If you’ve heard one thing about Diablo Immortal, Blizzard’s free-to-play mobile spin on its classic dungeon crawler, it’s that it costs $100,000 to max out your character fully. And while that may be the case, you can have a great time for less than $10.
The $100,000 figure is technically accurate. As totted up by YouTuber Bellular News, to get your character completely specked out with Legendary gear would require a massive investment in Diablo Immortal orbs.
Something is getting lost in the conversation, though. It may be tempting to deride the extremes of free-to-play economies, but I’m having a great time with Diablo Immortal, and I’ve only spent $5.98 – I picked up the beginner’s pack for $0.99, which gets you 60 orbs and a cosmetic.
Going off the discourse around Diablo Immortal, it would be easy to believe that you can’t do anything in the game without shelling out hundreds of dollars, but that only applies to a specific type of player. If you don’t plan to max out your character with the absolute best stats in the game, I dare say Diablo Immortal is cheap by free-to-play standards.
I wanted to test how far you could take Diablo Immortal within a reasonable budget. I bought the Diablo Immortal Battle Pass for $4.99 before selecting a Monk and starting my journey through hell.
For a mobile game, this is a comprehensive Diablo campaign. While it lacks the depth of Diablo 3, the combat and dungeon crawl has a great, easy flow, and it's easy to master punchy combos that make carving your way through a crowd of demons fun, even on a phone screen. The story, taking place between Diablo 2 and 3, lacks the impact of the main games because Blizzard can’t mess with the fixed narrative beats set up by the games on either side. Still, it’s an impressive distraction.
It was hours before I came up against any barriers to my play, but they did eventually come. At around level 35, I started hitting objectives I could only complete once I was at a certain level. These are annoying gates, but nothing out of the ordinary for an RPG. You just have to do a little grinding in the form of bounties or Rifts, which help you with resources you’ll need later down the road anyway. The Battle Pass comes in handy at this point; it gives you a bundle of resources and awards additional experience, taking the edge off leveling.
You can play through Diablo Immortal’s campaign and reach the level 60 cap without spending any money, or, for a small $4.99 outlay, get there a little quicker. That’s a small price to pay for a breezy demon-slaying time. I found that to be more than enough game for the money.
The pricy gates
When you play beyond the level cap, the microtransactions rear their ugly head – Diablo Immortal’s end-game centers around Legendary Crests. To get the best gems, which empower your gear with powerful stats and abilities, you need to do Challenge Rifts that cost several Legendary Crests to enter. Without crests, you can’t obtain these gems. Their drop rate is so low that the chance you ever get your hands on one with the heavily restricted free Legendary Crest allowance is effectively non-existent. To get the best of the best gems, five-star gems, you’ll need to pony up, and even then, you still may get nothing for your trouble.
But that’s not to say Legendary gear is entirely unattainable to you if you don’t pay. I’ve had a steady trickle of the loot I’ve needed, and I’ve been able to get together a fun build for jumping through Rifts when I have a free 15 minutes. For me, that’s enough.
If you’re a Diablo fan and want to go deep on Diablo Immortal ahead of Diablo 4 next year, the microtransactions will be a real problem. Grinding the end-game as you would in traditional Diablo games will be an expensive business. Some legendary gems are so rare it makes no sense to try and find them. Twitch streamer Quin69 spent more than $6,000 on Diablo Immortal and didn’t find a single five-star gem.
At some point, you’d be throwing away thousands of dollars for a couple of percentage points increase in damage. You can earn gems and gear that will make running rifts on the bus to work a fun time. You may not have everything maxed out to the furthest extreme, nor will 99.9% of the player base. There isn’t going to be a meta you’re missing out on, as these top-tier gems are exceptionally rare.
I’m not excusing the monetization of Diablo Immortal: that players can spend so much for incremental state increases is bad practice and potentially dangerous. It’s easy to lose track of your spending on games, and Blizzard should treat its players with respect by building systems that offer reasonable value. Diablo Immortal simply shouldn’t have a spending ceiling as high as it has.
This monetization has also broken the end game, making it hard to participate in, even if you have hundreds of dollars of cash to burn. Blizzard should redesign it so players can take part without feeling they must spend vast sums to get anything out of it.
However, if you treat Diablo Immortal as a Diablo-lite, a pocket-sized demonic dungeon crawler, then the experience is surprisingly substantial.
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Patrick Dane is TechRadar Gaming's Guides Editor. With nearly a decade in the games press, he's been a consistent voice in the industry. He's written for a plethora of major publications and travelled the world doing it. He also has a deep passion for games as a service and their potential to tell evolving stories. To wit, he has over 2000 hours in Destiny 2, over 1000 in Overwatch and is now deeply into Valorant.