Diablo Immortal launches Android-only beta with its most requested feature in tow

Available in Australia and Canada to start

Diablo Immortal Beta 1

It’s hard to believe the first Diablo Immortal Technical Alpha began nearly a year ago, in the cold, dark days of a very long year. For me, it was a revelation, a free-to-play game that had depth and purpose, with an array of objectives that didn’t feel like they were all grinding towards the inevitable chasm of microtransactions. That early alpha was pretty barebones, though, and the Closed Alpha that was released this past April opened up the world to the eventual MMO-style gameplay that Blizzard wants Diablo Immortal to be known for.

Not only did the Closed Alpha introduce PvP style gameplay, with the team-based Cycle of Strife system that pitted Shadows against Immortals, but it hinted at the varying ways the game will attempt to keep users engaged well after they reach the traditional endgame.

Interview: Diablo Immortal lead designer Wyatt Cheng details what’s next for the hotly-anticipated MMO

The beta, which launches today in Australia and Canada on Android devices, and will roll out to several countries across Asia over the next few weeks as its first geographic expansion, builds on the alphas in meaningful ways — for better or worse. While the Closed Alpha introduced players to the Monk class, the beta adds the Necromancer, one of my favorite class options from Diablo III and my definite buildout for this upcoming play period. More important for many players, and promised earlier this year, is controller support.

Diablo Immortal Beta 2

According to Wyatt Cheng, Immortal’s Game Director, mapping the touchscreen movement controls to physical buttons wasn’t difficult, but adding the kind of secondary granularity, such as aiming a skill at a particular enemy, took a bit of work. The physical controls still don’t support menu navigation — that will be ready for the final release sometime next year — but Blizzard says this is a good first step and more hardcore players should be pleased with its implementation.

The beta also makes some modifications to the Cycle of Strife, wherein the Shadow winners of the Rite of Exile end up fighting in a 30v1 battle against a giant Immortal controlled by a high-ranking player. It all sounds a bit nuts to this casual gamer, but I’m here for the idea of playing as a giant warrior swatting Shadows like flies as they glide at me through the darkness. If I ever make it that far in the game.

Blizzard is also adding an 8v8 PvP ladder mode, a new gear system called Set Items that augments your existing loot with new looks and customizations, and enhancements to the popular Helliquary PvE mode.

Diablo Immortal Beta 3

Finally, the game will introduce actual purchases of the previously-free Battle Passes and Orbs, with credit going towards in-game items once the beta ends and stats are wiped. Blizzard has to be cautious about how it monetizes Diablo Immortal lest it turns off some of the brand’s most staunch supporters, but the company insists that players will never be able to outright buy gear and that all in-game purchases are optional and largely cosmetic. We’ll see.

The beta kicks off today in Canada and Australia, and the final version will launch sometime next year. Hopefully, the wait will be worth it.

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