Review by Insaniteus

"Easily Obsessable! A worthy successor to legends."

The Diablo games are much like an MMO game, but without the crowds of players everywhere and without the monthly fee. Instead of one open world that everyone is in at once, you instead create separate games for 1 or up to 4 players where you go through the story and adventure as the last hope for not only humanity but the Heavens themselves! You then run around killing demons, the undead, and twisted monsters by the truckload with swords, bows, and magic while trying not to get slaughtered yourself.

Anyone who has played Diablo and Diablo II knows that the games were as addictive as drugs despite their many flaws and bugs, but how does the brand new sequel fare compared to its legendary ancestors?

1) Fast-paced click-based combat is back! All of the combat mechanics of the past return, and with the new complexity of four extra attacks active at once (for a total of 6) by using the 1-4 keys. I assume that many people reading this review will be WoW players wondering if D3 is worth a try. The two games are almost opposite in their combat philosophies. In WoW a hard fight can take 10-20 minutes and even a trash mob can take a minute or two as fights are about outlasting your enemy in a fight of endurance. In Diablo most enemies die in 1-3 hits, but so do you and there are a dozen or more demons trying to kill you simultaneously at all times. It's fast, it's reflex-heavy, and it's very intense. By comparison, WoW will feel like it runs in slow motion after playing Diablo III for awhile.

2) Vastly-enhanced customization in skill builds, while simplifying stat and skill points. In D3 stats are automatic, and skills don't have levels anymore. Gone are the days of min-maxing a skill tree with 20 in your primary attacks and 1 in the prerequisites. In its place is a system where all skills are designed to be usable throughout the entire game, where you choose which skills you wish to use in your 6 slots and then you customize which runes you use on those skills. Damage, even for spells, is now determined exclusively by weapon DPS and by your class's primary stat (Strength for Barbarians, for instance).

The Runes are a new system where you greatly modify a skill by selecting one of the runes to use. For example, the spell Hydra returns from the previous 2 games and you have the option of leaving it as fire type, turning it ice to slow people at the cost of its range, turning it poison to create a pool of acid where it hits, and more. Blizzard recently commented on their web page that of all level 60 players of all classes, the biggest group of people using the same exact build was only 0.7% of the players of that class, not even counting the 3 passive skills you can have at once. Everyone is free to master whatever skills they enjoy most, and then change them at will without needing to pay gold for respecs or re-rolling new characters like was required in Diablo II.

3) Five New Classes expand on the playstyles of previous classes. Even the technically-returning Barbarian plays very different from the Whirlwind-spamming days of his youth. All five original classes have a similar new class (Barb -- New Barb, Bow Amazon -- Demon Hunter, Sorceress -- Wizard, Necromancer -- Witch Doctor, Paladin -- Monk) but each one adds many new moves and tactics to their archetype. For example, the Wizard now uses arcane-type spells like an AoE Knockback as well as elemental classics like Blizzard, and the must-have Sorc skill of Frozen Orb is replaced with new channeling ray-beam attacks like Ray of Frost.

4) Better balanced. All 5 classes are viable for soloing, grouping, and endgame. Anyone who ever played Diablo II remembers that some classes were vastly overpowered in certain roles and other classes were vastly underpowered. The Barbarian, Amazon, and Sorceress were leagues more powerful than the other 4 options, and the Assassin and Necromancer were always doomed to be weaklings regardless of build in either PvP, groups, or both. Now, the five modern choices are all enjoying both success and failure at equal levels. For instance, the Necromancer's minions were always worthless because they had a set level of damage and life and you were forced to spend massive skill points just to keep them almost-useful. His replacement, the Witch Doctor, has minions which do a percentage of his damage, so they automatically get stronger as he does. This allows him to attack directly while his minions distract and kill bad guys themselves, all without sacrificing one tactic for the other.

5) Less bugs. Some people have complained endlessly about a log-in bug that was 100% fixed only 5 hours after launch. Those people obviously don't remember D2. D2 was mostly unplayable online for the first few months due to rampant bugs, no matter how good the player's computer and internet were. In D3 all of the main lag bugs are gone, like the black walls when you outrun the loading ability. Blizzard intends to eliminate all abilities to hack the game or dupe items through the use of monitored online content, much as they did with WoW. It's too early to claim victory, but so-far everything they're doing seems to be working.

6) Online-Only. As I mentioned before, this game can only be played while connected to the internet as a security feature (replacing CD Keys), exactly like how StarCraft 2 worked. You are still able to play single-player without issue, but the locally-stored offline "open" characters are gone now. This is a slight inconvenience to some people, but the only way to be at-all safe from hackers in Diablo 2's multiplayer was to use an online-only "Realm" character as well. In D3 your only option is a Realm character, so for anyone who played on the Realms it will seem as if nothing has changed. I've seen a few reviews where people make this out to be a game-breaking issue, but it's nothing of the sort. If someone is unable to afford internet service, the modern world has internet hotspots all over the place even in small towns.

7) Auction Houses. Never underestimate how huge of an improvement the Auction House system of trading is over the old-fashioned method of spamming chats and trade rooms for hours looking for something, and then bartering how many Stone of Jordans that item should be worth. When my DH needs a better bow, I simply leave the game I'm in, tell the search engine to find a high-dexterity bow with a socket for less than X gold, and BAM there's an entire list of them in front of me. You can search by any criteria you want, including maximum price. In the future, Blizzard intends to release a Real-Money Auction House, which will allow people to buy gold and other items for cash instead of game gold. While this choice has been very controversial, the reality is that Blizzard wanted more control and security over the gold-buying black market that existed so strongly in WoW. It always existed, but in Diablo III it will now be 100% safe and secure. If you are a more casual player unable to put in the time to farm for gold or better items to handle the higher difficulties, then you will have this shortcut available to you soon.

8) Gigantic Range of Difficulty. In Diablo games you start off at level 1 in Normal Difficulty, and you enable each new difficulty setting for that character whenever you defeat Diablo himself at the end. You play through the story again with the same character, continuing to get stronger as your enemies do the same. This game starts off being around as difficult in Normal difficulty as it was in Diablo II. Nightmare and Hell difficulties are now a bit harder, mostly do to the extreme Elite monsters. Monster "Champions" and "Unique" monsters are now much more dangerous than before, with a ton of new powers (for instance, "Molten" monsters leave lava trails and hit very hard). At higher difficulties, the Elites get 1 more randomized power per difficulty, up to 4 in the brand-new Inferno difficulty. Inferno is intended to be serious end-game and not for the faint of heart. Amusingly, the actual "Boss" bosses like Diablo end up being easier than some of the random possibilities seen in their Elite minions, especially once players have mastered their fights.

9) Other simple improvements. There are many things that we all hated about D2 that are fixed now. If you die, you no longer have to go running for your body, you just respawn at your last autosave checkpoint with a 10% item durability cut. Dying a lot can be expensive on your repair costs, but it's no longer the absolute frustration that was running into the bowels of Hell completely naked trying to loot your own corpse. Gems can now be removed from items and reused, and they are now designed to be used constantly without worry. Our inventories hold more items by a huge margin now, and gold and the stash is now shared by all characters on your account, making item transfers a breeze. If you join a co-op game, you can click on a banner in the middle of town to teleport directly to your ally. You can re-do quests at will. Random "Event" quests can happen if you're lucky in almost every area in the game, and there are a ton of them.

The Mercenaries of the past game are replaced by "Followers", three comical characters that help you in different ways and also chat with you as you explore dungeons. They each have several abilities, but as an example: One Follower can mind-control enemies, one can heal you, and one just shoots multiple arrows at everyone while making smart-alec remarks. These no longer need gold to revive when they die, they will revive themselves after about 30 seconds of downtime. They are only usable in single player mode, and they all have much weaker damage than the player, but they are a big help and much entertainment.

10) Issues. One of the last things I will mention, which is a big part of why this review gives only a 9/10 rating, is that PvP is still currently disabled. It is going to be added in a future patch though. Some major changes are in store, including the fact that PvP can only be done in PvP Arenas now. This is both good and bad, as it limits freedom but it also cuts down on over-geared jerks suddenly going Hostile and assassinating you in the middle of fighting demons. Also, the game only allows 4 players in a game now, down from 8. This means less lag in a game and probably made balancing monsters easier, but there is a downer to it being impossible to have all 5 classes in the same game.

All-in-all though, this game is fantastically addictive, just like its predecessors. I say this not only as a Diablo fan of the last 15 years, but also on behalf of my wife who is playing this as her first Diablo game ever and is ravenously hooked. This game had HUGE shoes to fill, and it succeeded.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/07/12

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

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