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ReviewGaming

Diablo Immortal in the test: A mobile game between hit and hell

PC Games
Fürth, on 17.06.2022

Good news: We have phones! That's why we tested Diablo Immortal intensively for two weeks, on smartphones and, of course, on PC. In our big test with video, we clarify whether the criticism of the Free2Play model is justified, what makes Diablo Immortal really good anyway - and whether Blizzard can still save the game's reputation.


This is an article from our content partner "PC Games". Here you can find the original article by editor Felix Schütz.


Since its announcement, Diablo Immortal has been under fire. A mobile game with a Free2Play model? No fan of the cult series was really waiting for that. The many negative headlines that Blizzard has made in the last few years didn't make the mood any better: Shortly after its launch, Diablo Immortal was rated in the ground on Metacritic, and the user score is at an all-time low. At the same time, the mobile game seems to be well received by many players; according to Blizzard, Diablo Immortal was installed more than 10 million times after just a few days. But even such a number can't outweigh the avalanche of criticism that has been rolling over the game for weeks: Successful or not, Blizzard has disappointed a lot of fans with Diablo Immortal.

At the center of the accusations: the payment model: Diablo Immortal is a greedy Pay2Win game, shamelessly designed to pull money out of the players' pockets. But there are also counter opinions: Time and again, players speak up who don't spend a dime - and still have fun with the thing. Some even go further, praising the game as one of the most beautiful mobile games of all time. And who is right?

In our long-term test, we take a look at what's wrong with the game, what it does really well, and whether Diablo Immortal is worth your time. Because as our test video also shows: You shouldn't invest your money in the game.

Mobile game in console quality

Diablo Immortal has also been released for the PC, but it is (still) almost identical to the gaming experience on Android and iOS. But Blizzard had already made that clear in advance: Diablo Immortal is and remains a mobile game, and the open beta on the PC doesn't change that much. And anyone who thinks Diablo wouldn't work on a smartphone anyway probably hasn't played it yet: After a few minutes, the action RPG runs really well on the touchscreen, the interface is well thought-out, all important features are on board, and the action is smooth. If you like, you can also use a controller in the mobile version - but we find that the touch input provides a better experience, especially the menus can be operated more quickly with the fingers.

Wer Diablo Immortal nur für seine Story spielt, braucht keinen Cent ausgeben und bekommt trotzdem richtig viel geboten.
Wer Diablo Immortal nur für seine Story spielt, braucht keinen Cent ausgeben und bekommt trotzdem richtig viel geboten.
Bild: PC Games

Six classes are on board, and all of them are effect-packed, powerful, and pleasantly familiar. Your barbarians, wizards, and demon hunters let it rip in a similar way as in Diablo 3, with brightly colored spells and powerful blows that also have an effect on the small phone screen. The graphics are only slightly inferior to Diablo 3. If you have a reasonably fast iOS or Android device, you will get beautifully designed levels, colorful effects, detailed animations and varied monsters, all in the usual Blizzard quality. Together with the successful musical accompaniment and motivated English voice actors, there is a good atmosphere even on the smartphone.

Successful interlude

The story is set between Diablo 2 and the third part and not only introduces new characters and villains, but also brings back many old acquaintances. The lore does get bent quite a bit here and there, including a new head villain that appears seemingly out of nowhere. All in all, the main quest is still absolutely decent and feels like a smaller Diablo 3. You should plan a good ten hours for the story, and if you do some other stuff on the side, you'll be busy for a lot longer until the finale.

In einem Charaktereditor passt ihr die Spielfigur euren Wünschen an.
In einem Charaktereditor passt ihr die Spielfigur euren Wünschen an.
Bild: PC Games

One highlight is the nicely designed city of Westmark, which serves as your central hub. Here you'll find numerous merchants, craftsmen, quest givers and other players. You'll also start the numerous end-game activities from here and improve your equipment. You'll travel to different lands in Sanctuary, fighting your way through forests, crypts, deserts, mountains, swamps and so on. This feels like a best-of Diablo 3 for the most part and lacks its own ideas, but at least everything is nicely designed and shows the Blizzard-typical attention to detail.

As usual for mobile games, most of the tasks are very short, which is especially true for the minute-long side quests that provide variety on the way. Along the way, there are always small random events that try to lure you away from your goal. You can do this, but it's not a must. The main story offers the most, there's a lot of dialog and cutscenes, nicely staged boss fights and a few dungeons with fancy script events. Strictly speaking, this is nothing special anymore, but Diablo Immortal noticeably raises the bar for a mobile game.

As the first Diablo ever, Immortal is also a full-fledged MMO. There is no offline mode or private game world, only sporadically do you end up in instances that are reserved for you alone. That's why you'll encounter other players practically everywhere, who hunt monsters, open crates or complete quests. That's more than unusual for a Diablo and by no means wanted by every fan. (Remember: Diablo has been designed as a co-op game since the first part, but you can also experience it completely alone).

Vor Dungeons stellt ihr euer Team mithilfe einer simplen Gruppensuche zusammen.
Vor Dungeons stellt ihr euer Team mithilfe einer simplen Gruppensuche zusammen.
Bild: PC Games

Diablo goes MMO

Nevertheless, loners also get their money's worth. However, the omnipresent players often lead to strange moments, for example when someone triggers a story event that you are not supposed to see yet. To you, this looks like the player is simply knocking into the void. Diablo Immortal also breaks with tradition: almost all levels are handcrafted, after all, all players share the same world. Thus, except for the dungeons, there are no more randomly generated environments. You also have to be prepared for sudden respawns, after all, all players want to get enough loot and enemies. While this is necessary, sometimes it just gets a little inelegant when, for example, a crate or an elite mob spawns right in front of your feet.

The zone events (from the second difficulty level) can also get chaotic. For example, when two dozen players try to escort an NPC, flatten enemies and collect loot at once - we haven't experienced such heavy lags in a long time. Or when we want to tackle a public raid boss like the fancy designed Blood Rose: We gave up after 20 minutes because someone didn't understand that the creature regularly heals itself when you get too close to it. We would have liked to be able to communicate better with the other players, but the chat function is not really good on PC or mobile and still lacks some comfort. There were practically never any agreements with random players. The group search and guild management are also rather daunting at first with their abundance of options. The same applies to the vast amount of upgrade systems, which we will get to know later. Here and there, Diablo Immortal simply seems overloaded.

Blutrose ist einer von mehreren großen Bossen, die sich nur in großen Teams knacken lassen.
Blutrose ist einer von mehreren großen Bossen, die sich nur in großen Teams knacken lassen.
Bild: PC Games

Talents and Paragon

However, Diablo Immortal takes a simple approach when it comes to the talent system of all things. Similar to Diablo 3, you unlock skills automatically by leveling up, but this time without the skill runes to vary talents. This job is now taken over by the legendary items. So if you want to turn a hail of arrows into a rain of bombs, for example, or an energy beam into a bolt of ice, you first have to find the right legendary item. The selection is much smaller than in Diablo 3, though, and you can also extract the skill variants from your items and then transfer them to other equipment. Basically, you have almost the same system as in Diablo 3 again - it's just a bit smaller and more cumbersome.

Das Talentesystem fällt leider sehr simpel aus.
Das Talentesystem fällt leider sehr simpel aus.
Bild: PC Games

However, the Paragon system has been greatly expanded. From the maximum level of 60, several small talent trees now await you, in which you distribute points to unlock passive bonuses and special effects. The system is extensive and keeps you busy for a long time, especially since the upgrades in the trees are quite powerful. However, only one tree can be active at a time and most of them are only unlocked at high levels - so we have yet to find out what awaits us beyond Paragon 30.

After a few hours, however, the suspicion we already had during the beta phase is unfortunately confirmed: The Free2Play model in Diablo Immortal is clearly of the greedy variety. But that doesn't mean that you are forced to buy something to have fun with Diablo Immortal. Those who simply want to play through the story and have no intention of spending much time in the game afterwards can completely ignore the in-game purchases. For these players, Diablo Immortal is indeed free, and will remain so in the future - after all, all future updates, including new classes, features, areas and so on, will remain free.

But: Diablo Immortal does not limit its in-game purchases to cosmetics (e.g. costumes without gameplay value) or simple comfort functions like remote access to the marketplace. If you want to play the action RPG as intensively as its predecessors and also be successful in the endgame, you have to be prepared for an incredibly tough progress - or take real money in your hand at some point.

Mit fragwürdigen Angeboten versucht uns das Spiel immer wieder in den Shop zu locken.
Mit fragwürdigen Angeboten versucht uns das Spiel immer wieder in den Shop zu locken.
Bild: PC Games

Free2Play from hell

The developers don't make a big secret of their intentions either: For example, when you've packed a big story dungeon for the first time, you won't receive any nice loot as a "reward", but... a Lootbox! Not as a gift, mind you, but to buy. After each dungeon, another box is added to the store, one more expensive than the next. And of course, it doesn't stop there. Because, as in so many Free2Play games, Diablo Immortal is teeming with different currencies and progress systems. Some of them are so cleverly intertwined that you can hardly estimate the costs behind them. Especially since many things are only unlocked after several hours of play, which means: As a beginner, you have no insight, but are initially still happy about the rapid progress.

But once you've managed the first 30 or 40 levels, it becomes clearer and clearer: almost everything can be improved somehow, somewhere. And almost everything requires the use of rare resources, which can only be earned with an enormous amount of time. Valuable advancements for your character beckon from every corner, and the game never tires of reminding you with clever tricks. For example, you can now upgrade your equipment in ranks. Starting at rank 6, new, valuable attributes are then unlocked, which you can then re-roll with reforging stones. If you put three effects of the same type into an item, you'll even get another bonus effect. So it's actually a cool feature! But until you scrape together the necessary materials to unlock all three bonus attributes, you should plan on a lot, really a lot of time. We suspect the majority of players will never get to see any of the game mechanics - and that can't be the point.

Auf dem Markt könnt ihr Fertigkeitssteine und Juwelen verkaufen, dafür erhaltet ihr wertvolles Platin.
Auf dem Markt könnt ihr Fertigkeitssteine und Juwelen verkaufen, dafür erhaltet ihr wertvolles Platin.
Bild: PC Games

Another example is the Legacy of the Horadrim. For this upgrade system, you basically just need to open a few crates with keys, from which you can then get special resources for further upgrades. The more crates you open, the more loot you get. This isn't just boring as hell, because you have to do the same dull dungeon day in and day out. The keys are also used up in no time. You can earn a few of them for free every day, but in the long run your progress will be noticeably slowed down. That's why there's a second way to open the crates - by simply spending platinum instead of the keys.

Platinum is a special currency that you earn through trade in the marketplace. Here you can sell rare, unbound items to other players. But until you have really large amounts of platinum, you have to sell a lot of items - and that can take time. That's why, of course, there's another way to get platinum, namely by using Eternal Orbs - and these orbs are the only currency in the game that you can really only get for real money. There is simply no way to collect the orbs randomly or earn them through tasks. And that's exactly what we would have expected from a good Free2Play model! Buying premium currency is one thing. To completely disconnect it from the gameplay is quite another.

The loot system doesn't do anything wrong, at least at first glance: You'll find lots of blue, yellow and occasionally legendary items, just like in Diablo 3. From the second difficulty level on, green set items are also included, which can then drop in certain dungeons, for example. Another nice feature is that you can transfer free ranks for equipment to new loot for free, so you can change an item without hesitation and disassemble the old stuff into raw materials, which is very convenient. The inventory is also neatly sized and has zero administrative overhead, so the action is never slowed down by this.

Das Inventar ist aufgeräumt und erfordert kaum Aufmerksamkeit.
Das Inventar ist aufgeräumt und erfordert kaum Aufmerksamkeit.
Bild: PC Games

Legendary stones and emblems

But there is a downside to loot hunting: the infamous legendary gems, which came under fire even before the release. The gems are inserted into your equipment, give you all sorts of positive effects, and are - in theory - immensely powerful. They also increase your resonance value, which drastically raises all your attributes. In addition, all legendary gems can be upgraded in ten ranks and then improved even further, which also increases their resonance and combat power bonuses. To upgrade one of these multiple times, however, you'll need to procure tons of gems of the same quality - so many, in fact, that there's no chance of catching up with paying players for free. If there is a paywall in Diablo Immortal, you can find it here.

Basically, you can also craft legendary gems, but you "only" have to get a lot of rune material. But in the small print comes the disillusionment: Even if you eventually scrape together the necessary runes to create a 5-star gem, the chance of success is just 0.045 percent. Zero point zero four five! What was Blizzard thinking?

Um legendäre Edelsteine aufzuwerten, braucht ihr Unmengen an Handwerksmaterial – und das ist ohne Echtgeldeinsatz eine verdammt langwierige Angelegenheit.
Um legendäre Edelsteine aufzuwerten, braucht ihr Unmengen an Handwerksmaterial – und das ist ohne Echtgeldeinsatz eine verdammt langwierige Angelegenheit.
Bild: PC Games

Of course: You could theoretically buy legendary stones with a lot of platinum on the marketplace. But the developers would probably prefer it if you tried to earn the precious stones in an Elder Portal instead. We already know these so-called "rifts" from Diablo 3: You fight your way through a short random dungeon, at the end of which a mini-boss and some loot await you. In Diablo Immortal, however, there is an important difference: Before you start such an Elder Portal, you can still increase your loot chance with two types of emblems. And these are the crux: Simple emblems you get for free from time to time, but even with them the chance of getting good loot is very low. Therefore, there are even stronger emblems that guarantee you a legendary stone as loot - and you can only buy them once a month for in-game currency. So Blizzard gives you just twelve legendary emblems per year! If you want more emblems and thus better drop chances, you have to spend real money. A gamble.

As this Youtuber shows, the problem goes even deeper: in fact, it seems that Blizzard has included two kinds of Legendary Emblems that look confusingly similar. Only when you read the fine print do you learn: Some emblems only drop loot that is bound to the player and cannot be traded. Others, on the other hand, drop unbound loot that you can sell for platinum in the marketplace. And you can probably guess what happens next: The first emblems you get for free in the course of the game, the latter only for real money in the store. From our point of view, this is a cheeky trick to fool the players even more.

By the way, the theoretical amount needed to completely upgrade a stone is still unclear. Some players reckon with amounts in the six-digit range. One thing is for sure: even if you're willing to shell out a lot of money, you'll get a lot more high-value loot - but even then it's far from certain that you'll be able to maximize even one stone, let alone six. Which raises the question of who Blizzard designed the whole system for in the first place. Certainly not for the normal players, because they have very little of it.

Glücksspiel: Embleme erhöhen in Ältestenportalen (Rifts) eure Chancen auf hochwertige Beute.
Glücksspiel: Embleme erhöhen in Ältestenportalen (Rifts) eure Chancen auf hochwertige Beute.
Bild: PC Games

Free2Play meets PvP

The "scent" of Free2Play also wafts through other game levels, of course. Experience points from defeated enemies, for example, play a lesser role than in the past. Instead, you should mainly work through activities and quests from your codex. This keeps you busy in the endgame and lures you back into the game with daily changing tasks. As a reward, you'll receive battle points, which you can use to climb up a rank in your Battle Pass. For each rank, you'll not only receive rewards like items or resources, but also a huge load of experience - and only then you'll level up reasonably quickly. Sounds cumbersome, but of course there's a reason for it: Blizzard wants you to check your Battle Pass as often as possible and see all the nice rewards that are just a purchase away.

Unten zu sehen: Wer sich einen Premium Battle Pass leistet, erhält pro Rang zusätzliche Belohnungen.
Unten zu sehen: Wer sich einen Premium Battle Pass leistet, erhält pro Rang zusätzliche Belohnungen.
Bild: PC Games

The Battle Pass is free, but if you shell out some dough here and treat yourself to a Premium Pass, you can unlock a bunch more with extra rewards. What bothers us about this is that at the end of a season, this upgrade is lost again and you would have to buy the Premium Battle Pass a second time. As a one-time investment, we would have found that perfectly fine; after all, the developer has to live off something. But in this form? No thanks.

The Free2Play model raises questions, especially in the endgame, because Diablo Immortal relies more than ever on PvP content. It even comes with its own side story, including quests, guilds, upgrades and much more: You'll get to know the Immortals, the immortal heroes of Sanctuary, early on. Their counterparts are the Shadows, a secret society with the goal of challenging and testing the Immortals. An eternal cycle, in which you should of course get involved. To do this, you must first join the Shadows and become part of a guild. Here you'll then have various tasks to choose from, including simple monster arenas or some nicely done side quests that are also suitable for solo players.

However, some of this content is more than strange, such as the daily gathering. Players have to meet in one place at a certain time, stand around for minutes and give each other buffs. It makes you wonder what this is supposed to have to do with Diablo. Fortunately, the player-versus-player battles are the main focus. For the first time in a Diablo, there are now real raids and large-scale team battles. Leading your team to victory strengthens your house and qualifies you for tournaments, until you can finally challenge the Immortals to a final battle. This gives you the chance to take the crown and become the next Immortal.

PvP-Schlachtfelder sind ein Novum für die Diablo-Reihe.
PvP-Schlachtfelder sind ein Novum für die Diablo-Reihe.
Bild: PC Games

The whole system is a breath of fresh air and fun, but it also seems unnecessarily complicated here and there. Despite a lot of help, it takes a while to get the hang of everything. In addition, some PvP modes only take place at fixed times, which also seems like an unnecessary restriction. But at least: Thanks to the schedule, you can quickly find other players for a match.

With the handbrake on

The Reliquary of Hell, another end-game feature, could not be used at the beginning due to a bug. Only when Blizzard reacted after a week were we allowed to upgrade. The Reliquary is another upgrade mechanic that requires you to defeat extra strong raid bosses, basically requiring an experienced group of eight players. The system isn't bad, but of course comes with its own special currency, called scoria. This stuff is earned only once a week through successful raids, so progress is very slow at the beginning. In the beta, it was still possible to earn Scoria through daily bounty tasks, which was slow but fair. However, Blizzard has now removed this option without replacement - an additional brake for the players, which should tempt them to make further purchases.

Lassal ist einer der ersten Raidbosse, für die ihr eine große Spielergruppe braucht.
Lassal ist einer der ersten Raidbosse, für die ihr eine große Spielergruppe braucht.
Bild: PC Games

Stable servers and crossplay

The servers deserve a lot of praise, though, as they were stable practically around the clock in our first two weeks of play. And if there was a rare disconnect, we were able to log right back in without any loss. Flawless! And that, of course, brings us to cross-play support: You can play Diablo Immortal on Android, iOS, and PC at will and switch between the devices. As long as you link your account to Battle.net, you can jump from one device to the next in seconds and continue playing seamlessly. This also worked really well in the test.

PC as Open Beta

As mentioned at the beginning, Diablo Immortal on PC is still almost a 1:1 implementation of the mobile version. As Blizzard told us in an interview, they first want to collect feedback from the open beta and then improve the PC client bit by bit. This is especially true for the controls, but also for the technology and of course the bugs - we encountered a few of them. Here and there our inputs were misinterpreted, sometimes level objects seemed to float or NPCs didn't always spawn where they were supposed to. In the end, however, most of the bugs were harmless.

Even though the controls still leave a lot to be desired, you can already play Diablo Immortal quite well on the PC. You can choose between the gamepad, WASD keys or the classic mouse. However, because the game was primarily designed for touchscreens, you have to get used to it a bit. For example, when you move the cursor over an object, no tooltip is displayed, you have to click everything by hand. The extensive menus, the bulky chat function and the huge fonts also clearly show that there is still a lot to do in the PC implementation. However, it is already playable and no one needs to fear a wipe - so those who want to start on the PC can do so without further ado.

But now the question arises whether Diablo Immortal is worth your time at all. The development team from Blizzard and Netease makes no secret of the fact that the game should make money, and preferably a lot of it. The result is a ubiquitous store, an intentional jumble of scarce resources, imposed progression mechanics, and arbitrary brakes - all designed with the clear ulterior motive of keeping you in the dark about your costs so you'll buy something now and then. That's where discipline comes in: if you keep yourself in check, don't spend any money, and just invest some time instead, you'll probably never reach the maximum as a free player - but that doesn't mean you can't have fun because of it. Especially for casual players who primarily want to experience the story and don't value PvP or the very highest difficulty levels, Diablo Immortal has a lot to offer.

Nevertheless, Blizzard has to accept the reproach: They are actively trying to pull money out of your pockets. Especially compared to games like Path of Exile, which use a fair Free2Play model, this is really bitter. That's why we'd like to give you a clear warning: If you're susceptible to catcha-mechanics or real-money purchases, you'd better give the game a wide berth. However, for casual gamers who can handle the store and all its tricks, Diablo Immortal is undoubtedly worth a look.

Conclusion: Can the reputation still be saved?

Diablo Immortal may still be a big success for Blizzard at the moment, but it doesn't have to stay that way. The more word gets out about how the payment model is structured, the greater the likelihood that players willing to pay will lose interest. From our point of view, Blizzard should announce a thorough redesign, not only of the store, but also of the loot. If, for example, all items were to drop more frequently in between, i.e. all resources, gems, keys, platinum and so on, the pay2win factor would no longer be so great - and the loot hunt would be more exciting in one fell swoop. We remember: Diablo 3 also "only" needed a hefty update for the loot system to turn the problem child into a really fun loot hunt. (The deactivation of the auction house was comparatively unimportant!) For this reason, we don't want to write off Diablo Immortal yet and will take another look at the game at a later time. Until then, our rating is valid, which refers to the mobile version. The PC version is on the same level, but as an open beta, it hasn't earned a rating yet.

Diablo Immortal is being torn apart by many fans, and even Blizzard itself is trying to distinguish Diablo 4 from the mobile version. That's why we're naturally curious about your opinion: Do you agree with the rating or would you have given more or less? If you've already played Diablo Immortal, were you tempted to spend money anywhere? And what do you think about the future of the game? Write us your thoughts and tell us what you think about the game!

Like it or hate it - but please don't put any money into Diablo Immortal

Diablo Immortal confirms all my expectations - and many of my fears - in the test. As a mobile game, the game is a small board: Netease and Blizzard tease out great graphics and a smooth gameplay even from mid-range phones, the atmosphere is almost as dense as in Diablo 3 and the loot hunt - although noticeably simplified - is fun even on the small touchscreen. Is it a full-fledged replacement for Diablo 4? Of course not! But it was never planned that way, and I don't play it that way either.

You can be divided about the MMO concept, but for me the other players are no obstacle. In any case, I'm playing the release version pretty intensively again. And even though it gets monotonous at some point, I can't deny it: As a pastime for in between, Diablo Immortal actually amuses me. But: I haven't invested a cent in the game and won't do so. I know a lot of Free2Play games and can usually estimate quite well where the costs lurk. Diablo Immortal, however, is designed in a way that keeps you guessing as much as possible; many features and currencies seem to exist only to lure players into the store - so that you'll eventually spend money on something you don't actually need. Because this also has to be clear: You can get a whole lot of playtime out of Diablo Immortal without spending any money. You get the entire campaign, all classes, and all skills for free. Only the upgrade systems threaten to reach the point where progress becomes terribly slow.

By the way, this also affects paying players, which only makes things more tragic. Therefore, my advice to you: If you're not prone to gambling and in-game purchases, go ahead and install Diablo Immortal. Play through the story, do a few end-game activities, take it easy - and eventually just throw it off your hard drive when you've had enough. What you shouldn't do, though: Put money into a game that simply doesn't thank you for it. Charging a few euros for a permanent Season Pass, new classes, additional chest slots or cosmetics would be perfectly fine with me. But when I can tell at every turn how a game is trying to motivate me to buy it, something is going wrong. Diablo Immortal needs a redesign from my point of view. I really hope that the people in charge at Blizzard (or Microsoft?) make the right decisions here at some point.

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