Community Review: Ok, Let’s Talk About Diablo Immortal

Community Review: Ok, Let’s Talk About Diablo Immortal

I expect some spicy takes in the comments on this one. Don’t let me down, gang.

After going on a brief hiatus while we slowly moved through the mid-year video game dry spell, what better game to mark the return of Community Review than the controversial Diablo Immortal.

A mobile game set in Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo universe, the game has lived under a cloud of suspicion and scrutiny its entire life. Controversial from the second it was announced at BlizzCon in 2018, Diablo Immortal is a game built to capture lucrative Asian markets, and was created by Chinese developer NetEase in conjunction with Blizzard.

The reason its initial announcement created the stir it did was that the Diablo 4 team backed out of that year’s BlizzCon opening ceremony on short notice. Without Diablo 4 as its grand finale, it fell to Diablo Immortal to close a showcase packed with Diablo 4 rumours. To fans, unaware of what was happening backstage, it looked like Blizzard had sacrificed a beloved franchise on the altar of mobile game commerce.

Just under four years later, and with no small amount of internal review, Diablo Immortal game has officially entered public access this week. The takes, spicy and benign, have been flowing.

There is a decided split in opinion between professional critics and the player base on this one. While most critics, Kotaku US included, were happy to give the game a pass (on the proviso that you ignored all the monetisation), the player response has been decidedly negative. A quick look at Metacritic reveals the scale in the opinion gulf, with the critic’s score of 75 sitting at a right angle against the player score of 0.5. That is an overwhelming number of negative player reviews — of the 2419 ratings posted at the time of writing, 2311 of them are negative. 93 reviews were positive, and just 15 were mixed.

What creates a split like this? Different priorities in terms of critique. The critics are trying to review the game around the microtransactions, and feel that game is fine, but nothing to write home about. The audience, on the other hand, cannot get past the degree to which the game has its hand out for money. Because of that, a deeply interesting dynamic has emerged. I don’t know that it’s the critics are out of step with what the audience want here. Rather, it’s that both parties are interested in very different aspects of its design. Weirdly, that contributes a more complete picture of the game as it exists in this moment than any one review could possibly hope to communicate.

And so, in the words of Philip DeFranco, I pass the question off to you: What’s your review of Diablo Immortal? Do you intend to play it at all? Are you surprised at its aggressive monetisation or is it more or less what you expected? Are you keen for Diablo 4? Tell me all about it in the comments below. I want us to really get into this one. Nobody has to love the game, or what it’s trying to do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t deconstruct it thoughtfully.

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