Diablo IV Is Missing A Key Performance Feature But Devs Are Working On It
Diablo III, originally released in 2012, was a huge departure from the previous two games in terms of visual style. Despite the dark and gothic tone of the first two games, Diablo III had a simpler, less-detailed, and almost cartoonish aesthetic not entirely unlike World of Warcraft or even Overwatch. The Reaper of Souls expansion attempted some course correction in this regard, but long-time fans largely weren't swayed.
The brand-new Diablo IV, then, is a return to form for the game's visual style, and it's actually gorgeous (or perhaps gore-geous) in parts with the settings turned up. However, that requires some surprisingly beefy hardware. Even on monstrous machines, it can suffer poor, stuttery performance, particularly (but not exclusively) when installed to a hard drive.
Some folks attempted to attribute this to Microsoft's newly-hatched DirectStorage API after files related to the API were found in the game folder during the game's beta. It's a reasonable-enough assumption; new technology often comes with growing pains. However, DirectStorage definitely isn't to blame for any part of Diablo IV's troubles because the game isn't actually using it yet.
That factoid comes from PC Gamer, who spoke to the Diablo IV team and was told that DirectStorage is "currently not enabled" in Blizzard's fastest-selling title ever. However, the developer does explain the presence of related files in the game's folders by saying that it is "planning on enabling it in the future."
While adoption of DirectStorage has been slow, it seems like it might start picking up soon as developers begin to create games targeted at SSD-equipped console hardware like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. We're sure that Starfield will use DirectStorage—the PC version requires an SSD—and we expect that the upcoming PC version of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart likely does too, but so far, the only game to come out with it is the much-maligned Forspoken.
Still, this is really only good news for Diablo IV players. Say what you will about Forspoken as a video game, but it is an incredible showcase of the potential of DirectStorage. On compatible systems equipped with NVMe SSDs, that game, despite having a fully-modern game engine with extremely-high-quality assets everywhere, has essentially no load time, with loading pauses being measured in single seconds rather than tens or hundreds.
Loading times in Diablo IV aren't particularly long, but improved I/O performance could go a long way toward alleviating some of the stutter problems that the game suffers. Here's hoping Blizzard gets that patch out sooner than later.