Review by lordtian0

"Lost the "magic" of Diablo II"

Hello, my name is Tom and I was Diablo free for the last 4 years. Prior to that, I would spent around 1000 hours during each Summer break of middle school and high school MFing the world of Sanctuary and lurking on the trade channels of BNET. Diablo III is a solid AAA title. However, for a game made in 2012, it sadly already feels 10 years outdated. More depressingly, it lacks the magical setting and atmosphere of the previous Diablo. After, my first completion of Diablo III, I will likely continue to stay Diablo free for the forseeable future.

Plot- .... its a Diablo game, most people don't play it for the mindless demon slaying, not for the story. The result is a fairly linear simple story with a few deus ex machina plot twists (or easily anticipated if you think everyone is always evil). Oh, and LOTS of fantasy cliches are present in the main plot (for all of act 3 I felt like I was fighting my way into Mordor as Frodo, they even had a giant spider thing guard the passageway...). The true tragedy, is that behind the scenes, Sanctuary has some of the most epic lore in the gaming universe. Yet, for whatever reasons (I'm assuming to attract more of the Call of Duty crowd with less patience?) , Blizzard chose not incorporate 90% of the lore directly through the plot and instead scattered it around the world in the form of optional random green booklet drops. Additionally, I was absolutely horrified and offended when my party decided to skip every important cutscene (still no clue what happened to imperius... just assuming tyrael kicked his ass or something) before a boss fight. At the very least, Blizzard could've implemented a voting system like Guild Wars did..... The short of it is: if you're a Lore freak like myself, you'll be irked that you'll have to dig for it (sometimes even outside the game like in the Sin War novels), but pleased that its at least there.

Art Direction/ Graphics- They're good and shiny. Yet, despite having much more polygons, Diablo II's Arreat Summit basecamp felt much more human and realistic. CG Cutscenes- its Blizzard, they're great at these and have far surpassed in Square's mastery of the art. Now if only they totalled to more than 10 minutes in total length :/ ...

Music- good enough. Diablo 2's Tristram theme is more haunting, but D3 does a good enough job of setting the mood for demon killing.

Setting- Of all the acts of Diablo III, only Act II comes close to providing a unique, inspiring setting. If you think about it, the Pandemonium Fortress of Diablo II was essentially just a shiny box leading to hell. Yet, clink sounds of the shiny merchants and the foreboding feel of the winding staircase down into the plains of despair contrasted greatly with the tribal jungles of Kurast, and the endless deserts of Lut Gholein. Act 1 of D2 was essentially a less well done repeat of Act 1 of D2. Act III of D3, to put it mildly, was one of the most boring segments I've played in recent memory. It was essentially felt like doing chores. Part 1)"Go fix the attic, its leaking!", Part 2)"Done with the attic? Good, the basements leaking now! Go fix it too!", Part 3) "Oh your back, we found some holes in our plumbing. Go outside and plug them!" Part 4)"Look we found the source of the leaks, go turn it off!" The worst part was how that whole act looked the same and was populated by essentially the same types of demons. Act IV had great potential, but its beauty was tarnished by the rushed pacing and repetitive hordes. It didn't helped that you still used the boring Act III basecamp.

Gameplay- Essentially, NO innovation. In fact, I considered it a step backwards until I discovered you can select an option to unlock the 6 skillbar slots so now you can actually customize and mix between the different categories of skills. The good news is that the gameplay is true to the 1999 Diablo 2 style of fighting. The bad news..... is that its no longer 1999 and most people have come to expect more out of a AAA game. Sure the skill tree is simplified (some people disliked this but I think its a step forward since you no longer have to reroll characters and rush through the various acts for 8 hours), but cookie cutter style of fighitng minion waves is the same as before. Using arcane orb felt just like using frozen orb from D2 (albeit less broken), and once I got the pierce through lazer beam I used it almost exclusively as my offensive skill due to its sheer efficiency over all other skills long range skills. At the very least they could've added some combo where intuitive/clever use of skills will trigger cool mechanics (such as shttering frozen enemies with a skill like forceful blow, or burning enemies when you shoot an arrow through a wall of flame), but alas no such effort was made. As a sorc I essentially had 2 styles of playing

1) shoot stuff from far away and strafe with teleport
2) rush up close, bomb enemies with PBAOE skills and defend with crystal armor

Causing the deaths of 100 enemies with 3 skills was fun, but I could basically do the exact same thing 10 years ago...

Loot- Considering I am no longer a middle schooler with 20 hours of free time on my hands each week, I very seriously doubt I'll ever grind through Diablo III as I repeated numerous Baal Runs and Secret Cow levels in the hopes of leveling my character to lvl 100 and finding the ever elusive Stones of Jordans. This is compounded by the fact that drop rates for Legendary items are extremely low. In my playthrough of normal difficulty, I found plenty of rares with nice stats (like a +60 int and vit wand for my sorc), but not a single item above yellow tier. I don't know if this is intentionally done to limit the supply of uber rares (which presumably will become neccessary for being the best at PvP), increase their prices in the auction house, and hence increase Blizzard's profit via RMT, but its very frustrating to have highly limited fungibility.

Summary-

A whole generations of gamers of changed, but unfortunately, the Diablo series has not evolved with them. Comparing this game with other AAA sequel titles such as Skyrim, ME:3 (okay, this one didn't innovate much either, but its somewhat more excusable since there was only a 2 year gap and the old formula was just refined), or even Blizzard's own Starcraft 2 we clearly see the dearth of innovation that Diablo III had. At the very least though, D3 did not commit as greivious a sin as Dragon Age 2 and is not a step backwards for the genre. Instead, it remains simply a dinosaur, a early 2000's type of game released in 2012.

Footnote 1) Kudos for the secret level in this game its super convoluted to get there, but you'll love it once you find it.

Footnote 2) I'm also ignoring the launch/server difficulties in this review and assuming perfect internet conditions for the above review. As a north american expat based in China, all I can say is the always online component is definitely hurting legitimate users of the game. Indeed, I'm still unable to logon to the Asian servers at night even as of yesterday and have to resort to a connection to the faraway and laggy north american servers. My personal play experience oscilated between a 0/10 (when I was unable to logon to the servers), a -3/10 (when I spent 2 hours trying to cross a bridge in Act 3 only to lag out, get stuck in a looping rubberband lag, or have the servers shutoff on me at 5pm...) and a 5/10 (the other 80% of my game time when I had lag due to being in Asia and dying constanty since my inputs had a 1 second delay)


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/12

Game Release: Diablo III (US, 05/15/12)


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