BlueReview: Diablo IIIon June 4, 2012 at 5:05 am
Okay, lets start this review with some honesty on my part: I have never been a big fan of the Diablo series. In fact, the only reasons I ever tried them out in the first place was because my roommate Jamie was addicted to the game and I actually got a free copy of the box set with Diablo, Diablo II and the expansion. So for like two days I played a bit of Diablo and turns out I didn’t like it very much for some reason. I don’t recall all my problems, but I think it boiled down to “all I’m doing is running around clicking on things… this is dumb. How do you play this all day every day, Jamie? Gawwwwwd…”
… yeah… that sounds about right.
So here we are, ten years or so later, and Diablo III comes out. Again, being honest, the ONLY reason I even started playing this thing was because I got it (more or less) for free because I play WoW. I “signed” an agreement saying I’d keep playing World of Warcraft and I got a free copy of Diablo III. Truth be told, I did it for the mount and the WoW beta access. I had no plans to even download that Diablo game. Couldn’t care less.
The Monday before the game was released I’m sitting in Ventrilo with a bunch of my guildmates and they’re talking nonstop about Diablo. Some of them are planning to stay up all night so they can start at launch and so the whole conversation is about the game. After listening to them for a while I think to myself “you know, you do have a free copy… you might as well download it right?”
So I did. And than I went to bed shortly after.
When I wake up the game is all finished downloading and so I decide I’ll just take a crack at the game and make sure it sucks. I jump into the game, fiddle around trying to pick a class to play, give it about fifteen minutes and I’m about to log off when I start seeing other people on my friend list logging into the game.
I decide to just tough it out a little and talk to them while I play. Maybe they can explain to me what they love that I don’t see. The next thing I know I’ve been playing for three hours and I’m actually ENJOYING my time. I don’t know what happened, but I suddenly was compelled to keep playing. I was really getting into the story, and I had finally started to hit that sweet spot where I understood how to keep from dying every ten minutes. I was playing Diablo and liking it!!
I know!! It’s a terrifying thought!
Finally I get hungry and realize I need a break. So I log out, run some errands and come back later that afternoon. I try to log in and I can’t. Blizzard denies me Diablo. And that’s the moment it hit. An overwhelming sense of loss. I could not have my precious!! I couldn’t play. WHY? What had happened. Servers weren’t down, I just kept getting this error. I check vent, they’re all having the same problem. Twitter? Trending topic! Forums are exploding! Diablo is broken!!!!
I tried to play WoW. It didn’t work. I wanted Diablo! I tried about twelve games but nothing worked. I only wanted Diablo! Somehow, without realizing it, a void had formed in my soul and only the sweet sweet nectar of Diablo could fill the emptiness.
Eventually they fixed the servers. I’ve now played about fifty hours of Diablo. I’ve beaten the Normal mode with one toon, and leveled every class to at least ten. I’ve got the fever that plagued Jamie for so long. I know eventually it will wear off, but for now it’s overtaken me with a corrupt torment that fuels my twisted soul.
I want… to play… Diablo.
Alright, enough of that tragic tale. Let’s talk shop. Specifically, let’s review this game.
First, if you’re not familiar with Diablo it’s a dungeon crawler – or maybe more precise it is THE dungeon crawler. It didn’t start the trend but it’s the go-to game for that genre. By far. The storyline and quests of the game take about 10-20 hours to finish depending on how hard you push and your skill. When you beat it on Normal mode you unlock a new difficulty. That unlocks the next level up, and that unlocks the next, etc. The story is the same each time, and there are key boss fights that are the same too – but everything else is designed to be random. Random maps, random dungeons, random enemies, and random drops. The entire point of the game is to level up, gear up, and run run RUN all to get better drops and more gold.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I still don’t understand that drive. I finished the storyline e kinda had an “awwwww… now what” sense to it. And while most players jump right into the next difficulty level I instead made a new toon and started again. I thought “well I’ll try it out as this class and see how different it is” which I am told is the wrong way to play the game.
In truth, I may have ‘finished’ Diablo. I may be that guy that sees the story and the cutscenes and feels like I’ve finished the game and I don’t need to play anymore. I kinda feel that way already though I might give it a shot at some point. So, if you’re looking for a review on the difficulty of the highest levels this is the wrong review.
I will tell you the story is BRILLIANT, and the characters are amazing. I was completely engrossed by the game’s writing and I can tell you that it’s a top flight story with an amazing cast written in. I saw some of the curveballs coming, but I also was heartbroken a couple of times. Great stuff by the writing team.
My ONLY complaint in this department is the ending. Blizzard obviously left little bits of story dangling out there for future expansions but from my viewpoint they left to many of them. I almost feel like finishing the game is a punishment cause now I’m sitting here thinking to myself “what about this, and this, and that, and them, and that person, and this item!” Not fair Blizzard, and I will tell you that I’m not the only person with this complaint.
At the same time, the visuals match the writing perfectly. Strong, vibrant colors and settings with outstanding detail really resound. The game looks hand-painted it’s so stunning. I’ve heard complaints that it’s not dark enough for a Diablo game, but forget that crap cause it is still gritty and intense. Greys been played, folks, and Blizzard has found a way to make browns and crisp colors like orange and red look harsh and tense. Absolutely stunning graphics.
Gameplay is fun and with five classes I was worried it would get old fast. But after trying all the classes out they each have a very unique feel. For example: a monk versus a barbarian. They’re both melee, but a barbarian to me felt more about closing space with a charge or leap attack and then doing massive damage to a small group around them. On the other hand, when I play a monk it’s much more about controlling a small zone around me so that I take out enemies before they can overwhelm me.
Demon Hunters are about kiting enemies and jumping out of harms range, and Wizards use massive spells to waste entire legions at once. Oh, and the Witch Doctor is minions – dozens and hundreds of minions all over the screen to do the damage for you.
And that is just how I play those classes!!
The fun part about the gameplay is that with all the spells and runes at your disposal there are a lot of ways to play each class. Do you want to use slow effects or stuns or high damage or hit several foes at once? Would you rather shield yourself, heal yourself, or buff your damage up? Maybe you like to freeze enemies or set them on fire or poison them? There are tons of ways to tweak every ability and each class has about fifteen abilities and a slew of passive traits – and each ability has about five runes that can change the ability even further. Almost no one plays the same class the same way, so there’s a lot of variety.
Of course, a game is only fun when you can PLAY the game.
Remember when I mentioned the whole “couldn’t play Diablo” earlier in this review? Well, here’s the deal: for several reasons Blizzard has made Diablo require a working internet connection as well as the ability to get onto their servers. Yes, it’s a single player game in theory but Diablo also has an Auction House, friendlists, and the ability to group up and play together. None of these things would be possible without an internet connection.
“But, Joshua, it’s a single player game! The online stuff sounds nice but why can’t I have offline mode?”
Aha! You are correct and I agree with you. But I am not Blizzard, and in their evil deplorable minds they’ve decided the only way to control their game and limit hackers, pirates, and other such corruption is to put the entire game on their own servers. Buying the game is really just buying the right to log in and play on their server. Love it (not likely) or HATE IT you have no choice but to accept it.
So, on launch day, when a billion people tried to play Diablo… the Blizzard servers had seizures and fell apart. Players got booted or locked out of the game, and Blizzard eventually had to do hours of maintenance. If this were a “once in a blue moon” situation I could maybe almost forgive… but truth be told this is an endless cycle. Almost every night I’ve had an issue either logging into the game, or loading my characters, or loading the Auction House, or seeing my friends online, and a lot of nights I get booted from the server at least once. I don’t think in the two weeks the game has been available to play I’ve had a single night were EVERYTHING in the game worked as it was intended.
….well… unless it’s all intended to work wrong and then maybe….
Am I saying Blizzard should never have made this game online only? No, I’m actually not. What I am saying is that if you play Diablo you’d better have a backup plan. You better be ready to not be able to sell your stuff on the Auction House, or get booted from the server, or try to log in only to find out that they have the servers down all day for maintenance. I love all the functions that being online offers – and that’s the truth I really do love them – but I can’t help but be upset by the fact that I can’t just log in and play Diablo whenever I want. I probably will never be able to wrap my head around the fact that what is, essentially, a single player game will suffer from the same server torments of a MMO. Love the design but hate the reality.
There is one other thing about the game that I found a little disappointing. There’s nothing new here at all. I can’t think of anything that Diablo 3 brings to the table that isn’t already available someplace else. There’s a lot of neat things that really add to the game’s aura like the companions chatting as you run around the world, or the lore bits that play after you kill an enemy. But those kinds of things were in games like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights years ago. The auction house is new to this genre but those have been in MMOs for a loooooooong time now. Even the cool gameplay with the various ways to change your abilities isn’t really new because it’s been in other RPGs before.
Now, to be fair, these are things that are new to Diablo or maybe even to the genre. And they definitely are done very VERY well in this game. In fact, all the little things I just mentioned are some of the most enjoyable parts of this game! However, it’s hard to ignore that none of them are really new. I’m not going to take any points away from the game for this, but I wanted to make sure to mention it because this game was a decade in the making and a part of me feels like despite how polished the game is Blizzard could have gone a lot further. I just don’t know where or how they could have so I won’t be total jerk and rail on them about it. After all, the game is still really amazing for what it is and maybe that’s all it needs to be.
Well, anywho, that’s basically the game in a nutshell. A really large nutshell. When I can play Diablo it’s brilliant and the ONLY downfall has been the shameful lack of a true ending to the game. Mad about that. Not as mad about the lackluster ending as I am about the fact that so often I can’t even log in and play Diablo – because that I’m REALLY mad about – but I think it speaks volumes to the fact that I am willing to suffer through the torments of their crappy online service breaking daily just so I can have a taste of the pure ecstasy of Diablo III.
That is why I’m giving Diablo III a final score of 4 out of 5 Health Potions.
…okay, in Diablo 3 you get floating health orbs more than the potions but the pots are more a Diablo-in-general style thing and I thought it was funny, so you know… give me a break on this one. In the meantime I think I’ll download Torchlight now so I have a “can’t play Diablo” fallback.