Omnes Relinquite Spes, O Vos Intrantes – Diablo III Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Diablo III is an isometric (2.5 dimension view), hack ‘n slash RPG. Players have awaited the continuation of the series for 12 years, and finally, Blizzard has delivered. Fans of the franchise will find that Diablo III has a very similar look and feel to its predecessors, as gameplay is essentially the same with some notable changes to streamline and enhance the experience.
An example of streamlining takes place with the hotkey assignments. For example, the belt slots for storing potions and accessing them via the quick keys (1-4) have been removed and replaced by slotted skills instead. This enhances the gameplay over previous installments by allowing you to have a number of skills at your disposal instead of one. Your primary and secondary skills will take the left and right mouse buttons respectively, while the 1 key is set for a defensive skill selection. Numbers 2-4 are reserved for class specific skills. There are also three slots reserved for passive skills, which are either activated by performing a specific action, or modify your base stats. By allowing players to build skillsets to their liking, the developers provide more depth to combat. These skills use up the player’s discipline points (formerly known as Mana, the name changes with each character class – more on that in a bit), like previous games; however, the ability to use multiple skills allows you to unleash devastating combinations of attacks that can take down mobs of monsters in short fashion.
While the utility belt for potions has been removed, potions are still slotted for use (default key is Q). However, there is a cool-down period between uses as a balance to the enhanced combat. No longer can you sit in the middle of a mob and spam health and mana potions, which means that while you have more tools to combat the risen dead, you need to think a little bit more about how you approach a mob instead of just diving in. While this might sound like a daunting handicap, it really isn’t; monsters also randomly drop health orbs that you can pick up on the fly if you find yourself in a pinch. However, a smarter AI than in previous games will attempt to keep you from these elixirs by surrounding you and pummeling you into dust before you can nab the life-restoring beverage.
While the Barbarian character class returns for a third game, new character classes have been created for Diablo III. The Barbarian, like in previous games, is a melee attacker who relies on brute force. Its skills are powered by Fury, which is regenerated over time. Skills such as Bash, Cleave, and Ground Stomp, reflect the nature of the Barbarian’s brutality in combat, while shouts can be used to buff their stats, terrify their enemies, and more.
The Witch Doctor is a new character class that specializes in Voodoo Magic and raises creatures such as zombies, spiders, toads, and even larger creatures to combat the undead. Spells are used to poison and debilitate enemies while the Witch Doctor uses ranged attacks and their pets to further damage their opponents. These spells and conjures use a Witch Doctor’s Mana, and it is the only character that still uses the magical concoction.
The Wizard, which is essentially the Sorceress class from Diablo II, features elemental magics for offense and defense. The Wizard uses Arcane power to fuel spells that will allow you to freeze, electrocute or burn your enemies to the ground while you cast defensive spells to buff your defense, or slow the coming onslaught while you bring the pain. Once you’ve made your way to level 30, you can even temporarily transform yourself into a powerful Archon (that wouldn’t be a StarCraft reference, now would it?), utilizing devastating Archon abilities that can reduce a mob to char within seconds.
The Monk is a solitary figure that specializes in melee attacks, hit and run tactics, and powerful mantras that can buff themselves, as well as their allies. Its power is fueled by Spirit energy, which is refilled by landing successive blows to enemies. Due to the Monk’s lack of armor, this character class has to rely on being able to quickly dash in, land blows, and make a quick retreat before enemies surround and pound you into submission. Mantras allow the Monk some luxury in relying on the ability to heal or buff defensive stats, but staying in one place too long can often be fatal.
Finally, there is the Demon Hunter. This character class is unique in the fact that it actually uses two different types of energies to fuel special attacks: Hatred and Discipline. The Demon Hunter uses primarily ranged attacks, as well as traps and magics to hinder or kill foes. Using bows, crossbows, throwing knives, and grenades, the Demon Hunter uses distance to their advantage. Like the Monk, a hunter’s armor isn’t the greatest, so agile defensive skills keep distance between you and your enemies, and if all else fails, traps such as caltrops can be used to slow their advance. A Demon Hunter’s Hatred is the source of offensive skills that can devastate the enemy, while Discipline charges defensive skills such as Smoke Screen which makes you invisible for a short period of time.
Each character class storyline contains cutscenes in the form of motion comics that give a background about the character, offering a personalization of the story for the player. These motion comics feature beautifully hand-drawn works of art rather than a comic book-type look typical with these kinds of cut-scenes, and really bring out the story of the character in a way that hasn’t been done with the series before. These stories give you insight to not only the characters themselves, but of the culture of the character class. For example, with the Demon Hunters, the scenes weave their personal story of how they survived an attack of monsters on their village because they were saved by another Demon Hunter, and how they were brought into the clan, trained to fight, and became hunters themselves. This is how the Demon Hunters as a society came to be, as all hunters have a similar story of being lone survivors in horrific attacks and being saved and taken in by another Demon Hunter.
Where these cutscenes help to move along the personal story of your hero, fully CG-animated cutscenes take place during major events of the game. These scenes are absolutely breathtaking in detail and realism. Initially, you wonder to yourself if these scenes are actually a mix of live action and CG, but they are entirely computer generated. Blizzard has always prided itself on the quality of these epic out-of-game sequences in the past, as well as in their newer games such as StarCraft 2. Diablo III, however, steps things up quite a few notches, surpassing the quality of StarCraft 2‘s CG sequences by leaps and bounds.
Blizzard’s reputation for writing a darn good story remains intact as well. Diablo III is just as rich, if not more so, in detail than its predecessors that only a master story-teller could weave such a narrative. Along with the spoken dialogue in the cutscenes and in-game NPCs, tomes are scattered throughout the game for you to collect, with each one telling a tale that’s pertinent to the surroundings or the quest that you’re on. Dialogue between your character and the NPCs you pick up along the way also breaks up the monotony while you’re trudging through the wilderness, making for an often welcome distraction. As always, Blizzard has managed to grab some top-notch voice actors for the game, which makes the dialogue that much more enjoyable.
The in-game graphics are exceptionally well done for this type of game. While not designed for that up-close- in-your face level of detail, what Blizzard does provide you with are environments that are beautiful and diverse. From the dungeons to swamplands, wastelands and more, Diablo III does a grand job of keeping true to the look of the previous two games, while staying up-to-date for the modern age. However, this game requires no graphical powerhouse. With the graphics options cranked to their highest settings, no issues were encountered on the Alienware m11x v2 (Core 2 Duo/GeForce GT335M) setup. The lighting effects, while gorgeous, are pretty basic. Shadows are there for novelty and aren’t affected by light sources, nor are other objects.
The soundtrack to Diablo III is quite a throwback to the old games as well. While Matt Uelmen (composer for Diablo and Diablo II) was not available to join the party, Russell Brower and company did a good job of capturing the essence of the previous two games; however, in doing so the music of Diablo III feels a little too much like the originals, as though they worked a bit too hard on trying to copy what Uelmen did, instead of writing something more original.
While you can play solo, multiplayer makes up a huge part of Diablo III, and integration with the single-player is virtually seamless. You can either join other players that have opened their games by accessing the Public Games menu, or just start your game and open it to the public in the Game Menu at any time. An excellent feature that Blizzard thought up is with loot drops. In Diablo II, it was usually a mad rush to grab the gold or items before the other player could, usually culminating in some pretty hard feelings on a crawl. However, in Diablo III, they resolved this issue by having drops assigned to specific players, without anyone being able to see what the others picked up. This saves a lot of time, and potentially hurt feelings.
Of course, there are some caveats to the multiplayer aspect, primarily the requirement for a persistent connection to Battle.net. First off, in the first couple of days since release, many people have been experiencing connectivity issues and subsequently getting kicked from their games due to high volumes of people logging in to play. But a longer-term issue (after they hopefully fix the connectivity issues) is one of portability: the game simply doesn’t have it. You won’t be able to grab your laptop and jump on a plane, train, or automobile and blow a couple of hours on your single player campaign. Even with Wi-Fi access on those modes of transportation becoming more widely available, connection drops are frequent, so you’ll find yourself in the same quagmire that people are finding themselves in now: getting frequently kicked.
Another interesting aspect of the game is the Auction House. Items that you pick up in the game can be auctioned off to people that are in the market for those one-of-a-kind items. Currently, items can only be sold for in-game gold, but a real money auction is expected to launch later this month. Players will be able to trade those rare and legendary items for real cash, which I’m sure will get people out of farming gold in WoW, and instead farming items in Diablo III. Awesome.
For the completionists out there, Blizzard has happily jumped on the Achievement bandwagon for Diablo III. Class-specific achievements, as well as those related to the campaign, are sure to keep people busy for a long time. Over 200 achievements are attainable in the game, so you’d better get cracking!
There are a couple of issues with Diablo III, however. Aside from the aforementioned overly-simplified effects and persistent connection requirements, the game could have used a little more diversity in character creation. While you have tons of options for creating a banner specific to your character, the only thing you can actually customize on the character itself is the gender. With so many games today offering at least a basic toolset of hair, eye color, and some facial features, Diablo III has none of these; and while it doesn’t affect gameplay, it would have been nice to give gamers something to further personalize their experience. Also, after you’ve explored an entire area, it would be nice to have that map still available when you go back. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, as I returned to a number of different places and found that all of the time I had spent covering every square inch of ground for a complete map was simply gone the next time I visited it.
Overall, Diablo III is most certainly a game that has been well worth the wait. It’s apparent that while Blizzard wanted to bring some new elements into the game to make it fresh, the core mechanics are very much intact, giving the player the same great experience that the previous installments did. Excellent writing, beautiful environments, hours of hacking down monsters, and tons of loot are what this franchise has always been about, and this latest story of mankind’s struggle against the minions of evil makes Diablo III one Hell of a ride.
Let’s just hope that the next one releases before I turn 50.
Diablo III receives a 4.0/5.0.
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