Diablo III | Review (PC)
Diablo III picks up a few years after the end of the second, with two Prime Evils left, and plenty of bad dudes and demons for you to slice up. If that description of the story makes no sense to you because you’re a newcomer, like me, put your worries aside, the story is presented very well, and plenty of the characters through this game are brand new, so don’t worry about unexpected references. Plus, there are plenty of fully voice acted pieces of “lore”, which serve to catch you up on things that happened before and the different types of enemies you’ll face. Fans of the series will definitely love the care put into everything here. I also found the story super interesting with some great twists and I quickly grew fond of some of the series’ most memorable characters as well as some of the new additions.
Something you have to accept when going into Diablo is Battle.net, which seems to be constantly losing its popularity. Diablo III is always online, meaning you have to log on to Battle.net and always have a constant internet connection to even play the game, regardless of if its by yourself, or with your closest demon-hunting friends. This is easily the biggest drawback of the game for several reasons. Firstly, everyone is aware of the “error 37” fiasco that happened on launch day. Too many people were trying to log in, so no one could log in, except for a very lucky few, that is. Problems like this could happen at any time, and if Blizzard takes servers down for maintenance, then you can’t play. Second, you have to be connected for constant wi-fi for this game to work, there is no offline mode option like with Steam, it’s only online. Ever. Finally, I had some ridiculous lag problems while played by myself and with others. While sitting on my computer right next to my wireless router, I was sliding across the map, hitting huge pockets of delay, general lag-type things. Upon logging out of the game and Battle.net a few times over, the problems were magically fixed. Definitely a serious hindrance on my game, but I can’t say this will happen to everyone.
That’s enough hating on Battle.net, let’s get to the good part of the game, which is pretty much everything else. There are five classes in this game: Demon Hunter, Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor, and Barbarian. After playing around quite a bit with three of them, I can say all of them are vastly, vastly different. When I use vastly twice in a row, you know I’m very serious. Though you don’t have any aesthetic customization options (just pick your class, gender, and go) the way you play your character can be very different from how someone else might. Each class has six categories of active skills: two skills mapped to the two mouse buttons and four more skills mapped to the one through four keys. Each category has four to six skills in it, and each of those skills has four to seven “modifiers” which can drastically change the behavior of that attack, and those are called runes. On top of that, each class also has 20-25 passive skills, and three of those can be equipped at once. If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Its a whole lot, but it’s all given to you bit by bit, so by the end of your first playthrough of the game, you should have access to half of your passive skills, and all of your active skills, but you will still be unlocking more passive skills and more runes through level 60, which is the level cap. One of the best aspects about leveling in Diablo III is that you aren’t dumping points into anything, all of your stats are based on equipment, so you’ll have access to every single one of the skills and runes available to that class when you hit level 60. No need to choose one tree and never find out what other skills are like until you play through again, you get it all no matter what.
To use an example of how all of these options can change the game, I played a lot of the game by myself, with one of the followers: the Templar, who can act as a good tank for ranged characters like my wizard. I, however, did not want to be a ranged wizard, so by changing my skills around, I had a lot of high-damage, high-speed close ranged attacks, with plenty of defensive passive skills. This allowed me to take some damage and deal out tons of close ranged damage. When I was playing co-op with two barbarians, there was no need for me to be up close in the fight at all, so I took those defensive passive skills, made them offensive, and laid back in the background dolling out massive ranged damage. Those are just two different ways to play wizard in two different situations. There are hundreds more, I’m sure, but the classes and skill trees are so easy to go through and adjust, that even a Diablo newbie like me had it down in just a couple of hours of play time.
Now let’s talk about loot. Loot has always been such a huge part of Diablo and the games that like to imitate its magic. There is plenty to be had in Diablo III, of course, everything from normal loot, to magic loot, to gems to throw into your magic loot, rare loot to legendary loot. So much loot. Also, an interesting tidbit of information: 70% of the game’s loot is inaccessible from the first playthrough. That’s right, you only have the possibility to get 30% of all that mad loot on playthrough one, the normal mode playthrough. Afterwards, you’ll jump into Nightmare mode, then Hell mode, and finally Inferno mode, where you get the best loot, and the most ferocious of monsters.
On top of the mad drops, there are also two crafters who will craft gems and equipment, the latter of which is pretty much gives three to four random magically characteristics to whatever magic equipment you have him craft, which can be beneficial for your character class, or not. It’s a big gamble and an expensive one on top of it.
To further every gamer’s quest for loot, there is the auction house, which breaks down into two categories: the real money auction house, which is not open yet, and most likely won’t be for a while, and the regular auction house, which uses gold, the game’s in-game currency. You can place items up on the auction house, giving them a starting bid as well as a “buyout” price. You’ll also have the option to bid on items yourself, or just buy them outright, similar to everyone’s favorite service: eBay. The problem here is that the economy is so screwed up, you can go buy a super powerful item for cheap, finish the game quickly and get even crazier loot, and then put those up to make a huge profit. It’s something that needs time and Blizzard’s attention to work itself out.
There is one last aspect that I want to touch on before I give my closing thoughts, and that is the online component, or the coop. Honestly, Diablo III has the best standard cooperative mechanics of any game I’ve played in a while. By going to a familiar forum, I quickly had plenty of people the play with, and you can easily drop into anyone’s game as long as they’re around the same level as you, otherwise you’ll have to send a request, and if they’re playing on a difficulty you have yet to unlock, you can’t jump in their game, but they can jump in yours. This made the game just more fun, because any one of my friends who played a melee character like a barbarian could help me through the tougher parts of the game no problem, and the classes just work that well with each other. It is really just a simple experience that seems absolutely flawless. Getting a game together with a bunch of friends on Skype took maybe two minutes, tops, and afterward we were slaying demons, cracking jokes, and having lots of fun.
The rules of coop are a bit different. You can’t have any followers with you, since you do have other actual people, all the loot you see is your own, and only things you drop out of your inventory can be picked up by your allies, and for every person that joins your game (up to four), the “minions of hell grow stronger”, meaning all enemy health increases by 75% for every additional character in the game. It get’s quite crazy once you have four people in game, so make sure to communicate or else the minions of hell will wipe the floor with you.
Diablo III is really nothing like the clones out there, it’s just that pure. It’s a seamless cooperative experience that can result in several play throughs, each lasting at least five to fifteen hours (depending on how good you are) and will have you slaying demons until your hearts content, which it never will be because you’ll need that new loot to slay more demons that are only that much stronger. The story is a well told tale, even for newcomers like myself, and the gameplay is seriously addictive. If you at all have a love for loot and upgrading loot, you will be hooked within the first fifteen minutes.
Diablo III is a Blizzard game, and as they’ve shown in the past, they put a lot of love and care into their games, Diablo being no exception. The graphics may not blow you away, and the always-online connectivity may send you into lag like it did me, but there is no denying that the Diablo III experience is like no other. It is just that good, that polished, that well put together. I can’t say it’s flawless, but I can say it has most definitely earned its pedigree, and will no doubt be a game people will play for years on end.