Review by Miskatonic
Enjoyable gameplay but lacking overal depth
Given how long it has been since the Diablo II expansion, one would think Blizzard had plenty of time to create a formula that would make Diablo III a near perfect game. Unfortunately the time spent during the interim on WOW has either drained the company of fresh and innovative ideas or made them lazy because their products sell like hotcakes based on hype and name recognition alone, regardless of quality.
Given I was not a huge fan of Diablo II, I was starving for another hack and slash adventure that would be on par with the original.
This is definitely the biggest positive of Diablo III. Though the hardcore gamer might find the skill setup greatly simplified since Diablo II, it takes away the need to be extremely strict with how you choose to build your character, giving you the freedom to experiment and vary the way you dispatch enemies, instead of just relying on one or two skills that you use repeatedly to ensure survival. The different abilities of the five classes provide plenty of variety and the new classes (especially the witch doctor) are a welcome addition to the standard melee and spellcasting classes we are all familiar with. In general you get an almost classic arcade feel with combat and taking on wave after wave of enemy mobs is a blast. The only downside is that you are going to have to fall in love with the combat aspect of the game to make multiple play-through's worth it, otherwise you may find yourself wondering why you spent so much money for such a short ride.
Though the Diablo storyline has never been extremely high brow, the first two games (especially the Diablo II) created something you could get interested in and not simply breeze through as you went off to kill things. Diablo III however is rather disappointing when it comes to expanding the mythos, which isn't surprising given they have to keep trying to figure out a way for the the title character to manage to escape destruction yet again and manifest to try and conquer all of creation. After you've played through the game once you are not going to want to sit through and listen to the dialogue as the story progresses, thus you'll be skipping by cut scenes, etc. Unfortunately the story does not change whatsoever when you start a different class, other than the responses given to your NPC companions which are of no real importance. If the story was engaging and had memorable moments that you wouldn't mind revisiting, it would add to the replay value tremendously. The characters aren't interesting and neither is what happens to them as the game goes on.
The length of the game is another reason the story fails to deliver. You can fly through normal mode in 20+ hours if you aren't a completionist. I would expect a game like this to take nearly twice this length to complete. Perhaps some DLC quests will be added in the future to open up more achievements and increase play length.
This is a huge disappointment. The original Diablo game had a soundtrack that ranks among the very best when it comes to pulling the player in and creating an atmosphere befitting a town that was under siege by the forces of evil. Diablo II had some good tracks but wasn't on par with the original. Diablo III might as well not have a soundtrack because it is completely lost in the background. When you are dungeon crawling in sinister locations where horrific deeds have been committed you want as powerful of an atmosphere as possible, yet visuals can only accomplish so much. My rating could have easily jumped to an 8/10 if the soundtrack had been outstanding, but given how underwhelming it is there's nothing positive to say about it.
Diablo III isn't pushing the cutting edge when it comes to visuals. The game improves upon Diablo II obviously but not by as big of a margin as you would think. Fortunately the visuals are good enough to not detract from the experience and the 3D landscapes are certainly a big improvement. To Blizzard's credit, the game didn't need to have jaw dropping graphics to succeed, it just needed to be polished enough to bring the world to life.
Online Auction House
A new feature is the online auction house, allowing players to sell their loot for gold or actual currency. The AH helps to combat gold sellers that are numerous in games like WOW, and it helps to increase gold without having to grind and pick up enemy drops, as well as finding some quality gear to get an immediate bang for your buck for your leveling endeavors. On the downside, being able to find all this improved gear takes away from actually having to earn it by finding it in the field due to your own gaming efforts. Some of the challenge is lost this way. Another issue is the notion that spending a decent amount of time simply farming for loot is a joy in and of itself. To me this seems a bit misguided. Only the most die hard players are going to want to spend hours upon hours searching for elite gear. The average player is going to get bored to death with farming after a short amount of time, rendering this feature useless.
The fact that you must have an internet connection to play the game is a subject that players are divided on. Having to use battle net to play the game allows Blizzard to fight piracy and maintain the price the game is set at (fighting used game sales), but with the online aspect comes some obvious problems. Getting dropped from the server while in the middle of playing the game is just as aggravating as blue screening in an offline game. Clearing out 90% of a particular dungeon floor only to get booted before you reach the next checkpoint, especially if you've found some high quality loot, is going to tick off a lot of people. There is no real reason this game needs to be online, other than Blizzard preferring to run it in a similar manner to WOW, which makes it more convenient for them, not the gamer paying to play the game. Multiplayer was accessible with Diablo II without requiring an internet connection to play solo, so any type of online content is easily available using this same format for Diablo III.
Diablo III is certainly a game worth playing at least once, but I would suggest waiting for the price to drop before picking it up. At a price such as 29.99 or 39.99 this game would be worth every penny and then some, but at the 60.00 mark the game doesn't deliver enough to justify it. I took advantage of the WOW deal involving paying for a one year pass in order to get the game for free. This is the only reason I am currently playing the game. Using this promotion shows a lack of confidence on Blizzard's part when it comes to stand alone game sales. The WOW community is still thriving and if you are planning on continuing to play for the foreseeable future, why not pick up Diablo III in the process? The sheer number of Tyrael's Charger mounts seen roaming around in WOW shows how successful the promotion was.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Diablo III (US, 05/15/12)
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