Diablo 3 review
Diablo 3! We’ve been waiting for this one for way too long, and finally it’s on our computers being played! I was pretty excited for this considering how much I’ve played Diablo 2 over the years, and playing the beta, while completely changing my expectations, still hyped me up.
Well, Diablo 3 has come out to mixed reviews (for good reason), and I will definitely address all the major problems the game had at launch and STILL HAS, but there’s more to a game than how well it runs, so I think it’s good to talk about everything the game has to offer, good or bad.
Let’s stop messing around and talk about this! (a bit of a longer read, can’t really about that)
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Date of Release: May 15th 2012
Genre: Hack n’ Slash RPG
Rated M for Mature
This is the series’ first foray in 3D graphics, and it looks pretty nice. It retains the same “kinda dark, kinda colorful” style of Diablo 2, but it feels a lot more detailed, and there’s definitely a lot more going on here. The visual style is basically Diablo 2 note for note, though everything is a step up. The nice thing here is that you visit a pretty large variety of locations. Yes, act 1 is a grassy field with rocks and trees like act 1 in Diablo 2 was, and act 2 is a desert like act 2 in Diablo 2 was, but even then you visit a lot of different-looking places. Ancient temples, sewers, not-as-ancient temples, houses, basements, caves dug by giant worms, barracks, hell-like areas, snowy battlefields (kinda like act 5 of Diablo 2, but nicer-looking), castle walls… There’s some cool stuff here. I think the coolest part is Act 3, where you’re on top of a Bastion’s walls fighting enemies on top, while you see enemies attacking on the ground if you look down the walls, it’s really quite well-done. There’s even enemies that will go from that background action to attack you, really cool. The characters are pretty standard though, even the playable ones. Not that they look bad at all, they’re just kinda barebones since, no matter what, you’ll be pilling up equipment on them to the point that they won’t really look like they originally did at all anyways.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the game not looking like Diablo, not being dark enough and such, but frankly I’m not seeing that at all. I think it’s just a case of people complaining for the sake of complaining.
Music-wise… to be honest, I never even heard the music unless I just stopped to listen to it. It’s kinda unremarkable, but generally it seems to go well with the current situation. The only times I ever really realized the music was there was in a few of those maps that play older Diablo music, or at least that was so similar that it might as well have been the same music. The voice acting is pretty solid throughout, with very few bad examples here and there. The sound effects are generally fine, I have no problem with them. I would prefer a bit more “oomph” when killing enemies, but, considering the amount of enemies in the game, maybe keeping it more subdued as it is now is better.
On the story side, it continues from what we’ve seen in the previous 2 games, with the last of the prime evils attacking, Belial and Azmodan. It’s pretty standard “go kill the bad guy” stuff with a couple plot twists here and there (most of which are pretty expected), and a lot of references to previous story points and characters from previous games. For example Adria, who sold you magic-related stuff in the original, is back in the plot here. There’s a lot of fanservice here (you even fight the Butcher!), but it’s all in good fun even though some of it makes little sense.
The basic gameplay of Diablo hasn’t done a whole lot of changing here. Hover your mouse cursor on what you want dead, click and look at it die. Repeat that a few million times. It definitely feels a lot like Diablo 2, but there are a few key differences.
Instead of having your normal attack set on the left mouse click and a skill set on the right (with shortcuts to switch skills), here you have one skill on each mouse button, and one skill on each of the 1-4 keys, so 6 skills equipped in total. There is an option (in the option menu) to equip any skill to any button, otherwise you’re stuck with one type of skill per button. The skill on the left mouse button is usually a “free” skill, and for some characters it actually builds up their main resource stat (I.E. Hatred for the Demon Hunter) to use other skills. These tend to also self-regenerate, but not always. Some characters even have 2 resource stats, like the Demon Hunter having Hatred and Discipline.
Combat is largely based on relatively large group of enemies, and doing large AoE attacks to destroy them all. Since you have a bunch of abilities at your disposal that you can basically use at any time, there’s a lot you can actually do in battle. There’s a bit more of an emphasis on dodging and spacing. It’s generally really fun and exciting. The problem comes in higher difficulty levels, where the only valid strategy basically becomes kiting/hit-and-run.
On the exploration side, it’s very similar to Diablo 2, with a series of areas to go through to get to each quest/boss. Nothing really special, most maps seem not randomly generated, though I haven’t played through the game enough times yet to figure out if they are (eventually I will). Even then, they’re not completely identical, as each time you go through a map it may give you access to different subdungeons and events.
The difficulty curve is super slow, but when it picks up the curve is nearly vertical. The whole Normal difficulty is really really easy. You get tons of potion and you barely ever need to use them. In Nightmare, the game becomes a lot tougher. Strong elite and unique enemies will kill you a lot. By Inferno you’re struggling to beat normal enemies unless you have insane equipment.
Overall… It’s all very fun! The gameplay is fast-paced, there’s a lot of challenge as you advance, there’s variety in the skill choices… I don’t think anyone can deny that the gameplay is great.
Here’s where some people, including myself, had issues with the game before it came out. You have no character customization when it comes to leveling. Leveling up unlocks new skills and runes, and you get pre-determined stat boosts, up to level 60 (the max level). Basically, your level 60 Demon Hunter will have the exact same stats and skills as any other level 60 Demon Hunter. I thought it would be a problem, but, playing it, I kinda figured it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
Skill-wise, every level you unlock a couple skills and a couple runes, or sometimes just a single rune or a single skill. Each skill has a set of runes that enhance or change what the skill does. You get to equip 6 skills (as previously explained) and 1 rune per skill, as well as 3 passive skills. That gives a LOT of different possible combinations, but the issue remains that you can change between any build at any time, so skill-wise you’re very much the same as everyone else. Though you tend to fall into a groove here. You’ll have a set of skills you like, and you’ll basically stay with that set of skills for the most part once you get used to it. Looking around I do find that a lot of people use very similar skill sets, but there is room for variety for sure, and I’ve seen some very different builds too.
So any actual powering up is done with loot. Kill enemies, get various types of equipment and equip those to make your character stronger. Gems are also back, and you can actually remove them from items here, and combine them through the Artisans to make stronger gems (though you need a lot of cash and special items to make the jewel dude and the blacksmith able to make better items, and you need ingredients to actually make them). Putting gems on different equipment changes what their effects are, just like in D2.
The “only equipment changes your stats” turns out having a pretty huge influence on your power, since each stat does have a big effect on your character. By Nightmare a small vitality boost can net you a thousand HP, for example. And every stat IS useful here. Everyone needs vitality for HP, everyone needs strength for defense, everyone needs dexterity for dodging and everyone needs intelligence for elemental resistance.
Each class still has a “main” stat though which will be what raises their DPS, and, for the most part, raising that particular stat and Vitality will be the basis for most peoples’ stat builds (now that you can’t make a low-vit Wizard with Force Armor anymore), which raises the same “All characters are the same” problem from before, and ends up not really fixing the “every class was the same in Diablo 2 due to min-maxers and following guides for perfect builds” Blizzard was apparently trying to fix here, and obviously failed.
The “All characters are the same” problem still remains in another aspect: skill damage is determined by your DPS. Other than the Demon Hunter who HAS to use bows (there really isn’t any other option), any character can equip any weapon (unless it’s locked for your class) and get damage boosts for most skills. For example, a strong sword will boost a wizard’s arcane orb damage just as well as an equivalent staff. Unless a skill outright requires a certain weapon, there’s barely ever any reason not to use just the best equipment you find. The game actually does pretty well to tell you specifically how much a skill will boost your stats (damage percentage, “protection” percentage which includes both defense and dodging (and maybe elemental protection but that’s hard to say), life increase), so going by that display you can easily tell if what you’re picking up is any good or not, but there’s pretty much any other factor that plays into your equipment choice..
Problems/issues that people have with the game
Okay, there’s a lot to cover here, but I’ll try to make it quick.
DRM/Always on servers
I wouldn’t mind about this for one reason: I never played Diablo 2 offline, even though I was always playing alone, just in case a friend was also playing and wanted to give me stuff (or vice-versa) or needed help on a run. The thing is, I never actually had trouble playing Diablo 2 because the servers basically never messed up and the netcode was solid enough to almost never have lag (unless my own network sucked at that particular time).
This is not the case here. Now if you want to play the game you have to deal with the servers sometimes being off, so being 100% unable to play the game you paid for. Sometimes the servers will just turn off for maintenance (usually you’re made aware of that, but sometimes you aren’t). Then the servers are rather unstable and you can get randomly disconnected. But the biggest problem with this DRM is that the servers are horribly laggy. I stopped counting the number of times I died because the game just lagged on me. Sometimes I’m stuck basically unable to actually move for 30+ seconds because the game is lagging. And I looked around. My internet connection is clearly not the best out there, but people that have MUCH better connections than me are getting the same problem, so it’s all on Blizzard’s end. This is not a good thing, and it’s something that everyone should be complaining to Blizzard about.
Just listen to this, it basically explains why it sucks and why we should complain about it: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/5743-You-Should-Be-Mad-at-Diablo-IIIs-Always-Online-DRM
Okay, here’s a problem… People found insanely broken builds early on, where Wizards were completely invincible to everything on Inferno. Or, with the proper discipline-increasing equipment, people also found completely broken builds where Demon Hunters were completely invincible to everything on Inferno. Blizzard figured they should balance those classes. That’s understandable. What ISN’T understandable is why they thought that the proper solution was to make their broken skills 100% useless. Yes the skills were too strong, but making them unusable isn’t a proper way of balancing.
I am fully aware that Diablo 3 is still early in its life and that, through the years, it will get very many different balance patches and versions. So this “problem” might not be a problem later on. But, for now, it kinda is. I just hope Blizzard’s view of “balancing” ends up making sense at one point. A lot of players right now just want everything to be overpowered which is not the right way to go, and Blizzard seems to be going the complete opposite. I’m sure there’s a middle-ground somewhere.
Not exactly a problem at all, I can obviously see why Blizzard made this: moneyz! This does sort of mitigate one of the largers points of the Diablo series: Loot! Yes, you can just try to find all the great stuff yourself, but if you can just buy it instead, doesn’t it sort of kill the point? So far there’s no Real Money Auction House yet, that’s coming later, but it does encourages a “pay to win” mentality that a lot of people don’t like in video games.
Will I use it? Well… For selling? Sure, if I ever get anything worth selling. For buying? Fuck no.
Oh, and I don’t know if this is a direct influence from the auction house, but I did find that picking up all the loot you find and selling it (like you’d do in Diablo 2), is completely useless here. Anything that’s not at least blue (magical) is useless, unless it’s a gem. White and grey items sell for around 2-5 gold each, even packing your inventory with them isn’t really gonna net you a whole lot of money, so all that non-magical equipment shouldn’t even exist. Might as well have made everything blue or better. Actually, even those are pretty worthless to sell to in-game merchants, all to probably fuel the Auction House.
Keeping the worst problem for last. It does sort of tie into the previous issue, but I’ll get to that later. Since the game came out, people have been getting hacked left and right. People accessing other peoples’ accounts and taking all their equipment (probably for eventual sale on the Real Money Auction House) and gold. It happened to a few people I know (one even had the Blizzard authenticator, which is supposed to completely prevent hacking), and it almost happened to me (Blizzard detected suspicious activity on my account and locked it up before anything was done on it).
This is a major problem because, once the real money auction house is live, hackers will continue doing this and make money off of it. Blizzard NEEDS to fix this issue before the RMAH is live, otherwise the game may be completely destroyed, or at least the whole Auction House idea will have to be removed.
Diablo 3 is definitely a fun game, I frankly can’t deny this. Yes it’s very different from Diablo 2 in many ways, especially with the different leveling scheme and the modified combat concentrating more on large groups of enemies than in Diablo 2. But overall it still manages to feel like Diablo to me. If you come in expecting just Diablo 2 but better, then you’ll be disappointed, but if you come in looking for a new Diablo game you’re actually getting that. Is it better than Diablo 2? Hard to say. I find myself enjoying it just about as much though, but it’s a very different experience, so I think it’s not really comparable.
The game does have a host of really annoying problems, and they’re ALL on Blizzard’s side. Laggy servers, frequent disconnect from said servers, people getting their accounts hacked (some even if they’re using the official authenticator software), problematic gaming balance adjustments (going with the “if something is too strong, make it completely useless” route instead of actual balancing), servers getting shut down out of nowhere making you lose progress… This game is a mess.
Nonetheless, what you get here is solid and fun gameplay, and enough looting to make the biggest Diablo fan happy. There are problems, but I find that they’re (sometimes) overshadowed by the game being fun to play.
Once Blizzard makes the game 100% playable 100% of the time with no lag and no people getting hacked, this will be a great game.