Blizzard’s Battle.net issues have all been resolved by the time of this posting with several stability patches and constant up-time with minor maintenance. View my gripes when it was an issue on Day 1.
The gates of hell have reopened, releasing the dark terrors across the lands after a 20-year absence. New Tristram is attacked first, by what the locals are calling “A Fallen Star”, reawakening the dead and causing them to rise from the grave and making it difficult for the citizens to deal with. Diablo’s return is looming over the land. New warriors rise up to answer the call.
Been in an endless dungeon all these years and don’t know what Diablo is? Well fear not, you really don’t need to know any of it because during installation, there is a text-based story for you to read that will catch you up. Outside of story elements, Diablo is the quintessential Action-RPG, the game that all other games emulate with their own twists. While that has been the comparison for the 10 years since Diablo II’s release – it is now a little less so with the changes Blizzard has made to streamline the experience to keep you in the fight rather than staring a skill trees and attribute numbers. This is a game that doesn’t rest on its laurels and decides to do something a bit more…modern.
“Okay so I click, right? And I press hotkeys to execute powers that use the mana pool? So what’s different then?” Well besides basic attacks utilizing the left and right mouse buttons, and the four hotkeys for unleashing devastating special attacks, spells, and buffs are Runes. Runes are modifiers to skills. As you level up, you’ll gain access to more powerful ones, improving on the previous – negating the need to keep using the current.
To say that Diablo III is anything but beautifully artistic, would be underselling the graphical nature of the game. Each of the four Acts in the game have a distinct look to them. Act I is dark and grim favoring on oranges and blues to set the deathly overtones. Act II moves to the desert under the searing, bright sun. Act III heads to the mountains dealing as night falls with heavy snow. Act IV, is a surprise I’ll leave to you. Each area is unique and beautifully rendered. There are some ugly textures with Act II looking to a town below as if it were a painted backdrop. Lack of traditional anti-aliasing shows off some less than stellar edges. But is a fantastically beautiful game that runs at 60fps with some interesting physics with decapitated demons.
Music takes a bit of a backseat as it takes a lot of the cues from Diablo II with some soft acoustic guitar strumming, but when the battles intensify you’ll get some bombastic orchestra driving your battle forward. Though the music is present, they aren’t there as much as you’d think and feel empty and desolate as you explore dank caves and dark dungeons.
Quests are lengthy, expansive, and detailed affairs. Though are almost meaningless as you always have only one quest at a time, and aren’t ever juggling more than one at a time. All the quests that come along are relate to or are supplemental in progressing the main story. A neat little side-adventure are instanced Events that are essentially quick quests that don’t appear on your quest log, but involve defending a treasure from onslaught of enemies. Once defeated, the treasure is yours to claim. These are some hair-raising events and are random each time.
It’s quite unfortunate that due to the way that Battle.net and Diablo III work eliminates the possibility of saving anywhere. No quick save and no hard save. The game checkpoints, but in places of its choosing and can be to your detriment where you leave off, because the place you quit the game at, may not be the place you return to due to the randomization of the game.
Your first runthrough of Diablo III will not be very challenging. There is a seemingly gradual increase in difficulty, but it certainly won’t upset you. Act I is clearly tutorial for you to level up and start building up your character for what’s to come. Act II is about testing that character build. Act III goes hard, fast and challenges you on your character build. Luckily, there is a constant feedback loop of rewards as you’re slaying monsters left and right to remove what would be tedium ad nauseum.
There are five character classes: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard. Each of the character classes are diverse and have special skills and abilities exclusive to the class. But no matter which you choose, they all are accessible and can solo the game without much interference. All characters are built the same in some basic ways – they all have an escape move, melee, and area-of-effect in some form or another. Though, once you dive in deeper to the customization that’s where the similarities end.
Of course with a game that has an “always-on” requirement, it is a must to have Co-op. The game supports up to 4 players at time, smaller than that of Diablo II. When you defeat monsters together, unique loot drops for you only – no stealing among party members. But it is easy to drop items for other party members or do a quick trade.
Blizzard Achievements are nothing new, but are now the third game Blizzard has made to include them – following World of Warcraft and StarCraft II. When you have the notifications turned on, you will be seeing consistent popups early on as you unlock achievements during progress and in the chat you’ll see the achievements friends are unlock. It’s never-ending stream of notifications you can thankfully turn off.
Diablo III is the pinnacle of Action RPGs, it’s a must-own game. However, if you have spotty internet or just don’t like the “always-on” requirement, this will be a huge frustration or turn off for you and your experience with the game. The server issues have been fixed, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be issues. It would be nice if Blizzard there was an “Offline Mode”. Though, once you get past the first few levels, you’ll be hooked and there are endless possibilities and playthroughs that await you as when you look up at the clock and see that it’s 3am but still want to keep going.
Retails for: $59.99, recommended purchase price: $59.99
A PC digital code of the game was provided by Blizzard Entertainment for Review purposes