The first thing I did in the Diablo IV beta was try to roll. After playing games for 30 years I’ve internalized two important things: Always check behind the waterfall, and rolling is always faster than walking. So I rolled. And it was faster. And then I tried to roll again and I couldn’t…not for another five seconds. Had I been eating a KFC Double Down at that moment I would have spit it out in shock. But I wasn’t, so instead I just quietly groaned with every fiber of my being.
Diablo IV’s dodge-roll is now just an active ability like any other. You can find pieces of gear that will give you extra charges so you can evade multiple times in a row, but otherwise you will be a sitting duck for over 80 percent of your time in battle. For PC players, who previously never had access to a dodge, it might feel like a new oddity that’s only annoying insofar as it takes up hotbar space in which another ability could be cooling down. As a console player, however, it’s kind of torturous.
Diablo III didn’t have a dodge-roll at first, either. It wasn’t until the game was ported to PS3 and Xbox 360 that Blizzard added one to help console players survive in lieu of the fast-paced precision clicking employed by their mouse-and-keyboard-wielding PC counterparts. Move the right analog stick and you dodge-rolled in that direction, whenever you wanted, as much as you wanted. Diablo III had plenty of flaws but this wasn’t one of them.
Nerfing the dodge-roll in Diablo IV comes with consequences. The worst is that unless you toggle a certain option in the settings menu off, your character will keep yelling at you about how they’re not yet ready to dodge-roll again. The second worst is that while not in combat I can only dodge-roll every 10-15 steps, and it kills me inside. I just wanna go faster. There also aren’t really any invincibility frames, as with dodge-rolls in most roguelites and action games like Dark Souls. Misfires feel all the more punishing. Many times I’ve instinctually dodged an attack just to realize I should have saved it for the more deadly area-of-effect power a boss was about to unleash.
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At the same time, the cooldown has certainly made me more thoughtful about what I’m doing in Diablo, even if the beta constantly showered me with unnecessary healing potions. Playing a Barbarian, the times I could dodge-roll felt more impactful. Rather than just spamming it thoughtlessly, I had to play slightly more tactically, a change not completely out of place in Diablo IV’s overall more grim and weighty recalibration of Sanctuary.
The beta’s first World Boss, Ashava the Pestilent, was a perfect example. Anyone who went into that fight not ready to learn the dragon-like creature’s attack pattern and save their dodge-roll for her blade and talon swipes died a quick and humiliating death. It’s possible, over the long run, it might even feel good to find a loadout where I can save up three or four dodge-roll charges and then dispense them strategically over the course of a fight.
Coming out of Diablo IV’s first beta weekend I’m still not convinced, though. Maybe other games have just spoiled me, but there are certain core verbs in action games and dodge-rolling is one of them. Taxing it like a luxury almost feels alienating, like giving players a double-jump and then making the second one only work every other time.
Diablo is organized around the simple yet inexhaustible pleasure of click-to-kill, because spamming attacks to rip through enemy hordes remains incredibly satisfying. Dodging them is too, which is why I would like to be doing a whole lot more of it. Or perhaps I’m too much of a smooth-brained loot gamer for my own good. What’s a meal without vegetables?