Review by Flare_Dragon123

"Diablo 3 isn't bad; it just isn't great... yet."

To do a normal review for Diablo 3 isn't really what people are looking for in a review. Think about it, when you read a review you want to know one thing: Is this worth my time playing? In truth, video game reviews only tell you what its like playing the game, and a game like Diablo is fundamentally about more than just playing the game, so forgive me because this review is going to be a bit unorthodox.

Since long reviews like this come out a week after a game has been released (at least on our good old GameFAQS they do) we get the chance to respond to some of the first week's problems, and this helps out with PC games like Diablo 3. No doubt everyone reading has likely heard of the first week travesty of log-in errors and has probably read more than a few complaints from the forums or from reviewers in general.

I will first give a basic review of the game's mechanics, so that we can discuss how they depart form Diablo 2, and how they form the gaming experience that is Diablo 3.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Diablo is simple. Just like in Diablo 2, you are a lone hero (or a group of heroes if you play multiplayer) who have set out to defend the world of Sanctuary, a world that for two games previous has been in a war between Angels and Demons. It is your duty to defend your world from the evils of the Demons, particularly the Prime Evils Belial and Azmodan.

To do this you must use your characters abilities to cut down (or punch down, or spell down) the waves of minions that follow these characters. Since this is an RPG, you level up, collect loot from the monsters, and eventually gain enough stat points to take down the particular boss in the dungeon/area that you are exploring at the time.

As you level up you unlock skills based on your class. They set up the game to have 6 hotkey slots that correspond with the six categories that your character's spells come in. Each class has a Primary, Secondary, Defensive… and presumably other named categories of skills.

Some people have complained that the game is holding your hand, with corresponding slots for skills, however there is an option called Elective Mode in the menu that does allow you to assign whatever skills you want to anywhere. In the end, a certain balance is always going to be needed between the categories, but you can more readily adjust it for the situation with Elective Mode.

There are five character classes and each plays very unique from each other. Each skill also comes with five to six runes, special selectable enhancements that further change how a skill works. Customization in Diablo 3 largely comes from which abilities you choose to use with your character and which runes you assign to those abilities to make combos that kill things faster.

Diablo aims to keep you playing with four difficulties, each unlocked after beating the final boss on the previous mode. The final mode, Inferno, is made for max level characters and has so far proven to be almost too difficult for some classes.

In the end, the gameplay of Diablo 3 keeps you playing and it never loses interest, even if it is largely repetitive.

Story

The story in Diablo is… well lackluster. There are transitions and lines of dialogue and story twists that are all mostly predictable, weak, and just plain bad. The story in this game is a continuation of the stories from the previous two games, but it really is serving as nothing more than a go here kill this and this is what the next boss is going to look like.

I was genuinely more interested in idle conversations with my companion than I was with the actual storyline of the game.

I should mention that there are a lot of conversations you can have with the NPCs that aren't required for the quests or main storyline that may or may not improve the story of the game. Since this tends to be the case for these types of games, I expect you have to go hunting to find the deeper story, but as for what you're forced to watch I really think they could've done much much much better.

Okay, now that the review part of the review is out of the way, a few things should be addressed that pertain to the game.

Always Online Requirement

Diablo 3 requires its players to always be online. This has proven to be a pain in the initial week of release. People have had problems logging in to the servers and even in gameplay there seems to be a significant amount of lag from time to time in the most docile of game locations. This lag is exacerbated whenever you get into some of the large scale epic battles and you have to kill fifty monsters at one go, you can see how this can be a problem as well.

I died about ten times in my initial playthrough and I expect that lag had to do with the majority of those deaths. Times where I would click the button and see the button in game go through the “you are clicking this button” animation and then I'd die because my character didn't do what the game itself could tell I was telling it to do.

If you have a bad internet connection in general it is likely that you won't enjoy playing this game. As of right now, you have to catch the servers at a good time. There's no telling when Blizzard will take them down for maintenance, and there was one time when I was kicked mid-game without warning.

So just keep in mind, that if you buy this game you are buying something that is completely in control of the people running the game. Just because you seriously enjoy playing Blackjack at your house, doesn't mean you'll find it the same when you play at a casino.

The above parallel to a place of fun and a place of real money brings us to another aspect of Diablo 3.

The Auction House and the Real Money Auction House (RMAH)

Diablo 3 has an Auction House a la' their other major game, World of Warcraft. As a player you can find items and post items that you've found in your game in order to sell for either in-game or real-world currency to other players. This affects the fundamental gameplay of Diablo 3 in a significant way. The major idea is that you may be able to make money off of this game in the future.

This is likely why Blizzard decided to have Diablo 3 server side. While the RMAH isn't out yet, and initial reports aren't in about what its impact on gameplay is, it can be safely said that there will be more bickering if it doesn't prove to work out very well.

Considering the gameplay, its hard to tell if players will genuinely go for the RMAH whenever people are selling most things for in-game currency already.

PVP

As of now, PvP is not yet released in Diablo 3. It's arguable that this will be the hot thing to do end-game, because of the competitive and variable nature of it. Diablo 3's solo gameplay gets very repetitive, and no matter how difficult the final difficulty remains, it won't get much different. It can be assumed that what's in Diablo 3 right now is going to stay in Diablo 3 right now, and that much won't change until the game gets an Expansion or something similar. This isn't World of Warcraft either, so an expansion probably won't expand much either.

Lack of Customization

There have been numerous complaints from people that customization is dead in this one. This stems from the fact that previous Diablo games had multiple skill trees and gave your character stat points and skill points that they could use to spread around and build their characters in different ways.

To be honest, I can see where some of these complaints are coming from. Every player unlocks the same skills at the same levels and that's something that won't be different in this game. You don't get to choose between the ice spell, the fire spell, or the thunder spell. You don't get to choose to increase your life, mana, or damage at this level. As a transition it's a very strong departure.

That being said, I don't believe what has changed in Diablo 3 is entirely a bad thing. It's more of a classic RPG style, where you level and get a set of skills. These skills may help, or they may not, but its up to you to choose how to apply them. The Runes I spoke of earlier keep the customization from being completely gone. There's certainly no one way to make a character. There's also the fact that gear is different and variable.

A counterpoint to gear though is that each class focuses really on two attributes, a primary damage attribute, and Vitality for health. The other two attributes have universal applications, but you won't need much past these two. Everything seems very tacked on and unnecessary even.

Yet, I think when PvP comes out, the games subtle customization will shine more. Right now, they seem to have made Diablo 3 about the customization that's available at the end of the game, rather than at the front of the game.

Conclusion

Diablo 3 is a grind fest. You kill monsters. The game's story seems to take this to heart because it really only sits there to give you reasons why you should kill more monsters. It feels written by a freshman English major tenuously connecting motivations and reasons in a game that's really always been about gameplay.

That gameplay stands solid, continues in the Diablo tradition and doesn't disappoint. When PvP comes out this game should get universally better. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't start gearing up now.

Diablo is a solid experience. But it's a plant. It's going to need some water before it becomes a flower. And right now, water is kind of scarce.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/22/12

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


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