Review: Diablo III – is hell waiting for you?

June 29, 2012

Review: Diablo III – is hell waiting for you?After nearly a decade in development by Blizzard Entertainment, the long awaited game is finally here. With so much hype and anticipation behind Diablo III, many thought that the game would never be able to live up to expectations.

 

Diablo III takes place twenty years after the events of Diablo II as the game eases you back into new Tristram. The Diablo series has always revolved around this pivotal town as every game starts off just outside of Tristram. Interestingly enough, there is some continuity in the story as you will hear tales of great deeds performed by the mysterious hero that saved old Tristram in Diablo II.

You start the game off by picking from one of five character classes: the Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk or Demon Hunter. All of the classes are new except the Barbarian. However, the new classes do feel more like successors to the classes found in the previous games.

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For example the Witch Doctor has powers that are very similar to the Necromancer, but with a slant towards the voodoo occult. The wizard is also spun from the same cloth as the sorceress with an emphasis on magic, time manipulation and range attacks.

I found the Monk to be the most interesting class out of the bunch due to its focus on melee with martial arts and combos, while still having magical abilities. A combo with the Monk is an interesting concept introduced by Blizzard in Diablo III, where players can build different intensity, or levels of attack when executed in quick succession. While technically the weakest, if augmented properly the Monk can be one of the most versatile characters in the game.

Story

The story starts off with Deckard Cain from the first two games, along with his niece Leah, studying some ancient texts regarding the return of evil after a cosmic event. A mysterious falling star then strikes the famed Cathedral that was central in the previous game, burrowing deep within the lower dungeons separating Cain from Leah.

The game starts you off just outside of New Tristam, with Leah seeking help in finding Cain.

Blizzard weaves an interesting tale pitting angels and demons in Sanctuary, the world within Diablo, as the battleground. There are twists and turns along the linear story, with betrayal and sadness thrown into the mix. The story isn’t Diablo III’s high point, but it does an efficient job in enriching the lore. Veterans to the Diablo series will greatly appreciate Blizzard’s care in introducing old characters into the mix bringing back that sense of familiarity with the newness.

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There are hundreds of audio logs scattered all over the level from Leah’s personal journal, which magically gets updated periodically to random logs filling in the backstory prior to Diablo III. Newcomers to Diablo, will benefit from reading as many audio logs as possible as it nicely summarizes the first two games.

When encountering a new enemy type, an audio log gets added providing some insight into the lore behind the monster. You can also eavesdrop in on a conversation between two townsfolk as they discuss your deeds or just listen in as they drone on about the state of affairs. While the story is largely told through the in-game dialogs between the characters, cinematic cut scenes are shown between acts and certain checkpoints further adding to the engrossing story.

Gameplay/Design

The meat of Diablo III is in its insanely addictive loot and combat system. The game is always dangling a carrot in front of you with the lure of better loot right around the corner. The loot drop animation is quite satisfying as the gold and weapons erupt from the remains of the monster you have just slain. In many ways, Blizzard has mastered the loot system down to a science as you will always feel like the next kill may be the jackpot.

While most of the weapons dropped are worthless, augmenting your character with some great gear can help improve your chances of obtaining magical items. I did find that its never a good idea to get too attached to a weapon for too long as something better is always around the corner. For example I’ve seen weapons with damage per second stats in the thousands. Hardcore players can augment and buff their gear to squeeze out 70k to 80k DPS.

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The world rewards you according to the type of enemy you slay. If you take down a few elites, the loot will reflect that. You will often find yourself spending a lot of time looking in your inventory to compare the stats with your new found gear. You will pick up weapons and armor that belong to other classes, which can be sold to the merchants along the way.

Each character class will react differently to different properties. For example the Monk’s damage per second is greatly influenced by the dexterity level while the Barbarian is influenced by Strength. Augmenting weapons and armor with gems will aid in pushing the boundary of your damage level.

There is a blacksmith and a jeweler in the game that will craft new weapons and armor or even combine gems to create even more powerful stones. You can spend money to train them, which will result in even better items.

However, you will reach a point where the blacksmith and jeweler cannot be upgraded until you start a new game on the next difficulty level. This entices players to continue to play through Nightmare, Hell and even ultimately Inferno mode. For those not afraid of permanently dying can play Hardcore, where once your character is dead there is no resurrection.

Playing on Normal and Nightmare difficulty is actually quite easy, but once you start Hell and then Inferno the difficulty will dramatically increase. Repairing damaged armor and weapons will no longer cost a few hundred gold pieces, but in the tens of thousands.

The enemies in Inferno are extremely difficult, with many players struggling to even complete Act I. However, Blizzard has released a patch that is supposed to decrease the enemy’s damage power slightly. I would recommend playing through Normal and Nightmare solo, and start teaming up with friends during Hell and Inferno.

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The co-op mode works quite well, with each player carrying over their stash and banner. There will be no more fighting over loot with friends as Blizzard ingeniously shows only your loot and not the other player’s. There is no built in voice-chat, but Diablo III supports chat lobbies and private chat sessions with friends.

Diablo III’s random level generator makes the same area feel fresh even on the second or third playthrough. A second pass through of an area you may have cleared in a previous playthrough will feel fresh as the environment will be randomized on the fly with new loot and even side quests or events at times.

At first it’s a race to unlock as many powers or abilities as you can, but as you progress through the various Acts, the focus will be around finding the right combination of abilities.

The environments will vary greatly as the setting will shift from the dreary town of New Tristram, to the barren deserts of Caldeum, and to the gates of heaven and hell. Along the way you will discover caves and dungeons with an alluring beam of light goading you to explore it.

Things really start heating up in Act III with a full on war being waged against Kurast as the army of demons wreak havoc upon the city. Blizzard does an excellent job pacing the game so that you will encounter wave after waves of enemies in this exciting Act. You will also witness many NPCs killed in action right in front of your eyes, adding to the urgency of the quest.

One major downside to the game is that Diablo III does require an always on Internet connection, which can be a bigger deal that you think. I often experienced periods of time where I would start lagging, resulting in my character’s death on several occasion. It just feels a bit odd that online issues could plague and hamper a single player’s experience.

Wrap-up

Diablo III has evolved, making the hardcore dungeon crawler much more accessible while still maintaining a bit of depth especially when opting to make use of the elective skills. This allows gamers to completely customize each set of skills for each slot. Diablo III is definitely a top notch title and proves it with its addictive gameplay system. Players will most likely sink 35 hours on the first playthrough, and over 100 hours on the third playthrough.

If you’re looking for a hardcore RPG dungeon crawler that’s fun yet not too frustrating, then look no further as Diablo III will definitely fill that void.

Score

4.5/5


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