12 years is a long time to wait for just about anything. In gaming, Half Life 2 taught us that in half the time a worthy successor can be forged to step into the realms of legends while Duke Nukem Forever showed us the other side of that coin, where 15 years of work was wasted on a broken and ultimately boring sequel. Diablo 3 falls into the category of long-awaited big hitters, but how does it fare? Well let me tell you boys and girls, this is no Duke that’s for sure…
Plagued with launch day issues that will no doubt haunt fans and developers alike for a very long time, Blizzard have still managed to create a master work under the harsh bug ridden exterior. While some games might try to mess you around in lengthy tutorials, Diablo 3 cuts the crap. You want exploding zombies and magic missiles? Here you go, now go magic some shit up! Blizzard know their audience. They want loot, they want action and they want it yesterday afternoon around tea time.
Diablo III takes the player and up to 3 Co-op companions back to Tristram, or rather New Tristram, which has now been rebuilt after Diablo decided he didn’t like farmers and proceeded to burn the original to the ground 20 years ago. Through various cutscenes unique to each class you just so happen to hear about a fallen star that fell close to the town and have travelled there to investigate.
As you’d expect in any good fantasy game, the undead are besieging the poor townfolk while the town guard attempt to defend against the attack. As you wade into battle to help you’re directed to speak to Leah, the adopted niece of Deckard Cain. After a little chat you’re tasked with going to Old Tristram’s Cathedral to bring back Cain from whatever horrors await. For newcomers to the series like myself it’s surprisingly easy to jump into.
Which is in fact Diablo 3’s greatest triumph. Not only does it cater straight away to fans of the originals by providing a familiar setting but it also allows newcomers to the series a chance to get in on the action without alienating them from the plot or world around them. What is truly astounding is how fresh both the gameplay and world feels. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still recognise the good old Diablo “Hold down left click till enemy is dead, ninja loots, repeat.” but what is there fails to grow old both in singleplayer and in the very welcome Co-op mode too.
Sure we’ve had Action-RPGs come along in Diablo’s downtime such as Titan Quest and Dungeon Siege but while these all proved to be mere distractions that often got tedious Diablo 3 is a breath of fresh air. Dungeons are randomly generated each time, as are most monster and loot spawns meaning the game has near infinite replayability. Couple that with the smooth level progression, simple yet expansive crafting mechanics and the combat that, while indeed simple, never fails to pack a punch. Whether you’re diving in to hordes of demons causing them to explode with your fists as a Monk, lighting some fools up with ice laser beams as a Wizard or impaling enemies to walls as the nimble Demon Hunter the action rarely disappoints.
But make no mistake, this isn’t Skyrim. For those of you who don’t know, the term RPG is tossed about loosely these days. Don’t expect any in-depth conversations to take place, Diablo is all about hacking, slashing and looting your way through a beautifully rendered world that, while you’re mostly blazing by on your way to the latest big bad guy’s hideout on castle rock, you can’t help but stop to admire.
Speaking of the game world, while the towns you enter are nowhere near the living breathing worlds you might expect in your average RPG the world is still very much interactive. Out on the plains or in dungeons there are a wealth of traps looking to hind or in some cases help you. Whole groups of enemies can be made easier to handle by dropping chandeliers on them or pouring hot oil or coals along the floor. The random nature of each dungeon also adds to the wonder of the world, while most of the nonessential story dungeons are randomly generated you honestly wouldn’t know the difference between the random generation and the effort a map maker would put in over weeks of work. They’re seamless, expansive and often with many twists, turns and giant sections to explore.
At its core the aim of Diablo 3 is simplicity and accessibility. There is a distinct lack of any ability to shape your character’s attributes, a factor that is relatively void due to the fact that each ability is tied to increasing the damage of one of the 5 classes with only minor bonuses along side that such as extra dodge chance from Dexterity. The old skill tree has also been ‘improved’, with each class having six different skill categories the automatically unlock a new skill from either each time you level up.
These skills can be swapped out at any time and eventually augmented with runes. With runes skills such as the Wizard’s basic “Magic Missile” spell can be turned into a powerful shotgun like blast of multiple projectiles, grant armour-piercing, slows and so on. While this doesn’t necessarily give a sense of individuality to your character, as every one who plays the same class as you will get the exact same abilities, the mechanic doesn’t hinder the fun. Instead you’re given the tools you need to be ready for just about any situation without the need to go back to town and respec your character or just slog through a tough section unprepared.
Luckily, each of the five classes are completely unique, offering entirely different experiences no matter which you play. While the mechanics may be similar for some classes, such as the Monk and Barbarian both being close range beat-the-snot-out-of-them types, they’re still completely different. The Monk is all about speed, teleporting into the thick of it, healing his friends then punching the nearest demon so many times in the face his own demonic mother wouldn’t recognise him. On the flip side the Barbarian is the closest you’ll get to a tank, since Diablo 3’s mechanics are more geared towards everyone doing massive amounts of damage in stupidly cool ways rather than pure tactics.
That’s not to say each class doesn’t have its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance the ranged classes, while still able to hold their own in melee, still won’t last long compared to the Monk or Barbarian. The roles definitely aren’t the trinity system mechanics of Healer, Damage, Tank we’re used to in many RPGs but you’ll still need a few tricks up your sleeve to come out unscathed. Each class is essentially a support DPS, with the Wizard and Demon Hunter throwing down slowing traps and barriers, the Witch Doctor providing spawnable allies to aid in battle while the Monk throws out disables and heals. Yet again, it’s simple but ultimately a design choice that makes sure you have the most fun regardless of your class.
Crafting is a new aspect that is sure to have many players jumping for joy. All magical items can be salvaged for ingredients to create new ones. As you train your blacksmith through the use of gold you’ll gain more items to craft which use both the ingredients from salvaged items and gold to create them. This is pretty much your only gold sink throughout the game, with weapon and armour merchants being used mostly to sell your unwanted regular gear and jewellery and dye shops getting the most of your money that doesn’t go on crafting.
One massive flaw in Diablo 3’s design however has to be the difficulty. Throughout my playthrough on Normal difficulty, which is the only one available until you complete your first playthrough, I found I could overcome pretty much any obstacle with ease. Even being the noob I am at hack and slash dungeon crawlers I have so far never fallen in battle, only coming close to it on a few occasions. Having the option to increase the difficulty from the get go seems essential and while I understand that Blizzard didn’t want to drive new players away with immense difficulty the ease at which you advance in your first playthrough might actually prove to drive away more hardcore players in the long run.
In the end, while Diablo 3 is without a doubt an immensely fun, rewarding experience for players both new and old it’s hard to see just why it took so long to be pushed out the door and into the hands of players. Yes the game is in a sense completely new with beautiful visuals and a reasonable level of polish (if you can ignore the launch day woes) but I can’t help feeling a sense that there should be something more from almost 12 years of development and a disgustingly high selling price for a PC title at launch.
Despite the launch day issues that saw many fans unable to play for days after launch, the quite frequent little niggling bugs that also inhabit the game and some strange design choices that might rub some hardcore fans up the wrong way, Diablo 3 delivers something unique. Even a game still stooped in its old ways but given a modern facelift, with gameplay mechanics that are both simple and yet fun in their own right, can thrive in this era of hardcore shooters and deep RPGs.
The story telling and ambiance is also excellent and while for a game that calls itself an RPG there is a distinct lack of actual ‘Roleplaying’, the story will still succeed in drawing you in. Fans who have played the original will no doubt delight in the inclusion of Old Tristram, with Griswold’s smithy and many other landmarks easily noticeable for those familiar with the games. Deckard Cain is also another kick to the nostalgia glad for fans, with the iconic character playing a major role in the early stages and even being voiced by the original voice actor to give fans that little extra nod.
In all Diablo 3 is a testament that, while innovation is nice, age-old concepts can still stand the test of time. It’s eye-popping visuals, simple yet accessible gameplay and immense Co-op fun all lend to its greatness. While the always-on internet issues are still present and may indeed by a trouble for some players in the future it doesn’t detract from the fact that Diablo 3 is fantastic and truly deserves the attention of its fans and new players alike.
+ Simple and Accessible Gameplay
+ Multiplayer Co-op is masses of fun
+ Beautiful Graphics with an Old School Style twist
– Numerous Bugs at Launch
– Difficulty is too easy on first playthough
The classic old school style we know and love in Diablo gets a facelift up to modern standards with enough sparkly glowey effects to put Michael bay to shame…
Great voice acting from all the cast and with enough battle sounds to satisfy any would-be dungeoneer.
While there’s no RPG style interactivity to speak of the story is no less epic, being presented in a way that’s not only easy for newcomers to jump right into but also has old fans feeling right at home.
It’s simple, it’s accessible but it’s also reminiscent of what Diablo fans know and love. Proof that age-old concepts are still relevant years later.
With five uniquely different classes to try out, 60 levels to level to and a wealth of side quests, random dungeons and epic loot to uncover there’s no doubt you’ll be playing the game either on your own or with friends for years to come.
The Verdict: 8.5
Blizzard’s greatest game yet but ultimately let down by a poor launch, numerous bugs and dodgy difficulty settings. Diablo 3 is easy to get in to for practically any player, with updated visuals and gameplay that are also stooped in the old school style you’ll have fun smacking up zombies in dark dingy dungeons for years to come.