Diablo Immortal's secret paywalls are its most villainous
Burn, or pay!
Diablo Immortal has a lot of unique ways to earn stats and power up. In order to get stronger, you’ll need to upgrade gems, level up your Battle Pass, and earn ranks on the Boons of Plenty, just to name a few. But there are also a bunch of hidden aspects of leveling that the game doesn’t tell you about and you have to figure out on your own.
YouTuber echohack, who claims to have over 1,200 hours playing the latest title in the action-RPG series, released a video showcasing some hidden blockades put in place for players who aren’t willing to spend any real money in-game. Since it is free-to-play and doesn’t really have many cosmetics for sale, Diablo Immortal instead has a paywall behind some parts of progression.
Blacksmith upgrades allow you to make your armor and weapons stronger, giving you a meaningful feeling of increased power. But after you level them up to rank six, you’ll need to increase your Paragon level in order to progress further. To go from rank six to rank seven, you’ll need to reach Paragon level 30. This addition wasn’t in the alpha or beta and was seemingly added to the main release to prolong the grind experience just a bit more.
Diablo Immortal limits how much Paragon experience you can earn based on an arbitrary and poorly defined server level. The Server Paragon Level (SPL) increases by two levels every day and is intended to stop players with too much time invested from becoming uber-powerful too quickly. If you are below SPL, you’ll gain a buff that increases your experience gain, but if you are above it, you’ll receive less experience.
So if you want to upgrade your items at the Blacksmith and you’ve already hit the SPL, then you’ll have to grind or just wait in order to upgrade your items. Sure, these problems don’t come into effect until you are dozens or hundreds of hours into the game. But Diablo is all about playing to get powerful ASAP, so this approach limits the fun.
Players like echohack have also found similar blockades that players have to deal with in order to progress. Side quests, purple elite bosses, random map events, and Zoltan Kule treasure rooms all stop giving rewards after you’ve completed five of each per day. Hidden Lair dungeons, which are some of the hardest to find since they only appear after a random encounter, stop giving gem rewards after you’ve completed a few sections of them.
The most egregious has to be the limit of Legendary drops for players. Apparently, after six Legendary items drop, whether they be armor, weapons, or jewelry, the drop rate severely decreases for that day. Diablo has always been about grinding dungeons for Legendary items over and over. In Diablo III, I could farm dozens of these items in just a few hours with strong characters. I could do it here as well — it would just cost me a lot of real-world dollars.
This is only a problem for free players because there’s an easier and more expensive way to farm Legendaries: Just purchase Legendary Crests for real-world money and run Elder Rifts, granting you at least a few powerful items.
Diablo Immortal is built on such a fun foundation and strong gameplay loop, but these hidden caps and the need to spend a lot of real-world money hold it back from being great. It makes a bit of sense that Activision Blizzard would try and recoup their investment with many ways to pay, but it's still disheartening to see what the beloved demon-hunting franchise has become.
I still hope that the game somehow reduces the emphasis on pay-to-win mechanics as more patches are released, which would make the game more fun for everybody. But that doesn’t seem very likely.