Friday 1 July 2022

Diablo Immortal is one of the most frustrating games I've ever played.

 They built the next Diablo game, a good game with solid mechanics and (so far) a good story, and then turned it into one of the most aggressively-monetized pieces of shit I've ever seen whose purchasing tactics are downright insulting. The more I play this game the harder it becomes to express my distaste in words.

TL;DR 2: I have a lot good to say about Diablo Immortal as well but it's only worth talking about, I think, to lament how good this game could have been.

I could list all the pluses but it really comes down the minuses. I'm even including the mobile game I tried a week ago that, for every 30 seconds of gameplay, forced me to watch about 2 minutes of ads. It was an instant delete after one round.

I really do think DI is a great game that could have won both D2 and D3 fans over if it was a traditional console or PC game, and even drummed up support for Diablo 4. In fact, if the gameplay (minus the microtransactions) is any indication of how Diablo 4 might turn out, I'm happy. There seems to be a ton of end-game activities, it's mildly MMO (which seems executed well), the combat is a huge leap over Diablo 3 (though the controls are a bit awkward on a PC with a mouse), the story is nowhere near as campy as Diablo 3, and the skill system is much more in-depth than past Diablo games (which is hilarious given its primary platform). In an other timeline, perhaps Diablo Immortal was a late-stage expansion to Diablo 3 and perhaps even redeemed the company in the eyes of its (past) fans.

Instead, it's a pay to win nightmare. I haven't even gotten to the point yet where the rewards really slow down (level 30) but I'm bothered by the idea of how much and how often the game brings you to a dialog asking you to pay some amount of money. Even more irritating, I'm bothered by how closely the itemization system is tied to monetization. *You need to pay money to do activities or spend months/*years grinding for shit you could get by spending $10.

There's one-shot costs.

There's monthly costs.

There's a battle pass (???).

Your progress slows down dramatically as you approach 60 and even has mandatory grind levels, stopping your story progress entirely for 2-3 levels at a clip. Holy shit this feels like intentionally awful game design.

There's gigantic spikes in difficulty that, knowing the monetization options, feel completely disingenuous.

There's two types of currencies (just asking you to fuck up and overpay for one so you'll have to pay the other, only to fuck up again and do the reverse).

There's "+570% great value!" costs.

There's some ridiculous track thing that you can pay (twice?) to upgrade or something maybe I think? Is this the battle pass? The naming here really makes no sense.

The game literally fucking shames you by calling your gear "Poor" quality, psychologically incentivizing you to spend money. Come on.

There's an absurd amount of "Claim" buttons all over the game's UI that I would completely lose track of were it not for these helpful red dots.

There's more vendors than you can shake a D3 greater rift loot drop at, and I'm not even sure what they all do and why the game needs them all, and why the game needs another vendor whose sole purpose is to try to sell you things for real money. Is gold even useful in this game?

There are so many fucking currencies and resources that it is so easy to lose track of everything. I swear to god and/or satan that this is a tactic to get you to simplify it all in your head by just spending money on it. I would never remember where to get everything if it weren't for the helpful "Get More" button on everything.

What even are regular gems?

What even are charms? Do I need to spend real money on this crap?

Ok, charms are so fucking rare it's insane. I got like 2 dozen and none are for my class.

Some in-game purchases are time-gated. What the fuck? Is this an attempt to prevent people from buying their way to max level as soon as the game is released?

They're even planning to continue development on this game with content patches, which makes it even more of a hot mess shame it exists in this state. Are they going to charge for new zones?

And there are things you can only get by paying money. The legendary drop rate in Rifts is insulting-to-humanity low without a crest.

"Bro, I just want to upgrade my gear." "NO PAY ME!" "Go away!" "PAAAAAAYYYYYY MEEEEEEEE! And also while you're at it, pay me a bit to stuff a legendary gem in there, or pay me again to buy another legendary gem to upgrade that other bitch to rank 2. Ha ha! No, really, pay me. Now."

If the math for a video I watched is to be believed, you can spend about $100,000 on this game before you max out a character. That is unbelievably absurd.

I want to like this game. I really do. If the PC port got a more traditional PC UI (doubtful), it would be one step closer. If the monetization schemes were toned down, it would be one step closer. If the resources, vendors and upgrade systems were mechanically simplified somehow it would be one step closer. But honestly, at this point it'd never be a darling in the Diablo series because of how horrific the monetization is and how pervasively annoying the "give me money" prompts are and, worst of all, how absurdly closely tied paying money is with how the entire fucking itemization system works.

It kind of ruins the name "Diablo". And it's a fucking shame because there's a fantastic game underneath it. IMO it's far better than it has a right to be but the forced monetization scheme just drags it all through the mud.

Mobile games often force their monetization systems upon you through gameplay mechanics: 1) time-gating things, 2) making the grind excessively long, 3) throwing a ton of ads at you, 4) slowing and/or stopping your progress, etc. Diablo Immortal clearly does 1 and 2, and I'm told later on it will do 4.

I would be less annoyed if the underlying game wasn't as good as it is, and annoyed less still if this wasn't supposed to be a major Diablo franchise game. That Warcraft Arclight Rumble game looks like a throw-away Warcraft title. But DI? Instead, it's sandwiched between Diablo 2 and 3 and is an essential (sort of) part of the franchise's story.

One of the finest moments in this game for me so far came shortly after finding the Lacuni encampment. This game does a far better job of characterizing monsters than not only other Diablo games but many other games period. One character asks you to "get proof" of a deed of killing a big ass Lacuni. Kill the monster, click on its dead body and then my Wizard said this to himself:

"If Zov is right, Tabri won't believe me without proof the deed has been done. Ugh. This is going to get messy."

The action has now turned into "Collect Pelt". For once, a character took a minute to acknowledge that cutting up a monster for a body part is actually kinda gross.

"Hey! Look who's back! Oh, and with a... pelt. Ooh, that's disturbing -- but clever! Tabri won't be able to deny such, uh... compelling evidence."

There is so much more care in the writing in this game than past Diablo games. It really makes me sad for this game seeing what systems were saddled on top of it.

P.S.: Bounties in DI are some of the biggest bullshit I've ever seen Blizzard do. I have to kill 60? And only like 2-3 at a time? Seriously? And with an entire zone of players hunting them as well? It seems the intention is something you do for an entire week or something but that's not how the players are interpreting it.

P.P.S: And for fuck's sake, someone fix the bug where abilities get "stuck" and I have to press every ability button again to find out which one it is before I can do any action other than walk.