Review by neonreaper
"Diablo in the modern world - great content, incomplete game, Blizzard controlling the experience"
Maybe the best way to characterize Diablo III is to compare it to Diablo II in the following way:
Diablo II was released with a "Hostile" button, the only form of PvP. Nothing was balanced for PvP, and nothing really prevented a player from declaring hostile on others and then trying to find them in the game. Players were left to balance themselves for PvP, or left to defend themselves from a hostile player. The playerbase was left to make its own fun. We established formal dueling communities, or we just went for the most broken builds possible. If some Assassin came down into the Sewers, everyone either quit, or we fought off the would-be bully. Or we got wrecked. There was an element of chaos and players just trying to make order from it. We spent countless hours trying to figure out HOW we could best balance PvP, or what the best no-holds-barred build would otherwise be.
Diablo III was released without any PvP because it's not ready yet.
That almost says it all - Diablo III is well crafted, but I dare say too much thought has gone into the game. I love playing with other people, I love getting new skills and unleashing them on waves of undead and demons and arcane monsters. Blizzard knocked it out of the park again with an instantly classic experience that maintains the general feel of Diablo without treading the exact same ground as before. But Diablo III is about a controlled experience, and that doesn't sit well with many people.
Diablo is now an online-only game. There are reasons for this as well as drawbacks, but it's hard to shake the feeling that Blizzard wants total control of the experience. Diablo doesn't have PvP because it wasn't ready for launch. Acts/quests are now defined based on user levels and progress, so skipping past parts isn't really possible the way it was before. Tradeoffs here are that PvP might end up better, and the actual content is better. But still, it's hard to play Diablo II for so long on my own terms and now I'm playing on Blizzard's terms.
There's a controversial Real Money Auction House. I don't pay it much mind personally, Blizzard just wants to take their rake instead of Ebay doing it. I don't see them ruining their franchise for the sake of a few extra bucks, but it does open them up to a conflict of interest, and PC gamers are savvy enough to see that immediately, and once that door is opened... can it ever really be closed? Still, I don't plan on using it and as long as I can play through the game without it, it doesn't bother me much.
Day one servers weren't exactly stable. This is just the curl of the burl but it's poor form to advertise digital copies for day 1 play, and then not really be able to deliver on that. There was a game breaking bug (don't give your shield to your follower!) that should have been a mechanic allowed in the beta for testing. Shaky start but no one sits around complaining about Bone Wall farming glitching up every game for Diablo II's launch.
That leads me to probably the most important point - Diablo is a series that you play for hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours over the course of years. Measuring it so early seems pointless, but I think it's worth pointing out that it's incomplete, the loot is slightly underwhelming, and there's a difference between playing Blizzard's game, and playing a game made by Blizzard.
Now we sit, months later, having played the game a significant amount. I still think the actual content is really good, and while endgame build variety isn't much to write home about, you do have different approaches through the leveling process with your abilities and weapons. I loved playing through the game, and trying different skills here and there.
And the problem as I stated is still part of the game. What made Diablo 2 so compelling? Well, the game content was a lot of fun, but the staying power included PvP, grinding bosses/specific monsters for loot, and the exp grind. Blizzard has removed that and given us an auction house. The endgame is basically tedium and auction house, and while PvP should arrive sometime, it isn't here now. And while Blizzard claims it just isn't ready yet, it's hard to imagine current era Blizzard as doing anything BUT holding it back so it can inject life into the auction house later on.
The game is terrific for around 30 hours per character, though I imagine most people will be a little bored of the content after maxing a couple of them. Beyond that, the game doesn't have the magic of past Blizzard games and it's a real shame.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/12, Updated 08/03/12
Game Release: Diablo III (Collector's Edition) (US, 05/15/12)
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