Diablo Immortal has now been out in the wild for some time now, and it’s basically more impressive as a game than I initially expected and more disappointing on the monetization front than anticipated. You can read a full review here, but the upshot is the game is a perfectly fine and highly polished way to do some Diablo-style grinding and the store—though shitty—can mostly be ignored.
If you don’t want to support or engage with free-to-play design and/or Activision Blizzard generally, first: I totally understand as there is no shortage of reasons for having these sentiments! And secondly: I have good news! There is a veritable bounty of games on the App Store that can deliver a very Diablo-like experience without a gross store or company attached to them. Check out our top picks below.
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 recently came across a beta test for a game called Book of Demons: Tablet Edition, which aims to bring some Diablo-like action to your iPad, and it’s shaping up to be something you might want to look out for. It’s a sort of stripped-down action rpg where you play as one of three classes and venture as far as possible deep into a dungeon whilst making occasional return trips to town to heal up, identify new gear, and purchase other upgrades before going back to battle.
Book of Demons seems to be very aware that it’s borrowing heavily from a tried and true playbook, but the game also goes out of its way to make unique design choices. Most of these changes operate to make Book of Demons a much more mobile-friendly experience. Heroes move along linear, restricted pathways, for example, and you can pick up items or attack enemies from these pathways, even if those things aren’t directly in line with you. The game also has its own “Superhot Mode” that pauses the action any time you aren’t moving your character or making them attack.
Another fascinating design choice is how Book of Demons allows you to pick and choose the length of your play session. Using the Flexiscope™, players can elect to take on quests of five different sizes, ranging from “very small” to “very big.” For each size increase, you’ll take on more floors of the dungeon for greater rewards, but that will also require more time from you to complete. I’m not really sure I can say whether there are meaningful gameplay ramifications for using different sizes on the Flexiscope™, but having a time estimation for your play sessions is nice information to have regardless.
When you first start playing Book of Demons, you only have access to a single class: the warrior. It doesn’t take too long to unlock the additional rogue and mage classes though. These archetypes act almost exactly the way you’d expect them to, though the game does have an interesting system for balancing gear usage vs. spells which can take some getting used to. Specifically, every character in Book of Demons has a certain amount of mana, and that mana determines both which spells you can equip and the kinds of gear you can put on your character. As a result, it makes sense to build characters with a good balance of hit points and mana to make sure you can use abilities and equip loot to make your hero stronger.
In this beta state, Book of Demons does have a few odd issues that hopefully get straightened out by launch. Most of the problems I’ve encountered so far pertain to the game’s card system. Sometimes when equipping cards, particularly spells or items, they appear behind another UI element, which makes them really hard to see and trigger. Also, there’s a button you can press to bring up a list of equippable cards, but tapping this button also changes between loadouts that you can customize and switch between. This can make card management quite annoying.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Book of Demons though is its startup screen. Upon booting up the beta, you can see seven different pedestals with books on them, and only one of these books is for Book of Demons. The remaining six pedestals are empty, but there is an implication that other games might stand on these some day, particularly because the title above these pedestals reads “Return 2 Games.”
Although Book of Demons appears to be the only game developer Thing Trunk has worked on, it seems they have plans to bring six more games along with it. Given the relatively high quality of Book of Demons in this beta state, I’m excited to see what other games Thing Trunk might bring to mobile, or elsewhere.
Diablo celebrates its 20th anniversary on December 31, and Blizzard is planning on going all out to commemorate the occassion with a series of events in a number of Blizzard games. Diablo, over its long lifespan, has cemented itself as one of the most iconic games in industry history. Fans will be treated to special content and limited-time items in Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft II, World of Warcraft, Diablo II, and, of course, Hearthstone to commemorate the event.