Diablo 3 Review
This must have been an incredibly difficult game to make. What a challenge to create a sequel to Diablo and Diablo 2, two of the most influential Action RPGs of our time. I do not envy them this task; especially considering the original development team was let go. It seems a rather unfair burden to place on an entirely new team.
No wonder the game was so long in development. Between the team changes and the restarts this caused, they probably could have released three games. But then this is Blizzard, which is notoriously slow; two is probably a better estimate. All things considered, I think the team did an incredible job. They released a fairly polished product after all; I just don’t think they made a Diablo Game.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion, Diablo 3 will always be a part of the Diablo legacy. Maybe a better way for me to express my disappointment is that I am not a big fan of the direction in which they took the franchise. And that is inherently the challenge when faced with creating a sequel to such beloved games, finding the best next step in the evolution.
It’s possible that in an effort to create ownership of the game, to declare themselves independent of the old, akin to a teenager’s rebellion, this new team decided to change as much of the core mechanics as possible, while still retaining the basic action RPG feel. Though the intent might have been distancing themselves from the stigma of the pervious games, the result feels more like a fundamental lack of understanding of what made Diablo (1+2) great.
Let me emphasize that Diablo 3 was actually a pretty decent game. It looked good and, like all Blizzard titles, was quite polished. But as a huge Diablo (1+2) fan there are certain features that was I expecting to see, features that I think define the franchise. To find so many of them missing was extremely disheartening and severely impacted my enjoyment of the game.
I eventually realized that if I hoped to get any enjoyment out of the game, I would have to stop thinking of it as a Diablo sequel. In my mind D3 became a Final Fantasy/World of Warcraft Action RPG! And it worked, I found myself enjoying the game far more.
Things I liked
-Still an action RPG
It’s undeniable that the game still plays like an action RPG with click to move, speedy action, and the fun associated with this type of gameplay. The first act was by far my favorite as it had the most Diablo like atmostphere.
-Multiplayer ease, plus cooperative play
One of the best features of the game is the extreme ease of grouping with friends. Up to four players can play cooperatively in the same game. With there being no level restrictions on joining games, the person who started the game determines the current quest progression.
Battle.net Real ID friends who are playing Diablo 3 are listed on the character select screen. Joining them is as easy as simply selecting them.
But even meeting up while playing is made easier. The waypoint in town has an individual waypoint for each character currently in the game. This means you can waypoint to any character’s current location from town. This makes it incredibly easy to keep up everyone else.
Though D3 was certainly not the first to implement individualized loot, it is a pleasure to have this feature in a fast pace multiplayer game like this. Not having to worry about sharing and being able to pick up everything in sight makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
-Cooperative means sharing
Though loot was made private to each character, most other aspects of the game are shared, like shrines. They are finally buffs that are spread amongst everyone in the group.
-Story on the run
While I am not a big fan of overpowering story, I really enjoyed hearing back-story as I progressed through the levels. Picking up optional books will play diary entries of various characters, providing back-story and insight into the world. But what makes these awesome is that they are entirely optional, also they are narrated, so you can listen to them as you continue to play. Story on the run. =D
-Skills marked an interesting idea
The idea of the skills was an interesting one, where a main skill can be modified by a selection of runes to create different effects. This provided some flexibility in play and interesting power combinations.
And also the lack of spending points in skills takes away all the agony of deciding or being locked into a certain choice.
-Lots of great random little events
There were lots of fun little random events peppered through out the levels. Running around and finding them was quite entertaining, almost like finding special little Easter eggs.
-It is pretty
The color pallet and graphics reminded me a lot of World of Warcraft, bright colors with a broad pallet range with high quality cartoony art work, while the character designs reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy. The end boss from act 2 could have been directly imported from the latest FF game.
Things I didn’t like
In an effort to not have this section go on indefinitely, I will try to limit myself to my biggest concerns. Some of these topics will also overlap with things I liked, due to the ‘its not like Diablo’ comparison.
-Story and quests
I have never been a big fan of excessive story. Its one of the best things about the previous Diablo games, that the story is not overwhelming nor are most of the quests required. In fact, in Diablo 2, most of the quests just appear as you encounter the specific area.
In comparison, Diablo 3 is riddled with story. Even worse is that the story determines the flow of the game via quests. There is no running out into the world to vanquish foes. Nope, to progress through the world you MUST follow the quest line, as progression is blocked otherwise. You literally cannot go to the next area unless the quest unlocks it for you.
The opposite direction is not spared the quest lock either. In order to return to prior visited areas, you have to regress your character’s quest line. That’s right, you lose your forward quest progress.
Returning to previous areas and laying waste to respawned areas was a cornerstone of my personal Diablo experience. This loss of easily traversing the entire world, or moving from one act to the next is probably my biggest disappointment in D3.
As for the quests, there are a lot of them and they are all mostly in the grand World of Warcraft tradition, receive quest, achieve goal, return to person for turn in.
The actual story itself is a complete mess. It doesn’t make sense and the little that did was incredibly uninspired. Worst of all was that most of it wasn’t skipable.
Between the cinematics and in game cinematics, almost a quarter of the game was movie. Not the best Final Fantasy characteristic to emulate.
-Waypoints are a mess
Due to the back and forth nature of the quests, flow of the game is very disjointed. It doesn’t feel like one continuous world but a bunch of small quest islands. The waypoints menu is even more mystifying. As there is no real logical sequence for the level lay out, the waypoint menu is a jumbled mess. Thankfully there are some indicators of where to go with a quest marker and a town marker.
-Skills and attributes
While I really liked the idea of the skills, it wasn’t appropriate for this game. One of the most compelling features of the Diablo games was being able to level however you wanted; spending points, no matter how terrible, was still incredibly fun.
Plus this allowed for items to modify not only attributes but also skills. This was by far one of my favorite features. Finding powerful items that would let you try out different skills for free or boost a skill higher then its maximum was fabulously entertaining. Diablo 3 was really lacking in this regard, due to the complete lack of skill points, there was no way for items to directly modify skills.
Items in general were extremely lackluster. The bonuses were not interesting or seemingly helpful. Each class had only one attribute that was beneficial to them, and the largest damage increase came from raw damage bonus.
Even worse was that the unique items were often not as good as simple rare items. This was mainly due to the very uninspired bonuses, but I truly think this is a broader problem. The fault lies with game mechanics that don’t really work all that well with a Diablo like item game.
Diablo has always been about loot. Having such a weak item game was a huge mistake.
-Potions in the game are on a cool down.
Clearly they wanted to move away from the potion game, but couldn’t quite manage it. So to prevent the potion spamming, they put in a delay, thirty seconds before you can drink the next potion. The result of this system is that I just waited a lot. Waited for my potion timer to reset.
The health globes do provide a little compensation, but in the midst of combat there is way too much going on for health globes to be consistent or dependable. Never mind that if you are a ranged person, the melee person will most likely be absorbing all the health globes far before you can get to them. Thankfully they are shared.
While the graphics were pretty, they made the entire game look, well, jolly. Not matter how many dead bodies they littered about the world, it never really look dire or spooky.
Another thing was that it was really empty. I guess they were trying to combat the field of wandering monster issue, but from act two onward, the game felt empty.
Ambush is the reason the world felt so darn empty. The monsters were all still there, only they lay in wait ready to ambush unsuspecting victims. Now this might sound fun, but it is in actuality really irritating. See, with the field of wandering monsters I could at least gauge what I was getting into, but with the ambush, death was quite often the result since I would run into areas and get totally overwhelmed. Even Final Fantasy put in wandering monsters in the later versions. Random ambushes are just not as fun.
I’m not sure why, but the game felt exceptionally hard. My characters died a lot. I assume that all the deaths are a symptom of the ambush and lack of healing. Also playing solo with wimpy ranged characters didn’t help, as they have far less survivability.
This is already getting long so I will just sum up a few of my other peeves.
Ranged attack will move the character after the mob is dead. Totally irritating. Skill UI drove me crazy, as the tool tips were constantly covering up everything. Potions don’t autorefill. Boss fights remind me of Zelda bosses, rinse and repeat three times to kill. The pink pony level is not funny; actually it’s really disturbing. Lots of the character skills and mechanics are directly out of World of Warcraft. Crafting and auction house don’t actually add anything interesting to the game.
Would I want to live there?
Hell no. That world is constantly getting destroyed. While there is the opportunity to be a hero for either gender, it’s limited to accident of birth. Also Blizzard has a habit of sacrificing its women characters (or turning them evil). No thanks.
One and half out of Five Mushrooms. Neither rating this game, nor writing this review was terribly easy. While I really didn’t like the game for its lack of “Diablo”, it was important to note that it did succeed in its own way. But in the end, I was just not able to overcome my Diablo expectations.
The enraged Diablo player in me wants to give it no rating, while the unbiased gamer in me is fine with a three. Thus I’m settling on halfway and uninstalling the game. (Leaving D2 installed though!)
What do you think? Did Diablo 3 maintain all the things you liked about the Diablo games? Did it advanced the genre in any good way?