Last month Blizzard released its latest in ultra-popular dungeon crawler series Diablo III. The game was an instant success in that it broke the PC game sales record and has been met with much praise regarding its gameplay and functionality. Although Blizzard fell terribly short when it required all players, even single players, to always be connected to the internet and an unstable infrastructure left millions of players sitting by their desks, waiting for the servers to allow them entrance after the release and cursing Blizzard’s name.
GAME NAME: Diablo III
DEVELOPER(S): Blizzard Entertainment
PUBLISHER(S): Blizzard Entertainment
RELEASE DATE(S): May 18, 2012
First, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. There are probably tens to hundreds of thousands of people who bought the game for the sole purpose of playing the game, by themselves, in single player mode, with no interest in connecting to the internet and getting on a Battle.net server. However, now that Blizzard has required people to be connected to the internet all the time while playing, even when playing alone, they have been forced to endure hours of server down times and dozens of crashes. Not to mention that if they didn’t even have a decent internet connection, they probably couldn’t play the game at all. Now that some time has passed however, I haven’t heard of any crashes recently, and the server down times have been dramatically reduced. Although, the fact that you will always have to be connected to the internet is not going to change. If you don’t have a good connection speed, then you might want to reconsider this game, since you may end up with hours of frustration just to find out that you can’t even play it.
The big addition to the game is the auction houses. Players can sell items they find in game in auction houses that are online for either in game gold or real money, although the real money houses are not yet available. This is probably the biggest reason Blizzard is requiring players to be online at all times, other than hacking or security issues. With the amount of loot you can find in the game alone you should rarely need to dabble in the gold auction house, although you may want to check it out for a deal now and then. The real money auction house is what scares me. Where ever there is money to be made in a video game, there will be hackers trying to get into accounts. My account was hacked after the first week of playing and all of my character’s gear was gone. Thankfully, I only had the one character and wasn’t very far along. Plus, I have great friends that played religiously and had tons of extra gear that they gave me, so I wasn’t out much. But the fact that it happened was enough to put me off. I would recommend to anyone playing this game to get an authenticator code attached to your account. I downloaded the free Battle.net app for my smartphone and attached it to my account so now without the randomly generated code that changes on my phone every 30 seconds, you can’t access my Battle.net account.
I don’t have many negative feelings toward the game itself. The first Act was fairly simple and numb. Even a person who has never heard of the Diablo series before shouldn’t have any trouble passing through it. Likewise, the first Act was very loot-less so to speak. For a game that is very loot driven, I didn’t see a lot of stuff that really caught my attention. Although, since it was a very soft first Act, I didn’t really need any super gear. Things did start to pick up in the second Act though.
The crafting system I’m still kind of up in the air about. The days of the Horadric Cube are over. No more recipes. No more upgrading gems. No more self crafting at all really. You have one guy to craft you weapons and armor and another to upgrade gems. The gem crafter seems mostly a waste of space and gold. By the end of Act II you will have a guy that will upgrade the gems you find in the field into better quality gems with better stats that can be inserted into weapons and armor applying decent stats to your character. This seems fine, except that you have to pay to train the guy to make the next tier of gems and so on. Luckily, by this point the amount of gold it took to train the non-player character (NPC) was almost a non-factor and didn’t cause too much drama in the pocket book. One thing I thought was a point on the plus side, though, was that this same NPC can also remove gems from gear you have already inserted so you can reuse them in other gear or upgrade.
The weapons and armor crafter I have heard many grumblings about. People are upset about not being able to craft themselves exactly what they want by finding the exact pieces they need as they could with the Horadric Cube in the previous version. With the NPC crafter in Diablo III, it’s more like a lottery. You can take your magical items you find in the world to him and he will break them down into crafting materials which you can in turn use to create an item of your choice. Now whatever item you choose to craft, say a helmet for example, you have no control over what the bonuses applied to it will be. Your helmet may turn out to have +40 intelligence which is absolutely worthless to your barbarian. It’s the 3 seconds between clicking the ‘craft’ button and seeing what pops up in your inventory that keeps me coming back. Maybe it’s the gambler in me that keeps me enthralled over and over again and when you get something that is really beneficial to your character, you better step back because I’m jumping up and down and throwing fist pumps up in the air. To me it’s just fun to roll the dice and see what happens. If I want to take the time to harvest materials and create things with recipes, I’ll play one of my MMOs.
On the positive side, the game is just about everything you would expect and hope for from the Diablo series. The developers were very smart in not changing the two things that made Diablo what it is today: millions of monsters and tons of loot. As you explore the different randomly generated areas that Blizzard has created for us, you will find hordes and hordes of monsters. In the last Act I ran into swarms that counted up to 50 demons at once. Thankfully, my monk and her companion were well equipped and I had the right skills in use. Something I really enjoyed was that the game didn’t recycle monsters over and over again. There were some monsters that appeared in multiple levels, but for the most part, each Act had its own monsters that suited the area and image that Blizzard was attempting to create in each setting.
The best thing about all those demons, though, is the gobs of loot they drop. Following just about every demons fatal scream would be the clink or clank of gold or items dropping. The mini bosses that roam around with the regular demons are always a good source of magical items. These monsters will have blue or yellow names, are much tougher to kill and have special abilities. A lot of the weapons and armor that fall are white in color, which means they are non-magical and should probably be left alone. They don’t possess any superior bonuses for your character and carry very little gold value. Occasionally monsters will drop blue items which have magical bonuses, and even if your character can’t use the item or it doesn’t fit your scheme, you can still sell them for quite a bit of gold or break them down with the crafter to make better gear. If you are very lucky or just a level grinder you will find a rare yellow item. These items have a multitude of bonuses and are worth more gold when sold if not usable by your character.
One thing that I have heard mixed reviews on but that I think was a great improvement was the skills system. In the previous system, you would pick a specific skill tree you liked and just pile on the points into skills in that tree in order to make them stronger and stronger. The new system is sort of three tiered. The top tier is just the seven different categories of skills that your character will learn once they hit a certain level. Within each category, there are several different skills that will be learned at certain levels. Finally, within each skill there are runes that will be learned which will change the skill to make it act differently or more powerful. The default settings for the game will have one button activate one skill from each category, although one of the categories is passive and is just always on so there is no button for it. An experienced player can go into the settings and change this so they can apply any skill they want to any of the six buttons. I find this system much more rewarding because you can tweak your character to be more in tune with each individual’s style of play, or change your skills depending on the situation. You may have one style that is great versus the hordes of demons and another that works better when taking on a solo end boss.
The character selection has changed a bit as well. They are basically the same or just a small combination of past characters and you can pick between male and female of each. The Barbarian and Necromancer carry over from the previous version and the Wizard is pretty much just a new name for Sorceress. The Monk, which is my favorite, is very much like the Assassin, although all melee. The Demon Hunter is kind of a combination between the Amazon with some Assassin mixed in. Then there is the Witch Doctor, which basically stands out on its own. The best way to describe him is he’s very much like the Necromancer although using creepy animals and nature, instead of undead and supernatural things.
Finally, everything is tied together with a nice little story line involving some past favorites and new NPCs. I enjoyed the story, and being a huge RPG fan I greatly appreciated it, although as far as the Diablo series is concerned the story isn’t the meat of the game. The graphics have had a great upgrade and the backgrounds look phenomenal. The movie sequences between Acts were also amazing, even better then most CG movies that have come out to date.
In the end, the game is a welcome addition to the Diablo series. Any fan of the past versions, or any other dungeon crawler, will fall in love with this one as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the game and am looking forward to trying out all of the other character types available. Although, I would recommend a very good internet connection and the knowledge that the servers may be down from time to time when you want to play. Plus, the authenticator is a must have–especially once the real money auction houses go online.