The game everyone’s been waiting for 12 long years is out. Ever since the original Diablo came out on PC and lit the adventure gaming circuit on fire back in 1996, and its sequel captivated the hearts of RPG fans everywhere (and still does to this day) in 2000, fans have been eagerly waiting for the third entry in the series. A genre-making game, Diablo has legions of fans. Now finally, Blizzard has unleashed Diablo III to rabid fans. Does the third outing of the series live up to the pedigree?
Diablo III takes place 20 years after the events of the second game. After investigating the prophesized reemergence of Diablo and the greater evils, a large flaming star lands on Tristram Cathedral, leaving Deckard Cain’s niece Leah to seek help in searching for her missing uncle. This sets the stage for the events that follow in the game.
Players can select from five character classes at the beginning of the game: the Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and the Wizard, each with selectable sexes. Each character is varied enough to be unique, and fun to play with, with varying proficiencies and weaknesses. At the beginning of the game each class is underdeveloped, but with each level increase, players will always get something new for their characters, be it new abilities (passive or aggressive) or skills that players can equip and un-equip at any given moment.
That’s right. Gone are the skill and stat points that players would distribute in order to improve their characters in Diablo I and II. Stat and skill point distribution in Diablo III has been streamlined and simplified, and I must say I couldn’t be happier. Instead of allocating points to a single skill tree for specific character builds, players can now unlock every skill and ability a class possesses as they progress through the levels. Due to this new system, players are now able to switch skills suitable to specific encounters on the fly, and are able to experiment with different combinations and character builds. I absolutely loved every aspect of this new system. I think it’s brilliant.
A dungeon crawler like its predecessors, Diablo III starts off pretty slow but quickly ventures into familiar territory. Hordes of demons and other creatures cross the player’s path on their quest to stop Diablo, only to be slain swiftly and bloodily. When the creatures die, they then drop loads of loot (and I do mean a lot of it). Almost every enemy comes loaded with plenty of gold, armor and weapons, so players will find themselves constantly checking their equipped items and switching stuff in and out, in order to try out new builds and improve their characters. They can also sell the left over stuff for more gold, or break down magical items in order to use the basic materials to create new equipment.
Diablo III facilitates this constant unloading of loot with the unlimited use of a town portal spell, which transports players to the town hub so they can repair and sell equipment, hire mercenaries, or to just take a breather. By providing an easy manner to return to town, the game always encourages players to take all the loot they can without worrying too much about the storage limit their characters have. It’s a big improvement over the scrolls one had to carry just to do the same thing in Diablo I and II, and I love it.
The world of Diablo III is as huge as ever, full of a large variety of locations and environments that players will have to navigate in their quest to defeat Diablo. Maps are big and full of enemies, and are peppered with random events that are unique and are never found in the same place twice. Dungeons are also randomly generated and are usually gigantic; ensuring each playthrough of the game will be a interesting experience. Although the large dungeons are daunting at first, exploring each nook and cranny in the maps and fending off hordes of demons is an exciting experience.
Quests are what drive the game forward, tasking players to complete a number of objectives in order to move the story forward. They range from simple, menial tasks like fetching a number of items and flipping switches, to defeating a number of demons or protecting innocent NPCs. The quests in the game are varied enough to never get boring, and the game does a good job of showcasing enough eye candy in the missions to keep players gasping in awe. And then there are large-scale quests, which are full of action-packed and exciting cinematic moments that’ll leave players breathless by the end of it. There’s truly never a dull moment in the game.
To keep combat fresh, Diablo III features the classic mini-bosses and bosses the series is known for. In each Act (the game is divided into four), players will encounter a number of strong enemies that require different tactics and strategies to defeat. Mini-bosses appear frequently throughout the maps and are usually a bit difficult to defeat in comparison to smaller, typical enemies, and drop better loot. Bosses, however, are a different story. Usually appearing at the end of each act, each of these encounters are epic, memorable battles. No longer are the bosses the “attack, heal, wash and repeat” affairs seen in Diablo I and II. Bosses in Diablo III are large and more varied than before, and are multi-leveled, meaning that they can transform into different forms mid-battle, requiring the switching of strategies on the fly in order to persevere. These battles are challenging and are loads of fun, tasking players to think on their feet as they fight for survival.
While Diablo III can be played alone, the game is at its strongest when played with friends. With a party of up to four players, the game’s difficulty climbs and more enemies appear to decimate the newly formed team. The team dynamic works particularly well with this game, offering combinations of attacks and strategies that cannot be pulled off alone. It’s also more fun to take on hordes of demons together.
When the game is done, the fun doesn’t stop. Player characters can level up to level 60, which requires a lot of playtime, and players can also play through 3 additional difficulty levels to gain more experience and gain better loot (Nightmare, Hell and Inferno). The higher difficulty levels require more team play to succeed as enemies are stronger in these modes, so it’s always a good idea to have a friend around. If a player feels particularly brave, they can also take on the famed “Hardcore” mode, in where if a player’s character dies, it is gone for good. Only the hardcore need apply here, and I do mean this.
Finally, there’s the online marketplace, where players with a lot of spare time on their hands can sell their hard earned goods for in-game gold or real-life cash. While Blizzard does take a cut of the profits if sold for cash (15% I believe), it at least allows gamers to earn some cash for their hard work.
While Diablo III is pretty much a perfect game, it still has some flaws that hold it back. The first, and most obvious, is that an online connection is always required to play the game. If a player does not have access to a stable internet connection, they can’t play, simple as that. While I do appreciate Blizzard trying to stamp out the cheaters and hacks, not everyone has access to an internet connection 24/7. I occasionally have found myself without internet access, which meant I was locked out of the game, even though all I wanted to play was the single-player campaign (I had to move from my apartment recently, and therefore was rendered internet-less for a while). It’s a shame that no workaround exists at the moment.
The second problem with the game is all the errors that have plagued the title since launch. Sure these errors are pretty much all behind us now and it may seem like a distant memory to some, but every so often the game tends to break and some downtime hits the servers in one way or another. While some of this is to be expected (it is Diablo III after all, and the whole world is playing; some strain is to be expected), it was pretty silly that Blizzard couldn’t see this coming and didn’t prepare for it. I hope Bilzzard doesn’t repeat this in the future.
At the end of the day, Diablo III is pretty much the game we’ve all been waiting for. Despite the always required presence of an online connection, which may be a problem to some, and occasional error, the action-packed dungeon-crawling, fun character classes, more loot than you could shake a fist at, and excellent online play proves that Diablo III is here to stay.