It’s the classic battle between good and evil in a world called Sanctuary, and the evil has lain dormant for a good 12 years, since the last time we banished Diablo and his prime evil brethren. But now evil is back and we’re again tasked with slaying hordes of evil monsters to rid the world of evil once more.
Aaah yes… the sweet stench of sulphur practically permeated out of the laptop, when, at last, Diablo III was released and I was able to immerse myself in the dark and moody atmosphere. I’ve waited so long that I almost forgot all the fun I had in Diablo II. But it all comes back to me, quest by quest. For you see.. Diablo III looks and feels a lot like its predecessor. And thank god for that. I’ve been yearning for that same great gameplay all this time.
Some critics have bashed the developer for the lack of innovation. You still have the same globular health bar, a limited set of available skill slots at any time and the same linear quest driven concept of a storyline. But you know what? That’s exactly what I want and always wanted from a new Diablo title. More of the same, just prettier and with new bad ass characters, each with a whole new set of spectacular skills.
The game is still built up around the premise of infinite advancement of your character. You always feel like you can improve your character with a new piece of armor, a new weapon or an unlocked skill, which opens up when you level up. It definitely plays to your addictive tendencies, as you know there are great magic and rare item drops just waiting for you around the corner.
The story and narrative are well done, although, if you don’t remember much from the earlier games in the trilogy, or simply haven’t played any of them, you’d have a hard time relating much of the dialogue to anything. However, you’d be surprised how little the story means to the overall enjoyment of the game, if you never played a Diablo game before. Especially after your first, second or third playthrough. But that’s a given.
Hack’n’slash combat simplified
In a genre where the Diablo series have been a huge defining factor, the combat system is made up of a hack’n’slash style gameplay, where you simply click on the foe ahead and watch the carnage unfold. You have a set of six slots reserved for attacks and skills. Placed on your left and right mouse buttons as well as on numbers 1 to 4 on the keyboard, they’re always readily available. Especially since you can heal your character with a key nearby and therefore often hover your hand in that area anyway.
Each character possess a set of defensive and attacking abilities, allowing for more tactical strategies. You have to keep an eye on your cooldowns, so you can cast your spells in rapid succession, to be of highest efficiency and you always have to keep an eye on your health, so you don’t die. Monsters sometimes drop a health globe, which can heal you and your party members a bit and these are always good to save to when you really need them. Overall the combat system is really fun and varied. With every level up, you gain new abilities, which can help you switch your play style.
DRM and gold inflation running wild
Digital Rights Management has become such a derogatory term. One can understand, that developers want to protect their intellectual property from piracy, but there are different ways to implement it. Blizzard chose to go with an always online DRM, which is a type of DRM that Ubisoft have been slaughtered over. It requires you to have a constant and steady connection to the internet, even when playing single player. Basically there is no single player game mode in Diablo 3. You connect to a server, where your game runs. That means your buddies can jump in at any time and join your active quest. While that can have its benefits, there really should be an offline only version, separated completely from the online experience. It’s not very fun being told, that you can’t play your game the next couple of hours because of server maintenance.
Another problem with the game is gold inflation. Bots are literally printing cash in the game by harvesting gold autonomously, which results in gold popping into the system from nothing and without a lot going out, in form of jewelcrafting or gear repairs. The problem is, if Blizzard adjust the repair cost to take more gold out of the game, it’ll hurt the casual gamers, and not the bots which are the main cause of the problem. Blizzard should have expected this situation, since they’ve experienced it with both World of Warcraft and Diablo 2, but it doesn’t seem like they can do much more than banning accounts en masse, once in awhile, cleaning up the exploiting and opportunistic people.
I could also talk about the auction house, where you can buy and sell stuff for in-game gold or real world money, but I’ll leave that for you to explore. But if you want a little tip: don’t be hesitant to spend some of your gold in the auction house. You can get really great items for cheap, if you don’t go for the absolute best ones.
What Blizzard does really well is making an experience, which both newcomers, casual gamers as well as hardcore gamers can enjoy. Eventually one will grow tired of the game, but there are plenty of content to keep you entertained for over 50+ hours, with five great character classes and four difficulty levels (Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno) as well as the opportunity for you to create a so called “Hardcore” character, which only has one life. If you die, it’s over and you get to start over from scratch with a new character. The problem with that is, that the always online DRM makes you play online, and therefore you’re susceptible to server lags. Many hardcore characters have been reported lost, due to server lags already, but that’s a condition you have to accept, if you’re playing with the added adrenaline rush and fear of losing your character.
If you played Diablo 2, or if you have played any of the games inspired by it (Torchlight, Sacred or Titan Quest), buying Diablo 3 is a no brainer. It’s a really well polished Action RPG and in my eyes, it has fully lived up to my expectations. Blizzard announced shortly after its release that it was the fastest selling PC game. And I have no problem with labelling it as PC game of the year 2012 already. I really have to be blown away for it to overshadow Blizzards latest effort and I don’t see any title on the horizon that I’d expect to do that.
Miss; Always online DRM? Come on Blizzard, I’m disappointed in you.
Need; More, more and more. I’d love nothing more, than to have lots of extra content and many new items to grind for. Here’s hoping we’ll see an expansion pack sometime in the near future.