I love Diablo 4, but I'm not playing its live service content

Diablo 4 Review
(Image credit: Windows Central)

As I sit down to write this, it has been less than 24 hours since I finally completed the seven-part campaign (a Prologue, six Acts, and an Epilogue) for Diablo 4. Finally witnessing the slow scroll of credits honoring the many talented people responsible for this incredible game was an emotional experience, arriving shortly after the dramatic conclusion of a truly epic story.

I love Diablo 4. Genuinely, it is already going down as one of the greatest Xbox games of the year for me, alongside the surprise hit Hi-Fi RUSH from Tango Gameworks. Blizzard Entertainment did a wonderful job crafting a brand-new action-RPG experience that can appeal to both existing Diablo veterans and franchise newcomers like myself; it's a genuinely amazing narrative populated by well-written, believable characters and surprisingly human motivations behind the impending doom of the world.

However, it's not enough for me to invest my time into Diablo 4's live service content, which will begin seriously ramping up when Diablo 4 Season 1 arrives sometime in mid-to-late July. While I'll likely revisit Diablo 4 in the future to continue exploring Sanctuary and its mountains of side content, it won't be to participate in seasonal content or grind out Battle Passes.

A complete, polished gaming experience

My Necromancer meets Inarius for the first time. Yeah, Diablo 4's art design is amazing. (Image credit: Windows Central)

One would hope that "complete" and "polished" can be applied universally to any fully released video game, but that unfortunately hasn't been the case in past months. Many recent games released in a semi-broken or nearly unplayable state, with notable titles like Xbox's Redfall earning nearly universally negative reviews. Sadly, it's not a guarantee that the upcoming game you can't wait to play will deliver a finished experience, but Blizzard Entertainment exceeded expectations with Diablo 4.

In Windows Central's Diablo 4 review, we described the game as having "flawless performance with near-zero bugs," an anomaly when games take longer to develop than ever before and studios are pressured to release their games before they're ready by corporate deadlines. In my playthrough, I never experienced any noticeable issues, and performance on Xbox Series X was exemplary. On the technical side of things, there's very little to complain about.

Of course, nothing is perfect, not even Diablo 4. As an always-online game reliant on servers (come on Blizzard, add the ability to play the campaign offline), server issues are bound to happen. Diablo 4 has handled the immense strain of all the players expected for the fastest-selling Blizzard game of all time very well, but not without periods of server downtime and other errors. Some players on PC also report crashing issues. Overall, though, the list of Diablo 4's known issues is far shorter and less concerning than almost any other high-profile game launch in recent memory, especially for a multiplatform release.

I regularly see ridiculous gameplay clips for every single class, highlighting just how fun each can be in Diablo 4. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Stable, reliable performance provides the foundation for improvements in accessibility and approachable game design to shine, too. Diablo 4 is far more comprehensible than its predecessor, with deep gameplay elements still catering to hardcore Diablo veterans while also welcoming countless new players that have never experienced the Diablo franchise before. I'm in the latter boat, as I tried and failed to get into Diablo 3, but then promptly fell in love with Diablo 4 during its open Server Slam.

Diablo 4 is polished at launch, approachable to all kinds of players, packed with exciting content, and it even boasts stunning, detailed visuals and a beautifully rendered, diverse world to show them off. All of this is enough to put Diablo 4 on the shortlist of this year's best games, but Blizzard Entertainment had to go above and beyond to craft one of its most memorable, well-written narratives yet.

Worth the cost of entry just for the story

Lilith is the Blessed Mother, and her performance in Diablo 4 takes the story to glorious heights. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

The Diablo franchise contains a detailed, historied universe of an endless war between two unstoppable sides (you can read our in-depth breakdown of the Diablo timeline for more info), but past Diablo games were never known for their stories. The Diablo campaigns have more or less been a "means to an end," providing players with direction on the way to the vast endgame that was the actual bread and butter of the games.

On paper, Diablo 4 follows the same formula, but this campaign is bigger, bolder, and deeper than ever before. It's a standalone story, not requiring knowledge of previous entries, and is surprisingly emotional and nuanced in its depictions of war and violence, loss and grief, the desperate actions of those pushed to their limits, and how morality is never black and white. For me, the cost of Diablo 4 (both monetary and time) was more than worth it just to experience this campaign.

I won't regale you with a summary of the history of Diablo's universe. Suffice to say, Diablo 4 is set on Sanctuary, the home of humanity and most life in the universe. The chaos of life was only made possible through the unique partnership between the demon Lilith and the angel Inarius, but the two sides were inevitably drawn apart and cast anew into the Eternal Conflict that initially brought them together.

Lilith has returned to Sanctuary after countless years sealed away and begins her single-minded quest to finally put an end to the Eternal Conflict once and for all. She, the Mother of Sanctuary, claims to be the savior of humanity and the only hope to escape the impending doom wrought by Hell's most powerful demons. Inarius, on the other hand, is exiled to Sanctuary for the crime of creating it and seeks to slay Lilith to regain his rightful place in Heaven.

On the surface, it may seem that Diablo 4 is about Inarius versus Lilith, or "good versus evil," but that couldn't be further from the truth. Inarius may shine with celestial light, but he is apathetic, arrogant, and desperate to return home no matter the cost (or who he has to use). Lilith's steps toward her goals may leave behind a river of blood and destruction made from the bodies of the innocent, but she genuinely believes it's the only way to end the endless war that consumes the universe and ultimately save Sanctuary and humanity.

You play as the Wanderer, an enigmatic hero with abnormal power, unceremoniously cast into a race to stop Lilith and save Sanctuary from the carnage of Hell's Prime Evils. You quickly realize, however, that Lilith and Inarius both are strangely human in their motivations and desires. Lilith is passionate, grieving over the loss of her son and desperate to put an end to her father, one of the Prime Evils that threatens Sanctuary. Inarius is unfathomably alone, desperately seeking any way to return home, even if it means the lives of thousands of humans.

Diablo 4's world and accompanying story are oppressively dark, but there's hope there, too. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The story that unfolds under these circumstances is written in the blood of countless lives lost as a result of the actions of incomprehensibly powerful beings. You, the Wanderer, work with a strange cast of old and new heroes to put an end to the destruction and, hopefully, bring a brief period of peace to Sanctuary. It's all tied together with fantastic writing, brilliant voice acting, thoughtful character development, and a shocking level of emotion.

There's a lot to love about Diablo 4's campaign, and that's without discussing the dozens of side quests and optional content in the base game. Sure, quite a few of the side quests are forgettable as clear ways to gain more XP and loot, but many of the side quests are accompanied by fantastic stories on much smaller scales. While you may be focused on the big picture, almost everyone in Sanctuary is being affected by the chaos unfolding around them. On your way to stop Lilith, you can take time to help those unable to help themselves.

I put over 60 hours into Diablo 4 as the Necromancer just to complete its campaign, and that was after exploring all of Sanctuary and completing dozens of side quests. Still, there's dozens more hours of content in Diablo 4 I haven't explored, yet, and it's all there in the base game. Blizzard Entertainment is planning for Diablo 4 to be supported for years as yet another live service endeavor, however, and I can't say I'm interested.

Another live service game I won't play

Cool cosmetics are great and all, but they're not enough to make me invest in a live service game. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

I want to make it clear that I have no issues with live service games. I recognize them as a valid part of the video games industry, with many players simply preferring to invest significant amounts of time into one or two games and to see that investment returned in the form of progression, new content, exclusive cosmetics, and more. I myself put many hours into Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, and am currently enjoying a fair amount of Valorant.

In the same vein, I also recognize that Diablo 4 was always going to be a live service game akin to its predecessor, Diablo 3, including utilizing some of the same live service mechanics (although expanded to match Diablo 4's MMO-esque online qualities). This includes the controversial reveal that, like with Diablo 3, all Diablo 4 seasonal content will require players to create brand-new characters, rather than being able to use existing characters to grind out Battle Pass tiers.

I hope Blizzard can build a long, healthy life for Diablo 4 alongside the community, but I probably won't be a part of that outside of story expansions. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Sure, newcomers to the Diablo franchise have expressed confusion and frustration with this approach, as it's easy to become attached to a character after pouring dozens of hours into them. I know my Necrobae will always be there for me, but I can't imagine leaving them behind every time a new Diablo 4 season rolls around, either. At the same time, it's how Diablo works, as it helps ensure that every player starts on level footing at the beginning of each season (while the "Eternal Realm" houses players' permanent, non-Seasonal characters).

All that being said, I'm simply not interested in engaging with Diablo 4's live service content. I'm not a competitive person, and have no interest in battling for top spots on the leaderboards, nor am I interested in witnessing Diablo 4's so-far varied gameplay turn into a mindless grind for cosmetics season after season. Going into Diablo 4 I didn't expect that the live service content would keep me interested after the credits rolled regardless, but seeing that Blizzard is more-or-less sticking to the Diablo 3 approach further deters me.

Again, I understand why it is the way it is, and sure, some of our writers profess that Diablo 4 seasons will be really fun and healthy for the game. This is how Diablo is, but it's not for me. I am more than happy with my time in the base game and the content contained within, and have little desire to go over it all again in future seasons. If anyone is considering Diablo 4 but is not a fan of live service games or is unsure they're interested in how Diablo operates, know that I personally consider Diablo 4 to be more than worth the cost of entry solely based on the incredible base game. If it truly becomes your obsession, there will be plenty of opportunities to replay the game, experience new content over time, and deck out your growing army of characters with fresh cosmetics.

A modern masterpiece at its core

I will remember my time in Diablo 4 for years, and I'm sure to return in the future to explore more of Sanctuary's smaller stories. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Impossibly, Diablo 4 exceeds the hype of its pre-launch cycle, with Blizzard Entertainment delivering one of its best games of all time. It's not only an excellent evolution for the action-RPG genre pioneered by the Diablo franchise, it's simply a fantastic, polished, well-designed video game with a complex and beautifully written story at its core.

The five regions of Sanctuary you can explore in Diablo 4 span miles of diverse environments, from the ice-slicked slopes of Fractured Peaks to the humid, snake-infested swamps of Hawezar. Every region breathes its own life and stories, with humanity finding ways to survive in every corner despite an endless array of twisted threats and vile monsters. As the Wanderer, you can experience it all and hear these stories, even in the midst of attempting to save the world.

Diablo 4 is a masterpiece, and you should play it.

By the end, you'll question if defeating Lilith was really the right thing, or if Lilith was the enemy you were hunting at all. You'll be left with more questions unanswered, too, as Diablo 4 leaves itself open for the two DLC expansions already in the works. While Diablo 4's monetization, live service elements, and future stream of Battle Passes and Seasons don't appeal to me, you know I'll be among the first to dive into the story expansions the moment they arrive.

Diablo 4 is a modern masterpiece at its core, with the base game containing dozens of hours of incredible content for players to love across Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, and PS5. I can't express the same love for Diablo 4's live service elements, but that doesn't detract from what makes this game so special. Even if you've never played a Diablo game, you should play Diablo 4 as soon as possible. Follow the Blessed Mother of Sanctuary into Hell itself.

Diablo IV

Diablo IV

Diablo 4 doesn't appeal to me as a live service game, but it's base game and expansive campaign are so incredible that Diablo 4 is still one of my personal games of the year. Even if you've never played Diablo, you should be playing this.

Buy from: Microsoft (Xbox, Standard) | Microsoft (Xbox, Deluxe) | Microsoft (Xbox, Ultimate)

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

  • chidoro42
    Ok 🤷‍♂️
  • Deusnocturne
    This was a really long article to say "I don't understand how ARPGs work and I'm mad about what is literally the standard across every single modern ARPG" like good for you I guess but could you at least have a basic understanding of the genre you are complaining about so your article is actually worth reading.