Hack and Slash, Dungeon Crawler
May 15th, 2012
A falling star, demons and the undead attacking the livingÖNew heroes must rise in order to defeat the minions of hell once more. Over ten years in the making, Diablo III
has finally arrived to continue the story of evilís attempt to taint the world and defy the will of Heaven. The final Lords of Hell, Belial and Azmodan, have launched their assault on the realm of man. The angels of heaven continue to ignore the threat of the fiends, save for one. Tyrael, archangel of justice, takes up his sword to defend all from the hordes of hell. After deciding on your own hero, they too will take up arms to defend the realm of humanity, and loot everything in sight for better equipment!
Graphically the game is stunning; beautifully rendered backgrounds create a wonderful atmosphere for each level of the game. Subtle details give levels unique touches. NPCs remain stationary, for the most part, but at one point during Act II I watched a child follow a bunny in the town square. The white rabbit stopped before a guard and the girl jumped happily. Suddenly the guard withdrew a hefty looking blade and slaughtered the poor pet. The girl ran away crying. I was actually surprised that I noticed the event take place. Level designs follow the usual Diablo
standard, and Iíd go so far as to say the usual fantasy genre standard as well. New Tristam, a settlement at risk of being besieged by the legions of the undead, acts as the standard hub town for the first act of the game. Dark and dreary it may seem, but there fantasy charm in the design is present. Later you venture through a ruinous, decrepit cathedral, the dank, murky forest, desert, the typical spiderís den (because there must be a law written somewhere than all fantasy games must contain giant killer spiders and other insects at one point), and then into the pits of hell. Attention to details pays off. Running through the game, you may not always notice the flies that buzz around the corpses or ignore the sound of a rat squealing as its life snuffed out as itís crushed underfoot, leaving bloody smears behind. Ruined structures collapse from time to time, never truly hindering your path but making for a nice background detail. In game cinematics are deliciously gorgeous; superbly rendered scenes help move the story along.
Music for any game needs to create an atmosphere, and Blizzard delivers with Diablo III. Ambiance and the nice, subtle sounds build the mood nicely. While the voices reflect the style from the previous games, some come off as a tad emotionally theatrical, lacking the more polished vocals in other games of the day. Michael Gough once more returns as wizened mentor Deckard Cain. Gough has voiced Cain since the very first Diablo
, and I must say that without him, Cainís character would simply not be the same. While the ambiance is certainly spectacular, I found myself on the fence about the rest of the music. It does its duty in creating the gameís atmosphere, but at the same time I found myself feeling like it was largely forgettable. Perhaps the sounds of battle drowned the music out a bit more, perhaps I was simply too engrossed in the game to allow myself the chance to really listen.
A variety of character classes allows the player to experiment with various battle strategies. Whatever class you select will have its own weapon proficiencies and skills to use in battle. Gaining levels unlocks more skills, and each (default) hotkey has a specific set of traits to select from. There are plenty of options, yet limitations remain. However, if you toggle the elective mode in the control options, players will be able to add additional attacks to their repertoire, allowing for further customization.
Some elements have been removed or dumbed down from the previous games. The town portal spell is automatically given to your characters, which removes the use of magic scrolls and spell books. Your levels automatically adjust your stats, and you no longer have a skill tree to work with. All abilities are unlocked through progression, and its only a matter of which you decide to use rather than what path you wish to take with that particular character. No longer can you spam potions in battle to heal yourself. Using a potion results in that item having a cooldown. Typically enemies will drop the occasional health orb, which automatically restores some health to you and all party members, but without equipment properties to boost the HP gain from those health orbs, your character may not get that much of a healthy return.
Followers have gained a bit more attention this time around as well. For players who wish to play without other real players, these NPCs can tag along, sometimes for a price. As they battle at your side, they too will gain experience, and you can control their skill trees as well as manage their equipment. Like the look of that sword, but cannot use it? Your Templar ally would be thankful to take it off your hands and slaughter the hordes of hell with it for you. While they cannot function as a pack mule like followers in games like Fallout, it is nice to be able to outfit them to a certain degree. Followers can be downed for several seconds should they lose all their health, but they never completely die. Healing them is simple enough, done through the automatic health orb drops from enemies.
Equipment. Spoils of war. Loot. Drops. Goodies. The Diablo
series has always used randomized loot drops, and naturally this returns. Tossing the corpses of the dead, slaughtering foes, searching the broken down cabinets...all these options may bring forth a nice, shiny piece of equipment to add to your character, sell for money, or salvage. Normal, non-special gear is not worth much, and if it lacks in magical properties, sometimes its better off being left behind. However, better gear is not too rare a find, and worth much more to keep. Salvaging the better gear at the blacksmith gives you materials to possibly make even more powerful weapons. This in and of itself can be a coin toss; using all your valuable resources to make that fine looking bow or helm may be worthless if you find an even better version after your next slaughter fest.
As with any game heavily rooted in online play, how well your gaming experience goes will be determined by three things: your fellow players, having an internet connection, and the gameís servers. While playing solo is certainly an option, having no control over functioning servers can create a large issue. In these early days, Blizzardís servers go down randomly. Other issues plague the online, such issues with logging in, receiving the dreaded error 37 preventing players from accessing servers. Have a slower connection? Be wary of frequent bouts of lag and hesitating gameplay. As frustrating as it is to lag out of a game with other people, thereís even more rage inducing madness to be had when you lag out of your own single player game.
With maps and events that randomize, multiple classes and skill trees for each class, online multiplayer, and increasing difficulties to slaughter the fiends of hell on, Diablo III
offers a great amount of replayability. There are a good number of achievements to unlock, which also open up a multitude of designs for your characterís banner. With all the random loot to collect, you will be forever in search of better items to outfit your character. If you are willing to spend the money you can always drop by the Auction House, however with the prices for legendary items and rare gear, finding these items yourself makes for a better, more rewarding experience.
If you can look beyond the server issues, Diablo III
is a fun, highly entertaining game. Personally, I only had a few issues regarding server errors, but I knew beforehand once I checked Twitter feeds for Diablo. I felt that one storyline in particular was left fairly open ended. Either I simply was unlucky enough to stumble upon a tome/scroll explaining more, or Blizzard is simply waiting to provide more answers with an expansion. Regardless of the few minor problems with the Blizzard servers, Diablo III
has not failed to entertain.