Review by Kamek85

"Blizzard, but not vintage Blizzard"

Diablo III has, perhaps befittingly of the franchise, endured a tortured history. It started with the dissolution of Blizzard North and the subsequent merger with Activision, followed by wave after wave of controversy regarding the art direction, Real Money Auction House, and always-online requirement. For all the hype there has been an equal dose of assault on the game's supposedly questionable design choices, and now that it is finally here we can put the game under the microscope and evaluate the final product.

The basic mechanics of the game have not substantially changed since the previous installment, fulfilling its hack-and-slash honorific. There is a great wealth of content to explore in terms of settings, monsters, quests, items, and story. You will constantly try new strategies without fear of irrevocably nerfing your character - be they a Demon Hunter, Barbarian, Wizard, Witch Doctor, or Monk - thanks to the flexible runestones skill system, eliminating the need to create multiple instances of the same character class. Stat points are now automatically distributed upon leveling up, effectively relegating any customization to item management. Blizzard has also touted some brand new features such as an all-new "inferno" difficulty setting and the ability to craft items with an artisan.

The environments are impressively moody for a 3D game engine and incredibly fun to traverse, although die-hard veterans may lament the decided lack of realism that seems to be replaced by traditional fantasy elements. The game's director, Jay Wilson, has adamantly defended this change in art direction, claiming that the exaggerated visuals are a necessity for coherent gameplay, but it remains to be seen how all the glitz and glamor does anything other than clash with the gothic feel established by the previous entries.

Russell Brower has taken over as the game's composer, which despite being predominantly orchestral soundtrack is surprisingly faithful to Matt Uelmen's original compositions. There is, however, an excess of bombast found in a few tracks, notably the opening fanfare, which contrasts with the mellow, subversively malevolent themes of the first two games. Sound is excellent overall and the interface's clicks and pops serves to complement the experience, and the voice-acting is as top-notch as ever.

The improved graphics, sound, and meticulously designed gameplay contribute to an extremely balanced, polished experience that is highly compatible across systems. It does lack an indescribable charm found in the originals, but you could certainly do much worse with the games out on the market.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/17/12

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

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