Thoughts/Impressions of Diablo IV’s Public BETA Weekends

My Thoughts/Impressions of Diablo IV’s Public BETA Weekends

(all the good stuff, bad stuff, and everything in-between + additional thoughts on how each class felt)

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Diablo IV launches on June 6th, 2023 for PC (Battle.Net), XBOX, & PlayStation with a 4 days Early Access (no wipe) for pre-orders (so kind of really launching June 2nd).

Diablo IV’s First Public Beta Test is behind us and I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to talk about. As is to be expected there were both positive and negative things to discuss & I’ll start with the positives but also add short summary of both at the end if you wanna put them side by side. After talking about the beta in general I’ll also express my thoughts and feeling about playing each of the classes. There will be 4 videos to go along with this blogpost: one for my general beta impressions, and 3+2 more dedicated to my experiences while playing the Sorcerer, Rogue, & Barbarian + Necro & Druid. PLEASE keep in mind that THIS IS NOT A REVIEW as what we played was NOT THE FULL & FINAL PRODUCT and it would be silly to ‘review’ the game. For example: one would not review a restaurant’s dish/meal by only tasting the spices without the core ingredients.

EDIT: This blogpost was updated after the second public beta & now includes information for the Necromancer & Druid classes + anything additional felt worth adding. The text of the paragraphs & titles of any newly added section will be in this color so it’s easier to spot when scrolling.

Related Videos:

I’ve split this guide into multiple videos so that I can give the Sections of this article dedicated to each class their own video, which hopefully makes them easier to digest than one bulkier & massive video. So here are the videos:

General Beta Experience Summary

Overall I had fun in the beta and was happy to have a glimpse at what the Sorcerer, Rogue, and Barbarian classes feel like to play in the first act. I also enjoyed having the whole of Fractured Peaks to explore with every side quest, dungeon, cellar, etc. left there for us to find and experience. There were also quite a few things I did not enjoy, some more than others, that, hopefully, will be different at launch.

While my experience was mostly positive, It was almost a 50%/50% ratio roughly of how many things I did & did not enjoy. Let’s go trough all the things that left a positive and/or impression on me that I can think of.

Aesthetics & Worldbuilding

In terms of world building and capturing aesthetically a vibe that fits the game, I’m one of the people that agrees with the statement that Blizzard did a good job. Some people say “it looks like Diablo 3 with darker colors” but to me that is completely bullshit. They’ve done a great job at trying to take the darkness of Diablo 2 and add it into a modern engine with visuals much better than Diablo 3. They also took Diablo 3’s fast paced, high octane combat and, to a certain degree added, it to Diablo IV.

There are tombs filled with undead, demon-filled areas that portray a hellscape scenery akin to those in the FPS horror game Scorn (or as I like to call them pleasantly disgusting visuals). We have areas that look similar to the Diablo 2 Act 1 areas leading up to Andariel with those maze-like structures filled with many rooms and many rooms to get past (which some will also recognize from Diablo 3). There are plenty of dungeons of all kinds with various enemies to explore but the end of dungeon bosses (where such existed) do seems to be kind of repeating themselves in a few of the dungeons. I also really like that they have re-created in Diablo IV’s engine some of the familiar places/maps from Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 for Diablo IV’s areas and dungeons, which many people seem to be criticizing. I think it’s good to tickle our nostalgia in such ways.

Fractured Peaks is definitely capturing that snowy, mountainous, harsh & cold weather vibe in a great way and the inhabitants the developers have filled it with do fit nicely. Goatmen, skeletons, ghosts/spirits, evil demonic cultists, fallen, succubi and other minor demons, vampires of various types and so on. Many of those we know from the previous Diablo games and have been re-designed/re-imagined in what I think was a positive way.

Some of the bosses are really cool looking while others are kind of meh but still not bad. This might just be based on my own preference of what I imagine certain creatures/enemies to be like and it’s not something that impacts my experience. The thing that could impact a person’s experience is that they might find themselves needing to switch up their builds to better fit fighting a certain boss BUT the respec costs apparently will be getting unreasonable at higher levels. Up until lvl 25 they felt nice but I’ll talk about this in detail further down this post.

The Story & Quest Design

The story of the game I tried to avoid to prevent spoilers for anyone watching my streams. However, there were bugs that prevented me from skipping at some points that got fixed every time I went back to character selection and re-loaded into the game. The cinematics and story bits I’ve seen before the beta started from official Blizzard videos and the ones I caught glimpses of during the beta were all top-tier but Blizzard’s cinematics and story game has always been strong so it was to be expected.

Now, what I felt was a negative experience was what happens in-between the story beats & cut scenes and especially in the way certain main story quests were designed. Many of the main and especially side quests were so awful that it ruins the whole leveling up experience… big time. The vast majority of those are menial boring tasks that feel like a chore to do and like something that came out of an early 2000s MMORPG. One such example is having to take a certain tablet and carry it over to a different place, which so far was acceptable… BUT you have to do it again… and again… and again. It’s just one of many examples where I just wanted things to be over with. A kind of a “kill me now” feeling, which is most definitely the last thing you would want your players to feel like when doing your main quests. For side quests this boredom is acceptable but not for the main game’s story quests. So this section falls under both positive and negative.

Skill Trees

The Skill Trees felt like a great way to set the foundations of directions what one’s build is headed into. Each class has a reasonable amount of basic skills to pick from plus some core skills/resource spenders to invest into. There’s also various categories of other skills that will either also be spammable spenders, spenders that have a duration (like Hydra that can only be summoned 1 at a time unless you have an aspect that give you 1 more) that there’s no point to spam, cooldown skills such as buffs, debuffs, mobility skills, area crowd control skills, etc., or the ultimate skills that you can only pick one of. At the end of each Skill Tree there are the Key Passives that are like a final ‘capstone’ build defining skill that you have to pick one of. Every active skill has 1 first upgrade plus two different second upgrades to choose 1 from that enhance those skills in different ways.

The passive skills/talents are more than enough to compliment any combination of active skills you pick and some of them are good for any build while others are obviously meant to be synergies for specific skills (like the obvious Lighting or Fire or Ice related passives on the Sorcerer tree).

The Skill Trees might seem very basic and small to some but we have to keep in mind that Blizzard themselves said that they don’t want the game to be all about the skills you pick but rather the gear you take to compliment those skills. In this beta there were over a hundred different Legendary Aspects to pick and use on your items to define your build. The Codex of Power listed 114 (the previous closed beta footage/leaks have revealed 118 at the time). I’ve also noticed that I’m getting aspect from drops that aren’t even listed on the Codex of Power UI so they either never will be there and will be drop-only or Blizzard just hasn’t added/finished adding the dungeons they are supposed to be earned from and omitted them from the Codex of Power for that reason. With over 150 dungeons being the official number I can guess we’ll most likely have over 150 aspects.

What people did not have access to in the Public Beta was the Paragon Boards, which, in a nutshell, are pretty much taking Path of Exile‘s skill tree & chopping it into smaller bits/clusters then letting people pick the boards with passive stats and skills/mechanics they want for their build then connecting them like pieces of a puzzle. This will be what I personally consider the real “Skill Tree” that people who think the actual skill tree is “too small” or “pointless” or “not enough” may end up being happy with. While the skill tree is the starting point, after hitting level 50, players will earn Paragon Points (4 per level for 200 total at lvl 100 + some from renown) that will be spent to grant them various bonuses based on the nodes on the boards they pick, the route they take to connect those boards & nodes and the glyphs they put in the sockets/holes of those boards + the clusters they take and boost with glyphs. I sincerely hope there’s no respec costs for the paragon boards as a lot of experimentation will be needed to figure out what works well with various builds.

Skill Respecs

In terms of re-specing your skill trees up until lvl 25 and at that level it was pretty good and reasonable BUT I’ve heard that in the endgame closed beta the costs were so bad that you’d just give up on attempting a full re-spec to try a new build. Even the devs themselves said in an interview that it might be “better to levelup a new character” of the same class than to pay “millions of gold” for a full respec.

I wholeheartedly hope they would listen to reason and not design the game so that the very few % of players (Diablo 2 purists, for example) would be happy with the lack of the major quality of life that is the accessible and easy respecs. With accessible respecs one can experiment more and not be discouraged to do so the way high costs will result in. High cost will make players want to look up and play the cookie cutter meta builds that work best and are a ‘safe bet’. If they really want to encourage experimentation and switching things up (as Blizzard themselves claimed they do) to take advantage of the build diversity, then it makes zero sense to have high respec costs. And that is on top of the high experience rates & being forced to re-do it every 3 months due to seasons.

EXP Rates & Seasons

In the Beta up until lvl 25 the pacing and exp rates were good as that was expected. We’ve known from the devs themselves and from beta rumors/leaks that reaching around lvl 50ish will be reasonably fast but that the levels after that on the way to 100 will be a slow grind. The total estimated time from lvl 1 to 100 is said to be between 150 to 180 hours for an average player. If this really is going to be the case on launch then many won’t like this if they have to re-level their heroes (especially if they want to level more than just 1 character each season) with such slow exp rates.

This would have made total sense if we didn’t need to start over every season and could play the new content & mechanics with the old heroes. Like, for example, in Grim Dawn every hero you invest time to level up remains forever and can always be played on the newest content updates. As for the way Diablo IV wants to do it seems to be to force you into creating new characters if you want to play the latest content that came with that season (like PoE does) or wait until the season is over and play your old characters on that content for a bit. Or simply play your old heroes on content & mechanics that is/are a season behind. So starting over every season + bad exp rate + high respec costs = a potential disaster and most likely many unhappy players that may not return for the second season.

Visual Effects

In regards to visual effects, I believe that Blizzard did a splendid job for the skills I’ve tried. Some skills did feel clunky and weird to use but that was mechanical issues rather than visual effects (i’d prefer it if Caltrops did not jump back as it’s super weird in how it aims and where my hero ends up). Maybe one negative about the visual effects is, as with most games in the genre, aoe hazards on the ground sometimes become harder to distinguish from one another. Like some of the aoe fields we cause may be hard to tell from the ones that enemies cause. One such example would be green poison pools/fields. We can cause similar ones to happen, especially with poison imbued Rogues, and then If we’re fighting enemies that do those as well it might be difficult to tell which ones belong to us. Another negative of the way they made those fields stack on top of each other is that it may be difficult when something you’ve placed on the ground is over and need to be re-cast due to it being obscured by an enemy’s aoe hazard. Maybe figuring out a way to give us a toggle on/off for outlines or highlight or strict color coding for negative AoE hazards could be a way to make it better for the players.

The Dungeons

There were plenty of them and they pretty much took the map design of the places where the main missions take place. In fact, some of the main missions do take place in those dungeons to begin with. I like that it’s as easy as pressing a button to reset all dungeons if one wants to re-run them. I also think that some of the dungeons are horrendously designed with boring checklist/tasklist objectives that would make many people want to avoid and never do them more than the initial first clear. And considering those will be one of the semi-endgame things we run by upgrading them with nightmare sigils/keys for various ‘map affixes/mods’ into nightmare dungeons, that may not be a great way to handle this type of content. I understand they didn’t want every dungeon to be “kill all enemies then kill the boss at the end” but some of the “creative” objectives they’ve come up with are awful and ruin the whole experience with a TON of backtracking. Backtracking is something that shouldn’t happen in dungeons, so it would be best if they get redesigned in a way that all objectives/tasks, that need to be completed, are arranged in a way where you never need to go back the way you came. Going back & backtracking we obviously no longer have anything left to kill or loot on the way. I think it would be best if they rather make sure we’re constantly moving to new and unexplored parts of the dungeon on our way to the objective(s).

Itemization: Gear & Aspects

Regarding itemization there’s a a lot to say but I’ll try to just focus on the important things. First off, I like how rare items are kind of the important gear that you eventually “craft” into a decent legendary. I did not get to see any uniques but the devs have been pretty clear about uniques so I get the idea about them – being able to only equip 1 unique at the same time. So, rare items come with 3 affixes/rolls while legendary gear has 4 affixes/rolls + the Legendary Aspect they came with. This means that a rare turned into a legendary will not have the extra affix/roll BUT it will be less costly to upgrade & enchant (re-roll) overall if you do it before the imprinting. There will also be special rare gear that only drops from certain enemies that will come with affixes/rolls that can not drop on legendary gear. Many min-maxer players will want to hunt those special rares and imprint them with Legendary Aspects.

The Legendary Aspects as an idea is a great concept BUT the devs kind of made one bad decision by making it so that we can only use an extracted aspect for a single imprint. This means: we find a Legendary drop with an aspect we like and we extract that from it. Now, this extracted Aspect can be used to turn a Rare into Legendary or on an already Legendary item to overwrite it’s current Aspect. The problem is that once it’s imprinted on one piece of equipment, it can no longer be extracted for more imprinting. This kills a lot of the value of getting a decent and well rolled Aspect and forces players to farm and re-farm the same Aspects over and over again if they want to move things around from one item to another to accommodate for SLIGHT AND MINOR CHANGES to their builds.

Example: you find a very good utility aspect that you want on your gloves that already have an imprinted offensive aspect. Now you need to re-farm that offensive aspect. And then you want to put that same re-farmed offensive aspect on another slot, for example, a ring. But that ring has another offensive aspect on it that you really need and you want to move it on the amulet slot for that 50% effectiveness and remove a utility aspect that was on that amulet. And you need to place the amulet’s utility aspect on the chest that has a defensive aspect you need. Now you want to place the chest’s defensive aspect on the pants that have another defensive aspect you no longer consider as important for your build as it was before and are willing to get rid off. So what do we have on our hands? We need to re-farm what was on the gloves, the ring, the amulet and the chest just so we can manage to properly fit the new utility aspect. New utility on gloves + moving one offensive to the 50% effectiveness amulet slot + moving a utility from amulet to chest + getting rid of what was on the pants. This might seem super specific and far-fetched but I find that such cases seem to happen more than one may suspect and it will be even more common if players want to experiment and change up builds. So the conclusion is that it will be so much better if they let us re-extract imprinted aspects as much as we want and move them around our gear.

The second and maybe even bigger issue with the way itemization is done has to do with Trading.

Trading Gear: Potential for a pay-to-win grey market

At first glace, it may not be noticeable how having free unrestricted trading of rare items while prohibiting the trade of legendary gear, uniques, and materials or items modified via upgrades and enchanting hides a risk. BUT the risk that being able to trade rare items bears in ruining the economy is HUGE. As I mentioned earlier, there will be special rare items with affixes that only come on that gear obtained from specific enemies. That would mean many people would be willing to pay real money to others to trade them those items and obviously there will always be people willing to sell such gear and make a quick buck. Other cases would be getting an incredibly well rolled rare item that would be a very sough after base to use for “crafting”. People will want to buy that base & save time so they can upgrade and re-roll it then imprint an aspect on it. So, as long as there will be people willing to pay to save time & not farm gear themselves, there will be those selling such sought after gear.

I love trading in games but the way people abuse it to trade for real money ruins it for many games & gamers. There are ways to deal with it like removing trading of rares or doing it the way it’s in Diablo 3 but I doubt Blizzard would bother making the very vocal people who want to make real money from playing the game (and have been asking for trading all along) unhappy. And even Diablo 3’s trading system can be abused by selling gear boosting and carrying a ‘farm run’ to let the ‘client’ loot what they need as you run maps (but at least they gotta get lucky to get what they need so no guarantee that way).

Crafting: Enchanting, Upgrading, Socketing, & Imprinting

As systems, Enchanting, Upgrading and Socketing gear are something I love seeing in games. It adds an extra layer to consider when making one’s build and it also serves as a good sink for cold and materials. I’m mostly happy with the systems with some concerns and some things I wish were done in a better and less limiting way. I already talked about the Imprinting above (in the Itemization: Gear & Aspects section) so I’ll focus on the other 3 here.

Enchanting is pretty much Diablo IV’s system of re-rolling affixes. Take an item you like but think could use some changes in the affixes/roll and pay coins and resources to change things up. The biggest problem I have with it is that you can only re-roll 1 affix slot on an item and not all of them which is super annoying, limiting and silly. On top of that, in the beta test it was extremely expensive for a lvl 25 character to make use of enchanting due to the high gold cost involved (which applies to all 4 “crafting” systems at lvl 25).

Now, those 4 “crafting” systems are mostly likely just not balanced in a way that expects lvl 25 characters to do serious min-maxing as we’ll be replacing our gear every 4, 5, or 6 levels as we do the main story and progress on our way to endgame and lvl 50. Every 30-60 minutes we’ll most likely be finding new & better gear so we’re probably not going to bother with those system until reaching the endgame gear grind.

In regards to Upgrading, I like that they didn’t go overboard with the number of times an item can be upgraded and kept it reasonably contained but, as mention, the cost at lvl 25 to partake in this was unreasonably high. I’ve noticed that some of the items required for the higher grades of upgrade seems to be only obtained by world bosses so hopefully there’s other way to get those. I’ll talk about world bosses in the next segment/section.

Socketing is also pretty straightforward and the way you upgrade gems is similar to Diablo II except no Horadric cube is involved and you just visit the right NPC. You can also add sockets to items up to the maximum number of sockets for that specific gear type/slot. The problems I saw here were, as with Upgrading, that opening the sockets past the 1st one required materials that might only be obtained from world bosses, which I hope is not the case, as well as the high cost at lvl 25.

Inventory Management & Storage

In regards to Inventory management & storage capacity there are many positives but also a few negative things to mention. We get 33 bag slots (3 rows of 11) and each item only occupies a single slot so no inventory tetris will be needed (thankfully). The warehouse/shared storage is 50 slots per tab with what looks like room for either 6 or even 10 tabs total depending on whether new slots only appear on the right side of the first one or maybe to the left of it too. On the right side seems to be room for 5 more and on the left for what seems like 4 more can fit and the two added slots I unlocked in the beta both were right side of the first one. So whether it will be up to 300 or 500 storage slots remains to be seen. In either case it is plenty for most people, but for people like me who want to have 1 of each class and to save gear for different builds on each of them, the storage is never enough :).

Gem-specific Storage is non-existent while there is a separate interface/tab where all crafting components/materials go. Many people in the beta were unhappy that there was no dedicated gem storage so maybe this would be one of the QoL features Blizzard will consider sneaking in in the two months left until the game’s launch. The same way materials have their own separate storage/ui section in the character screen, I would love to see that system/interface either also contain gems or a duplicate of it that hold all gems of all ranks/tiers.

World Bosses

I really enjoyed the world boss fights (I participated in the first two of the 4 during the first beta weekend). I used my Sorcerer for the boss fights as I though she was the most tanky of all 3 I had leveled at that time as well as because it was the one with the best range. It was fun to manage my cooldown and to stay far enough to not get hit by Ashava but also close enough to still be able to hit with my spells and cast Hydras for extra dps. The one thing I did NOT like was that during a beta weekend of 75 hours (3 full days + 3 extra hours) the boss only spawned 4 times and at VERY weirdly picked times. I believe that the biggest world bosses should not have spawn timers bigger than 2-3 hours.

In open world MMORPGs it makes sense to have those awfully annoying and long boss spawn timers but in a co-op hack and slash arpg this is not one of the mmo mechanics that is a good idea to copy from that genre of games. I hope on launch the boss spawn timers are more reasonable so that for big bosses it’s no more than 2 or 3 hours, which will allow you to hunt them regardless of what time you are at work/school/university/etc. instead of the fear of missing out being there. That way the more casual players who only have 2-3 hours a day to spend will still be able to find a convenient time for them to do a world boss, while the hardcore grinders that have 8+ hours a day to play can just farm the bosses they want more often if they are not doing other types of content like Nightmare Dungeons, Whispers (D4’s ‘bounties), etc. This will also urge people to have more variety and spice up their dungeon or whispers grind with a world boss every 2-3 hours for variety. That said, smaller open world mini-bosses/named mobs should have between 5 and 15 minutes spawn times, ideally no more than 10 minutes.

Random Open World Events

I enjoyed seeing random events in the open world as I was progressing my story or main quests or simply while moving from point A to point B on the maps. The thing I noticed, however, is they are very repetitive in the way that they seem to just be timed and re-appear every X minutes in the same spot.

What could make it muuuch MUCH better is to make them event chains similar to Guild Wars 2. Events that are connecteds and if you complete or fail ones you trigger a reaction elsewhere on the map that progresses that chain in a different direction. You fail to defend the ambushed caravan? Well too bad now there is need for you to help defend a certain minor outpost as they didn’t get the shipment of weapons and armor they were going to. Fail to defend that outpost? Well now it’s no longer an outpost as it was overrun by the monsters and you need to retake it. This was just an example of how it could be done to make it a little more impactful and exciting to do events.

Co-op & Cross-play

I’ve grouped up with a person from NA East to level up alts together and as they were joining my party (I’m in Eastern Europe btw) I’d assume it connected them to my region’s local server/node. The other person said that they experienced zero lag or rubberbanding and the only time there will be a delay was when we traded or when I dropped items on the ground for them to pick up. The trade UI will take a bit to appear and the items I drop will also have a small delay. This may not have anything to do with the connection tho and it may just be how it works regardless of region. Will have to test the same actions with someone from my region. The co-op experience was as smooth as cutting trough butter with a hot knife and the best part was WE CAN PLAY WITH ANYONE, without the need to create a new character in a different region’s server.

Performance, Visuals, Connectivity

In terms of performance I was still not using my Radeon 7900XTX (due to no stock of the power supply I want in my country) so I played on my GTX 1060 6GB with a Ryzen 7 3700X & 32 GB DDR4 3600Mhz RAM. At 1080p & 16:9 aspect ratio in windowed mode. I had all setting to the lowest possible + AMD FSR Quality Upscaling and the performance was far from stable. Those specs meet the suggested minimum or recommended for 1080p which are as follows:

Settings to run the Diablo IV Beta at 1080p resolution, medium graphics settings, 60fps.

  • Operating System: 64-bit Windows 10
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-4670K or AMD R3-1300X
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 470
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: SSD with 45 GB available space
  • Internet: Broadband Connection

There were times where the FPS dropped almost to 0 and the 1% lows were around 2 fps, 3fps, 5fps. There was even a single case where the FPS went to 0 for a bit and the game kind of froze for a second or two. While at other times it would stay around my VSYNC locked 60 fps target. The drops are just too big to seem acceptable and there was nothing particularly demanding on screen to justify those numbers making sense.

While the performance was not stellar I still enjoyed the game especially after the queue and net-related problems subsided. The visuals, on the other hand, looked solid even on the lowest settings. I’ve tried to see how they will look on the maxed out settings and they are splendid for an isometric hack and slash game. The cut scenes rendering our in-game character in real-time was a nice addition to the Diablo franchise and I love that they went that way to make it more personal when it comes to the story.

Playing the Sorcerer

The first character I leveled up to 25 was a Sorcerer. I started off with lightning, then moved to ice and eventually into fire. When I was 25 (and leveled the other to 25) I started testing various setups and enjoyed anything I tried. There were times during my leveling up where I felt a little underpowered due to being maybe under-geared but overall had a reasonable challenge on World Tier II.

I’ve noticed that thanks to a certain passive skill Sorcerers can become very tanky when using the right skills and face tank almost everything. While with other setups, and with the right aspects, they can melt bosses in seconds during certain ultimates’ duration but maybe be a bit more squishy.

Whether we pick ice, fire or lightning we can still squeeze in Teleport in a setup as having more than one spammy spender seemed pointless. I was originally planning to use Fireball & Meteor together but then I just got rid of Fireball as it was redundant and I just spammed Meteors (keeping Fireball instead of Meteor is also a cool way to play it). Removing Fireball pretty much opened up room for Teleport without needing to sacrifice other skills I wanted. With the Inferno ultimate I would spam skills with 0 mana cost for 8 seconds and that was loads of fun. Now that I knew that having more than 1 spender was mostly a bad idea, all the builds I wanted to try felt more fun as I had that 1 extra skill slot to fill that was not in my original plans.

Barriers were a fun thing to build around and so were crowd control, chills & freeze, Crackling Energy, and the list goes on. Every single Sorc skill combo I tried to build around and synergize with my Aspects and gear felt fun and very pleasing to play.

Sorcerers at level 25 (and with any skills) seemed to not be super gear depended to get things going, which I cannot say for all skills of the other 2 classes (Rogue & Barbarian) I tried. Of course having the right Aspects in the right slots will obviously make the Sorcerers even better than they are with just yellow gear.

Playing the Rogue

Rogue was the second I got to level 25 and it was fun to level it up with a ranged setup. I was very disappointed with the basic-ness & bland behavior of Heartseeker and Forceful Arrow, so I kind of decided to use Puncture as my basic skill. As the core skill I picked Barrage as it felt super fun to use alongside Puncture (upgraded for 3 dagger throws). Caltrops was just too good to not take for that setup (or any setup actually). I decided to use Poison Imbue and Shadow Clone to mirror my actions as an ultimate. I had a blast with that setup and even added Dash for extra mobility.

Eventually, I experimented with all sorts of other skills. For example, I tried Rain of Arrows as ult but didn’t get lucky to get the synergy aspects so it felt underwhelming without good Apsects for it. On that one I was using Penetrating Shot and it also felt like there’s a lot of potential for a good setup but I lacked the Aspects to make it shine (unlike Sorc which even without aspects felt great at lvl 25 with any skills). I believe it’s just that not all skills of all classes unlock their full potential at the same character level. Building around some skills just requires more skill points to get certain passive talents to compliment those skills and/or certain Aspects to make them shine.

Once I went on to testing melee I was very pleased with Flurry combined with Invigorating Strike and the Inner Sight specialization. As an ultimate I used Death Trap for this one and it felt so fun to play and also very pleasing to the eyes visually. There were other skills I tried during my testing such as Dark Shroud which is super fun but sadly I never got that Volatile Aspect that makes the shadows explode and goes well with the other Volatile Aspect that makes Twisting Blades explode when they return to you. Cold Imbue was pretty fun on the Flurry setup for that Freeze and Vulnerable application but I think any imbue works with any setup in its own way if you pick matching gear.

Playing the Barbarian

It was the third class I leveled to 25 and the one I had the least amount of legendary items/Aspects drops to work with. Sadly, this one felt like lvl 25 was just not enough to get strong without having the right gear/aspects. While Sorcs with full yellow/rare gear can still shine, Barbarians seem to really need specific Legendary items at lvl 25. Maybe around lvl 30 when they have enough skill points to take the key passives (that require 33 points invested before them) they will get good even with only yellow gear on. That said, there are some amazing synergies you can get on barbarian and I believe with the right aspects they can probably melt bosses in a few hits. Hammer of the Ancients, Death Blow, Upheaval, Rend, Rupture all seems strong to build around.

Wrath of the Berserker was the only ultimate I tried but I feel like the Iron Maelstrom on the right setup will also be a nice one to have. I really enjoyed playing the Barbarian in co-op with a bleeding Rupture build alongside a teammate doing similar setup (I had more shouts) and just seeing us stack those bleeds and Rupture the enemies a bunch.

So, while I did try the majority of Barbarian skills, I sadly didn’t get good gear to see them truly shine and was left disappointed. But that is not to say Barbarians are bad. In fact, on paper, I think they can be probably more OP than the Sorcerer and Rogue if you fully gear them up.

Playing the Necromancer

The Necromancer class felt very good and I might even say a bit overpowered in the early levels & without legendary gear. The class starts with the ability to Raise Skeleton Warriors from the very beginning, which is a massive help, especially DPS-wise. The basic and core skills seem pretty good early on and some of them become monsters at lvl 25 with some awesome synergies from Legendary Aspects. Reap was a great skill to start leveling my Necro with and combining that with Blight seemed like a fun combo. Eventually, after gearing up the Necro, I experimented with all sorts of stuff, Shadow, Blood, Bone, no minions, only a golem, full stack of minions, etc. Here’s what I though of various skills and setups/builds I’ve tried.

The first synergy to build around I tested was to have Corpse Explosion be a DoT field that persists for a while and does Shadow damage over time to anyone inside it. I combined that with Blight that made enemies take more damage while they are in the blighted area. To further spice things up, I added two aspects to increase my Skeletal Warriors & Mages by 2 each to 6 and 4 respectively. I chose the Reapers with the chance to make corpses when hitting enemies + the Shadow Mages with extra hits every 6th shot. To that I added a Golem (we only could unlock the Bone one during the beta) to help with taunting and made it create corpses when loosing 20% of it’s max life. The key thing to combine the build and make it logical were two passives alongside a few nice Legendary Aspects. One passive (Reconstitution) allowed us a chance to create corpses each time we or our minions hit enemies, that also got doubled against bosses. That way we can always have enough corpses to work with. Why do we need that many corpses? For Corpse Explosion (mostly) as well as for other things like Corpse Tendrils or even if needed to re-raise any skeletons that get destroyed. The other important passive was Grim Harvest, which generates essence each time we consume a corpse. This allowed me to just get rid of my basic skill for essence generation and focus on Corpse Explosion and the other corpse consuming skills as generators while Blight was the spender. With so many Corpse Explosion DoT fields and Corpse Explosion not having a cooldown it felt a bit too strong versus certain types of content. On the other hand, It was not so great on world bosses as you need to get dangerously close, plus the boss Ashava moved a bit too much to rely on AoE fields as she’ll just move and no longer take hits and then we’ll need to wait a bit for new corpses to spawn and Blight the boss again. The biggest drawback against bosses was that the minions had a very… VERY small aggro/attack range. I could not stay at a safe distance and let my minions charge the world boss to generate some corpses, which is usually very doable on regular bosses as the scale of the battlefields is smaller and you’re always within reasonable range for the minions to attack. One of the aspects that went very well with this build allowed Blight to also suck in enemies towards its center periodically, which was pretty cool. I won’t go into detail about every single aspect as I wanna talk a bit about the Blood & Bone skills I tried.

Blood Surge (nova) build with Corpse Explosion and Blood Mist was extremely fun and another one that excels against most type of beta content at lvl 25. I did use Hemorrhage at first but then I applied the same strategy as the Shadow build (using Reconstitution to generate corpses & Grim Harvest to generate essence when consuming corpses) and I felt it was better to remove the basic skill and to have the slot for either another minion (Golem & Skeletons each require their own skillbar slots) or a cooldown skill. The build-around-me item and idea behind the setup was the Explosive Mist aspect that triggers Corpse Explosion from nearby corpses while we are in Blood Mist form (without the need to even put skill points into Corpse Explosion). This combined with some Blood Surge and playing close range was exceptionally fun. Reapers’ upgrade to create corpses + Ice Mages upgraded to generate essence (also to apply chill & freeze that helps the bosses’ ‘stun’ bar go up) + the corpse generating Bone Golem were the minions that I felt went well this time. Another aspect I liked for this setup was Blood-bathed Aspect that made Blood Surge echo and make a second nova shortly after casting it that deals X% less damage. I had a blast, no pun intended, playing both this auto-trigger Corpse Explosion setup & the AoE field shadow versions and they were equally fun.

When testing Bone skills, I really liked visually and mechanically how Bone Splinters behaves and looks like. Kind of a multi-shot that boomerangs back to us. And Bone Spear felt like the obvious synergy but I didn’t feel pressured to use it. At least not until I started stacking Bone skill passive bonuses. I wanted to only get the Golem or have 0 minions for this one. It did work but nowhere near as well as opposed to having the skeletons. So having at least one of the skeleton types was the better choice. Bone builds are all about crits and you can sacrifice an Iron Golem (not playable in the beta due to level restrictions) for 30% crit dmg + sacrifice the Skeletal Skirmishers for crit chance. Those would be an obvious combo that sadly was not worth it without having access to the Iron Golem. All that said, Bone is still pretty fun, especially with Bone Prison being a crucial part of the build. The skill can make enemies vulnerable while they are inside it. It also generates Essence for each time an enemy hits it. There was also an aspect that auto-casts Blight at the center of the prison (regardless whether you have Blight learned). Grouping up enemies with Corpse Tendrils‘ sucky mechanic + imprisoning them and making them vulnerable makes it much easier to hit as many of them as possible with Bone Spear and doing those big hits. Many of the other bone-related aspects i did not get so I couldn’t see the full potential of a Bone build at lvl 25 compared to the others I tried BUT on paper there’s a lot of potential to have something good that works well even versus world bosses.

When playing all categories/elements of Necro skills (shadow, blood, bone) I noticed that sacrificing the minions didn’t feel as useful and rewarding compared to using as many of them as possible. At least a lvl 25 that was the case.

Playing the Druid

During the 2nd Beta weekend I decided to level the Druid first… oh boy was I off to a bad and unhappy start of my weekend. This class felt like the worst in terms of how weak and underpowered it feels to level it up. I even had some spare yellow gear and some low level gear with non-druid, universal legendary aspects on them to use and it still felt excruciatingly painful to solo the story and the level up to 25. It was not the reasonable amount of challenging but a devastatingly harsh and the ‘not-fun-at-all’ kind of experience, even worse than leveling a Barbarian. I did eventually get to see a decently synergized Druid in at least one setup – the Storm + Earth juggling Nature build. But I spent tens of hours in my last two days of the weekend to try and gear up my Druid for the Werebear build where Pulverize becomes also an Earth skill & does added tectonic spikes for dmg + the aspect for +2 Earth skills when we have Fortify + the aspect to give us +2 to Shapeshifting skills while Hurricane is active + another aspect for Pulverize that makes it send out shockwaves forward (on top of its default circular aoe and the tectonic ones from the other aspect).

I tried various druid build/setups but all of them felt awful without gear and proper aspect synergies. Blood Howl was an awesome skill to have on any setup so it’s a must have for me (heals + generates spirit if upgraded for it).

One that felt kind of okay (but not damage-wise) was an Earth-centric setup. Landslide and Boulder with Earthspike was the obvious earth-only combo. Adding Earthen Bulwark for defensiveness + Petrify as ult. The problem I had there was that the damage lacked big time without proper items & Petrify was very underwhelming for an ‘ultimate’ skill. The stun was nice but the 3+1 seconds duration kind of sucked. The extra x25% crit damage only for 4 seconds and only to petrified enemies was super underwhelming for a 60 seconds cooldown. 30 seconds might have been a better base cooldown there. Landslide is a very good and strong skill as a base and if you can manage to keep feeding it spirit it can do the dps needed; however, at lvl 25 with yellow items mostly that was not the case.

I also tried a Werewolf only build with Lacerate as ult and using Shred + Claw. I believe that the Werewolf build can definitely be worth using with the right gear that nudges towards a Poison-based setup. Rabies was a fun skill but not that great by itself only. I saw some nice aspects that could potentially result in an incredibly strong Werewolf build but I’ll have to wait until the game launches to try and test those properly when I have all the gear and levels needed. Seems like a Werewolf + many minions can also be a fun one to try too & there was an aspect that makes the Wolves companions into Werewolves.

I did mention above a bit about that Werebear centric build that makes Pulverize to also be an Earth skill and in theory this could have been a lvl 10 Pulverize or even more. 5 from skill points, 2 from one aspect, 2 from another aspec, and at least +1 lvl from a gear affix/roll. Pulverize did do BIG bursts of damage every 10 seconds and was kind of okay to farm and do content with when I had some of the aspects but I was missing the key ones, especially the Stormshifter that lets us get +2 Shapeshifting skills while Hurricane is on. I didn’t even use Hurricane as I was gonna start using it for that setup after I obtain that aspect. Eventually, I gave up on playing that build and went to try some new stuff.

Testing a “Storm magic only” setup was not that bad once I had some average gear and a few legendary aspects. Storm Strike was definitely more fun than Wind Shear while Lightning Storm felt more fun than Tornado. All of that with Hurricane and Cataclysm felt like a natural synergy (no pun intended). But the thing that happened was I kept getting items with the aspects that boosts Earth skills after using a Storm skill and Storm ones after using an Earth skill.

So, I went ahead and tried the hybrid with Storm Strike + Landslide + Earthen Bulwark + Blood Howl + Hurricane and I also added Boulder. Now the interesting thing here is that during the Beta for the limited skill points we had, I felt like using my last 3 points that can go into the ultimate skills cluster were better spent on the Defiance passive (Nature Magic skills deal 4% multiplicative increased damage to Elites) instead of getting any ultimate and its two upgrades. I tested ults and also using Defiance and I preferred having those 3 points of 4% for total of 12% Earth and Storm damage to Elites (Bosses also count as ‘Elites’ but Elites don’t count as Bosses btw). I kept getting some amazing Storm related aspects and was not getting much Earth ones but the one I had which boosted one nature magic type when using the other was enough when using Landslide the right way. I also added the aspect that boosts core skill damage for xN% up to x50% and just used Storm Strike to build the stacks before unleashing Landslide for solid dmg (no pun intended here either). I even used, for a while, the aspect for basic skills attack speed but eventually swapped it out for something else that felt more useful overall. There were all sorts of Storm-based lightning/thunder hitting the enemies kind of procs and that build felt like something that can be decent without fully synergized gear. Eventually, if you do get all the right aspects, to even have yourselves a very nice PROCMONSTER build.

So, while Druid felt awful to lvelup with shitty gear, eventually min-maxing some of the gear and upgrading + rerolling a little bit here and there made it feel decent on at least one setup I could manage to do this. Sadly, when leveling up our focus won’t be much on this as we’ll be constantly getting new gear and remember that one can only imprint an aspect that’s not in the Codex once (hope they change this tho). Druid, just like Barbarian, needs to be looked at to see how to improve the low level, story running, pre-endgame levelup experience in the newbie levels without making those classes overpowered in the late game.

TL;DR Summary:

The summed up short conclusion where I list what I believe is positive and negative aspects of my experience with Diablo IV’s BETA is as follows:

  • Aesthethicaly pleasing Worldbuilding
  • Decent Story but ruined boring Quest design (Act 1 at least)
  • Reasonably complicated Skill Trees that offer multiple ways to spec each Class
  • Reasonable EXP rates till lvl 25. Rumored to be awful in the high lvls.
  • Seasons + slow EXP rates will be a awful If one wants to have alts
  • The VFX are beautiful
  • Familiar & Unfamiliar Dungeon design with some boring objectives & plenty of backtracking at times
  • Deep Itemization with multiple layers to squeeze extra power from gear but letting us imprint the same aspect only once is a bad decision
  • Trading of Rare Gear is a double edged blade that can result in pay-to-win
  • Enchanting, Upgrading, Socketing, & Imprinting were all way too expensive at lvl 25 and hopefully will be more accessible at high levels. They are al good systems but could use some tuning such as being able to re-roll more than just 1 affix of an item.
  • The Big World Boss, Ashava, has awfully weird spawn time and only spawned 4 times in 75 hours but was a very fun fight
  • Beta performance was far from the advertised in the recommended & minimum specs
  • The random world event are a good idea but they are very repetitive and could use an overhaul like maybe making them them events chains that affect the world
  • Not only do we have co-op & cross-play but we also don’t need to make new characters on different regions for cross-region co-op. Clans are also good as there’s no clan buffs, quests, levels and other FOMO bs like that
  • Visually the game is beautiful for an isometric hack and slash arpg
  • Connection-wise the game was pretty solid and even with cross-region co-op there was no rubberbanding (once the initial server queues and issues subsided)

Useful Links (Spreadsheets & more):

I’ve also made two spreadsheets: one for theorycrafts/builds that shortlist the active and passive skills + legendary aspects that work well together with each build & the second one contains the full skill trees of all classes + all aspects (known so far) that the classes can use.

For all of my Diablo IV Pre-Launch Theorycrafts/Builds: This Spreadsheet

For my Diablo IV Pre-Launch Class Skill Trees (can be used as mini-calculator): This Spreadsheet

♦ ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦

This concludes My Thoughts/Impressions on the 1st Public Beta for Diablo IV. If you’re interested in the game, below are links to the various platforms where one can buy it (you can just click the links to open a new tab):

PC (Battle.Net)



Official Website

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