Diablo 4's world boss is a nightmare I couldn't wait to walk away from

 Diablo 4 screenshot
Diablo 4 screenshot

I did not beat the Diablo 4 world boss. My playtime of the beta may have teetered into intervention territory, but Ashava The Pestilent proved too much of a challenge – one of those nightmares that you just can't seem to shake. Truth be told, as much as I enjoyed the Diablo 4 beta, this limited-time event was one of the only things I didn't entirely love. The composition of the conflict too chaotic to feel as if I were having any impact against its five-tiered health bar.

That's a problem in a game like Diablo 4, where a quickening progression of power shifts the experience from mundane to magical in a matter of hours. I've never seen Diablo as a game about gradually rising to meet challenges, but rather an experience focused around scaling equipment and fine-tuning skills to be the most efficient demon hunter possible. Whether you're traveling alone or partying up with other guardians of the light in the Diablo 4 open beta, extinguishing the hordes of evil flooding forth from Sanctuary's darkest corners is proving to be a very good time indeed.

And then there's the Ashava of it all. The world boss concept is new to Diablo 4, which sees one of the Burning Hells' most heinous creations spawn within the shared-world, requiring multiple players to work in concert to conquer it. Blizzard has experience in this area; world bosses found their way into World of Warcraft expansions like Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Pandaria, which would spawn raid-strength bosses in phased versions of the overworld. They were always exciting challenges; rewarding battles without the messy-interpersonal drama that came hand-in-hand with trying to get a 25-player raiding party through an instance without major wah-wahs.

Diablo 4 screenshot
Diablo 4 screenshot


PSA: The Diablo 4 open beta will ruin your weekend if you aren't careful

I think part of the problem with the way Diablo 4 presents its world boss in the open beta concerns how Blizzard groups players together. Ashava may crawl out of a hellish maw at level 25, swinging her two massive forearm blades, but there's nothing to stop a group of underleveled players assembling around it – making it functionally impossible to beat in the 15-minute timeframe allotted. I know this from experience, as the first time I faced the whirlwind of pestilence I was also severely unprepared to survive its attacks.

Speaking to GamesRadar+, game director Joe Shely divulges how Diablo 4 handles its world boss groupings. "You can have around eight to 12 people together, fighting the same world boss. And when more people show up, we create another version of the world boss for them to fight. And because it's the service putting players together you're very unlikely to show up and be the only person there, because it actively brings people in to fight the big boss." It's the decision to not group players of an appropriate level-banding that may be an issue moving forward.

Fight to survive

Diablo 4 screenshot
Diablo 4 screenshot

How to fight Ashava

Want to fight Ashava? Then check the Diablo 4 open beta world boss times before it's too late.

But back to the battle itself. Each swing of Ashava's poisonous blades a one-shot kill, and each of my respawns further reducing my effectiveness. It didn't take long for my armor and weapons to become broken, making my Sorcerer less of a glass cannon and more of a general hinderance; at one point I opened a portal back to town to repair my gear at the blacksmith and ran back through it a minute later to return to the fray, but in doing so I had inadvertently removed myself from the instanced battle entirely. It was over, and I can only hope for the sake of my raiding party that I was replaced by someone of an appropriate level for the challenge. There's big loot at the end of that battle, apparently.

I have returned to Ashava at the required level, and what I discovered wasn't all that compelling either. The battle itself, that is, because the presentation is awesome. The camera pulls out, revealing a wider playspace than you're typically afforded in dungeons; it's admittedly fun to see how other players made use of the Diablo 4 character creator tools as they all lineup for the fight in the minutes beforehand, firing off emotes and party invites, or laying down impressive-looking attacks to demonstrate skill tree specializations. But once the battle began, it still felt as if I were throwing spells against a brick wall, rather than slowly chipping away at a towering foe – feedback is minimal, and the world boss lacks the movement or ferocity of better implemented insurmountable threats, like the Butcher, a returning Diablo boss who now appears as a random spawn to ruin side-missions in the best way imaginable.

The side-swipes were still deadly to my Sorcerer, and melee characters didn't appear to be having all that much better of a time – dodging slabs of poison isn't easy, particularly as Blizzard has made a somewhat controversial decision to walk back the Diablo 3 infinite dodge-roll in favor of a cooldown evade. Perhaps the world bosses will feel better in Diablo 4 proper, when the player base is whipping through levels unimpeded rather than rushing to access Ashava before they are equipped to do so. But right now, the Diablo 4 world boss made me feel powerless, which is a bad place to be in a video game which tasks you with rending demon lords from hell.

Diablo 4 is one of the most anticipated new games for 2023, and it's set to launch on June 6 for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One.