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Hell and Back Again

Score: 8.75 / 10

Diablo III

PC
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: May 15th, 2012

 

 

 



Pros:

  • Addictive feeling of dungeon crawling is alive and well
  • Randomized dungeons provide huge amount of content to explore
  • Ability customization offers multiple builds to fit each playstyle
  • Jaw dropping cinematic sequences

Cons:

  • Repeated cycle can wear thin after a time
  • Item identification proves pointless
  • Must have active internet connection to play single player

Chances are if you had a computer with an internet connection back in 2000 you were crawling through dungeons in Diablo 2. Its simple, but satisfying gameplay was easy to pick up and hard to put down. The major success sparked outcry for a sequel, which has been nothing short of dangled in front of the teeming masses for a long time. After plenty of slideshow presentations, delays, and cinematic teasers; Diablo 3 finally graces the gaming world with its presence. The third title in franchise delivers the classic experience that fans have come to adore, and has plenty of content to last for another decade.

Stay a While and Listen

Twenty years after the events of Diablo 2, Deckard Cain is investigating ancient records and text when he disappears after a mysterious falling star engulfs the cathedral. The star not only draws the attention of the local town, but brings the dead back to life. The player arrives to investigate the falling star, and after meeting Deckard Cain's niece, sets out on a series of events that unveils something much bigger than anyone had hoped . The story chains together the typical themes of sacrifice, betrayal, and greed amongst all the bloodshed. While most of the "sudden twists" are pretty well expected, the various journal entries and extensive lore are enough to provide an interesting tale.

Visually, Diablo 3 holds up well enough. Cinematic sequences are stunning in detail and quality, and entice you to keep playing to see the rest. Some of the more vivid backdrops like the blue hue of the fallen star crater or full-scale war help in bringing the world around you to life, but the jagged character models pale in comparison to the top notch cinematic interludes. It's almost like you are playing a modern title one minute, and a dated one the next.

These small nuances in visuals are made up for with quality sound design. Every swing of your sword or conjuration of a spell is audibly pleasing, and makes taking out multiple foes as appealing to hear as it is to see. Voice actors are spot on in their roles, giving welcome personality to not only the story based NPCs, but your three quirky companions in single player. Soft, yet haunting background music give every world and dungeon a personality of its own, and emphasize that feeling of a foreboding danger around every corner.

Click...Click, Click...Click

Diablo is simple to get the hang of, but complex enough to warrant some preparation at the later difficulties. Practically all of the gameplay mechanics such as movement or attacking are done with the click of the mouse, with the exception of hotbar skills you acquire at later levels. Want to move? Click there. Want to attack that guy? Click him. Want to open that treasure chest? Well...you guessed it. The trouble with this arises when there are foes that take up half of the screen, and can block your attempt to flee.

Quests are given out in local towns, and from there you can set off into the vast fields and deserts to complete the specified objective. While there are a multitude of quests, most of these simply involve you going from point A to point B, fighting through hordes of enemies to an eventual boss. Along this path are plenty of opportunities to stray away and locate hidden items, discover chests, and battle elite foes. Looking in unexplored areas of the map or diving into a cave that is not part of the objective usually pay off in the end, and begin the addictive cycle of hunting every last corner of a dungeon for the most loot you can scrounge together.

The biggest appeal of all this is that every dungeon you enter is completely randomized. Playing through the same area twice can yield not only new pathways, but new opportunities for loot, and new elite monsters to encounter. Where one event was closed with the first character you create, the next could stumble upon an entire two level dungeon.  It furthers the unexpected feel of the game, and offers plenty of replay value for your multiple runs through the Acts.

A Hero all My Own

You begin the game by choosing one of five classes; Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor, Monk, or Wizard. Each has its own specialty, with classes like the Barbarian excelling at melee combat and witch doctors utilizing pets to gain the upper hand. Regardless of your choice, Diablo 3 excels in letting you customize your character as you see fit. Each character will eventually unlock a move to complete their hotbar, but have the ability to join a "rune" to that specific attack for the payoff effect. You can customize a tank to have certain attacks boost his health or a two-hander DPS can have each critical hits do bonus damage. This level of customization ensures that when you run into an identical class on a server, you will have different play styles to match your preference, and opens up hybrid classes like a melee mage or ranged barbarian.

 

The most satisfying aspect of Diablo is equipping your character with loot, and there is plenty to go around in this title. Uncommon drops are plentiful, and rare drops usually accompany the defeat of a much tougher adversary. The best part is that your loot is your own, so you do not have to worry about any stranger taking your rare drops. There are always new pieces that are better than your current equipment, and the multiple gem slots and materials can assist in crafting an optimal set for the tougher difficulties.

Enemies start off simple enough, but soon become much more menacing. The standard trash mobs range from lowly peons, to heavy hitting brutes, to ranged casters. Boss battles will occur at the end of most dungeons, and while a few vary, the most strategy you can use is "stay out of the bad stuff" and "run when that big move comes". Random elite mobs will also block your path, and their abilities fluctuate per your difficulty. These range from single power Normal mode elites like Jailers that can root you in place, to Nightmare mode dual power elites like arcane nightmares that can drop lasers and fear you into additional mobs. These can prove especially challenging on the latter difficulties, bordering that line between legitimate and incredibly annoying as fights occasionally evolve into a game of tag just to survive. Though death is easily rectified, that repair bill can add up...

Friends with Benefits

While taking the solo path is enjoyable, the multiplayer for the game is the best way to play. With every hero that joins your group, the minions of hell grow stronger. With a group of four, the boss fights and elites require a bit of coordination, and makes their defeat even more satisfying. However, when you have a big group the wide radius of spells and explosions can make deciphering friend from foe difficult. There are a total of four difficulties that you will want to bring some friends along for as the friendly AI lacks any real impact, even if they are fully equipped in rare items.

Coupled with the base game is an online auction house. Functioning like that of previous Blizzard games, all items are up for grabs, and you have the ability to both bid or auction off rare items that are of no use to you. There is an even a real-money auction house that is in the works, allowing Diablo 3 to help payoff a bit in the end.

Diablo 3 features plenty of difficulties to keep you coming back for more. After completing the game on normal you can replay the game through three other difficulties; Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. In these difficulties, enemies hit harder, and the random elites you encounter have more than one power to halt your progress. The tougher the difficulty, the bigger the payout; as the higher tier items will only drop in these difficulties. Despite what you may initially think, you can technically progress by yourself through all three of these difficulties.

Overall

Diablo 3 sticks close to its roots in terms of gameplay, but holds up well enough. The simple combat and varying difficulties ensure that both casuals and hardcore crowd have plenty to explore. While it would have been nice to have seen some of the promised features like a player vs player arena and mystic artisan crafting, their addition in a later patch can only improve the content offered. With minimal server lag after the rocky first week, Diablo 3 is an addictive and entertaining experience that offers twelve more years of hack and slash goodness.

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