Diablo III Review -
To say that I’ve waited a long time for Diablo III would be a discredit to the franchise. I grew up with Diablo, and it was a staple of the movement from my trusty Nintendo consoles to the daunting realm of PC gaming. Diablo II came out when I was in middle school, and I’ve played it on and off since then. From Deckard Cain’s voice the sound of a gem dropping, it’s all was all ingrained into my young impressionable mind.
Unfortunately the launch of Diablo III was not without issues, some of which are still going on at the time of this writing. I’ve had my share of errors as well as disconnects, and I still occasionally get some strange artifacting when playing. For the most part the major wrinkles are being ironed out, but they certainly didn’t kick off this monumental title well. Granted, some issues are to be expected with a game this huge, but it’s hard to imagine that the company that runs the most successful MMORPG of all time wouldn’t be able a little more prepared on the server front.
The auction house, possibly the biggest addition to the Diablo franchise, is also a hotbed of issues. As a former World of Warcraft player, I was ecstatic to see them bringing an auction house to Diablo. The days of wandering through public rooms and bargaining with tight-fisted jewel hoarders would be over! Unfortunately, it feels like a beta version. In my time digging through auctions I’ve repeatedly run into errors with transactions timing out, and often simply not being able to purchase and item. When the interface and auction house work, they work well enough, but they are both in desperate need of some generous patching.
However, the social functions of the game are executed flawlessly. As soon as I log in I’m prompted with buttons listing my friends currently playing, and a simple click of the mouse will teleport me into their game. Another click on their personal banner and I’m standing next to them cutting through swaths of demons. It literally takes seconds (load time withstanding) to jump into a friend’s game. Public games work just as well too, although the lobby system has been ditched in favor of matchmaking. The only problem I have with the way they’ve built the social system is that you have no way of stopping a friend from joining your game. This can be an issue if you’re going to need to pause frequently, or if you just prefer to play through the game solo the first time around.
Of course, Diablo has always been at its best when played together. The addition of achievements that pop up to everyone on your friends list lets you know what they’re accomplishing, and the ability to compare statistics makes for some very competitive co-op. By far my favorite feature of multiplayer is that each player gets their own loot, meaning no more speed clicking on items the second a boss dies to make sure you get the good items. This is a major relief for people like myself, who were usually too slow to grab anything good while playing online.
This entry in the series is much more story driven that the first two, with a few interesting plot twists. It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it gets the job done, and does some very interesting things with characters that veteran players are familiar with. There are only a handful of actual cinematics, and most of the storytelling happens using the in game engine and voiced journal entries that the player picks up from time to time. I enjoyed the story quite a bit, and the journals kept the game flowing while getting me up to date with the lore at the same time.
As for the gameplay itself, it certainly hooks you. Levelling up has been streamlined, and skills can be changed on the fly as the player sees fit. This keeps you from accidentally selecting skill combinations that don’t work well, which hurt you later in the game. In similar fashion, you no longer allocate stat points as it’s all done behind the scenes now. This means, aside from gear, two players of the same class are identical if they have the same skills. The upside to this loss of fine-tuning that hardcode Diablo II players may miss is that as long as you’re about the same level as another character and have been keeping up with your gear, then you won’t have any trouble playing together. In my thirty or so hours of playing I’ve felt some slight gaps between myself and other players, but for the most part we’re all on the same page.
Gear is the main course of Diablo III. The blacksmith and the jeweler will be your main NPCs, and both of them can be levelled up to craft more powerful jewels and gear. At the time of writing, I’m level fifty and I’m still levelling up both of them. Crafting at the jeweler is pretty straightforward, combine jewels to make better ones. The blacksmith, however, is a little different. As you unlock new items to craft, they have random stats. They list the rarity and how many magical properties the item will have, but you don’t know what they are until you actually go ahead and make the item. Crafting materials are obtained by breaking down magical items, so you can see the loop you get into here. Get loot, break it down, craft new loot, repeat ad infinitum. It’s a very addictive circle.
The graphics are bright and keep even the dark bowels of hell looking interesting, and the music is as booming and ominous as previous entries. Blizzard has made jumping into the fray with your friends easier than ever, and the gameplay is there to back it up. Grinding gear, combining jewels, wheeling and dealing on the auction house, it all makes for an addicting experience. Aside from the issues still plaguing the interface that the game is packaged in, and an auction house that desperately needs some work, Blizzard has once again crafted one hell of a great game. As long as you can get through the errors and initial bugs (which are generally exaggerated), you’re going to have a great time in Diablo III.