Developer – Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher – Blizzard Entertainment
Platform – PC
The Diablo franchise has been around for a long time and whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve probably heard of it at some point (perhaps you’ve seen those Battle Chests) and for good reason. It all started with the wildly popular Diablo, which was released in 1996 and then Diablo II in 2000. It’s been over 10 years since the last game and it seems that Blizzard has gained quite a following in that time. Diablo III set a record of over 2 million pre-orders (this includes physical and digital copies as well as the WoW Annual Pass promotion copies), becoming the most pre-ordered game of all time.
Diablo III starts off in the town of New Tristram and takes place after the events of Diablo II. A falling star has plummeted towards Sanctuary and landed in the old cathedral of Tristram. Drawn to New Tristram by the star, you set out to discover its secrets and eventually find yourself in the middle of the long war between the angels and demons.
I’m completely new to the Diablo universe, so I came into Sanctuary knowing little about the events in the previous games. Thankfully, Blizzard helps newcomers and forgetful veterans by sprinkling audio clips of lore throughout the game. These become available as you approach new enemies/areas or find books. The lore books serve to supplement the already great story by Blizzard and provide obsessive players a way to net more achievement points.
While I appreciated the story, the way the game handled boss encounters and important events/cutscenes is poor. The game spoils itself for you. For example, “We have to get back to Tristram to talk to Cain!”, and here comes a big event pop-up that tells you that you must fight him before you even find out about his betrayal (totally made up, don’t worry). While it’s not a huge deal for me because I’m going to see the cutscene unfold anyways, I can see some players getting upset over the unintended spoilers. If your friend earns an achievement then you can bet that you’ll see that as well (unless you turn it off in the options). I avoided looking over the story-related achievements so that everything would still be a surprise.
Even if you’re not the type to sit back and enjoy the story, I highly recommend it for at least one playthrough. It almost doubles the length of your playtime (I beat the campaign in 12.5 hours with the story but I hear you can do it in 5 without), but I’m so glad that I watched all of the masterfully created cutscenes and listened to all of the rich dialogue. Each character had their own unique voice and I applaud the writers for managing to keep each one separate. And kudos to the voice actors for really bringing the script to life. Even though each class says approximately the same things throughout the story, each line (even if it’s a throwaway) sounds unique and manages to reflect the speaker’s character. My favorite voice has to be that of the female witch doctor (voiced by Erica Luttrell). I absolutely loved hearing her voice so much that I would let my boyfriend’s witch doctor initiate dialogue with the NPCs.
While the voice acting is stellar, a lot of people have complained about the quality of the gameplay graphics. It doesn’t blow me away but it’s not horrible either. Upon playing a bit of Torchlight II, I came to appreciate how nice Diablo III looks in comparison. It’s not a visually modded Skyrim, but it definitely holds its own. What Blizzard sacrificed for in gameplay it definitely made up for with the CGI cutscenes.
The amount of detail was amazing. How amazing? The texture of Leah’s eyelids were spot on. Odd thing to notice, I know, but it’s the little things. The characters felt so lifelike, especially coupled with the outstanding voice acting.
The gameplay is nice and addictive. The fights are more complex than simply hack and slash, you’re forced to dodge and react to enemy skill usage appropriately. Initially, you’re only given an auto-attack skill but as you level you unlock more skills and runes, which change your skills so much it might as well be something new. There are about 23-24 skills (depends on your class) to experiment with and five to six runes for each individual skill.
Despite the criticism of the removal of the skill trees and allocation of points from Diablo II, there is still a great deal of customization allowed in your skill choice. The default layout locks players into choosing one skill from each action category but you can customize your gameplay further by checking Elective Mode in the options. Elective Mode allows the player full control over what skills grace their skill bar, though you’re still locked into six total. I like that Elective Mode is included but I hardly use the freedom it allows. The default skill layout is pretty well balanced and you should be able to get by on that alone. That’s not always the case though, I’ve found myself doubling up on defensive abilities on occasion.
Even though I’ve already played through the game four times, I don’t mind going through it repeatedly to farm gear. The game really doesn’t start until about 12 hours in (after one playthrough) and the dungeons are randomly generated, so you’ll need to find your way each time. Normal mode might as well be called the tutorial. It’s insanely easy, so much so that you shouldn’t really have a problem killing any of the monsters. I recommend that you immerse yourself in the story and become familiar with the monsters/bosses on your first playthrough as there isn’t much else going on. From there you move on to Nightmare, Hell, and finally Inferno on each subsequent playthrough. You could also start a Hardcore character, where death is permanent, if you’re feeling brave.
Starting a playthrough on the next difficulty is fairly easy but there’s quite a noticeable jump in difficulty near the middle of Act I. It isn’t until you get to Hell that you start to truly appreciate how incredibly easy Nightmare and Normal were in comparison. If you’re lucky, monsters will two-shot you. Elite monsters (yellows and blues) have random attributes (one to four depending on your difficulty) that enhance their strength in some way. I’m at the point now where these guys are way harder than any boss fight I’ve yet to encounter. Unlike bosses, these monsters have the potential to completely shield damage or steal health from you. It can get particularly nasty in the later difficulties, however, this is the best way to get good loot. Truly no pain, no gain.
Despite a launch plagued with server errors and game-breaking bugs, Diablo III is a solid game that stands on its own. There are balance issues regarding melee classes and later difficulties which Blizzard is currently working to resolve. Still, if dungeon crawlers are your thing, this game easily provides hundreds of hours of enjoyment with the various difficulty levels. We can expect an expansion in the next few years.