Before you read further, you should know about the ongoing lawsuit that was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Activision|Blizzard for sexual misconduct towards female employees, the company’s “frat boy” culture, its hiring and employment practices that was discriminatory against women alongside it’s over-reported toxic environment against marginalized employees that was made by more than 2,600 people which has the bulk of this investigation stating violation against basic civil rights. If you want to know more about this lawsuit, please check out Game Informer report on this.
The negative stigma against mobile gaming will never go away; the pervasive practice of tricking and scamming players into expediting their grind against casual players will never sit well – no matter how loud our voice against this is, because regardless these companies are making bank. When Activision|Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal (DI), the gaming community sighed and practically spat at the notion of the next iteration of Diablo coming to mobile because of said stigma. With numerous delays, ActiBlizz promised that the game will be 100% grind based with their loot and promised that the game is true to its core – and a small part is…. except the most meaningful elements.
Lord of the Same’y Plot with minor Gameplay Improvements
DI is set several hundred years after Diablo 3 (I think? that part isn’t clear to me) and yet again, a savior rises to protect Sanctuary against great Evil. You will be choosing a class once more but this time with excellent customization option – actually, TOO excellent for Mobile gaming as you can alter facial features, hair and tattoos. You will soon find yourself killing demons and having them loot vomit your way to Paragon 1 in no time, eventually fighting the main threat of this story arch after dismantling 8 dungeons. The game is entirely MMO with plenty of servers to choose from – which feeds into the limitations of DI, more on that soon. DI 10hr campaign is surprisingly dense and can be experienced entirely and fairly as a F2P player because the meat and bones of DI has to do with Paragon Leveling and World Difficulty – more on that soon as well. DI is an excellent send-off to Diablo 3 given that the game graphically looks identical to Diablo 3 with some major improvements to the environments, and the story design being tracked and linear whereas Diablo 4 will be entirely player choice with no linear path.
The game’s build craft fantasy is tempered in DI – the game plays largely the same as Diablo 3 with exceptionally responsive controls and attacks, however, instead of leveling and unlocking new variants of your abilities + passives, you’ll have the base form of each ability alters based on Legendary Gear. Example: as a Wizard your Black Hole ability spawns in an area that damages enemies near it; to alter it you’ll need a secondary Legendary gear that alters the Black Hole from stationary to forward motion sucking enemies in and damaging them. You can further alter it by getting Legendary Gems to add the ability to have your Black Hole also vacuum projectiles – it’s a balancing element that works well enough for PVP if P2W wasn’t a thing. And given that this game has large open zones with players roaming around completing world events and killing Elite monsters, the game feels much more alive than ever before.
Potion has a small timer between usage that gets replenished by visiting towns or killing enemies. There’s no mana bar to worry about as each ability has a cooldown, much like how all MMO’s work. You can further reduce the cooldown by obtaining said stats in gear and gems.
The Pay-2-Win Greed
As I mentioned before, as a F2P player you will be able to experience all of what DI has to offer as a full package; 10hr story campaign, 8 dungeons, world events, side missions, Challenge and Elder Rifts, Helliquary Raid, The Cycle and Battlegrounds PVP content, Clans and Warbands, Player Finder and more at a decent rate of gameplay too. You can complete all of this on Normal which would get you to Level 60, Legendary Gear on all slots, Gems crafted to Rank 4 and some Legendary Gems at mostly 1 Star unless your lucky is gargantuan. This for the most part is more than enough for casuals, and it’s well worth your time. However, this is where it all falls to shit – not excusing my French – because if you’re trying to be remotely good at anything endgame, this is where the game basically suffocate the F2P players to invest an insurmountable time on Legendary Gem farming, which is the only source to level your Resonance Power that makes you as a player strong enough to get better loot – namely, Legendary Set gear. Legendary Gem farming loops players into grinding multiple sources for a chance to MAYBE get anything above 2-Star Gems. This is how it works:
- Complete an Elder Rift for a chance to get a small number of Fading Embers, which can only be obtained effectively if you’re with a team spending Rare or Legendary Crest.
- Go to an Ember vendor to then turn in these Embers for Runes – but wait, if you want a chance for a 5-Star Legendary Gem, you’ll need about 320 Fading Embers to get about 22 FA Runes – but you’re capped 200 a week and get about 18 a run….so, you got to play several hours a day, but it takes a couple weeks to MAYBE get a 5-Star Gem….
- Then you go to an Apprentice Jeweler to craft a Legendary Gem.
This is coupled with the fact that each vendor is so far apart in the main city of Westmarch, it adds more unnecessary time to the grind. The shameful part of all this is, Gear doesn’t increase your overall Resonance Power, it’s Legendary Gems and the Helliquary device for the Raid. Sure, the Legendary Gear and Sets plays a huge role to your overall build, all of which is exclusive to grinding, but Resonance increases your overall stats by a large margin of percentages – it really holds you back as a F2P player. Resonance plays a huge role on ALL endgame content, especially PVP – I have easily lost several matches in a role against 1 whale player, imagine a squad of them.
Another element that’s exclusive to the grind is the materials needed to level up your gear. Those cannot be bought only played through Raids, Challenge Rifts and Hidden Layers that spawns periodically in the world. All of which is capped based on completion – meaning if you want more rare materials to rank up your Gear, you’ll need to play progressively harder versions of Rifts and Raids, which requires more Resonance Power, which requires more Legendary Gems, which requires more Runes, which requires more Fading Embers, which requires more Rare/Legendary Crest….Yes, the grind is just as exhausting as reading that paragraph.
All of this is available to F2P players and is designed specifically to test their patience and will to play the game; DI is incredibly fun and accessible without gated elements like Potion recharge and level timers like how it’s practiced in every other Mobile game, but all of this comes at the cost of pervasive monetization practices. This is what I mean:
As a player, you will play the first chapter feeling incredibly powerful earning loot that changes your appearance, while experiencing high quality content that’s responsive and balanced for the most part. Then the game spikes in difficulty and now the loot isn’t dropping as much – so the game gives you a bundle that could benefit you – a $0.99 price tag that is 800% discounted. What’s a dollar, right? As you progress, you realize you’re stronger, but not by much – that bundle gave you 200 Eternal Orbs, a premium currency that can help you get another bundle at 700% discount, but it cost 400 Orbs – okay, you’ll just get 200 more. But wait, you can only buy 300 Orbs for $4.99. No problem, I’ll save the extra 100 for later – only to find out that the cycle repeats, making you spend more than you need. It’s a classic trick to get unsuspecting players to spend way too much on materials that doesn’t matter for the endgame. And this goes on throughout with Legendary Gear as well. Sure, you’ll get orange drops, but they’re not at their fullest potential. How to make unlock its fullest potential? By purchasing a Dawning Echo for 1000 Eternal Orbs.
Despite the fact that the game is farmable, the P2W element is just too daunting and overpowered – this is implemented alongside its limitation factor. It has been studied by several players in Reddit that the game has brutal caps on practically all levels of DI from Battle Pass points, Legendary Drops, normal gems, bounties, world bosses and a lot more. How are F2P players going to compete against whales when you’re limiting them to the simplest grind? It’s disgusting and the fact that Blizzard hasn’t made a public statement regarding this blatant outcry says a lot about the company.
It gets increasingly difficult to find the positives in Diablo Immortal when all the greatest elements are drowned by its predatory pay-2-win mechanics. DI is an exceptionally brilliant game that is balanced well, plays excellently and looks absolutely bonkers on my Galaxy Note 10+, if only tweaked just enough to give F2P players a fighting chance – all of which cannot be justified when most of the gameplay elements aren’t accessible, instead it’s gated behind a daunting paywall.