Diablo IV Beta Hands-on – The King Is Back and Runs Well on PC


After many long years of wait, the Diablo IV Beta is finally underway on PC and consoles. This weekend, the gates of Sanctuary are open to all pre-order customers, while everyone else will be able to get in and try the game for free the next weekend.

It’s been a long time since the beta of a mainline Diablo game on PC. The final Diablo III beta ran nearly eleven years ago, so there was understandably huge anticipation among the millions of fans of Blizzard’s franchise.

As such, the first couple hours saw a mad rush of players trying to log in, with extremely long queues to enter the Diablo IV Beta. Personally, I tried to log in at 6.30 PM CET, roughly an hour and a half after the servers went live. I was met with an estimated wait time of 148 minutes, though the game actually let me in a little less than two hours.

The wait was more than worth it, though. Right away, Diablo IV impresses thanks to an excellent presentation, both in terms of in-game visuals (mostly thanks to the fully dynamic lighting) and how the narrative unfolds via in-engine cutscenes.

There’s even an interesting twist early on that eventually leads the player character to become connected with Lilith, Daughter of Hatred and mother of Sanctuary, whose feud with Inarius (Sanctuary’s father) is at the very core of Diablo IV’s story.

If there’s one thing I must criticize about the Beta, it’s that it takes simply far too long to unlock any abilities. For some reason, the game forces you to waddle through foes with just the basic attack until level 7. I reckon this should be lowered to at least level 5, if not 4; hopefully, it’s one of those easily tunable things the developers can implement into the full game before launch after hearing enough feedback from the players.

Once you finally unlock your character’s abilities, combat starts to sing. Animations are silky smooth, and your weapons look and sound exceedingly satisfying when they shatter enemies to pieces. Out of the three available classes in the Diablo IV Beta (the Necromancer and Druid are currently locked until next weekend’s Open Beta), the Barbarian was by far the most compatible with my tastes. A strong but mobile character, the Barbarian can switch seamlessly between dual-wield and two two-handed weapon options, depending on the ability.

One of the main criticisms levied at Diablo III was the streamlining of the character progression. Here, Blizzard appears to have taken stock of that. The skill tree in Diablo IV is much more reminiscent of something like Path of Exile than the previous entry in the Diablo franchise. There’s plenty of options to tweak each class so that it plays just like the user would want them to.

Of course, the star of the Diablo IV Beta is arguably the open world, one of the main additions of this fourth entry. The environments don’t really feel like maps anymore, thanks to a much more cohesive geography and look. The Beta only features the Fractured Peaks, but if this zone is any indication of the other areas, this game could be massive. There’s a ton of content, including MMO-style dynamic events that pop up every once in a while, encouraging nearby players to group up to defeat enemies and gain juicy rewards.

The several dungeons scattered through the Fractured Peaks offer an even greater challenge to adventurers. They’re suitably large and complex, with a final boss that can often kill you even at World Tier 2 (World Tier 3 and 4 are locked in the beta) if you’re not careful.

I’ve praised the visuals, but the game’s performance is yet another positive note. The Diablo IV beta doesn’t have DLSS 3 yet (Blizzard will add it for the game’s launch in June), but DLSS 2/Super Resolution on Quality (4K) is more than enough to keep the game running at around 145 FPS with an Intel i7 12700KF and GeForce RTX 4090. That’s obviously with the max settings available in the beta, though you should keep in mind that textures can’t be upped from Medium in this build.

There are occasional instances of microstuttering. It doesn’t have that much of an impact on gameplay, but it would be nice if the developers could fix it before the game is released. Other than that, I would be tempted to switch DLSS to DLAA if possible, given how well the game already runs. Unfortunately, DLAA isn’t available in the game, and DLSSTweaks does not work with online games. Hopefully, Blizzard and NVIDIA can implement DLAA natively at some point.

I’ve only played a few hours of Diablo IV, but I’m already looking forward to diving back in and possibly trying another class. It’s way too early to pass final judgment, but so far, I’d say the king of the action RPG/hack and slash genre is back.

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