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Opinion: Diablo III

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The Box: You didn’t get this if you purchased the digital download version

I’ve spent almost a week battling the hordes of hell. I just logged out and frankly I cannot wait to log back in. However, I decided to endure my withdrawal symptoms to blog my present thoughts on this game. It will be interesting to read this again in the future and see how my opinion changed (or possibly remained the same). Having said that I feel I have quite an informed opinion at this point, having played over 50 hours both on my own or with friends. (That’s around 8 hours a day math fans)

Diablo III is a wonderful game. If you have the slightest interest in action role playing games then this is a game which you definitely must play. It ticks all the right boxes needed to make an excellent entry in the genre. In fact I do believe it is the best entry in the genre by virtue of being 1) the most modern 2) having the biggest budget for this kind of game 3) being made by Blizzard who have ‘some’ experience in this genre. So what does Diablo III do right? Or rather, what are my favourite things about this game? Here they are, in bullet form:

  1. The combat feels really fluid and exciting. You get that feeling of unbridled power from charging into a group of enemies and watching the ensuing reaction. The hordes of hell freeze, burn, fizzle with electricity or explode (and sometimes all of this at once) much to the player’s satisfaction. Controls have seen an overhaul over Diablo II’s archaic mechanics although you still have to click to move (no wasd movement here). Despite my initial misgivings the system works with the implementation of ‘force attack’ and ‘force move’ keys. It would have been nice to see more synergy between the classes to strengthen the cooperative nature of the game. There are abilities which can be used to complement each other. For instance a demon hunter can use ‘Marked for Death’ with a ‘Valley of Death’ rune while the monk performs a ‘Cyclone Strike’ to hold enemies within the debuff area. Nonetheless there are no abilities which create some extra effects when used concurrently such as Guild Wars 2’s arrows becoming fiery when going through a wall of flame.
  2. The social features are a cut above the rest. Battle.net has come into its own with DIII. Start your own solo game, seamlessly join friends in their game when they log in, invite another friend over in the middle of play, then leave and continue your own game. It’s all possible and a couple of mouse clicks away. You are alerted when friends come online or when they get achievements even if you are playing solo, and that is possible due to the always connected nature of the game. Furthermore the difficulty automatically scales up or down depending on the number of players in a game. The banner system makes it a doodle to go fight alongside your friend when you are in a game together. These are such sensible additions that it boggles the mind why more coop oriented games have not implemented them. I do hope they become industry standard going forward.  If you have no friends on battle.net you can join a public game and make some! No need to fear playing with strangers since everyone gets their own loot drops.
  3. The classes are all interesting and diverse. My monk, the class I played most, has a simple work ethic. Use spirit to heal and do damage to raise spirit. It does not have to be like that but it can be! The skill system works in a way that allows you to change your set of six skills on a whim with just a short cooldown as penalty. This encourages you to experiment until you find a satisfying/efficient play style. There are skills which complement each other making them preferable from a gameplay perspective but you have to work really hard to create a broken configuration. Some approaches also work better with particular encounters. This is important since monsters have random abilities which will require you to change your tactics on the fly (alas, this only applies in nightmare difficulty and beyond since normal mode is a cake walk). The game provides you with a vast array of tools so you never have to use any one and can mix and match as you see fit.
  4. There is a strong element of randomness in the game which creates a sense of surprise and discovery every time you play the game. The topography changes to a degree, you come across random side quests and monsters spawn in different locations and with random abilities (elites do anyways). Moreover loot has random attributes and names (which can be funny – how about a rare pair of pants called ‘Cosmic Chamber’?). This is all well and good considering you have to go through the story mode 4 times if you want to finish inferno difficulty. It helps keep things fresh and the random loot drops is what makes you come back for more. With Diablo III every demon is Christmas!

To be sure the game is not perfect. It straddles a line between familiarity and innovation with a certain aplomb but it would have been nice to see some ideas further refined. For instance: Some monster abilities are random, but why did they not introduce an element of randomization in the way enemies look? Also, how come that most of the time your character does not use the weapons he/she is wielding? Does normal difficulty have to be so easy? And what about any semblance of endgame (discounting  PvP which will be released further down the line)? Torchlight had the infinite dungeon. It seems DIII has nothing of the sort. These are minor niggles in the grand scheme of things but in my opinion well worth mentioning. The always on internet connection required to play the game is both a blessing and a curse in equal measure (if you have a solid internet connection. If not then it is much more of a curse).

An excellent game then. It will be interesting to follow how this will shape future of ARPGs (including the upcoming Tochlight II and Marvel Heroes MMO). If anything I am sure we will be seeing a resurgence in the genre and an increased amount of action in our rpg, which is never a bad thing.

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