If one were to utilize a Venn Diagram to compare the subsets of A) our reader-base and B) ladies and gentlemen who are unaware that Diablo III has released, then you would end up with . . . uh . . . a circle.
So we’ll leave that out. Diablo III is out, and like most major titles set forth before the unwashed masses, it has been subjected to a great deal of criticism from the the casual mouse-jockey and rabid basement-dwellers alike. So, just how good is Diablo III? We’ve had a few days, and a few accidentally-sleepless nights with Diablo III, and we’re going to deliver to you the unvarnished (except possibly by haze of exhaustion or overabundance of caffeine) truth about the biggest PC game of the year.
And by we, I mean us. In order to give you a good old-fashioned straight dope, we’ll be giving hands-on impressions from several of our resident Geeks, each of whom are elbow deep in the schweet lootz of Blizzard’s latest.
Diablo III is almost everything you want it to be, and even with the qualification, that is saying something. It marries the tried-and-true formula that literally built a genre with a lot of very polished game-play advancements gleaned from the derivatives that both followed and preceded it. There was obviously a tight-rope to walk here, and Blizzard made a concerted effort to innovate as conservatively as possible.
I’ll cut to the chase; Diablo is worth buying. It isn’t perfect, and it may not be quite what you expected, especially if you’ve followed the deluge of press coverage on it over the last two years, but it is excellent and if you can forgive its few stumbles you will find yourself wearing a hole in your left mouse-button and your sleep-pattern.
Point 1. It is almost exactly what you think it is, and what you expected. It is addictive, it is beautiful, it is a ton of fun, and it is incredibly deep in terms of game-play, content, and replay-factor. In this sense, it will not disappoint you.
BUT, Point 2. It is not quite as good as you want it to be. It is excellent, but it feels like it lacks a touch of polish I expect from a developer like Blizzard. It also has a few minor but still questionable design choices, and one major point of contention that has been so abused that I am almost reticent to mention it. The auction house is slow, awkward to navigate, and on the whole rather useless, at least at this point in time. There is no option to Quicksave, or in fact to save at all. Progress is recorded using a checkpoint system, and that can be a real pain when the game crashes, or when you lose CONNECTION TO THE SERVERS.
SPEAKING OF SEGUES, Diablo III requires a persistent internet connection. It requires it. Before you say anything, I know. I know it’s for security purposes, and I know the reasoning behind it. I understand the reasoning. I have been told the reasoning: security, specifically maintaining the validity and sanctity of the loot-drop and actual currency auction house system. I completely understand Blizzard’s concern about their investment, I am just personally unconvinced there wasn’t a way to allow for offline play in the event of internet failures, travel, or other such situations. This also raises a few concerns for me as to whether or not Blizzard will be allowing at any point in the future any mods to be developed for the title, something the PC community adopted heavily in the case of Diablo II.
Point 3. Diablo III is still incredibly awesome, and if you have a rig that can run it and reliable internet, there is absolutely no reason not to run out RIGHT NOW and buy it as hard as you possibly can.
Diablo III isn’t perfect, but no game is. Blizzard took some risks with its original formula, and those risks paid off. After waiting for so long, Diablo III was worth the wait. Of the three major franchises under the Blizzard umbrella, Diablo is one of my favorites.
Point 1. Diablo III grabs you and drags you through Hell, and it’s a wonderful experience. The Diablo franchise hasn’t been a presence in quite a while. With this release it brings back that experience but there has been enough time that it still feels fresh.
Point 2. A lot of people feel let down by Diablo III because it is not the experience they thought it would be. But giving it some thought; we have been holding on to the idea of Diablo III for a little over a decade. Now that is finally a reality, we are still thinking about it in the past. We unintentionally put an unfair vision on this game. The hype was so high that basically nothing could live up to it. Any minor imperfection became multiplied because it was not as perfect as we thought it should be. If we would look at it as something totally new, it is an incredible game.
That said, there are some issues with it. The connection errors will be fixed, and we do not need to dwell on them. The only thing I see as a true issue is: in order to have a single player experience, you must be connected online. Part of me can accept it because there really won’t be a time when I will be playing Diablo III on my computer when I won’t have access to the internet but: I think not having the ability to play on or offline is an aggressive push forward for the future of gaming.
Point 3. Diablo III is something you should not miss. If you have the ability to play it, do it. And that’s something I’m going to go do now.
Starting up Diablo III for the first time was quite the nostalgic experience for me. I remember spending countless hours playing its predecessor, Diablo II, and its expansion pack Lord of Destruction, from playing the single player to playing multi-player; it was always a fun immersive time. So, booting up Diablo III was very exciting, and thus far, has been very rewarding as well.
The biggest thing that has stood out in my time playing is the new skill system. It is a huge change from its previous incarnation, but, one I approve of greatly. This change allows players to have their character change on the fly and not have their character set by their third level. It allows for a much more fluid sense of gameplay with its ability to change selected skills and runes. It’s a change I seriously approve of.
Another note is the very World of Warcraft feel that the game has at times. Teleporting to the hub town feels a lot like activating a Hearthstone. Also, when exiting the game the timer to exit is a dead WoW giveaway. These are very small notes – and I don’t feel like they are frustrating or anything – it’s just fun to note when previous games from studios influence future ones.
Diablo 3 so far has been nothing but a blast. All of my free time has been sucked into it and I’m sure that it will only continue to take my time; in fact, I gladly give it. I’ll have further updates for you all after I finish my first play through!
So you want to read about Diablo III impressions? Stay a while and listen. That is a line from either Diablo, Diablo II, or both that I have read about being important. Clearly I am not someone who was lovingly brought into the 3rd person, dungeon crawl, RPG that is the Diablo series with the first iteration of the game. I have never touched Diablo 1 and played Diablo 2 for maybe an hour until the graphics bothered me and I quit. Newcomer, bandwagon joiner, word of mouth influence, that is me.
With Diablo III being the first time I seriously set foot into the world I must say I am thoroughly impressed. The graphics are more than shiny, the sound design, voice acting, the plot, the combat, the monsters, the level design, etc, etc, and etc are all more than worth the $60. I felt appropriately brought up to speed on the story via cut scenes and dialogue that were also able to start building the enormous weight upon my shoulders to save the whole world from demons, destruction, and devil-ness. As I am playing through the game, I am in Act 3, I am talking to every NPC I meet and pursuing the completion of dialogue with followers I’m not even using just to try and squeeze every ounce of story out of this world that I can, also I listen to every journal I can find which also explains my OCD corpse searching.
This being an impressions piece that it is I suppose discussing the pros and cons would be appropriate. As I am feeling contrary I shall do the negatives first. Oh noes it requires a constant internet connection for single player. Yeah, it could be seen as annoying, I get that the previous titles didn’t require this, that it is DRM invading our world, and so on. Let us be frank, we all have constant internet connections on our gaming PCs, save for weird outages caused by backwards ISPs. We all, for the most part, scroll as fast as possible through the End User License Agreements just so we can get to the game ASAP. For years we have been complacent with companies trying to control their product and now that they are going so far as to require something we all already have for the equipment we are trying to play this game on seems radical? I’m sorry that just seems silly. That whole issues aside the other cons I have noticed would be an awkward auction house system, I posted things for sale and three days later I still don’t know if they sold or not, and a lack thereof interesting variety in wizard primary attacks, oh look magic missile and oh look things I have to stand still and hope they hit something, are all I can think of. A minor downside to the multiplayer would be that if you have friends on your friends list whom you are not actually friends with and would never want to play with is that you must rely upon the red icon next to your name denoting “busy” as your defense from them clicking the “quick join” button.
Onward to the positives! This game is visually and audibly delicious. It serves onto your tongue a feast of action, story, color, sound, and a plentiful sprinkling of hellish (yep) combat. Do you plan on keeping your normal sleep schedule? That is a shame, because Diablo 3 will slowly start pushing your bedtimes later or your wake up times earlier. The multiplayer is wonderful, loot is provided to each player so there is never any fighting or /roll-ing over loot and joining a friend’s game is as easy as pulling up the friends list. I feel slightly bad looking at how much smaller this positive paragraph is to the negative but the fact is my experience with this game has been filled with an ocean of positives and only a couple scattered islands of negative. So if it seems I spoke more about them it is only because everything I mentioned vaguely, sound/action/story/voice acting/game play/level design/etc, is so rich in wonderful that I cannot yet begin to break it into smaller, typeable pieces.
I would, and have, encouraged my friends to get this game. It might be taxing upon older computers but because PCs are the wonders they are to upgrade I would say that Diablo III is a good enough reason to splurge on a new graphics card or extra RAM when you also have Borderlands 2 on the distant horizon. For now readers, I bid you adieu, I must return to my monk who specializes in kicking up a whirlwind of pain for any and all demons who are foolish enough to step into her path.
Here’s the short and sweet: you should buy this game. Unless you don’t have a system or video card that supports it. AND unless your online access is rather inhibited (*cough* Clearwire). In those cases, I’m sure your friends who are playing D3 wouldn’t mind lending you their Diablo II game and pass key. This may sound sarcastic, but you really shouldn’t play this game unless you want to become a 2012 PC gamer and acquire the necessary tools to play it.
And those can be expensive.
At the very least, you should watch gameplay, go to your friends’ D3 parties (which I’m sure they have; doesn’t everyone?), and absorb what is the game-changing RPG that we all know it is. My “problems” with the game are all external; the gameplay itself is fun, rewarding, engaging, and evocative. (We’ll get to the story in a little.) I throw quotation marks around the word “problem” earlier for two reasons: 1) I’m a pretentious English teacher and 2) they really aren’t problems if you accept that this is the 21st godsdamn century, and all gaming (especially PC) is moving in the direction that D3 has accepted: online solo play is the wave of the future, to use a stupid 80s slogan attempting to sell soda.
Blizzard has never been ahead of the curve. It reinvents the curve, people.
The company (and its subsidiaries) has always, always, always taken forever to make a game, but not because it wants the game to be “perfect” (see above pretension); game perfection is — sorry — a ridiculously stupid notion for a company like Blizzard. This is not for the same reason why your pee-wee soccer coach said perfection is ridiculous before chugging twenty Capri Suns and regretting his marriage choices. No, perfection would mean Blizzard has to stop. And if there’s one thing that company does do flawlessly (and many of the company’s actions border on near-flawless), it’s forward momentum. This game is taking online PC gaming and blazing ahead. The company does not want offline solo play because, well, that’s so 2000. It’s been twelve years. It’s not going to be Diablo II. It’s not going to be Torchlight. It’s not even going to be Warhammer 40K.
It’s going to take what it wants from those games, make them better, and change the genre. Again.
Everyone, we can sit around and bitch and moan for hours about how it took a little extra time to play on launch night. Error 37, blah blah blah. Even this author was annoyed by it. Then I remembered I’m an adult, and also recalled that my $100 (Blizzard games are the only CEs that I buy) is an investment in the next eleven years, not some instant gratification of…A DUNGEON CRAWL. If Starcraft had had these problems, then yes I would have been more upset. An RTS needs to launch when it says it does. There are leagues, ranks, and otherwise important stats that need to be live, on-time, and current. But a dungeon crawl? Do you really need to get to that sand worm within the first hour? Do you need to know what happened to Tyrael immediately? Yes, yes, you should be able to play a game when right you buy it. But you know what? You maybe didn’t with this one. Oh. No. It wasn’t planned, but it takes a right inebriate to think that there weren’t going to be server issues at THREE A.M. ON LAUNCH NIGHT FOR AN ONLINE GAME THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO PLAY. Come on. We knew this game was going to be like this for nearly a year. It’s over now. The problem was fixed, Blizzard apologized profusely, and now you can enjoy an online game whose interruptions approach zero.
A game like this is going to have errors. It’s also going to change gaming forever. So. You know. Deal.
For gameplay, I don’t need to say much that my colleagues above haven’t already said. It’s a blast, and dying doesn’t piss me off. I look at the screen, say “THAT was some shit! Goo!” and respawn like a boss.
The story is where my legitimate complaints lie (earlier was just griping; sweet, sweet nerd-griping). It seems if I had complaints, I’d say something like, “The story needs work.” It’s actually the opposite. The story needs less work. Blizzard, you’re trying a little too hard with this one, and making some leaps in story structure that you haven’t before. The Tyrael arc alone is confounding, starting with the sword that you learn very little about. You’re just told that 1) there is a sword and 2) you need to get it. Go. I’m Deckard Cain. Do what I say. I’ve been a major gaming character for seventeen years. However, once you find the sword, you get buckets of information you didn’t know you needed nor wanted. Acts III and IV get even more ridiculous (I’ll keep it brief to avoid spoilers), but the “reason” and crux of the through-line is seemingly overly complicated. Whereas Diablo II ended with a deafening silence (and one of the coolest final cinematics I’ve seen to this day), Diablo III ends with…well, it ends. It’s still a rather enjoyable finale, however.
Let’s put it this way, nerds. The major issues you take from this game stem from the very same process that allows you to flame it. When there’s a problem with the game, how easy is it to Alt+Tab out, head to Facebook or Reddit and blast it? As easy as it’s going to be in two years, one year, probably six months to play your favorite RPG of all time in a huge world with all your friends for which you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription. Honestly, there’s not much that I’ve found that wrong with this game yet.
And when I do, so help me, I’ll probably just keep it to myself and enjoy playing this game for the next decade. All ten years of it.