I didn’t want a new MMO to come into my life. I’m a healthier person when I’m not constantly going into dungeons to get legendary gear and logging in every night to walk around digital towns.

With Diablo 4 coming up and Blizzard hyping up its slightly more shared world, I thought it might be a light MMO: A low-fat but high-sugar version of one of my favourite things. Not, like, a total waste of my spare time. But after playing Diablo 4’s beta, it’s clear that I’ll be playing Diablo as my next MMO.

I’ve never played Diablo before, but based on what I knew about the online features of the series, I thought it might be able to fill the void left by the original Guild Wars.

I’ve been longing for a map to clear and that old mix of shared towns and instanced combat zones that Path of Exile has been the only game to give me so far. But Diablo 4 is a lot more like the full-scale MMO Guild Wars 2 than I thought it would be.

During the first beta weekend, several things became clear:

  • I waved “Hello” to other players in town, which is actually voiced out loud by my character (a nice surprise)
  • Sprinting past enemies in the overworld, I stopped as I realized I was about to drop them right on the head of an AFK player and stopped the defend them from dying as a result of my rudeness
  • I searched for a clan and co-opped a level-scaled stronghold with a friend
  • I rushed to The Crucible to fight Ashava, a world boss, alongside a completely random handful of other players
  • I cleared every waypoint and collectible Statue of Lilith on the map in a fashion some might call obsessive

In the first main town, Kyovashad, there were always a lot of players running back and forth from their stash to the blacksmith to improve their gear. Outside of town, in the open world, I would see other players adventuring alone or in pairs about once every 10 minutes.

When it was time to deal with a zone event at the Kor Dragon stronghold in the north, about a dozen other players came to roast the level 30 Blood Bishop by flooding my screen with spell effects. Only in dungeons will you be hidden away from other players in an instant.

Diablo 4 isn’t like most MMOs in that you don’t have to choose a server to play on, but once I got my feet on the ground, I couldn’t deny how much its shared world felt like an MMO.

I know that some old-school Diablo fans might find this always-online world with native party voice chat to be the inner circle of hell. You have been told that Diablo is now definitely an MMO. The only thing it doesn’t have is a /dance emote, or at least I didn’t see one. Blizzard, you still have time to fix that mistake.

I’m having a great time, which is both the best and the worst thing. There are just enough different kinds of armor and color combinations to keep me interested in fashion. There are some unique things about the legendary loot pipeline that I’m actually enjoying trying. Even the story is getting my attention.

I never pay attention to the main story in an MMO, but the Patheon family drama is pretty easy to understand. I even sang the first act by myself, which was just the right amount of being alone but with others that I needed. Last year, I said I was waiting for MMOs to get stranger, but here I am, already hooked by this textbook example of one. I might have to say sorry to Lost Ark.

Blizzard still calls Diablo 4 an action RPG, but it seems to have a lot more in common with World of Warcraft than I thought. Diablo 4 has a level of shared online play that would make any other developer market it as an MMO.

Maybe Blizzard doesn’t do it because it already has a game like that. Since the number of players in each zone is limited, it may feel more like a Medium Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, but if the preorder beta is any indication, there will be a huge number of people playing when it comes out.

The official release date for Diablo 4 is June 6, but the open beta starts this Friday, March 24. Now is a good time to decide if you’re ready for this brave new Sanctuary.

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