Diablo 3: Hell, it’s about time…

Just a heads up, this review is LONG; like seven pages. I have a LOT to say about Diablo 3. You can skip the history lesson and jump right into the review proper by starting at Atmosphere!

Diablo 3 is a game that I have had almost nothing positive to say about for the last three years. If you’re familiar with the initial release of DIablo 3, then you know why. If not, well suffice it to say it was a mess– no, wait! I mean: it was HELL. Pun totally intended.

Aside from the fact that a considerable amount of the game’s features were changed during development. Not to mention several of the promised features never truly being implemented into the game. It is safe to say that Diablo 3 failed in one aspect above all others:

The. Loot. Sucked.

–Now, this is the part where I tell you, if you aren’t already aware, that loot–items in a game like Diablo are paramount. It is the be all end all, it is the reason for playing. You kill monsters to get equipment so you can kill harder monsters, thus acquiring better equipment, etc, etc.–

And on top of being poorly designed, loot was nigh impossible to get to boot.

Imagine grinding through dungeons for hours, and hours, and hours, fighting enemies far too difficult, able to kill you with a dirty look, in the hopes that they will drop an item with a high enough ilevel to have a chance at rolling stats that may be better than what your current equipment is.

If memory serves I believe it was a 4.65% chance at ilevel 63, which was ‘decent’

And then when you finally do get said item, it rolls with the wrong stat on it. Rolling intelligence, rather than strength, making it completely useless for your level 60 Barbarian.

And if you try and ‘farm’ in another area later in the game, you get murdered because your gear isn’t anywhere near good enough to compete with the horribly bloated monster HP and damage.

I have never been so afraid of wasps in my entire life…

Because of the previously alluded to lack of drops you couldn’t progress, and were forced to retread old territory ad infinitum. Meaning that “progression” was hitting your head against a brick wall until you gave up or the game bestowed an actually decent item upon you… letting you hit your head against the brick wall slightly more efficiently.

Not to mention, Blizzard announced Diablo 3 a full four years before release. Barely releasing any new info, like they were ashamed of it, and only giving the smallest of peaks every year at blizzcon. And if I’m not mistaken, the game had been in various stages development for six years before being announced. [Citation needed]

Apparently Diablo 3 was scrapped at one point and restarted from the ground up…

Diablo 3, when initially released to the public could be described in one phrase.

“Poorly designed. ”

Diablo 3 was like that first girl that you pined over in high school. Once you get to know her you’re infatuation only grows. Finally you start going out, your dreams finally came true, she’s everything you hoped for and more! Except, in reality it was all a farce, and she’s actually a totally different person than how she conducts herself. And then she dumps you, pulling the rug right out from under you… Except it’s a video game…

Diablo 3 broke my gaming heart. When I talk about it, I still get angry about how bad Diablo 3 was at launch. In fact, I’m yelling this as I type right now!

Now that we have that out of the way we can get into the good stuff. Which, surprisingly there is!
Hard to believe, considering we’re already a page into the review!

And I didn’t even talk about the Real Money Auction House…

Since release Diablo 3 has had three years of patching, and a fairly sizable expansion to chip away at it’s terrible first impression. And I am happy to say that, it’s actually a pretty good game now!

I mean, It’s not great; but it sure is fun to play!

Let’s talk about it’s various aspects.

Atmosphere

the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or work of art.

There is no denying that Diablo 3 is a beautiful game. That one thing has remained true about it throughout it’s lifetime. It has always, and will always be visually stunning. There are many areas in the game that… just look damn good. Others, eh, but that’s a matter of opinion. There isn’t anything objectively bad with the game’s graphics, or environmental design.

However, the overall feel that it is going for is very, ‘edgy’. Sometimes being edgy for edgy’s sake.

That’s hard to say

The game has a very, Hollywood feel to it. It is certainly more about flash, excitement and looking good. Rather than evoking feelings other than “that’s radical” in the player.

Diablo 3, has many well crafted, and foreboding environments. Some actually quite disturbing, sadly the game’s overall pace detract from them and never really let the games’ environments live up to their potential.

The game has one area full of these and that one section, The Tower of the Damned, had the most effect on me. Because… it’s gross.

Other wise, no areas evoked anything other than “that’s pretty.” But that might be because Diablo 3 has a bad case of the “Saturday Morning Cartoon Plot”

Story
an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

The story in Diablo isn’t terrible. But, unfortunately, it’s not good either.

Diablo 3’s story follows the same “Corruption of a good character” theme that… every single Blizzard game has. They can all be described in one sentence: Good character fights against forces of evil/darkness, something sinister happens to them, they are corrupted and turn to the dark side.

Diablo 3 is no different. The game’s female lead is Diablo 3’s equivalent of Kerrigan. Except not nearly as interesting.

Although overused, this trope is very strong when done properly! As Blizzard has shown us in the past. Sadly Diablo 3 doesn’t really deliver on this because all of the characters are straight out of a bad Saturday morning cartoon.

Right down to gloating in your face while giving away their plans. Which is, of course, always followed by the, “You may have won the battle, but not the war!” speech.

And last but not least the ever present, “I still have something up my sleeve!” line.

It all just cheapens the events of the game, making everything come across as cheesy rather than intimidating.

Especially when “The Lord of Terror”, Diablo himself, does nothing but tell you how scary he is the entire time you fight him. While doing absolutely nothing to demonstrate his… terrifying terror.

Terrr-roar!

It’s just cheesy, and ham fisted. And feels like very little effort went into the writing. Which is sad, because in the previous games they used the ‘horror’ movie approach of having the villains be enigmatic and one step ahead of you. There wasn’t a lot of exposition in Diablo 2, a lot of it was implied. Told via flashback from a “witness” other than the main character. You were left to piece the details together yourself. I found that was much more effective.

 Enemies
the persons who are actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

Although the story isn’t that exciting, the stuff you kill is!

The enemies in Diablo are certainly varied in appearance, and each of them sort of fit into a “role”. There are the fodder enemies, the heavy hitters, the support, the tanks, the spawners, etc etc. Some even cross over and have multiple roles. This all adds a wonderful variety to the things that will become blood stains on the floor.

The unending tides of the demonic legions are more often than not pretty cool and interesting, which is very nice!

But, sadly, there is a problem:

The game doesn’t really have a middle ground when it comes to difficulty.

Back at launch, everything was quite easy, and then suddenly far too hard.

Now that the difficulty has been changed, and the game scales with you; but now it’s too easy until you start to reach the higher difficulty settings.

There really isn’t much of a challenge. Now, this isn’t bad. But, it is a strange feeling when you’re casually strolling through the forces of Hell. Wading through bodies like water, leaving everything you touch as a greasy red-brown smear on the floor.

The servants of Diablo melt in your very presence on the lower difficulties.

And on the very highest end game difficulties the monsters have health in the billions. But, in most cases you can increase or decrease the difficulty any time you would like. So if it is too easy you can make it harder somewhat on the fly.

Even if it’s not the most efficient way to play.

Now, where I currently am on my character, Larry, there is a decent challenge. But it doesn’t come from harder monsters. The challenge comes from killing enough of the monsters fast enough to complete the time trial like Rifts.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact I prefer this system one hundred times more than the original that was in place at launch. And, considering what Diablo 3 is this really works for the game.

Your Character

the representation or expression of something in a tangible or visible form.

This was one of the largest complaints I had with Diablo 3 at launch. One that has almost entirely been remedied by having actual decent items.

But essentially my complaint was that your characters power was all located within the gear that you wear, not in the player character themselves.

All of the skills of Diablo 3’s various classes base their damage off of “% of weapon damage”
So for example the Wizard spell “Disintegrate” does 390% weapon damage.

So if you have a crappy weapon that does 5 damage, 390% of 5 is still only 19.5.

So the good news is that now items are actually good, and your character feels powerful.
Period. That’s really all that needs to be said.

Personally I don’t like the way that damage is calculated, and that the character’s power “lives” in his gear. But, now that the game has decent loot, it’s a the point is moot and entirely subjective!

Skills

skill or expertise in a particular activity or field

Despite my dislike of how damage is calculated. The multitude of different skills in Diablo 3 are all more or less pretty darn cool. Combat feels very fluid, very visceral, and incredibly polished. It is definitely the game’s strongest ‘feature’.

It is flashy, explosive, action packed, and very satisfying. As it always has been.

It’s not very deep, it’s not very thoughtful, but it is fun.

And that’s what games are supposed to be. Fun.

At launch, there were very regimented character builds that you had to use to progress forward in the final difficulty. Or you would die– in real life. Or, at least you would want to anyway.

That isn’t the case anymore and although certain builds won’t get you as far as others, everything is more or less viable. And you can create a character that you like playing and still get decently far, without having to be forced into a particular play style.

Diablo 3 has gone from a game that essentially forced you to play a certain way; “working as intended”. And has become a game that you can play the way you want.

It’s a welcome relief, in an otherwise painful memory.

Itemization

the balance and distribution of items, their types, and the various effects, powers, and statistics attached to them

Now, this is the big one. Something that many people are seemingly still arguing about.

Is the itemization in Diablo 3 any good?

The answer is: It depends.

It depends on what you’re looking for from Diablo 3. If you want intricacies, hard choices, and tons of options that require significant thought; then no, Diablo 3 has poor itemization.

If you want to blow stuff up and don’t care about “theory”, then Diablo has great itemization!

The game’s items still boil down to +100 int, +250 vit.  Which is boring.
But the legendary items, which are FAR more common than before, usually have some kind of interesting modifier that can change how you build your character.

Currently, Larry has a Voodoo Mask that lets him split into three skeletons and each one will cast the skills I have chosen to use. Which is awesome. That means that I can place three giant pools of poison on the ground! Meaning I can basically fill any room with seething death at the drop of a hat. It has changed the way I play, and I have built my character around it.

There are also very powerful “set” items, which give different bonuses when you wear more and more pieces of the “set”, eventually giving you incredible bonuses.

Combine these sets with other legendary effects, and a decent amount of choice when it comes to skills and you have a decent amount of leeway to build a character with. Things to influence your choices, and items that allow you to go “wait, what if I tried this?”

And that, is pretty decent Itemization. I have specifically stayed with the build i have, even though other– probably higher damage, items have come along. I stayed with this, because I like it and am willing to wait for an irresistible item.

And if you ask me, that’s pretty good. Especially considering where this game came from.

 Closing Thoughts

Diablo 3 has come a looooooong way from launch and has become a game that I actually find fun to play! Which is saying alot considering the large amount of angst I had towards this game.

All of the changes they have made, have turned Diablo 3 into a fun experience.
It isn’t deep, it isn’t particularly thought provoking, but it sure is fun.

And if that’s the largest criticism I can weigh against a game, then it’s probably all right.

If you were burned by the poor launch of Diablo 3 and have wanted to give it another try, I recommend it. You may find something to enjoy here! And with the new Seasons that they’ve implemented you can log on and play a new character every 3 to 4 months or so, get your fill, and then shelve it until next time!

Diablo 3 is pretty good.

And that means something coming from me.

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