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Diablo 3 – Second Thoughts

It’s not rare for gamers to review something – either in their heads or on a website – and then go back and give a second opinion. Sometimes we don’t always hit the right points or see the full picture. We get caught up in the wind of the game we just games and whether that is negative or positive, sometimes we are just too clouded to give our real opinions. For Diablo 3, you can say that some of the staff and I here at Leviathyn were at first caught up in the excitement and lootfest joy that D3 brought us. If you search for Diablo 3 on this website you’ll articles ranging from totally psyched to doubting to outright questioning. Diablo 3 has been the source of much talk since its release and can you blame people? Blizzard took us in the a totally different direction with this game from the rest of the series.

There are a lot of new features in Diablo 3 and many of them cancel out what made Diablo 2 so amazing and timeless. Although we may enjoy and spend plenty of time on Diablo 3, I had to face facts and realize that this game just isn’t as great as it should have been.

 

I. In an online world yet not persistent

The decision to take Diablo into the online-only realm was perplexing. Not just to me but to most of the fans. I remember reading a blog entry on another website stating that the writer had fond memories of taking his netbook with him on planes, trains, and whatnot just to whip it out and playing Diablo 2. Not only because the specs needed for that game are low but because there are so few games that can pass the time quite like Diablo 2. The game is classic for a reason. It is simple to play, does what it does right, and is accessible.

Diablo 3 bucks this trend for a “governing rule”. Blizzard did not want outside trading, purchasing, or pirating. I can completely understand the last point but sites like D2JSP were well done in how trading communities operated. In fact, it has come to a point where I hear more issues in this new online-only system than I ever had about outside trading sites. So tell me again how this new system makes things all better?

Not only that, online only games make me think that we’ll see changes from time to time. Persistent worlds make the online realm a fun and evolving place. When you log on to a game, because you have to, and see the same thing over and over again it’s going to get boring. I started to feel that. I felt that no matter how far I got in the game, nothing changed except the background on my character screen depended on which Act I was on. There is no centralized hub of news where you see who has killed what. It doesn’t matter who killed or how many times you’ve killed anything. There is no community presence outside of a chat box.

How could I fix that? Let’s look at Path of Exile real quick. Not so much the game but the leagues that they will be using. Leagues change the game with rule sets. In Diablo 3, if someone takes down Inferno Diablo or some other boss, perhaps the entire online community benefits from an hour long buff to stats. An hour is nothing in Diablo games. For those of us who scour the maps from corner to corner, an hour goes by pretty quickly. Game-wide buffs, sort of like how if you brought Onyxia’s head to Stormwind in World of Warcraft, are fun for everyone who’s involved and around. It also gives a sense that you are doing something for the game and its community. Your buff could turn the tide for a player having issues. Things like that give a persistent feeling that online-only games need to have.

The persistent feeling and trading issues are just the tip of the pyramid, though. Hacking has become a huge issue and now players are receiving friend invites by spammers. It isn’t just annoying, but a by-product of the online realm. Most MMO’s have this issue and it forces people to get authenticators. It makes them want to get anything just to feel safe and keep their gaming work safe. No one wants to log on and see all of their gear and money gone. For the most part, Blizzard’s customer service is on top of this, though. If you are a victim, you’ll get your stuff back within a few days. Still, there are plenty of horror stories from players, including one that we published, where it takes players close to a week to be able to play again.

It is clear that this always online aspect of Diablo 3 has failed. Blizzard had a chance to show us that this is the right direction but with so-so customer service, hacking and spam, and trading issues with the AH I can’t see how this has improved the outlook on online-only gaming.

 

II. If it’s too hard, just buy something

One of the greatest feelings in Diablo 2 was finding a Unique. They were powerful, contained sick stats, and make farming played through areas fun. Not only that but you consistently were able to find upgrades along your way. I’ve sunk over 120 hours into Diablo 3 and I will be honest, I have only legitimately found three upgrades (after Normal mode, where most of what you find is an upgrade) for my character. Everything else was bought on the Auction House (AH). The chances of finding something useful with the kind of power you find on the AH is low. Even Blizzard has admitted that drop rates are affected because of the AH’s inclusion. There is almost a need to buy something on the AH. I’ve heard of players going through every difficulty without touching the AH and even after seeing their transaction tab it is hard for me to believe.

I don’t mind the inclusion of the Auction House. My issue lies with its necessity. I think it’s great to be able to find a better ring or weapon whenever you want but I’d like to be able to find it on my own with acceptable odds. I’ve found plenty of rares and Legendaries but I’ve used none of them. They are either for other classes (which happens, oh well) or they are no where near the power that I need to continue on at my level (which is cheese). There is no reason for gear to not be proportionate to the level it is for. If you’re level 34 and you find a rare with 45 damage on it, chances are you can go on the Auction House and find something with 100 damage, outclassing it in every way possible.

This truly gets rid of the “play hard to win” scenario that veterans of this series are not just used to but thrive in. I was watching a video of someone who beat every Inferno boss within seconds. He was using a slick Demon Hunter build but his character was decked out in gear bought from the Real Money Auction House. He bought his way to that achievement. I understand that not everyone in the world has the time to get the best items. However, Diablo is not an MMO. You can play as your own pace. You don’t have to play with other, either. There is no reason to rush yourself. This guy is a renowned gamer who pushes the limits of what should be possible. He still bought his way there. He obviously has the time to have done it the right way.

Am I blaming him? No. Don’t get me wrong there. He played Diablo 3. He has every right to spend his money on that gear because it is a feature and option in the game itself. I’m blaming Blizzard for ever giving players this option. It counters the whole reason why fans love Diablo games. The whole aspect of finding new gear or muling it and holding it for friends was a great thing. I had like 12 mules on Diablo 2. Each one of those held specific items or class items. I’d pop into a game with some friends, drop stuff, and get back on my main. In Diablo 3, I’ve traded with friends less than ten times. Mostly I just go “I wonder if I can make some gold/money with this.”

 

III. Refined gameplay brings a simpler game

I’ve been pretty negative on Diablo 3 so far and while I believe it is warranted, I can’t harp on the gameplay. Everything from the skill to the passives just work very well. Diablo 3 is very different from Diablo 2. These skills and gameplay changes wouldn’t have worked for that game. Blizzard simplified everything and not just to make the game more casual. They did it to get rid of stupid stuff like definitive specs for classes and limited choices in terms of gear. Gone are the days of the ruin words. Gone are the days of the Hammerdin and Meteorb Sorc. I can’t tell you how many friends I had who would just throw skill points anywhere without a care in the world just to find that they had screwed themselves later on.

I’m glad to see these things gone. The way skills and all come now is great. I’m a big fan of the runes that change skills and the passives. All of it gives you that wanting to continue to level. Instead of writing down how many points to put into one skill for a synergy, I’m wanting to hit that specific level for a new rune. I was so psyched when I unlocked Zombie Bears, a late level rune for the Witch Doctor. Blizzard did a good job with giving you incentives to level from 1 to 60.

Sigh… Yet this brings me into more negativity.

 

IV. Watch out for that sudden stop

Remember back in Diablo 2 when you finally hit Hell and you kept going? You kept playing because there was plenty to work for. You still had to hit level 100 and complete your spec. There was more powerful items and runes to find. There was just more to find. In Diablo 3, once you hit Inferno you were done. There is nothing to play towards except achievements. Why put yourself through the insane difficulty with no reward? Someone already got the world first kill. So are achievements that important for you to continue to play? Some may say yes and for those people, they’ll find enjoyment in the Inferno mode. Still, even if you do enjoy the challenge, does the realization that you are getting nothing while you play hurt that experience?

You get no more skills, no more levels, no more passive, and no more runes. All you get is death and taxes.

 

V. You’ll find plenty to do on your way there

Before you hit Inferno, you still have plenty to do in Diablo 3. There are five classes to level to 60 and that is something you should do. Every class has awesome skills and some sweet strategies to kill enemies. The monk’s teleporting skills make playing that class extremely fun. The Barbarian’s impact swings shake the camera with every swing and give you a feeling that you really mercilessly killing demons. The Wizard’s constant regeneration of Arcane Power keeps you casting and smiting. The Demon Hunter’s twin resources give you plenty of powers to disperse against your enemies. The Witch Doctor’s summoning and diseases plague the battlefield as you walk towards your goal. Every class just sounds epic and feels great to play.

After getting all five classes to 60 there isn’t much else to do. Inferno isn’t worth the time. Still, that means you’re going to complete the story mode three times with each class. That will give you plenty of play time to justify your purchase. This is where Diablo 3 is really strong. From Normal to Hell, the game feels fresh and exhilarating. You gain new powers and runes every level and it makes you want to keep going.

 

VI. Playing through a Bollywood movie

The story in Diablo 3 is pretty cool. If you want to get the most out of the game, read The Book of Cain before playing. It sets up Diablo 3 nicely and explains all of the lore (which includes some retcons). As you play, you’ll find yourself in a gripping tale through the first three acts. When you reach Act IV, the game begins to feel off. The power struggle for Sanctuary ends and a poorly written crisis is brought to light. The fault lies mainly in Diablo. Diablo’s tale of revival in this game is extremely awesome. It doesn’t translate well, though. Diablo’s lines in Act IV are weak and do nothing to make you feel like you fighting the ultimate evil. All Diablo says is “oh you stopped that plan? Well, I have another one! Hah hah!!” It really reminds me of an old school villain who just put a damsel in distress on the train tracks, forgot to tie her down, and had someone just pick her up and walk off carelessly. You stymie Diablo at every turn yet the dastardly villain keeps up with the “I’ll never lose” scenario. It is wriing I’d expect more in Mega Man games than I would in Diablo.

Still, Acts I to III are a treat and even though Act IV’s writing suffers, you’ll have a blast playing through the areas (even if it is very short).

 

VII. The End?

Who knows how the Diablo series will end. Diablo 3 doesn’t leave much open for a sequel. I expect a couple expansions to release to tie up any loose ends but I can’t see a Diablo 4 in the works. Think of it like this: Warcraft I to III established many great villains over the years. World of Warcraft has vanquished those foes expect two. Unless Blizzard comes up with a whole new set of rogues, Warcraft IV is not going to happen.

I had fun playing Diablo 3 and enjoyed it for what it was. I can’t say I’m happy with the product as a whole, though. I feel this direction for the Diablo series hurts what it was made for: demon killing fun. Overall, Diablo 3 contains limited fun, a smaller scope, so-so writing, flawed features, but excellent gameplay all wrapped up in an overpriced $60 PC game (sad to see Blizzard join the small group of devs charging $10 more for their games).

If you’ve spent some time with Diablo 3 and feel the same or differ from my second opinion, please share your story with us below.

Ronald reviews Diablo 3.

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