Diablo IV is shaping up to be a really exciting game for those who enjoy action oriented role-playing titles. And Blizzard seems keen to not repeat the mistakes of their past this time around. So, unlike what happened when Diablo II: Resurrected was launched and it took a few weeks before Blizzard got a handle on how to balance their server loads, the developer offered not one, but two free weekends of play testing to max out their infrastructure and make sure it was up to the task of supporting hundreds of thousands of excited players logging in for intense cross-play from their PlayStations, Xboxes and PCs.
The first look at the title occurred several weeks ago during the first beta weekend. While it was a good look at how it would play when launched, it was not without issues. The biggest one was having to wait for up to an hour in some cases to log into it and start playing. And because I was doing couch co-op, there were additional issues, like not knowing how long the other local player had to wait to join my game because they were placed in an invisible queue, even though they were sitting in the same room as me. The beta was still very fun to play when it worked, but there was still a nagging feeling that this could be Diablo II: Resurrected all over again.
Probably because of those issues with the first beta play weekend, Blizzard decided to surprise gamers with another one, which took place last weekend. Calling it a Server Slam, Blizzard actually asked people to log in and play as much as possible so they could work out all of the backend issues before the scheduled launch on June 6. And from the crowded towns I saw during the Server Slam event, it looks like gamers accepted that challenge.
I am happy to report that Blizzard really got their stuff together this time around. Wait times to log into Diablo IV were less than 30 seconds on average, and practically instantaneous at times. And even better, this included when playing with local co-op. The secondary player’s queue times were pretty much identical to the host’s. When my couch co-op partner tried to log in, they were placed into my game almost right away. And the connection was solid and smooth the entire time we were playing, even when we were battling the world boss Ashava, a dinosaur-looking creature that took up half the screen and could at times one shot players with a variety of attacks. Ashava was the main target of the Server Slam players, who earned a tusk cosmetic for their horse when Diablo IV launches if they reached level 20 during the event and managed to help take down that world boss. We were able to battle together with about 20 other players and finally take that beast down. The gameplay was smooth with no issues for the entire fight, even when getting killed and resurrected several times during the 20-minute battle.
Blizzard also seems to have cross-play down. While we were playing Diablo IV on a PlayStation 5, there were GiN reviewers who were playing the beta from an Xbox Series X and a gaming PC, and nobody reported having any problems in terms of connection issues. It’s safe to say that if the launch of the title goes off as smoothly as the Server Slam, then Diablo IV will be successful in managing its many players.
In fact, because there were almost no problems in terms of server troubles, gamers could concentrate on other issues. For example, apparently during the first open beta weekend, the Necromancer’s skeleton army was pretty much invincible, just like they were in Diablo II: Resurrected or even Diablo III for that matter. However, Blizzard wanted to tweak them, so they got a serious nerf during the Server Slam. I found that out because the Necromancer was a class I wanted to try, and believe me it was a pain in the butt trying to keep my skeletons alive. Even small mobs would knock them down by half, forcing me to use corpses all the time to heal them back up. But the thing was, having to fight monsters to generate those bodies meant forcing my skeletons to take more damage, so it became almost like a game of whack a mole trying to constantly keep my minions alive, and that was not very fun. Supposedly, Blizzard got so much negative feedback about that, it forced them to patch the beta to make the skeletons more robust. But by then I had moved on, so I guess I will have to see how it plays after launch.
There were some other tweaks, mostly to the sorcerer class, which was apparently also nerfed in terms of certain spells like chain lighting. I never used chain lighting before so I don’t know how much of an issue that is for spell casters, but I can say for sure that the hydra conjuration (my favorite spell) still seems to work just fine, although I miss being able to spawn more than one of them at a time like I did in some of the early titles in the series. Ultimately, I ended up playing a sorcerer class while my co-op partner played a rogue. The combination seemed to work really well. We had some tough fights but were able to keep moving, whittling enemy mobs and bosses down with traps and spells and eventually winning most of the time.
By almost any measure, the Diablo IV Server Slam was a huge success. You would not have known that you were playing a game in beta over the weekend. In fact, I had such a great time doing co-op that I did something that I almost never do anymore – I pre-ordered Diablo IV so that we could start our journey once more when the title launches on June 6. And this time, we will be able to journey well outside of the starting areas and find out everything that this amazing-looking action RPG has to offer.
Developers: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X