Stay Awhile and Listen ….
Not too long ago I joined a bunch of like-minded gamers in the midnight release of Diablo 3. It was a lot of fun, I met some good people, made some new friends, and picked up my own copy of the game to bring home and lose my life to (I regret nothing!). So its been awhile since that night, I’ve had plenty of time to dig deep into the game. The question now is how is it? Has twelve years of waiting and anticipation been too much for any game to live up to? Has it just been too long for the game to be relevant at all? Well, those are good questions; the answers after the break.
First off there’s the most basic element to discuss: the game play. Twelve years ago when the second game came out it pretty much became the industry standard for the type of gameplay it boasted. In fact Diablo 2 is the whole reason that “Diablo Clone” is a widely used term, so much so that it has practically become it’s own genre. So, luckily this game gets it right. Pointing and clicking on monsters to kill them, get xp, level up, and get new abilities to kill yet more monsters has never been more fun. Then there’s the loot, the real drive to the game. Remember Borderlands? There are reasons people described it as Diablo with guns. Loot drops everywhere and in a brilliant move the loot you see if you own; no more scrambling for those elusive rare drops while in a group. Also known for the deep stats and skill system Diablo 3 makes a deviation from that formula. Gone are the days of saving points to dump in a skill when you get an item that needs X amount in a stat; the only restrictions on gear now are level and class in some cases. The skills have also seen a tweak, instead of trees of skills you can dump points into to see them improve from rank to rank you unlock different abilities as you go and those abilities slowly unlock runes which will modify the base ability in some way. I love both these changes, I’m no longer worrying about what kind of stats I need to have in order to equip later gear I might find and my abilities are flexible to how I feel like playing. You can change your skills and their runes on the fly, swapping out a set of six available tools to help fight the minions of Hell. There are no wrong or truly right builds, it all boils down to what works for you and keeps you alive on the higher difficulties. There are also the crafting abilities in the game, new to the series that adds a bit of reason to the grinding you’re going to end up doing; and gives you a second chance if you just can’t seem to find that elusive drop you need you can always try crafting it. The difficulty increase each time you beat the game has also made a return, and this time around the difficulty isn’t in monster immunities its all in abilities and tactics. Past normal you either start playing smart or you go home.
Multiplayer gets it’s own section here because really that’s what this game is all about, right? The party size is cut in half from D2; you can have groups of four now banding together to take down baddies. Of course the same mechanic of more people means harder monsters is still true, but it also means better loot (and gives the squishier classes a meat shield to hide behind). In D2 all loot dropped the same for everyone, ranged characters could be left out in the gold as far as drops went if the melee were all click happy and loot hungry. Not so anymore (thank you devs!) as any loot you see is yours for the taking. There is also no such thing as a soulbound item, anything can be traded between players. In a friendly co-op game this means even more chances at loot for your particular class. This also makes the in-game auction house such an interesting idea. Anything you pick up you can place in the AH for other players to purchase; netting them yet another chance at the elusive drop and you a sizable chunk of change. There are also plans still for a real money auction house, using actual currency to purchase the items, that has yet to be implemented.
Alright so the gameplay is solid, the multiplayer fun, what about the other stuff? Topping my list of other things that make this game great is the sound. With a good headset the game sounds amazing. You can hear the wind blowing, entire armies clashing, water dripping somewhere in a cave (seriously where is it?!), the groans of the undead, the growls of demons, and the solid spot on voice work of the characters. Hearing Deckard Cain say anything after twelve years away was enough to bring a grin to my face. The subtle shifts in voices as a normal character transforms into a giant demon monster always sound cool. The environment effects are amazing; playing a barbarian you can almost feel the wind rush by you as you swing a massive club, almost feel the solid smack on flesh as you hit a monster, feel the blood spray everywhere as you take the head clean off. The sound and visual elements combine to make for a very visceral experience. And the music, from the familiar sounds of Tristram and the fields around it to the sweeping scenes of Act 4 the game’s score takes you to the world of Sanctuary and makes you a very welcome guest.
Visually the game is likely never to be topped for the genre. Monsters are incredibly well detailed, as are the environments. The view from the town in Act 2 was enough to make me stop a moment and go “Woah” (seriously it was that cool). Act 3 became my favorite based almost solely on the design and environment details you find from beginning to end of the Act. The bosses are all bigger than life to behold (some literally) and are as deadly as they are cool looking. No longer stuck with just one option for the classes you now get to choose male or female. Granted that’s as far as it goes for customization of what your character looks like. Gear changes your look slightly as each piece is depicted on your toon; and with the in-game dyes you can even have an entire matching set. Finally, some of the coolest looking stuff in the game are the different character abilities, and with the runes changing each ability slightly the effect changes as well so that no two abilities are guaranteed to look-alike.
The story always takes a back seat to the grind for loot and endless slaughter of monsters, but its still there and its good. Some may call the plot predictable at points (and okay, granted there aren’t really any major surprises) but each turn is something that reaffirms your desire to see evil punished because lets face it, bad guys are dicks. There is one moment that while I still felt it was coming caught me off guard when it happened (must resist spoilers!). The entire game is recycled from the last one in terms of locations (yay more desert!), quests (yay collect parts of something to reassemble it!), and monsters (yay more shamans that resurrect peons!) so the story elements rehashed aren’t exactly unexpected. Despite all of that I really enjoyed the story, and I can’t wait to see some of these loose ends left over touched up in an expansion.
I love Diablo 2, I’ve been playing that game for over a decade now and can still remember when it came out and how excited I was to play it. Diablo 3 is an incredible time machine, instantly I was transported back the twelve years as if nothing had happened. The improvements from 2 to 3 have made the game the absolute industry standard for the point and click action RPG. There wasn’t a lot that needed improvement from the last game and the things they did change have all been for the best. Diablo 3 is a better game than Diablo 2. There, I said it, troll away. Doesn’t change facts. As much as I love Diablo 2 and the years I spent with it I’m not sure I can ever go back now. Not sure I want to go back either, I think I’m happy to spend the next decade at least with the new one.