Well, it has been about 12 years since the release of Diablo II, and Blizzard has decided to revisit and update one of their classic, beloved franchises with a bigger, badder update. Diablo III brings improved graphics, sound, cinematics and polished gameplay to the table. Blizz even implemented a potential solution for the cheats and hacks that ruined Diablo II’s multiplayer for many players. (Apparently, that’s not working thus far.) The question becomes: Is the game worth your hard earned cash, will solo players put up with the always-on internet requirement, and is the game ultimately fun?
Let’s find out, shall we?
By now, Diablo 3 has been out for a few weeks, and quite a few of you have dropped the cash to enjoy Blizzard’s latest epic point-and-click RPG. I’m sure many of you have blasted your way through the story campaign, only to play more at the increased difficulty levels. (Damn you, Inferno.) But for those of you who HAVEN’T jumped into the game with both feet yet, this review is mainly pointed at you.
Evil Rises Yet Again…
Let’s get the basics out of the way first here… Diablo 3 is an awesomely entertaining, intensely engaging experience that you’ll probably want to play many times over, by yourself or along with up to three other players in some co-op action. The story picks up on the Diablo storyline roughly 20 years after the end of Diablo 2, when you, the Nephalem, are summoned to the town of Tristram to investigate a fallen star that has had the unfortunate side effect of raising armies of the dead to attack the living. Each of the five playable character classes — Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard — offers its own unique play style, personal history, and personal interactions that encourages you to replay the game. The feel of the weaponry in the game has a decent punch to it, making it an enjoyable experience to level up your character with better weapons, armor, magical items, better skills, and spells. It always is a fun experience to mow down the multitude of demons and other critters with the Rapid Fire of the Demon Hunter or bash skeletons into the walls with the Barbarian’s club. Good stuff.
Like its titles before it, Diablo 3 doesn’t over-complicate things and keeps the storyline split up into four acts. But let’s be honest here: The storyline isn’t that engaging or unique, (The Prime Evils of Hell have returned yet again…How surprising.) The storyline pretty much becomes easy to ignore as you’ll be generally more focused on clicking your mouse to kill monsters and grab that loot. It’s not that you’ll necessarily want to ignore it — there are a couple not-too-surprising reveals and betrayals — but, frankly, the story isn’t as compelling as the action. Fans of the game’s lore can get a deeper appreciation for the backstory by chatting with the major characters and/or hunting for diaries and logs scattered around the dungeons, towns, and other locales that you’ll visit, but don’t expect much of a major reward here, you’ll just gain some experience points and knowledge from these ventures. Even the three Followers you’ll meet in your travels: A Templar, Scoundrel, and Enchantress who will fight alongside you, have their own story arcs. Exploring these extra plots are of course, completely optional, which is fine. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a tangible benefit for doing this, such as opening up new quests or unlocking unique pieces of loot, which is definitely a bit disappointing.
Hell Comes Calling
The low level monsters you’ll encounter in Diablo 3 will pretty much be mostly familiar to veterans of the previous Diablo titles, ranging from the usual zombies, spiders, and skeletons to minor demons and flying succubi. I did get a kick out of the fat Grotesque creatures, which a fat, undead corpses to explode into a shower of attacking worms once defeated. Gotta love a monster that has worms in its stomach. Seriously.
On the other hand. I did feel that the bosses were a bit uneven in terms of their balancing. Just from doing a little additional exploration to level up my character, combined with spending some gold at the Blacksmith to craft some nicer, more potent items, as well as decking out my follower with better armor and weaponry, my first character, a Demon Hunter, pretty much mowed down everything in my path. Even the lieutenants have pretty much been pushovers. This pretty much continued up until the encounter with Diablo, who pretty much melted my face off in our first encounter. Suffice it to say that the Normal difficulty seems a bit TOO easy, and until you finish the game on that setting, you can’t ramp the difficulty up. A bit of an odd decision there.
The good news here is that once you’ve played through the Normal setting you can increase the difficulty and replay the campaign with the same character at successively more difficult levels — Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno — that are not only tougher to beat, but give rarer loot drops and add a little more complexity to crafting. It is a bit of a nice bonus and adds a bit of replayability to the game, especially for those loot hounds out there that like to acquire the best gear. The addition of the gold-based and also real money auction houses give the player the ability to buy and sell their rare gear for in-game gold or real cash. The 10-item limit in the Auction House help to keep the AH from being over-crowded with random junk, although that might not make those “Ebay-like” power seller types a bit unhappy.
Quirks and Irks
Diablo 3 looks and plays, for the most part well, especially now that the horrible launch period of the title has passed. Seriously…Diablo 3′s launch was probably Blizzard’s worst launch yet, and I’ve been a player of WoW through the initial title and all the expansions. Why was the launch so bad for Diablo III, you ask? Because even though you can play the game solo, the required persistent online connection required made playing the game a horrible experience. I do understand that Blizzard was looking to combat hacks, piracy, cheating and the like, but the inability to play offline solo without an internet connection is a bit frustrating, as it feels like Blizzard has somewhat forced the limitations of their MMO titles into Diablo 3. There really isn’t a good thing to say about not being able to play through the single player content because Blizzard took the servers down for maintenance, which was something that happened quite a bit during the initial launch. Combining this with the current lack of a PvP mode, the online experience and the internet requirements for single player still leave me a bit cold. The good news here is that if Blizzard’s track record is anything to go by, the title will continue to be patched and balanced for years to come. At least this is my hope.
If you’re a fan of the past Diablo titles, you generally know what to expect here. Diablo 3 is basically a prettier, more bad-ass version of the games that came before it. If you are willing to deal with the “always-on” connection requirement or scheduled maintenance periods, then the game should provide you with quite a few hours of fun. However, if your internet connection isn’t that great or don’t like dealing with “always-on” internet connection DRM schemes, then you might want to pass on this one. There’s always Torchlight 2 coming around the corner in the near future.