Diablo 3: Ten Years in the Making
Written by Sean "Blazek" Emes, Edited by Jordan "Doomhammer" Kahn
It’s about damn time. Diablo 3 has finally been released! After waiting a decade for the next great epic tale of angels and demons engaged in a never ending battle as the lords of hell struggle to gain supremacy over the realm of the mortals… aw who am I kidding, the game is all about slaughtering demons by the truckload! Diablo has always been one of those games where you get warm fuzzy feelings by being an overpowered hero demolishing the forces of hell one imp at a time. The game has been in development for a very long time and now that it is finally released… was the wait actually worth it?
Short answer, Diablo 3 delivers well on what its predecessor did best: dungeon crawling and slaughtering minions, and it is satisfying on a visceral level when the sheer force of your swing can make enemies explode. Graphically the game doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but this allows it to perform well on a wider range of computers. This factor is an important part of the gameplay as in many cases so many spell effects and environmental disasters are happening that if you’re playing on higher settings you will experience frame rate drops.
Diablo 3 also takes a very smart approach to some of the nuances from prior releases. Rather than having talent trees that end up being point dumps into just 2 or 3 skills, the game allows players 6 active skills and 3 passive ones that can be changed at any time. Skills can be further augmented by runes, making the possible builds for any class number in the thousands.
The game also removes the need for teleport scrolls, identification scrolls, multiple potion buttons, and unnecessary inventory micro-management, minimizing the space items take up. While none of these things were really game breakers for the original Diablo, they would have been an extra thing you had to deal with in Diablo 2, so it is nice not having to worry about them.
Finally, the game feels much longer than its predecessor. For my first run through the game I clocked 12 hours to complete the game on normal. While it has been quite a while since I first played Diablo 2, my recent runs through the game were far shorter, even with the addition of Act 5. Of course Normal mode is just the beginning! 3 more difficulties await, each ramping up the difficulty slightly more until Inferno, where each champion mob is like a boss fight that actually takes strategy and skill switching just to defeat.
Unfortunately Diablo 3 is not the perfect game that will keep 5 million players happy for several years. For many, normal mode is just like setting any other game on easy, and the difficulty really doesn’t start showing up until much later. The scaling difficulty based on players in a game causes many casual gamers to play solo as it is just that much easier. This, paired with the fact that companions do not cause the difficulty to go up but still add damage and skills to buff the player, means there’s really no incentive to make this a social game, lowering the overall experience compared to most other contemporary titles.
While launch day issues have mostly subsided, it is important to note that latency and lag can still be noticeable while playing the game. This can be a huge issue if you happen to be interested in playing a “hardcore” character, since in-game death is permanent for that character. So one server hiccup could equal 10+ hours down the drain. I suspect this will be stabilized over time, but for now it is still a very legitimate concern.
Finally, the game feels almost as if it draws too heavily on Blizzard’s experience with MMO games. This is apparent with the style of boss fights. While the boss fights are more entertaining than in prior games, they are hardly a challenge compared to some packs of champion monsters in Inferno difficulty. In fact many players will decide to skip past many monsters due to the incredible challenge, but proceed to destroy bosses one after another. This
feels as if the game has a balancing issue such that the scale of difficulty for champion monsters is high, but boss monsters do not gain anything new in the form of skills and resilience to pose much of a threat. The end result is that Inferno is hard, but only if you decide to fight your way through it all. If not, you can easily bypass most of what makes it a challenge.
Overall Diablo 3 is a very good dungeon crawler experience. In the first week my friends and I have put a ton of hours into multiple characters and have enjoyed almost every minute of it. The game isn’t quite the religious experience that many predicted and counted on it being, but it does a good job at keeping players entertained and is well worth the money spent.