Game Review: Diablo III by Blizzard
It was Diablo II that started my serious and time-consuming addiction to video games. Curse you Blizzard for putting out such a fun and incredibly rewarding game. This time around, it’s been many years and much talked about, but finally here: Diablo III. Diablo is back from the Hells and it’s your job to stop him, as long as you have a PC or Mac with a decent video card and persistent internet connection. Seems like such a small thing to ask for defeating a Lord of Hell, doesn’t it?
You’re back in Tristram again for an epic battle of good versus evil. A vile plague has taken over the land, precipitated by the fallen star. Pick one of five classes, barbarian, demon hunter, witch doctor, monk, or wizard, and go on the offensive against the forces of Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo himself.
The game download and install was smooth and error-free. Getting a battle.net account and getting signed in is as easy as giving an email address. Sign in and you’ve got 10 character slots to mix and match your warriors to your heart’s content. The classes are self-explanatory and conform to your standard MMO themes. Barbarian = tank, Monk = martial artist, Demon-hunter = archer, Witch doctor = summoner/necromancer, Wizard = um…wizard.
I played all five, and the only one I didn’t enjoy was the witch doctor. Maybe I’m a stickler for details, in that there are no environments that mimic an African or South American setting, so he seemed out of place. Act I is a town and tombs, Act II is desert, Act III is a castle, and Act IV is the high heavens/hell. Where did the witch doctor come from? Did he get on the wrong boat somewhere? Plus his abilities are goofy rather than cool, so it just felt forced on Blizzard’s part.
There are four acts in the game in increasing difficulty, all four are graphically beautiful and fairly diverse. The monsters get a little repetitious, but there’s only so many different kinds of demons you can animate, right? And boy howdy are there zombies galore to kill (in case you were wondering). The cut scenes are great and the overall story is well worth playing through. Once you’ve played through it once, you’ll catch a lot of little hints throughout the game that didn’t make a whole lot of sense the first time around. Kudos to Blizzard on the writing aspect of the game. The story was interesting and the dialogue between the main characters was decent. The henchman dialogue when you’re on a long run is hilarious, and I thought that was a great way to break up the monotony and build characters.
I’m not going to go through all the particulars, if you play MMO’s or Diablo II, you’ll see all of the usual elements. Leveling, spells, skills, stats, equipment, armorer, merchants, healers, henchman..it’s all there. The addition of the armorer and jeweler were a nice touch, but really don’t come into play into nightmare mode. I also liked the choice of three henchman. Not everyone likes to play the same way, and they give you some leeway there in choosing between Templar (tank), Scoundrel (archer), and Sorceress (um…sorceress).
Stash. A very smart decision by Blizzard, your stash is available to all characters on your account. This lets you put aside rare items for other character slots and vastly increases the enjoyability of the game. They even allow you to expand it up to three full pages by buying expansion space with in-game gold. I didn’t need more than a single tab, but when you start collecting sets it’ll come in handy.
Multi-player Loot. In multi-player games each player gets their own drops. How can you not like that? No more ninja-ing a boss drop, and yelling at people for being greedy bastards or running behind a powerful party like a dog looking for scraps.
Auction House. You’ll see this again in the bad section too, but for now the good…the auction house lets you buy those precious items you need without spending hours running around in loot runs like Diablo II. You also don’t have to deal with the assholes that populate MMO’s who think ripping people off is funny, since Blizzard acts as the go-between on all transactions. I can’t tell you how much I love the filter system on the auction house search…it gives you laser-like precision in finding the good stuff (that you can afford). You can search by type, level, up to three attributes, and buyout price.
Graphics and Sound. This game is beautiful and sounds spectacular. Period. From the backgrounds to the particle effects to the avatars, everything looks good and sounds awesome. They paint some very disturbing pictures along the way, but you expect that when fighting the Lords of Hell. Lots of great creepy voice-overs for the demons make this a game you don’t want little Sally playing before bedtime. Plus, it’s fun to take a minute every once in a while and look around for all the little details the artists threw into the environments.
Multiplayer. Everyone else is complaining about it, so I might as well too. The game requires a persistent internet connection to the Blizzard servers, even in single player mode (lame, right?), so the servers in the first couple weeks are dragging like a dog’s butt with mange. There are a lot of discussions and videos out that demonstrate the exact problem, so I’m not going to go into depth. Just know that in a party of four, when you get into a scrum with lots of monsters…nothing you see on screen is actually happening. Lag. Lag. Lag. I’ve seen it anywhere from a half-second to five seconds or worse. You’ll teleport all around the screen, you’ll get hit from out of nowhere, and your buffs won’t fire until after the fight is over. Basically, from my perspective, the game is nearly unplayable with four people at this time. You get to the point of hitting all your buttons like a madman and hoping for the best. It’ll get better…I have no doubt, but it may take a while.
Auction House. Here it is again! First the big one. The action house is glitchy and a big chunk of it has been offline for most of the first couple weeks. The gems and crafting materials are all offline as of this writing because they just didn’t work right. I need those rubies, mother fuckers! Fix it! Sigh…now I feel better. Second, and this is just my opinion, but the auctions are two days long. In game time, that’s freakin’ forever. Who has two days to wait around for an auction to finish? It should be 24 hours max, or better yet, let the player choose from some pre-set selection of values. One hour quick auctions would be perfect. Third, the auction house is flooded with junk. I don’t know what malfunction infects people who think their 13th level shield is worth 500,000 gold, but there are some fucking idiots out there and they need to go away.
Linear Game-play. Not everyone believes linear game-play is a bad thing. Some people like to spend 12 hours on a game and know they beat the main boss and saw everything there is to see. In this case, they’d be right. There are very few side quests, and none of them give you anything significant. Diablo III is a straight up point A to point B to point C kinda game (kill everything in between). This seriously reduces the fun of replay in my opinion, and for as long as they took between Diablo II and III, I would have appreciated two or three alternate paths to victory, even if they had to shorten the game a little overall. I can’t tell you how tired I am of wandering around that fucking oasis…and you will be too.
Player differentiation. You get to choose one of five classes and male or female (which makes no difference), after that, you’re the same as every other Barbarian out there. You all have the same skills at all the same levels. You can choose skills based on how you like to play, but there’s no downside to activating skills. You can change them up at any time with no downside. It’s too easy. Ultimately, it means the game comes down to equipment, and with the auction house…that’s trivial. It boils the game down to a series of accounting exercises. Honestly, this bores the crap out of me, but I like to be different. I’m weird like that.
THE VERDICT: Near miss on rehab.
I enjoyed the play through the first time, and gave enough time to all five classes to get a flavor of what they’d be like. For my final run, I had a juggernaut of a Barbarian that made short work of Dialbo (in single and multi-player modes). For now, multi-player just isn’t there, and the single player…been there done that. Twice. My son will probably put in another 100 hours, but he doesn’t have the aversion to level-grinding that I earned from long hours of addiction to Diablo II.
I did enjoy the great new twist on the secret cow level, and I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t been there. Just take my word for it…you’ll laugh your fool head off at the cleverness of those Blizzard game designers.
See you in Tristram, Diablo fans!
PS. As of tonight, the 1.0.2 patch is out!