Review by Bkstunt_31

"It's a good game... I just kinda wished I owned it."

Ah, Diablo. You KNOW you've made it as a company when you release a game (like Diablo and Diablo 2) and then when other companies make similar games they are called "Diablo clones". Blizzard basically made THE STANDARD hack and slash game with their Diablo series. And now, 10 years after releasing Diablo 2 (Blizzard was busy with that whole World of Warcraft thing you may have heard of) we now have Diablo 3.

Well, the economy is tough! Even Diablo 3's $60 entry point is fairly expensive in today's gaming market, so its only natural that you want to know exactly what you can expect out of Diablo , which is why you're likely reading this. And after beating the game several times on several difficulties and putting in 80+ hours I'm finally ready to tell you EXACTLY what to expect.

Story:

Diablo 2 pretty much wrapped up the story of the Prime Evils with the main game and its expansion pack. Players fought and killed Mephisto, Diablo and Baal and saved the mortal world known as Sanctuary. However Sanctuary is NOT a very safe place. A prophecy foretold of evil's return and 20 years later a fateful star appeared out of the sky and crashed into the chapel at the (very unfortunate) town of Tristam. Deckard Cain was with his niece Leah when the star crashed and the two got separated with Cain disappearing under the chapel. The star also seems to have reawakened the dead as well, as zombies and skeletons now roam the land freely. However, you (or your player character) have come to Tristam to investigate the star, as it is an omen of the evil that is to come.

If you've played any other hack-and-slash game out there you know as well as I do that the story generally ISN'T the star. The same can be said of Diablo 3. The story is not going to leave you in awe. It's pretty generic. You'll pick whatever class you want to play as (which we'll go through in the game play section) and immediately be dropped outside Tristam to investigate the fallen star, which of course sweeps you up in the on-going Diablo story of Hell verses Heaven and mortal man's attempt to slay the lords of Hell. I've played with every character and can straight up tell you that there is very little personal back story in the game about any of them. Every single one of them is a beacon in the darkness and like every generic straight-eyed hero they all believe exactly what they are told. Your average gamer will see the game's various double-crosses and plot twists from a mile away but the hero won't. The main story is also going to be exactly the same regardless of WHO you choose as your hero.

Regardless of the generic hero, the obvious plot twists and the lack of any story diversity, the game DOES pack in plenty on NPC's to interact with in each base camp you'll visit. The story (and game) is broken up into four acts (similar to the previous game) and each act has it's own base camp (Act 3 and Act 4 have the same base camp). These are packed with NPC's you can often talk to and ask questions to flesh out the story. The game also features three followers that you'll unlock over the first two acts. Followers are primarily there to accompany you when you are playing SINGLE player only, and you can only take along one follower at a time. They will often talk and converse with you as you play though, leading to several witty and humorous dialog exchanges.

In the end, go into Diablo 3 not expecting an epic story. It's decent and sets up the framework for your death dealing adventures well enough, but that's about it. I should also warn you that if you DO want to hear the story you NEED to play single-player. If you play multi-player other players can SKIP events which leads to NO story at all for you. You've been warned!

Game Play

Now HERE is the bulk of your experience and what is likely the most important thing about Diablo 3.

Before starting you'll have to choose to play as one of five different character classes. The most familiar classes in the game will be the Barbarian who once again relies on brute strength and a fury gauge to deal out damage and the Wizard, who plays just like previous magician classes and relies on her spells and high intelligence to damage enemies. The other three classes are the Witch Doctor, who can summon zombie dogs and a golem as minions as well as use hexes to damage enemies. Like the Wizard he relies on mana as well. Next you have the Demon Hunter who is essentially your ranged specialist and has Hatred and Discipline resources to manage which power his various attacks. He can lay traps and be extremely mobile. Lastly you have the Monk who gains spirit as he fights and can use it to put various mantras on the entire party (to increase stats) and use his better damage dealing abilities.

The customization options for each class are downright impressive. You will gain skills as you level up and it won't take you TOO long to unlock your left and right mouse button skills and your 1-4 number key skills, which gives each character a total of six different skills. Now, each one of those key skills needs to be picked out of a POOL of skills for that key. Meaning that one Monk may have an ENTIRELY different set of skills than another monk. That in and of itself is pretty cool (customization is the name of the game in my opinion) but it gets better. Each individual skill also has a set of rune stones you can choose from, which leads to even more customization. Add on to all of this a set of 20-30 unique passive skills per character that you can choose to have up to three active at any time and you've got a LOT of customization options.

As for the game play itself the game is classic hack-and-slash action. You'll face literally THOUSANDS of demons and other enemies as you fight your way through the game. And along the way you'll also pick up hundreds (maybe even thousands) of pieces of armor and weapons. Your character can equip a wide variety of armor including chest pieces, leggings, boots, gloves, shoulder pieces, helmets, two rings and an amulet just to name a few (I'm sure I'm missing a piece or two, but you get the general idea). The game also has some unique weapons and items that only certain classes can use. For example, only Witch Doctors can equip and use voodoo doll items. And like most loot-heavy games ("Diablo Clones", if you will), Diablo 3 has its loot "ranked" by tiers. Loot will drop in Gray, White, Blue and Yellow colors which indicate the loot's rarity and value. There are also orange and green loot colors as well, which stand for legendary and set pieces respectively but those are VERY rare. The color of the loot directly affects the gear's statistics as well and in Diablo 3 statistics are EVERYTHING. You can easily make it through the normal difficulty without worrying about gear TOO much but once you start playing Nightmare, Hell and Inferno difficulty modes gear will soon become the most important thing in your life.

The game's quests are really nothing special. You'll be gathering items for people, finding ways to open magical doors and rescuing people over and over. You know, that usual "do-gooder" stuff. Most normal enemies won't even pose a challenge for you aside from some annoying hit-and-run tactics they may utilize but THEN you have the elite enemies to face. These enemies can either be preset mini-boss enemies or randomly generated common enemies. They usually either come in groups of three or one big enemy with minions. What makes these enemies special is the wealth of additional abilities they have, from extra health to being able to make illusions of themselves. They have far more variety than the two examples I gave of course, and as you increase in difficulty levels they will add on MORE abilities. You could fact elites with 4-5 devastating abilities once you reach Inferno, which admittedly makes for a REAL challenge. And of course it SHOULD be challenging since the best equipment often comes from the elite monsters. Preset boss monsters are also present and provides some measure of difficulty, but I found the real challenge of the game to be the elite monsters in the Inferno difficulty.

In fact, as you progress in difficulty you can expect the game to become MORE and MORE gear-dependent. Near the end you'll find yourself scouring the auction house to shore up your gear's statistics and optimizing your skill choices just to SURVIVE. Fun for some sure, but in this one reviewers opinion depending on gear to "win" isn't exactly my idea of fun...

Graphics

As you would expect from Blizzard, the graphics in the game are all top-notch (well, with a decent computer anyways and the options turned on). The cinematic movies are of course brilliant and happen fairly often, but of course don't change at all as you plow through different difficulty levels. The character designs are all well-done as is the armor designs. The armor gets fancier and fancier as you level up and of course every new piece of armor is always displayed on your character. The character and enemy animations are also brilliant. I didn't have a single problem with any skill glitching out on me or frankly not looking awesome when I used them over all five characters. I found that the game does have some lag from time to time but it's very rare (and my machine is definitely above maximum specifications). In short, everything is just plain pleasant to look at throughout the game. It is wonderfully detailed, has excellent character and enemy designs and is animated wonderfully. There ARE some instances of palette-swapping as you go through the game, with very similar looking enemies likely just given boosted statistics, but it seems that every dungeon crawler nowadays does it. Given how long Blizzard took to make Diablo 3 palette-swapping may come as a surprise but there it is.

Audio

As you would expect, Diablo 3 has a fairly dramatic soundtrack. Comprised with an orchestra, the music can really amp up at times and get your blood going. It does its job in psyching you up when you should be, but the music overall isn't something you're going to catch yourself humming to later on or anything. One could just call it "typical Hollywood drama music" and I wouldn't argue one bit.

The game is fully voiced though, with dozens of unique voices for all classes and NPC's throughout the game. The voice acting is well done. I think that the followers are probably my favorite to listen to as they ramble on when they are out on an adventure with you, with the Demon Hunter class probably being my favorite class to listen to. In the end the audio in the game is well-done and only enhances the experience and while the soundtrack and music may not be very memorable the voice acting is a treat to listen to.

Re-Playability

Another BIG draw to a game like Diablo 3 is the amount of re-playability it has. Let's face it: you can sit down and beat the game in 7-8 hours. Easy. So its fair to say that the game itself is NOT that long. However, you'll only get to level 28-29 by the time you beat the game. Now, take that knowledge and combine it with the fact that your character will level up to level 60 and learn new moves and earn new rune stones all along the way. This game is MADE to be played MULTIPLE times. The real length of the game is not only beating 'normal', but in beating all subsequent difficulties as well.

That alone will take you 40+ hours, especially given how the final difficulty, Inferno, ramps up the challenge. THEN you have five different character classes to play as. Plus remember that I said that if you want to hear the story you have to play in SINGLE PLAYER mode? Well, MULTI PLAYER mode is really the place where you'll have the most fun, so that's just another play through for you if you care about the story at all.

In the end the re-playability is fantastic, even if NOT ALL THAT MUCH changes from play-through to play-through.

Other Concerns

Ok, you've already read a fairly long review, so let's level. I write a LOT of reviews and this is the first time I've had a "other concerns" section. And I do have some concerns about this game.

First of all, to play Diablo 3 you MUST ALWAYS be connected to Blizzard's servers. Always. Even if all you do is play by yourself. This in and of itself as you can imagine is an issue. Playing online with a group of friends or a random party and your internet takes a bump? Disconnected. This has happened to me and it is BEYOND annoying. PLUS it really drives home the point that YOU DON'T OWN THIS GAME. Blizzard does. You are merely paying money to experience what they want you to experience and you're going to play it exactly how they want you to play it. Some may not see this as a big deal but to me, a VERY avid gamer, I see it setting a bad precedence in putting the company first and consumer last, something that I hope only companies as big as Blizzard have the gall or money to pull off.

Secondly, just to install and get Diablo 3 to play on my machine I had to overcome THREE technical issues, two of which were plain and simple issues related to Blizzard's updating and installation processes. You would think that a company as big as Blizzard and that has been rolling out updates and patches as long as they have would have this stuff down pat, but such is not the case. If you're going to buy Diablo 3 you should have some amount of tech-savvy and be prepared to do some workarounds to MAKE Blizzard's product work.

And the last of my concerns is Blizzard's auction house. If you didn't know by now, you can not only sell items for gold but there is a separate auction house run by Blizzard where you can sell items for REAL money. Now, remember up there earlier in the review where I said that the end-game of Diablo 3 is extremely gear dependent. Combine that with a real money auction house. Now combine all of that with Blizzard taking a cut of everything that is sold. See what I'm getting at...

Now don't get me wrong, if it wasn't Blizzard selling the items or finding a way to facilitate items being sold it would just be somebody else. You can't KILL that kind of business. I get it: they are just doing what someone else would do but are CONTROLLING it. But something about Blizzard, a game developer, making money off of these things seems wrong to me, even with that knowledge. Plus they're the ones making the end-game so gear dependent to further facilitate these transactions. Take from this what you will, but at least you are INFORMED now.

OVERALL: 7/10

Please note that my "Other Concerns" section DOES NOT factor into this score. Some of those points though have made more than one person outright refuse to buy this game, I am sure.

In the end, Diablo 3 is still a very enjoyable hack-and-slash experience. Not everything is memorable or perhaps even ideal (really, Blizzard!? You can't give me a way to sell junk out of my inventory without going to town!?), but it's an enjoyable game with the highlights really being the game play and re-playability options. Hopefully this review armed you with all the info you need before purchasing this game. Have fun and keep playing!


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/17/12

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


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