Diablo III

It’s been seven years since I first played Diablo II, so I’ve been looking forward to Diablo III for some time now (Not the full twelve year wait, mind. But still quite a while). I love these kinds of RPGs, and I’ve spent many (hundreds) of hours playing Darkstone, Titan Quest, Diablo, Torchlight and various others, so when my beta invite for Diablo III came through I decided to promptly ignore it. Which might seem crazy to some, but I didn’t want to spoil my vision of the finished product with a buggy beta experience. I had to wait until the official release.

What did I get at the official release? Nothing special.

I think I made a mistake. In order to psyche myself up for Diablo III, I decided that I could play through Titan Quest and its expansion. Fifty hours of gameplay stretched over a couple of weeks and I was done, literally just in time to download my copy of Diablo III and play straight away.

I wanted to avoid the silly online rush at launch, so I thought I’d play alone in offline mode. If you’ve been near the internet recently, you’ll know that there was no such offline mode. Like many gaming journalists and gamers out there, I was livid. Always-online DRM has been constantly attacked by the gaming community, so why would Blizzard-Activision enforce it?

Okay. I’ve got to log in to play by myself. I can deal with that. It’s not a big issue. I can just play by myself after I’ve logged in, there shouldn’t be any issues. Right, I’ve rolled my level one monk and I’ve just begun my quest, I can see my first NPC and I’m goi-… … … I’m going to disconnect from the server and get kicked back to the log-in screen. Waitwhat?

So, apparently I need to be connected to the server during every part of my gaming experience, not unlike an MMO. All I want is an offline-singleplayer experience though. Unfortunately, in order to play Diablo III, I signed a contract agreeing to this ridiculous DRM.

Right, I’m past that. I’ve played MMOs before, so I know that it’s time to unplug the phone and keep the router nearby because my internet connection is so terrible that I could get booted offline at any second.

Okay. Log-in. Wait for it to authorise my credentials. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And it was about there I realised what I was dealing with. I was playing an MMO on launch day. Millions of people attempting to connect to a server that can’t handle that much stress.

Right, I’ve complained enough. It’s time to actually talk about the game itself. I’ve completed it on both Normal and Nightmare modes and I’ve begun my foray into the harder difficulties.

The gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from a Diablo game. Lots of clicking. Lots of demons. Lots of smashing things. It’s lacking something though. I mentioned my little two-week Titan Quest mistake earlier in the review, and I think it’s because of that that my expectations were higher for this. The skills in Titan Quest are highly varied, just as they were in the previous Diablo games. Talent trees and various playstyles for each class. Diablo III has streamlined that.

There is a significant lack of talent trees. Instead you auto-learn skills at each level-up, with no control over how you learn those skills. It locks each class to doing one thing for quite a while. My monk is still punching things, and forever getting better at punching things. But I need to wait to unlock upgrades for the particular skills I want to use.

Elective mode is a secret for some reason as well. When you start out, you have six skill sets, each with three or four skills in. These are auto-bound to the 1, 2, 3, 4 keys and your left and right mouse buttons. Six skills sets. Six buttons. And initially, those skill sets can’t be bound to any other key other than the one they start out on. This means that each button does a specific thing (Offensive/Defensive/Healing/Etcetera) and will never do any other thing. That is until a loading-screen tip informed me that there was something called Elective Mode that would let me customise which skills go where in my tool-bar. Now, I’m going to go into all caps here, so you might want to skip ahead;

WHY ISN’T THIS FEATURE THE STANDARD FEATURE, BLIZZARD? WHY DO YOU NOT INFORM ME OF THIS MODE AT THE START OF THE DAMN GAME?

It’s a -standard- in most other games with tool-bars to let you customise them. Why do I have to be kept in the dark about the ability to do so in this game?

On top of that, Blizzard promised that Diablo III would be difficult. It’s not. Normal and Nightmare modes were a breeze. On top of that, they’re kind-of short.

There’s some other things I want to complain about.

First off, shrines. There’s three different kinds in Diablo III; Protection, Enlightenment, Luck.

Protection gives you a defensive buff, Enlightenment increases XP for a couple of minutes and Luck increases the amount of gold enemies drop and the chance of finding magic items. There’s also healing wells. Of these four things, one can appear at each designated spawn area for them.

I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to finish a dungeon, or kill a boss and then immediately see one of the Luck shrines now that there is no more looting to be done. Especially when it could be a healing well instead.

It seems sensible to think ahead and just code it so that dungeon-ends feature healing wells or nothing at all. It’s not like any of the shrines are useful at all once the enemies are dead.

Secondly, rare enemies.

Occasionally you’ll run into a group of three to five enemies that are glowing blue, or a yellow enemy with a bunch of minions. These are the rare enemies that are guaranteed to drop good loot, and to differ them from their regular counterparts they have an effect from the following list:

  • Jailer, roots you to place for a few seconds
  • Molten, surrounded by a firery aura that leaves a burning trail and drains health very quickly
  • Plagued, leaves pools of health-draining poison
  • Mortar, fires ranged mortar attacks
  • Vortex, pulls you closer
  • Shielded, can create a shield around themselves
  • Extra health, gives them extra health
  • Nightmarish, makes you run away from them
  • Electrified, shoots bolts of electricity
  • Arcane enchanted, casts random spells
  • Vampiric, drains health with their attacks
  • Waller, creates walls of stone
  • Reflects damage, what it says on the tin

Once you hit Nightmare mode, these enemies start using two things from that list. On their own, each effect is manageable. The combinations on the other hand either make no sense, are pathetically easy or are so ridiculously difficult that it takes multiple lives just to wear out their health.

Example: Ranged enemies with Vortex and Reflect Damage. Both seem like things ranged enemies don’t need.

Another example: Anything at all with Jailer/Molten or Plagued. I can’t tell you how often this combination comes up, or how much it hurts. It’s almost impossible to kill since your health bar vanishes faster than you can manage from the molten effect, and there’s no escape since the Jailer effect roots you down for a good five seconds.

Thirdly and finally, hardcore mode.

I’ll start by saying that I love hardcore mode. It’s a simple premise, if your character dies at any point at all, then that’s it. No respawning and that character is automatically deleted. It’s the ultimate test.

However, there’s a little problem with hardcore mode. It’s to do with constantly being connected to a server. That problem is lag. My first and only hardcore character had reached level twelve before this happened. My ping jumped up randomly, and I was getting all sorts of lag for just a few seconds. By the time it had resolved itself, my character had died.

That’s an issue that needs to be fixed ASAP.

Right, I’m done complaining (For real this time). Let’s draw this review to a conclusion.

Diablo III isn’t as bad as this review might brush it off as. It’s a good game, but it does contain flaws left, right and centre. Odd graphic glitches, low level items having ridiculous stats far better than high level items (I’m level 39 and half of my gear is still from level 20), and all of the above mentioned problems.

But, the gameplay is solid. The story-telling is a bit mediocre, but the graphic style adds a lot to it. The voice acting is tremendously good as well.
I think some more side quests, or perhaps just a bit more longevity to the main quest other than “Go do it again on a harder difficulty” might have made it more enjoyable.