Review by hyperknees91

"Sometimes less is more."

It's been quite awhile since the last Diablo game, almost a bit too long. Since then we've had tons of clones of it and several games that use a similar formula, so can Diablo 3 manage to bring something new to the table?

Story

Oddly for a Diablo game, the story in this one is much more cinematic and slightly more involved than the other two. The story however still is rather dry and predictable, it's hardly worth even listening to. The main problem is that the characters aren't very interesting. While some get some backstory, none of them feel that fleshed out and it's hard to care about any of them. I think it would have been a bit smarter to work with fewer characters (ala Bastion) rather than several two dimensional ones that only end up being forgettable by the end. Now I know Diablo's aren't known for their story, but if it's going to bother to have one, it should at least attempt to make it worth caring about and giving the player something to be interested in. Though if you don't care about the story, the game lets you skip every little tidbit to the end.

Gameplay

If you don't know Diablo gameplay, it's a top down perspective where you have to control all character movement via clicking of the mouse. The concept is a bit dated, but it's how the games have always played. The one good thing about top down perspective games is that the camera is never a bother though (as opposed to games like kingdom hearts and ninja gaiden where the camera is so close to your character it can't hope to keep up). Still it would have been nice to add WASD or Gamepad controls for those who prefer those control schemes (like Bastion). Also with no universal forms of dodging or blocking outside of skills it really limits the complexity of the battle system. There's still the traditional form of “kiting”, but like said, it's a bit archaic.

Anyway lets start with whats new. For one, you don't have to buy town portal spells anymore and can just warp back to town whenever you feel like it. The problem with this? Well in Diablo games you have an inventory space limit, and generally the point of those is that you have to actually manage the equipment you pick up. But not in this game, you can literally just go back to town whenever your equipment is full, sell or salvage all of your equipment and then go back to the dungeon. Why even bother having inventory space with this then? The only real point is to store rare items or gems you have for later use (for gimping characters and what not). Though if your playing single player it's mostly a nuisance. Next thing new is that you can no longer just spam health or mana potions all the time. Health potions have a recharge time, and mana just recharges manually. Both are welcome improvements that do help add a little more strategy in the game and less tedious potion spamming. Also to add less tediousness to the game, there is no longer stat point assignment or skill trees you must pick. This means you can't really screw up your character. Instead you're allowed to change any skill you want at any given time to anything else you have access too. Suffice to say your probably going to find two sets of skills for the character your playing. One for crowd control and one for bosses. To add to the skills you can assign various runes you get as your characters levels. Think of these as passive abilities that change your spells attributes (which work like weapon upgrades in Bastion). Not a bad feature to add at all. Finally this game is super forgiving. When you die you lose 10% durability on all your items, which is basically nothing as they can be repaired for next to nothing. Also if your playing multiplayer, you friends can revive you on the spot (with some risk). Which means even if your team isn't very competent at the game you can still win on bosses through sheer force of will with the constant reviving (until your armor all breaks that is).

Since this game allows you to just reassign your abilities on the fly, this means you only have to play each of the five classes once and you'll never have a different version of those classes (other than what loot gives you). Not really a bad thing, but it does take out the customizable nature of the games. I know it's possible to screw up your builds in the earlier games, but I think it would've served them better to just find a way to make certain builds more balanced than before as it really doesn't help with the replay value. Also to take further away from that, there is no difference between armor or weapon types in this game. It doesn't matter if your a wizard or a barbarian who was equipping a sword and now a dagger, as long as it allows you to do more damage that's all that matters. So yeah basically everything you pick up might as well be a dagger because that's how different each weapon is. My complaint with Dark Souls was it had too much worthless loot that wasn't even useful to the class you picked. And I never thought I would say this, but I prefer how loot was done in that game more than this one. Reason why? There's no real attachment to your loot because your going to replace it so often (unless your really unlucky or really really late in the game). At least with Dark Souls the equipment you find can potentially change your playstyle (still too much junk in that game, but there's even more junk in this game). I guess I'm more with the thought process that sometimes “less is more”, and more useful unique loot would be better than just everything being pretty much the same outside of stats and the occasional special effect. It's kind of silly as gear can be more important than actual skill, which is fine for a turned based rpg but for an action rpg it's just absurd. Still people who enjoy the constant loot dropping regardless will have plenty to choose from.

And unfortunately that's the problem with Diablo really. It's main feature is the loot and even that is slightly lacking in this game (blue items can be at times better than legendary items). The combat is basically the bare minimum for an action RPG. While it's nice they made it more strategic, it still doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Monster Hunter or Dark Souls. I think Bastion was a nice evolution of the Diablo style combat though, so I'm not saying top down perspectives don't have their place. Fortunately the game does provide some decent challenge...once you've started playing through the whole thing again. Although a lot of the challenge stems from certain elite mobs having a lot of cheap effects stacked on them. So it's possible that you'll run into mobs that will stun you and will all but obliterate your health while there's nothing you can do about it on higher difficulties. It's like the game was designed to use multiplayer and abuse the revive function (or just have you die a million times). Also the game is very straightforward. For some reason this game introduced questing, which generally just consist of “Go from point A to B to go forward with the story”. Not sure why this was necessary as the game is a dungeon crawler, so I thought more emphasis would be put on exploration. However this is not the case as the game is fairly linear. Sure you can go off the beaten path ever so slightly, but there simply isn't that much to discover. The occasional side quest and loot is all your likely to find (but since drops are random you can find the same loot anywhere in the game). In fact there's really no incentive to go off the beaten path as the more you progress through the game, the better loot you are going to find anyway as you proceed through the difficulties. This is why act 4 is my favorite. As it pretty much ditches the dull questing system, and just lets you fight hoards upon hoards of monsters. Which in itself is nothing special, but certainly was a welcome change of pace. Another issue is unlockable difficulties. This might seem silly to complain about, but say if I wanted to play on the hardest difficulty to give myself more of a challenge (like say, Torchlight lets me do). I would have to play through the game 3 times to even have access to it. This is done because all the difficulty in this game is fairly artificial (stat changes on monsters only). Though the game is designed that you need the levels gained through earlier playthroughs to do enough damage to monsters in later playthroughs. So yes, the game really does expect you to beat it 4 times per character to have access to everything. Now this is the norm for Diablo games, but it's still archaic nonetheless. Though if you want to experience the harder difficulty experience on normal mode you could always just play through the game without equipping anything. A silly fix you can do for any action rpg, and I'm not sure how hard that would make the game compared to inferno but still a fix if you want challenge right from the start and only are willing to play the game once. Also if you're a masochist there's always hardcore mode. In this mode if you die you lose your character. I can't suggest this mode due to server lag might randomly get you killed which could lead to extreme frustration. Also it doesn't really make the game harder as much as repetitive and tedious, but the option is there for people regardless.

Now as far as Multiplayer goes you can play up to 4 players and is probably the best way to play this game. If you have friends that play this game, you can guarantee at least some fun with the game. Thankfully it's very easy to join your friends games quickly. Also loot management is a none issue as loot is seperate for all players so you'll never see the loot that drops for them. However the negative (and I know everyone's already said it) is that the game requires you to be online at all times, regardless if your playing online or off. This is the first game that wasn't an mmo or a flat out online game that I've played that's had this feature. I know it's there to prevent hackers, piracy and the selling of used copies but man is it dull. The fact that I'll occasionally have to deal with lag even in single player is really tedious. Now you might say that you should only play online (in which I pretty much agree), but sometimes you might need to play catch up with your friend because they might be a higher level than you. And I'm aware once you hit 60 this is a none issue but it's still a bit offputting nonetheless. Finally there is a slight issue with rpg games online in general. If you're underleveled (meaning you don't have as many useful abilities) compared to your friends you probably won't be of much use to the party. As opposed to games like Guantlet and what not where all players are balanced, so like said before your going to have to play some catching up with them until level 60 where it's a none issue. But yes the bottom line is, if your not going to play this game with friends it's hard to recommend it unless you are a hardcore Diablo fan.

Crafting is another aspect of this game which is done quite poorly. Because of the existence of the online auction house, there is literally no use in the system. You can buy way better items for way cheaper on there, rather than pointlessly spending your money training your Artisan. Other unbalances include that magical items are typically just as good if not better than legendary items half the time. Also the classes, skills and runes are quite unbalanced (ranged classes have the clear advantage in solo play on inferno). Stats are completely unbalanced, You'll care more about the base damage of your weapons far more than any increase to intelligence or dexterity. For example for my wizard sometimes I will get a staff that will have 50 damage on it and +60 to intelligence, while I get a sword that does 100 damage and gives me +100 strength. Now strength is useless to a wizard so you would think the intelligence on the staff would be more important, but once again the damage you get from the sword will far outdamage what you were doing with your staff. It's frankly rediculous how little regard your going to actually take into your stats (and even more silly that a sword can be more useful than a staff for wizards). Vitality is for the most part worthless for ranged classes because by inferno they are going to get 1 shotted by most things anyway, so it's better to become skilled at using your dodge and invincibility skills rather than worry about it. Thankfully this is an online game and patches could fix the surrounding issues. But until then...run away and spam Venom Hydra hah.

Audio

The music is dreary and dark, like it's always been. I guess it fits the atmosphere of the game but none of the songs really stood out when I played. The voice acting is half and half, main characters are usually decent but some of the side characters don't fair as well. Not much to say about this section other than it's typical dark fantasy fair. Compared to The Witcher 2 or Bastion the soundtrack is pretty dull though.

Overall

Overall I feel like the game is dated and doesn't bring much new to the genre. Also after playing Bastion it felt like it did everything this game did and did it better. Better story, better characters, better presentation, more unique art style, better music, more control schemes, more skill based combat. Also while Diablo 3 has of course more loot than Bastion (the game pretty much has none), all the weapons you get in Bastion are more unique and different than any weapon you'll find in Diablo 3 (as they'll actually change the way you play like said earlier with Dark Souls). And like I said before, it's better to have fewer more meaningful items than lots of worthless junk or loot that you'll constantly replace. The graphics are also superior in Diablo 3, but I think art style trumps polygon count any day.

But yes Diablo 3 simply doesn't have much place in the dungeon crawler world. It doesn't have the exploration quality of Castlevania games. It doesn't have the combat or atmosphere of Dark Souls. It doesn't have the crazy bosses of Ys games. It doesn't have the variety of activities to take place in like Dark Cloud 2. And it's not a unique experience nor does it have the story quality of Bastion or Dragon quarter (turned based, but also a fellow dungeon crawler). So what's it got going for it? Lots of fat loot (Not really a benefit as I explained earlier)? You can play Torchlight for way cheaper and without the online problems if you want that (as well as earlier Diablos,Titan Quest, and several other games). So in the end, Diablo 3 is an average game. Not only that it's an average game that requires online at all times which can hinder the entertainment value for some people even more.

On the flip side, the game does have fun multiplayer, and plays a good bit like a good game of Guantlet once things get rolling. If your a hardcore Diablo fan, you'll probably still enjoy this game nonetheless. As for every other dungeon crawler fan it might be worth checking out if you have friends to play with (or if you just love fat loot), otherwise there's better games to be played.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 05/22/12

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


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