep waiting for some system or set of mechanics that make me feel like I have a stake in my character and the world built up around them. So far all I have been treated to is a set of quests and repeatable dungeons that offer virtually no challenge, a quest log that guides me to the exact places I need to go to, a set of abilities that all feel pretty similar against a lot of enemies that may look different but fight in essentially the same ways, and a lot of free-to-play window dressing that so far doesn't seem necessary in the slightest.
I keep playing in hopes that this carpet of comfort will get ripped out from under me in some way so that I can actually start thinking about how to build my character, crowd control enemies, or find the right repeatable quests for the things I need to make my character stronger in a specific way. I'm hoping that this gentle ramp of checklists I've been completing is just an overextended tutorial designed for folks unfamiliar with Diablo, action rpgs, free-to-play games, etc. ahead of a deeper and richer experience. I'm hoping that I don't just keep finding and equipping gear with green arrows next to it to make killing feeble, braindead enemies faster than it already is. I'm hoping that I don't just keep getting sent on fetch quests to kill demons who don't die so I have to face them again. I'm hoping for something to justify Diablo Immortal's existence as more than a dark fantasy social playground you can put money into, but so far that seems to be all I'm getting from it, even though it technically has all the right pieces in place for it to be readily identifable as a Diablo game.
Time will tell, and I intend to put as much in to find out what--if anything--lurks under Diablo Immortal's glossy, flawless, and somewhat empty-feeling exterior.