Carpal Tunneling: A Casual Addict’s Review of Diablo 3

3 Jun
Title

The first one’s free…

Ah, the 90’s – I remember it fondly. That decade gave us alternative rock, cell phones that didn’t suck, and the beginnings of the modern internet. It also gave us Reality Bites and the Spice Girls, so don’t go confusing it with a golden age.

The mid 90’s gave us a dungeon crawling clickfest called Diablo. I loved that game – a gauntlet-like action game with the levelling and loot of an RPG. A few years later came Diablo II. By then I was a little tired of the formula, and never really got into the game.

Then I promptly forgot about it for a decade.

Now, their third effort is out, with pretty graphics and the multiplayer muscle of battle.net behind it. And while I can’t help but wonder if the decade-long wait was really worth it, the addicting gameplay that hooked me the first time is (sadly, for my free time) still present.

Randominable the Barbarian

Pretty spry for an old guy…

Fighting is still mostly an exercise in mouse clicking. ClickClickClickClickClick – I’ve been hearing that in my sleep. I think my right index finger might be falling off. You do have other abilities, thankfully, that you can customize and map to your 1-4 keys. Aside from Q to quaff a potion and T to teleport back to home base, those are the only keys you’ll need to use most of the time.

Everyone starts out in “Normal” difficulty, which is very, very easy. Perhaps too easy. While you can possibly get overwhelmed by large groups in some of the later stages, for the most part you won’t find yourself dying much – if at all. And fights do take on a certain sameness after a while, especially if you use the same skills. That said, it’s a testament to the animations and sound effects that some moves never seem to get old (stomping the ground to pull everyone around you closer, then cleaving them and having the screen display hundreds of exploding monster bits is especially fun).

At least you don’t have to fight alone. In addition to being able to form a party of like-minded players, you can solo with an NPC companion. This can definitely help with some battles.

Aside from fighting, the gameplay is fairly simple. You start at a home location (town, keep, etc.), click on NPC’s with quest symbols over their heads and listen to them talk (more on that later). Then you walk/teleport around the surrounding areas, exploring small dungeons and facing random mobs of creatures that drop various types of loot for you to wear or sell. There is crafting in the game, but it is very streamlined and I’m uncertain how useful it is at the beginning of the game.

Fighting Spiders

It was too hard on Nightmare to capture a screen shot during larger fights…

What I liked

The graphics are great, and the animations are smooth – as long as you have a decent connection to the internet. There are an insane amount of items in the game, I’m talking Borderlands-esque numbers. Each has several random bonuses, to damage, skills, speed, health, and a myriad of other attributes. And to Blizzard’s credit, it’s fairly easy to see if an item is an upgrade by looking at comparison numbers in the tooltips.

Fighting with one of three NPC companions you encounter helps compliment your gaming style – just remember to keep them upgraded with new gear as well. When you run out of room to hold rare items (and you will), you can sell them at an auction house.

Load times are very, very quick. It’s a welcome change from the excessive load times of other games (I’m looking at you, Old Republic).

What I didn’t like

Normal mode is just too easy – especially the boss fights. Nightmare mode and above (unlocked as you complete the previous difficulty) ramp up the difficulty greatly, but a game should not require multiple playthroughs to get improved gameplay. The only times I died early on were when my network connection hiccuped and I couldn’t do anything while a pack of creatures tore me apart.

Which leads me to another issue. I understand the need to connect to battle.net for multiplayer gaming, but requiring it even for solo play seems a bit absurd. And having lag effect gameplay in a solo game can lead to a lessened experience.

The biggest letdown for me, though, was the story. If there was some bizarre, Twilight-gaming mashup meme I’d walk around with “Team Bioware” and not “Team Blizzard”. That’s not to say I hate Blizzard – I was a World of Warcraft junkie for years – but I’m going with story above all when I look at an RPG (or an action game in RPG clothes, like Diablo 3). And right now, Bioware does story very well (ME3’s ending aside). I’m too used to interactive conversations to go back to the outmoded linear dialog in D3. The story here reminded me more of Call of Duty than, say, Dragon Age or Bethesda’s Skyrim. It was just filler to get from point A to point B.

Conclusion

Overall, there’s a lot to like about the game but it could have been so much more. Increased difficulty from the get-go and a more engaging, interactive story would have put this over the top for me. As it is, I still recommend it though. If you played D and D2 and remember them fondly, you probably already have this game – but if you don’t (or you didn’t) I’d say pick it up.

As for me, I need to log a few more hours today. Now, where did I leave that finger…

8 Wrist Guards out of 10

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