Diablo 3 Review

I’m experimenting with a new review format, so let me know what you think, internet.

It has been a week since the Lord of Terror took millions of gamers from their loved ones, and having played through the game with multiple characters, I thought now would be an appropriate time for a review. Diablo 3 is the latest game from Blizzard, who you may know as the company that only makes runaway hits. If that doesn’t ring a bell, then they are the company that enslaved millions with World of Warcraft. Diablo 3 is also the game that has garnered much criticism for its anti-piracy online only policy, but we won’t be discussing that here today (In short, it was a really bad idea and doesn’t work well at all). At its core, Diablo 3 is a dungeon crawler, not a hack and slash game, nor a full fledged RPG. The Diablo series is one of the most prestigious series in this genre, and this game has been 12 years coming so it has some pretty huge shoes to fill.

Yay for boring title pictures!

With any Blizzard game, it is the gameplay which is the meat of the experience, and that is no different with Diablo 3. This game had very little to do in order to satiate fans. In fact all it needed to do was copy and paste Diablo 2’s combat system with new classes and areas and they could have called it a day. As it stands, the Blizzard team reinvented the wheel so to speak. Diablo 3 differs wildly from Diablo 2, and almost all of it is for the better. Firstly let’s look at the allegations that Diablo 3 is dumbed down. It is indeed true that you can no longer assign stats or gain skill points, but this isn’t a major loss. Stats in Diablo 2 were always “enough for equipment then everything else in vitality”, which is very boring. Skill points have been replaced with a far better system. Instead of slightly upgrading the same skill every level, you now gain a host of new stuff every time you level up. This can range from new skills, new passives, or new runes. One rune can be attached to each skill and they can dramatically change how a skill works. An early Witch Doctor skill called Fire Bats shoots a cone of fire… bats out. If you attach the Dire Bats rune, the skill will now shoot a giant long-range piercing bat. These runes and passives make each level far more of a delight than Diablo 2 could ever have hoped. You are limited in how many skills you can equip at once, so the game is considerably more tactical than its predecessors, as selecting the proper layout is critical to your success.

Lighting bats on fire? PETA’s going to have a field day with this one.

However, if there is anything that debunks the “Diablo 3 has been dumbed down” myth, it is the loot system. There is still a lot of stat crunching when it comes to gear. In fact, gear has never been more important in a Diablo game. Previously, a Necromancer or Sorceress didn’t need gear at all really as they relied so much on their magic. Now, every skill’s damage is tied directly to weapon damage, and your class’ core stat acts as a damage multiplier. This means that even Wizards are going to want to get the absolute best equipment they can find. Each character has several unique pieces of equipment, but it isn’t a waste to find equipment that isn’t for your class anymore. You can now trade between your own characters by using your stash, or put your finds on the auction house. The auction house is a nice addition, especially since in-game vendors are now almost completely useless, but I cannot support the real world money auction house launching soon.

Do not trade these for another +20 to intelligence. It is evil!

Another thing that Diablo 3 did well was cutting the fat. Blizzard has streamlined many of Diablo 2’s most unnecessary systems in order to make the game better. There are no longer scrolls of Town Portal. Instead, your character will learn the Town Portal skill early on and be able to warp to town whenever they want, subject to charge time, which makes it less exploitative for bosses. Identifying items is out aside from with rares, and that only requires a right click and a couple of seconds. Potions are back in the game, but subject to a cooldown so no more potion spamming. Potions are supplemented by health orbs, which, when picked up, will heal your character. Enemy and dungeon randomness is back, as are random quests; although, these do not have as big of an impact as the random quests in Diablo 1.

All hail the Skeleton King!

The class diversity is excellent. Each and every class plays very different from one another. Every class has their own resource that fuels their skills and every resource acts differently. Fury for the Barbarian is generated by attacking but he loses it while he isn’t pressing the attack. Arcane Power for the Wizard on the other hand regenerates quickly.The Barbarian is your basic melee class, but manages to be so much more than most basic melee classes ever dream of being. There is some real weight behind each and every attack and it is legitimately fun to clear rooms with his/her ground shaking skills. The Wizard is the opposite of what you would expect. (S)he has the potential to be one of the most defensive classes, or you can just go full nuke and enjoy yourself. The Demon Hunter fills the role of the glass cannon, relying almost entirely on evasive and shadow skills to stay alive, while being able to slam enemies with more damage than most other characters. The Monk fits the role of the Paladin, but also manages to be a much faster version of the Barbarian. Finally, there is the Witch Doctor, who has the most diverse and crazy skills of them all. You can run with a bunch of followers, turn enemies into chickens, or just release frogs to kill your enemies; the choice is yours.

Frogs!

The graphics are another point that fans were heralding as the doom of the series long before the game was released, and, once again, this is unfounded. The fear was that the game’s less detailed appearance would make the game seem more like World of Warcraft than Diablo. The enemies and character models are very distinctly Diablo, as are the environments, but maybe too much in that case. There is very little evolution in the environments from Diablo 2 to 3. Act 1 is the same as Act 1 in Diablo 2, Act 2 is the same as Act 2, Act 3 combines act 4 and 5, and Act 4 of Diablo 3 is extremely uninspired. Diablo 2’s environments were one of the major evolution points from the first game, and it is a shame that Diablo 3 played it so insanely safe in the creation of their environments. That isn’t to say they aren’t great. The environments are really well designed, but the concept behind them is stale, and that is unfortunate.

An Arabian desert in Diablo? Never!

So the gameplay is excellent, but hold the Game of the Year trophies a little bit, it is time to discuss the story. Diablo 3’s story is terrible, really, really terrible. If you don’t guess every single plot twist in the game from early on in Act 1, there might be something wrong with you. Diablo 3 is a mature game, but the story is so simplistic it seems like it was made for toddlers and that is insulting. The dialogue is insanely poorly written. To their credit, the voice actors do a good job, but even they can’t surpass the dialogue. Every demon will taunt you in a campy over the top way. When the Skeleton King was laughing like a Saturday morning cartoon villain at me, I knew something was wrong. Blizzard tried to insert your character into the game more and, as a person who hates mute protagonists, I appreciated this move, but it was poorly done. At certain times after getting an objective, you’ll get a voice over from your outlining the objective. You won’t get personal thoughts or anything of substance, just a reminder of the objective you were just told about. The only good thing about the character interactions are the interactions between your character and your companions, but this is good on the strength of the voice actors and not the terrible dialogue.

Fun for a chat, but I dare you to rely on them for damage.

Of course the immediate counter to this line of criticism is that the game is a dungeon crawler and those games aren’t known for their stories. Well the problem with that point is Blizzard shoves this story down your throat at every opportunity. There is more of a story here than either of its predecessors, but it is so inferior to the barebones offerings of those games, it is shameful. The story relies heavily on multiple characters, all of which are really poorly written. The game even goes out of its way to make the boss enemies look stupid due to their Dragonball Z style boasting. It’s 2012, Blizzard, do not rely on this kind of garbage for a mature game. If the story was as unobtrusive as in the first two games, I wouldn’t have spent two paragraphs writing about it, but it is. You can argue that a genre doesn’t usually have good storytelling, but if a game choses to put so much into its story, it is open for judgement, and even the writers of Duke Nukem Forever could have come up with a more gripping narrative.

Verily

Despite Diablo 3’s insanely poor story, the fact of the matter is that its gameplay is extraordinarily strong. With multiple difficulty levels including the all new level 60-only Inferno mode, Diablo 3 is a game many gamers will be playing for the next decade or so. In the world of video games, gameplay is king. This is a rule that even the most story-based games cannot avoid. Diablo 3 did prioritize the right thing, but it is a shame that a company as talented as Blizzard could let something as big as the plot drop so badly.

Pros:

– Addicting gameplay
– Diverse classes
– Endless variety

Cons:

– Insultingly bad story
– Online only gripes (and there are plenty)

Score: 8.5

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