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Best of it's genre

Review: Diablo 3

by May 28, 2012

Diablo 3 drops you right into the heart of Tristram after the events of Diablo 2 expansion. For those who are familiar with the franchise you’ll instantly get the “coming home” feeling right at the jump. That’s not to say that Diablo 3 isn’t for newcomers, the game is designed so well that longtime fans and newcomers are quickly brought up to full speed.

When you start Diablo 3 the first thing you’ll need to do is pick your hero and there are ample choices waiting for you. They’re broken down into ranged and melee classes with each class taking a very distinct path from the others.

  • Barbarian: They’re your heavy hitting melee characters that sacrifice speed for pure force. They take from a pool of fury for their special attacks.
  • Demon Hunter: This is the basic ranged character. High in agility to keep space between the character and enemies. Their special attacks come from a combined pool of hatred and discipline.
  • Monk: Variation on the standard melee character. Instead of pure power the Monk is focused on speed and agility for it’s combat and uses spirit for it’s special attacks.
  • Witch Doctor: Variation on the standard ranged character. Focuses on summoning creatures to battle on their behalf and uses mana to power it’s special moves.
  • Wizard: Last variation on the ranged class. Deals with area effect spells as well as offensive and defensive spells powered by it’s pool of arcane power.

After picking your class you can also choose to make a hardcore hero, this means that once that character dies that’s it, it’s permanent. As a built in safety the game only allows you to choose this option once. You have to get one character level 10 or higher, that way you get a feel for the game before you decide you want to go this route.

The game makes it easy to see you leveled up.

Once you’re happy with your character and difficulty level you’re dropped into a war zone. Something has dropped from the sky and has caused the dead to rise from their graves. It’s up to you as the unknown warrior to battle through the hoards of monsters to find out what fell from the sky and why it unleashed Hell on Earth.

Fighting the denizens of the underworld is as easy as putting your cursor on whatever you want dead and clicking until they’re dispatched. Of course once you get the hang of the controls there comes a flood of variations to the gameplay. You move your character with the mouse either by clicking on where you’d like to go to or just holding the left button down while you drag your character in a path. In the event that you want to attack something and don’t want to run right up on the enemy you press shift and then click on whatever enemy you want to battle and your character will stand still and attack.

While fighting is as easy as point and click it’s able to be enhanced with various special abilities. The left click is for your standard attack which is tied to restoring your special abilities pool of spirit, fury, mana, hatred, discipline, or arcane power. The right click is for your basic special attack. As you progress in the game and gain levels you’ll be able not only to swap out the special attack but also gain other special attacks that by default are tied to the 1-4 number keys on the keyboard. After you’ve gained a few levels you’re able to set up an array of attacks that can be used to set up and then finish off giant groups of monsters.

When I was playing as the monk character I used one special ability to draw in all onscreen enemies around me and then another special attack that was a roundhouse that attacked all enemies around me. I was dealing massive damage to groups of a dozen or more. As you experiment with different powers you’ll find the ones that work best with how you play the game.

The nice thing about combat is that as you play the game enemies will come at you testing where you’re at as far as power level and weapons. You’ll have a wave of minions with some larger foes sprinkled in, then as you progress through an act you’ll see some smaller boss sized characters and some magical ones all leading up to the eventual boss at the end. It’s a quality design that lets the player feel like they’re doing better in the game and growing as far as powers and what weapons they’re carrying.

As for the weapons you’ll use in the game? Diablo 3 is a “loot” based game. That means for every monster you kill there’s a good chance it will drop gold or more importantly, a weapon. Depending on the level of the monster and the difficulty of the game the loot will range from ordinary weapons and armor to the rarest of the rare with items that carry magical properties that allow your character to gain experience faster then normal or regenerate health or even find more gold. The rarest items have the highest number of magical powers imbued into them and may also let you enhance them even further with gems you collect later in the game.

Killing and looting isn’t the only place you’ll be able to get weapons though. You’ll come across a blacksmith and in the beginning he’ll offer a very pedestrian assortment of goods, as you level him up he’ll offer more and more magical items and soon he’ll be able to craft the rarest items. The only downside is that in order to have him craft you need a “normal” variation of that item plus magical powder and fangs. While it’s easy enough to get the weapons either by looting or buying them from merchants the only way to get the powder and fangs is to have your blacksmith break down magical items into their basic elements. It’s free to have your blacksmith break down magical items and depending on the rarity of the item you’ll get either just powder or powder and a fang.

The item screens are well made and easy to use.

Once you have everything needed for the blacksmith he goes to work and makes your item but you don’t know what properties it has until it’s made. It’s really a crap shoot to see if the piece he’s crafting will help your character or if it’ll have properties that don’t mesh well with your character class.

Your blacksmith will need to be leveled up in order to make better gear and in the beginning it’s just a simple process of tossing him money and having his ability go up. You’ll reach a certain point where money won’t be enough and you’ll need to find special pages in the game world to have him level up even more. Just as a warning, the pages come from random drops in the game and the drops almost never happen on the normal difficulty, you’ll need to play one of the harder difficulties in the game if you’re looking to level up your blacksmith to very high levels.

Along with the blacksmith there’s an artisan who works in gems that allows you to craft special gems that can be added to weapons and armor for special abilities. He levels up the same way that your blacksmith does so when you meet him he’ll have a very simple list of abilities and you’ll be able to level him up from there to provide better goods.

Besides looting and forging items in the game there’s also an auction house. In the auction house you’re able to take the items you find or make in the game and sell them either for game gold or real world money. As of this writing the real money auction house has been postponed by Blizzard again with a press release saying it will be up and running by the middle of June.

While the dungeon crawling and looting are the stars of the show the story doesn’t fall by the wayside. The story is laid out in an impressive manner allowing the people who want to focus on the combat not being forced to wade through story and the people who want the story can get into the minutia of every facet of it.

The story plays out by a cutscene between every act with some of the most gorgeous looking pieces this generation. After that the story is told by various characters you can talk to, each having a drop down menu of tales that they can talk about. Every time you meet a new enemy a book of lore icon shows up and by clicking it you get to know the history of the monster. Also along the way there are various satchels that have books of the world written by different citizens, sometimes a major player in the game and sometimes just a small quip from an extra. Much like how Elder Scrolls has it’s library of books you can find across the world, Diablo 3 has it’s books along the way that allow a user to learn about the world, it’s history, and it’s people.

The great thing about all of this story is that it’s there if you want it and nothing more, it’s not always pushed in your face making you sit through cutscene after cutscene wanting to get back to the action. Instead it’s there for the taking anytime you want. This was a great design choice in a game that’s meant to be played more then once, there is no need to force users to avoid a cutscene 3 and 4 times as a “reward” for wanting to play the game more then once.

Sure, there are times when you have to talk to a character to start the next quest but it’s usually a light introduction to what you’re doing and you’re off, the ability to dig deeper is left to the player.

While Diablo 3 hits it out of the park with it’s gameplay, graphics and story there are a few bumps in the road.

Sometimes combat can get confusing.

Let’s get over the biggest bump first, the always online requirement for the game.

DRM is the worst word in gaming right now and Diablo 3 embraces the most vilified version of it. Always online gameplay means that you cannot play Diablo 3 unless you’re online. If for any reason there’s a problem on your end or Blizzard’s end you’re unable to play the game.

Now mind you I said either on your end or Blizzard’s end because since launch a whole lot of problems have been on Blizzard’s end. If you want to read about it you can check HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

Even with all these problems Blizzard says that Diablo 3 will always have this DRM so it’s either love it or lump it.

Always being online means that there is no saving in the game as everything happens in real time. If you want to destroy an item there’s no saving beforehand, if you want to craft something there’s no saving to make sure you craft something useful, saving is always on and keeps everything up to date for the most part. What you’ll find is yourself having to do some parts of the game over if you get booted out of your game for whatever reason. While the game saves instantly for some things it takes some time for other things to be saved. All items are saved instantaneously but progress in a dungeon isn’t, so you’ll find yourself having to redo some parts of the game thanks to the save system, it’s not game breaking but it is annoying.

Another knock on the game is that even though it scales amazingly well for today’s hardware it does have some graphical glitches here and there and some lag that causes a few unwarranted deaths. On the easier levels this is forgivable but if you’re playing with only one life? I expect a lot of rage out there.

Millions of people losing some gold makes for a bad day, millions of people losing millions of dollars is a disaster.

As I mentioned before, there’s an auction house that Blizzard expects to be a big selling point for Diablo 3 and it’s a great idea but the execution is significantly flawed. It’s too dumbed down to be of any use for most players.  There’s no way to search for items by…

  • price
  • name
  • category
  • buy it now

While all those omissions are startling, the inability to search for a buy it now item is truly mind boggling. There’s a two day run on all auctions but in the span of two days most players won’t need whatever item they’re bidding on because they’ll be leveled up and will have found or crafted something better.

The auction house also has a problem of not giving people the items or money after an auction ends, right now with in-game gold that’s a problem but when real money comes into play this is going to be a catastrophe. Millions of people losing some gold makes for a bad day, millions of people losing millions of dollars is a disaster.

While these issues are present in Diablo 3 it doesn’t lessen the need to keep going back to the game. Every single time you play the game you know that you could be one dungeon, one quest, one monster away from finding the perfect weapon or armor.

Monsters come in all different sizes to eat you.

Since the game is always online the ability to play online with anyone is there also, it’s seamless to join matches and play through the game with friends or just random people online. Users have the ability to skip through cutscenes so if you get a few friends together for a night of grinding you’ll be able to maximize your playtime instead of dealing with scenes you’ve all seen before.

The sound work in the game is fantastic with a quality cast of characters doing the voice work and superb ambient noises while you traverse on and under various landscapes on your journey.

The music is perfectly matched creating an aura of dread and despair during the events that unfold.

Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety:

  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Story that’s enjoyable and can be taken in on your own schedule
  • Addictive loot system
  • Interesting characters and lore
  • Exciting boss fights

Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety:

  • Dark and dreary world
  • Always online means that sometimes parts or all of game could be down

Why you should be playing this:

The gameplay in Diablo 3 isn’t ground breaking and genre defining like it’s predecessors, instead Diablo 3 is a culmination of everything that is right in it’s genre. It’s story is well paced and intriguing, it’s combat is solid and rewarding, and it’s loot system is the best we’ve ever seen. From top to bottom this is how games like this should be done. While some have complained that Diablo 3 is simple “more of the same” I don’t see why “more of the same” is bad if you’re starting with a fantastic product.

All that said the always online is a problem and I expect a company like Blizzard to have this running much smoother now that we’re past the launch. The auction house needs some tweaking and the overall online system needs to be running at 100 percent all the time. It’s not fair for people to spend 60 dollars on a game and then invest hundreds of hours taking advantage of all that’s offered only to see Blizzard drop the ball on support.

Despite it’s problems this is a must buy for everyone. If you’re a fan of the franchise then this is for you, if you’re new this is for you. The game does a perfect job of making everyone feel at home in this universe.

As it stands today you cannot get a finer example of the genre than Diablo 3.

This review was based on the PC version that was provided by the reviewer.

Overview
Release Date

May 15, 2012

Digital or Retail

Both

Platform

PC

Developer

Blizzard

Publisher

Blizzard

Badges
AwardsBest of it's genreConsistently good games from developer
Positives

Addictive gameplay, gorgeous graphics, intuitive design, fitting soundtrack

Negatives

some lag, visual glitches, various parts of the game offline or running intermittently

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9.0
Gameplay
9.0
Story
8.0
Sound
9.0
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