Review by Ice_Shield
"It's devilish how much fun you'll have..."
The first thing I want to say is that Diablo 3 is the first game from the series I've played, so I'm not biased towards the older Diablo games, but I have logged thousands of hours on Phantasy Star Online which has around the same feel of Diablo gamewise.
The story to me is quite... bland. I understand that with a series like Diablo you cannot get farther from the cliche beat the evil story. The story doesn't rely on the other games in the series. Sure, characters from the other games are used in this game, but the intertwining between the stories of the old games to this game are done well. No prior knowledge of the Diablo game world is needed to understand the plot of this story.
The problem with the story is that it's pretty repetitive. The story basically revolves around at most four characters at the most at one time. A new character will be introduced, another will leave, the cycle continues. There are characters that stay throughout the entire gameplay but the problem is hat you feel no connection to these players. If something bad happens to a character in game it gives you more of an Oh, okay, next quest? feeling rather than an Oh man, I can't believe that just happened!
The game includes some plot twists but most of these end up being extremely guessable. There was no point in the game where I was left stunned or surprised. A good part about the story is that you do begin to notice things on subsequent plays that you wouldn't (or could not) have noticed before. An example is that playing with a follower that you obtain in Act 2 in any quest in Act 1, she has the ability to somewhat sense the future of the storyline. It's nothing extreme, just something that'll make you chuckle, like I did.
There's no reason for me to rate this any lower since all of the controls in the game are fully customizable. You can reassign the key bindings to any key (including mouse) giving the game a fully customizable experience. Moves, commands, even display toggles such as enemy HP bars and be bound to any key or mouse button on your computer.
The point and click aspect of the game is pretty easy to understand too... you point and click. There's no way to screw it up. If pointing and clicking isn't your type of game you can even use any gamepad to play. I have carpal tunnel and even with a hundred hours logged into the game in two weeks it hasn't acted up, which I assumed it would, considering you'll be clicking near constantly. The game does have a click-and-hold option that lets your character move without constant clicking. This works as it should and is a great asset.
Finally, the meat of the game. The Diablo series is known for it's dungeon crawling, treasure hunting, equip upgrading gameplay. The game itself is split up into four difficulty levels, and each of those difficulty levels contains four Acts. It should be noted that there's no story changes between the difficulty levels so the story in the easiest difficulty is the same as the hardest difficulty. The characters level from 1-60 and (as of now) cannot level farther.
Difficulty levels are broken up into Normal (easiest), Nightmare, Hell and Inferno (hardest). The player starts off the game in Normal. Now, veterans of the series complain that Normal mode is too easy to be considered an actual difficulty mode, so it is commonly thought of as one giant game introductory. Being new to the series, I found Normal to be well needed, especially to those who are completely new to the genre of the game. Upon beating Normal the character gets into Nightmare mode, which has a suggested level of 30. Continuing on after Nightmare mode will grant you Hell mode, in which you must be level 50 to enter. Finally there is Inferno, in which you must be level 60 to enter. The difficulty jump from Normal to Nightmare is pretty well done. It's harder, but not hard enough to be too hard. From Nightmare to Hell the difficulty of the game really starts to scale. You can go from sifting through enemies to start forming strategies. This is the difficulty mode where you'll probably die a dozen times before the beginning of the second Act. Finally, onto Inferno, which is on a completely different level of difficulty than you would imagine.
Inferno is probably the best definition of end game that I've ever seen in any video game. From Normal to Nightmare, and Nightmare to Hell, you can just start playing the harder difficulty to progress through. Inferno, on the other hand, you must be prepared. Enemies go from killing you when in large groups to killing you with only one enemy in a couple hits. It's suggested that you play through the later levels of Hell to get some equips that will be used to your advantage in Inferno. A lot of the game's complaints come from the idea that Inferno is too hard. Players feel that the only way to progress through Inferno is to buy equips from the Auction House (an in-game trading post) which takes away from the experience. I find that Inferno is playable without use of the Auction House, you just have to be willing to work hard for your equips in Hell. It might take dozens of hours. It might even take hundreds if you have really, really bad luck. But Blizzard is working on making the step up in difficulty a lot easier to help you get started in the difficulty.
Difficulty modes aside, the drop and loot aspect of the game has come under a lot of fire as well. There's a chance that a normal enemy can become an elite enemy, which come in either groups of 3-4 or one extremely hard enemy with smaller minions. These enemies have special abilities, such as being able to freeze your character, reflecting damage brought onto you, summoning pools of fire/acid below your character and more. These enemies drop more loot, and rarer loot which makes them a successful addition to the game. The problem with these is that (touching back on difficulty for a second) the higher the difficulty mode the more specials an elite pack can have. On Inferno, you can run into packs that reflect damage, steal health from you, shield themselves from damage, and have minions that are invulnerable. Combinations like these make them basically impossible to beat. The majority of players skip past them, especially since the loot that they drop is far from worth the battle.
Drop rates for good loot is also far from good in the game. Up until Inferno the player can last on equips they find themselves. Once into Inferno, a player must either search for hours upon hours to find one equip that is Inferno worthy or use the Auction House. Certain classes have this better off than others, for example ranged classes can easily run through Inferno while melee classes (such as Barbarians) are mauled to death constantly. For a Barbarian, you much search for equips with All Resists, which lower the damage you take from non-physical attacks. The problem is that on the Hell difficulty, the chances of you finding an equip with All Resists are rare. As in, play for three hours to find one or two. Then, those two equips you found either have no other stat bonuses other than the all resist or the stat bonuses it has are far worse than your current equips. Blizzard is currently working on making this more rewarding and useful for the players so it could become a lot better in future patches.
Item creation and merchants in the game are also far from worthwhile. There are three or four merchants per act, and these merchants sell items that are only useable until Nightmare. Once you hit Nightmare the weapons and equipment they sell are hardly worth buying. By Hell buying from the merchants is almost pointless. There is also an NPC who can craft weapons and armor. You have to pay gold to upgrade him and then pay additional gold for him to craft the item, which then is given random stats. The problem with this is that by Inferno, when you should be using him, weapons and armor take hundreds of thousands of gold to create. Then the weapon/armor you get is either worthless because it boosts stats your character doesn't need (which happens 9/10 times) or you could have bought the same thing in the Auction House for a tenth of the price. There is also an NPC who can craft gems into your weapon/armor. The gems boost your stats and are extremely valuable, however they're also extremely expensive. By Inferno you find up to level 6 or 7 gems. But to craft higher than that you have to spend hundreds of thousands of gold, as well as use other gems to make better ones. To create one gem you need three of the lower level gems. That means to go from a level 1 gem to a level 4 gem, you would need 27 of the level 1 gems.
Fighting enemies is fun. Bossing is fun. The entire physical fighting aspect of the game is fun for the most part. Complaints about the dropping of loot and special enemies makes the gameplay seem weak or boring but it's actually a blast to play. As I mentioned before, I put in a hundred hours of game time in two weeks. Up until Inferno the game is a BLAST! It's people who rush into Inferno thinking they should beat it simply with their old equips that complain about the gameplay. The game also has a big dependence on random generators. For example, maps almost always have the same size, but the content in the map is random every time you play. There are certain sub quests that are random, dungeons are always random unless they're storyline related, and all enemies are random. Every time you play almost everything is different and it makes each game refreshing.
Graphics in this game are pretty decent. They're not extremely well done, but the upside to that is that it'll run well on almost any computer, and it still has graphics that are far better than most games released today. They physics engine on the game makes it a spectacle to see your character destroy and enemy and have it's limbs fly all over the screen. Cutscenes, mostly between Acts and before and after the game, are extremely well done and rival most other cutscenes from any other game. The camera isn't moveable, so you're stuck with the same view the entire game (though you can zoom into your character), so it would have been cool to make it at least rotate even if it was something like 90 degrees like in the early The Sims game.
Ask any player to hum three background songs from the game and they'll probably one get one; the title screen. Songs from the game aren't memorable. I'm a giant stickler for audio so this is a major let down for me. The audio in this game is also too unbalanced to make it fun to listen to. The sounds of combat (swords swinging, enemies screaming) are so loud that I had to turn them down in the options menu. Everything starts off at 80. I raised everything to 100 and lowered down the fighting sounds to 40 and it's still a little louder than everything else. The only time you hear music in the background is if your character isn't moving. Voice acting is good but sometimes your follower will interrupt conversations with their same old The flowers in this temple used to be back at my home!
The game is obviously replayable. You have to play through the three difficulty levels to get to Inferno for every character you make, but it doesn't seem like much of a chore in doing so unless you try to rush it. Since the game itself doesn't have a vast amount of areas you can go too (being there's only four acts) you're forced to replay the same areas over and over but it just never gets boring. The randomness of each area makes each game feel refreshingly new. I think that it'll be months, at least, until I start getting sick of Diablo 3.
Overall the game gets an 8/10. It's fun and will grab your attention for a long while. The main positives of the game are it's random generators, controls, kill and loot gameplay, equips upgrades, the inclusion of an extremely hard end game difficulty and graphics. The main negatives are the reliance on the Auction House, the uselessness of merchants, the difficulty scale for the later acts in the final difficulty mode, and the less-than-stellar audio.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/12/12
Game Release: Diablo III (US, 05/15/12)
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