Diablo 3 Review: Hell Breaks Loose in a Linear Fashion
Diablo 3 was worth the wait, but its’ design might upset veteran players.
It has been almost 4 years since Blizzard finally lifted the sheet on Diablo 3, and like every other Blizzard release, fans of the series have been waiting eagerly to take down the Lord of Terror once again. With over a 10 year development cycle, does Diablo 3 live up to its insane amount of hype?
Diablo has been a franchise that has been a king in PC gaming ever since its original release way back in 1996. Since then, Diablo has continued to be the standard for the RPG hack and slash dungeon crawler genre, and to this day, gamers are still playing Diablo 2 which is now a 12 year old game. Diablo 3 has a lot to live up to.
The story of Diablo 3 takes place about 20 years after the events in Diablo 2. A fallen star was seen crash landing into a local town, and people are afraid it might be some sort of evil entity. Since the heroes that defeated Diablo previously were sent away to safety by Tyrael, a new savior must come forth to slay Evil. After stumbling into a local town named New Tristram, a young girl named Leah urges the new hero to help find her Uncle, Deckard Cain.
Diablo 3 is too predictable, but do you really play Diablo for the story?
Diablo 3 tries really hard to construct a story that you care about, but it ends up being a predictable mediocre tale. By about Act II players will already start to see how the second half of the game will be told. There are some twists along the way, but some fans might even consider them to be simply idiotic.
The narrative end of Diablo 3 is sufficient to keep the fans of the series happy, but doesn’t exactly offer a deep look into the world of Diablo. The story has never been the key focal point of the franchise, and there isn’t a soul on the planet that will not play Diablo 3 because it has only a decent story. If you have been playing the series from its inception, you will notice a few call backs to enemies and characters from the first two titles which does bring back some old memories of slaying demons before. It is cool feeling knowing all the hard work in previous games isn’t forgotten. The game does offer closure to the diablo franchise, but we all know Diablo 4 will release sometime in the very distant future.
Playing Diablo 3 is obviously where the game needs to be spectacular, and after about 30 hours of playing the retail version (and about 30 hours of the beta) Diablo 3 could possibly split the fans down the middle.
Linear is word that I never would of associated with Diablo 3, but the design works.
Diablo 3 is a much more streamlined experience then its predecessors. The days of making multiple characters of the same class are gone. Instead, Blizzard has decided to make all of the characters classes lack customization in almost every single way. Skill points and skill tress are a thing of the past. Classes now have predetermined skills and attributes that are achieved when climbing levels until the level 60 cap is reached. A decision that is sure to offend many fans that spent literally thousands of hours making different characters.
Each of the 5 character classes in Diablo 3 are unique in their own way. Each have their own unique set of skill and playing through the game with each one provides a much different experience. You can tell Blizzard put a lot of time into play testing each one to ensure that the experience was indeed unique every time you switched classes.
Characters now have four sets of skills that gain their own different abilities as the player levels up. Each set is either an offensive, defensive, or protection maneuver, and each skill also consists of runes which manipulate the skill in some way. Runes are achieved in conjunction with skills as your character levels up, and now act as a way to strengthen or change the way a skill acts.
Only one skill from each set can be equipped at a time. A player can have up to any 6 skills at a time, and as long as you select elective mode from the options, players can create a truly powerful character. Mana is also a thing of the past, and each character has their own exclusive need to be able to use their skills. The Monk for instance charges up as he/she fights, and once they have charged up enough energy can use a skill. The Wizard on the other hand automatically recharges their energy required to perform skills.
The decision to limit classes customization does in fact change the whole way you play Diablo. Character development is now on the back burner, and you now just simply have to play the game. Diablo 3 is much faster and a lot more chaotic then previous titles. Players will have to use combinations of offensive and defensive skills to make sure they survive.
Personally, I find the new character development and skill system to be fun. I fully understand why people will find the lack of attribute points disappointing, and the fact is that everybody playing Diablo 3 will end up with very similar characters. The way you play with your character will be very similar as well, until you reach the level 60 cap since you learn all of the skills in a predetermined path. The only real difference characters will have is their gear that they have found along the way.
You can experience every class to it’s fullest, without having multiple characters.
The biggest advantage of having linear character design is the diversity in the classes’ abilities. In Diablo 2, I would have to start a character a few different times until I found one that fit the way I wanted to play. Since I didn’t have to focus on if my character was being developed correctly, I could simply enjoy everything the class had to offer. If I wanted to switch from being an ice style wizard, to an in your face wizard, I simply made a few clicks and I was ready to go. I do not have to make a new character, or worry about replacing attribute points ever.
On the normal setting Diablo 3 can be fairly easy. I only died a few times, and that was usually caused by rushing into an area thinking I was strong enough to encounter anything. that stood in my way. Diablo 3 is obviously meant to be played through more than once, and the harder difficulties will give even the strongest players a tough time. The easier difficulty early on allows players to learn all of their skills, and create a set of skills that works for them. Once you beat the game on normal and unlock the harder modes, the game becomes much more “hardcore.” Playing on Nightmare is like playing an entirely new game. Bosses that would take maybe 2 minutes to take down suddenly require teamwork and a good 10 minutes to defeat. If you are feelings a little risky, players can always try a hardcore character. This feature makes it’s return, and still features a character that can only die once. If you die, it is game over for the rest of eternity, and you must start back at level 1.
Even with all of the weird design choices, Diablo 3 is still an amazing experience. The pacing is fairly fast, and unleashing massive attacks that consist of multiple skills is genuinely entertaining. Mixing different skills to protect yourself, and destroy the enemy at the same time will keep you busy at all times. The faster pace really shows up in the second half of the campaign, and players will have to fight dozens of enemies all at once. Taking down a group of of 30 enemies in just a few seconds is very satisfying, and while the difficulty might be to easy for some players, you can not deny the fact of feeling all powerful is a good one.
Enemies consist of new variations of old enemies, and as expected a lot of new terrible creatures are introduced in Diablo 3. Some enemies are obviously stronger then others, but as before enemies will attack you in different groups to mix different strategic formations to catch you off guard. Defending from the different groups of attackers is more frantic than ever, and mastering your skills to combat the enemy is a ton of fun. Unique enemies will show up every so often, and will have some sort of magical attribute like electrically charged, or have the knockback ability.
Finding loot is still where a lot of the heart of Diablo 3 lies. Finding side dungeons is sometimes more exciting then following the main path because you know at the end of the trip you will be rewarded. Playing for hours just to find a wand that does just a few more points of damage is still something players can look forward to, and Blizzard has made sure people will very rarely find 2 items that do the same thing. Sockets and jewels also make their return, and will once again only add to the realm of armor and weapon possibilities.
Smithing is a new addition to the franchise, and plays a pivotal role in finding really good equipment. Any magical or unique item can be sold for gold, or you can break them down for their material, which can be used to make new equipment. Smithing replaces the gambling system in Diablo 2, and I found myself smithing items more than purchasing them from the local merchant. Each item requires a certain amount of material and gold, but the attributes to each item are random. Choosing to take the risk of using all of your material to try to make a new piece of armor, or for a new weapon will make you second guess yourself.
Diablo 3 plays extremely well, and while it will take you some time to get to the harder enemies, getting there is a lot of fun. It plays different from previous Diablo titles, but after 12 years that is to be expected. If you want a title that rivals the style of Diablo 2, then I suggest looking into Torchlight 2. Diablo 3 offers an experience that allows players to simply feel powerful, and not focus on if they are building their character the correct way. Instead, you focus on just having a good time with your friends, and unlocking new skills to take down the Lord of Terror.
Either Diablo 3 is a resource hog, or Blizzard needs to fix their servers.
The presentation of Diablo 3 is an area where Blizzard seemed to once again make some odd choices. Visually the game looks alright. It is definitely a step up from Diablo 2, but compared to other titles of today, it lacks quite a bit. The weird part is there are some areas that look marginally better than others. Parts in act 4 look amazing and are filled with stunning detail, then you have other areas, such as some forest areas in Act 1, that have almost no character and the texture quality is flat and unappealing. Diablo 3 doesn’t look bad in any way, but it also doesn’t look amazing. While the overall look of the world is Diablo 3 is plain, the animation of the enemies and characters is where this title shines. They way some of the monsters die, and literally turn to pieces is quite stunning. The fluidity of the attacks and skills from each of the classes are smooth and fun to watch.
At first, I thought the bland graphics was a way for Blizzard to allow for a very wide range of PC’s to be able to experience Diablo 3, but that is not the case. I am running a very high end rig, and at some points the frame rate dipped quite a bit. What was even more bizarre were the times where it dipped wasn’t when a ton of stuff was flying on screen. At some points, I was engaged in combat with 20-30 enemies, and the game was smooth as butter, other times I would be attacking a few larger enemies and the game started to buckle. I do have the game maxed out, but I fear gamers with mid range hardware will have even more frame rate issues then I did.
It is possible that the servers are to blame for my performance issues, but I would be able to test this theory if Blizzard would of allowed for LAN or offline play. This is a topic that many people have discussed and I am a firm believer in offline or LAN play. I find it simply unforgiveable that Diablo 3 does not offer any sort of offline play, and there is simply no excuse for it. I understand it allows Blizzard to be able to cut down on piracy among other things, but you are screwing over the people that buy your product. If server issues are present, (which we all know was a huge problem during the launch) then I simply cannot play.
At the end of the day Diablo 3 will offer more play time then 95% of other titles. I played through the campaign mostly by myself and I clocked in at about 22 hours for the normal difficulty. Many other players have said with friends you can beat the game in as little as 12 hours. But Diablo 3 is meant to be played multiple times at harder difficulties, and beating every level of challenge with one character will easily take you 60 hours at the very least.
Some of the design choices are indeed weird, but I still found Diablo 3 to be one of the best experiences in a long time. The presentation isn’t the best, and the story might be lackluster to many people. Any fan of the series will be able to look past the mediocre story, and basic graphic presentation. The fact is that Diablo 3 offers some of the most addicting game play in gaming history. There are not many other titles that offer the level of enjoyment that the Diablo franchise offers. Many other titles have tried to duplicate the experience, but only a few have seen success. I will probably never have enough time to max out all 5 classes and beat every difficulty with each. Not having complete control over my characters attributes really isn’t a huge deal, and being able to experience a class to its’ full potential with one character saves me a lot of time. I still have tons of fun blasting through dungeons with my friends, and trying to find loot that is just a bit better then what I was previously using is still addicting. If building multiple characters is what you live for then you are going to be very disappointed, but if you have been waiting for this title as long as I have, you will find a solid entry into the Diablo franchise. Any fan of the series will be able to look past the mediocre story, and basic graphic presentation. Sadly, there is no secret cow world in Diablo 3, but I guess that can wait till the expansion.