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Still working my way through this, but it's such a gem that I felt compelled to write a review early. Rarely does a game come out that's so original, witty, fun, and unique. I really can't compare this to anything else because although it's a monster catcher like Pokemon, Temtem, and others, this game feels like such a breath of fresh air to be in a league of its own.
The music is fantastic. I love the decision to include vocal tracks and have them unlock at certain key story moments. It's all very well done and doesn't feel distracting at all.
The story is incredible. Within the first hour or so it's clear that this isn't a cute little monster catching game - something is seriously wrong with this world. The denizens of the world talk about apocalyptic scenarios from their own worlds. It doesn't shy away from telling the message it wants to tell, which seems to be a message centered around hope in spite of everything wrong going on around us. A small community banding together to survive, rather than profit. Even the "bad guy" team hammers home this message.
The mechanics are new and interesting. Rather than simple water beats fire, we have complex interactions from water gunking up ground units, plastic being melted by fire, grass on fire makes smoke which increases the fire unit's evasion. It's really cool! Also love that we are transforming into different forms rather than trapping creatures in little balls until we want them to fight for us. And everything being cassettes is incredibly clever. You use a pencil to rewind your tape to heal it!
The character designs are also wonderful. We have a diverse cast - a good number of Black and brown characters, neurodivergence is represented, we have a character with a bi flag colored rug. Right wingers are going to hate this game because it's unabashedly queer and left wing in its politics. Climate catastrophe is a common theme throughout. And honestly, good! They won't get to enjoy one of the best games I've ever played, because they are part of the problem in the real world that we live in. I think that's fantastic.
This review is specifically for the Hardcore mode of Diablo 4. The game in its current state is simply unplayable for Hardcore players, and Blizzard has made it clear that this mode is less than an afterthought to them. I would be surprised if even a single person at Blizzard plays this mode, that's how bad the design surrounding Hardcore is.
Let's start with the marketing gimmick. Hardcore players know that we are a small minority of overall players. I think many of us were surprised to see a contest specifically featuring Hardcore mode - the first 1000 players to reach level 100 would be immortalized on a statue of Lilith that would reside at Blizzard's HQ. Okay, clearly this is to sell more copies of the early access passes, but still a fun competition for the minority that does enjoy the mode.
Turns out the contest was little more than a competition of who experienced the least amount of disconnects. Within the first couple weeks of the game, Blizzard would release updates that would sometimes result in the game going down for many players. One level 100 player (Quinn, I think) experienced a death on disconnect because they needed to take the servers down momentarily to update the cash shop. His is probably the most famous example, but far from the only one.
The disconnects wouldn't be so bad if they had kept in a feature that appeared to be working in beta: upon a disconnect, if the player had a Scroll of Escape in their inventory, it would automatically be consumed, bringing the player safely back to town. For unknown reasons, this feature was scrapped for the official release, with a new estimated date of Season 2.
Somewhere between 5-10% of players experienced a VRAM memory leak that would also lead to random crashes. People on high end PCs would, without any notice, crash or disconnect and log in to see their characters dead, sometimes losing well over 100 hours of progress. Every major Diablo forum, from their official ones, to Reddit, to their official Discord, was full of people talking about this issue. Players were met with utter silence from a company that earned over $5 billion in profit in 2022.
The issues were so common and well-known that Hardcore players tried to come up with ways to survive a disconnect that they would inevitably experience. Putting on defensive Aspects that would otherwise not see much play, simply in the hopes that they would grant you an extra few seconds of survivability. This was mostly ineffective because your character stays in the world, logged in, taking damage, for well over 20 seconds after a disconnect. This means that a simple white mob would mean death for 99% of players.
The game was clearly rushed out before it was ready. It shows in the story beats, the UI, and the gameplay loops. Perhaps this will be a good game after a year or two of live updates. Maybe grab it for 50% off at that point. Currently, for Hardcore players anyway, the game is nothing at all.