It’s been well over a decade since Diablo 2, and now it’s time for Diablo 3 to rise after it’s rather length development cycle. At launch Diablo 3 ran into quite a few issues where players couldn’t connect to the servers to play. They also ran into endless errors due to server crashes and various other maintenance related issues. Due to these circumstances I decided to hold off on reviewing the game straight away as though this has been one of the rockiest game releases in recent history. Even though the games launch has been very hit and miss for many games, Diablo 3 has changed and evolved into a new kind of beast.
As you first start the game, some players will notice a huge change compared to Diablo 2, but not all are welcome. Instead of weapons holding set stats and items becoming random drops. It makes farming items near impossible. Though a lot of Diablo 2 players dislike this system. I’m somewhat on the fence as I like the idea of how items are randomized, but find locating armor and weapons that out-spec anything I already own. Though this system can be frustrating, it can also be very rewarding and provide endless hours of extended gameplay trying to find that one item you’re hunting for.
There are five main classes in the game. Each class plays very differently to the others, so you may want to try each class up to a set point to find the one that suits your play style. The diversity between the classes is large enough that you won’t play each character the same. But most classes can wield similar weapons. You don’t always have to use distance with a Wizard or a Demon Hunter for instance, but they tend to be a lot weaker compared to the Barbarian. You’re forced into some aspects of play styles, but as you learn what each class can and cannot do the game opens up into various other possibilities.
Among the various dungeons, loot crawls, boss fights and character progression you also have the Auction House. This addition to the game is extremely useful, though it can take away some of the challenges you face as you can just buy armor and weapons to use in game. You can also sell your items to other players. The one downside to the Auction House is the regulation of cost.
Diablo 3 is incredibly simple, but extremely hard to master.
The audio track you hear throughout the game has an interesting balance of upbeat and mellow tones while exploring and in battle. All the sound effects relate very well to what’s going on. At time you may hear the audio jump or become a clash of sounds while fighting large grounds of enemies. But that’s only to be expected when you may have upwards of 10 enemies chasing you combined with your attacks and theirs.
Though the audio for this title is quite subtle, it plays an extremely large role in setting the tone for each area you enter. Though every area has a different look, the audio always changes to complement what’s going on.
When you first start the game you will be presented with your hero selection screen and a visual representation of the chapter you’re playing on. This style sets the tone of your character and overall level design. There are sections of the game where there is an extremely dark theme; where as other chapters and acts have a very bright and distinctive feel to them.
Throughout the world the general environments are made up of a hand drawn style which is mixed with 3D objectives to give you a unique hand drawn world but with a full 3D environmental prospective. Though the visuals are rather subtle and less detailed in some aspects compared to some PC titles, the game performs extremely well. That being said, there is a rather extensive list of graphics cards that aren’t supported, even though the game is designed to run on the low and high ends of gaming pcs.
The game ships with a very basic and easy setup for visual display, so tweaking these options is a must if you’re on a lower end computer, but performance should fare well overall if you meet the minimum requirements. At time though, without the higher end support you may experience screen tearing and lower frame rates.
As you progress through the game you will have one main goal. Stop the evil that plagues the world from taking over. The writing is very well done and engaging, but the main story is just a small snippet of the story through the game. There are plenty of characters to interact with as well as various other side quests, which dynamically appear in the world. That being said, you may not experience every single storyline hidden through the game as with every playthrough you will find new areas and people to talk to.
Even though there are plenty of extra characters and stories to follow, they are all very well written and just add to the world. Most of your time will be spent exploring, so finding the hidden side quests, arenas or extra dungeons that hold these extras are all part of the experience. Overall the writing is very well done and every character fits into the world, as you would expect.
As you start out there is a slight learning curve with how to play if you’re new to the series. The controls are simple enough and can be mapped however you see fit. Though the general layout is simple enough. Almost everything you do consists of using the left mouse button to move and attack. Then you have your alternative attack with the right mouse button. There are also several basic key combinations on the keyboard, which tied to health and other abilities. I keyboard layout is simple enough, though I’ve found the most comfort through using a mouse with buttons you can configure to your liking.
Each area of the game is broken up into various dungeons and open areas. Early on you earn the ability to teleport, though there are always waypoint hubs throughout the world to return to the main trading area.
There are several ways to take on enemies, you can either take them on yourself with a companion, or you can take the fight online and have up to three friends or other players join your world. You can also join other player’s worlds to progress in your own story. If you’re looking for an extra-added challenge this is the perfect way increase the games difficulty. With every new player, the enemies become tougher and provide more of a challenge. The only downside to this method is that the drop rate for items, gold and loot tends to decrease with every player.
One of the biggest drawbacks with the overall progression is building your character. You have two options on how to build your armor and weapon sets. You can pick up what found in the world, or you can take your gold and head to the auction house. Most of the time the general drops within the game are very randomized and may not be what you want. This can be frustrating at times as it can take an extremely long time to find armor or weapons that you really like and want to use with your character. If you want to locate really good items the only option is to dig around the auction house until you find items that match your characters specs and requirements.
This may take away from the experience of farming for items during your playthroughs. But as all the stats are randomized there is no direct way to predict what will drop and how good these items will be. The only good thing about these items drops are that you can sell them on the auction house for your own personal gain, or pass them off to friends who may be looking for similar items.
Now, one of the biggest drawbacks, which may catch, some people out. This game is considered a single player experience, but it’s pushed more towards playing online. You will also need to have access to the Internet at all times while playing as well. All your stats, saves and character related information is stored on the Blizzard servers. This has its up side and downside. For instance, if you have to remove the game from your computer, all your information is stored elsewhere. I’ve taken the approach that they’ve turned this one full single player experience into a full online experience where you have the ability to drop in and out of various worlds as you see fit.
One of the biggest flaws with the always-online DRM is that if the servers go offline, you can’t play. A lot of users feel that this is a knife in the back, but this this is just an ongoing battle that’s here to stay. Though there have been a lot of issues with the service being up and down since release, when everything works, as it should, the game experience is outstanding.
If you’re a long time fan or new to the series, Diablo 3 is well worth your time if you can get past the obvious issues with the DRM and various server related issues. One of the biggest drawbacks will be for players who have unstable Internet connections, as this game will be beyond playable from that standpoint. The game is well worth your time investment, even tough it’s had quite a bumpy start with regular server down time.
– This review had been delayed due to issues at launch. Seeing as the game had patches up downtime during the first two weeks there was no way to review this game without running into issues. These are obviously issues that are beyond anyone’s control.