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Diablo III Review - Hell freezes over, it actually came out!

Updated Wed, May 23, 2012 by Stow

Diablo III was released on May 15th, and many sleepless nights later I decided it was time to write this review. Everything you know and love about Diablo 2 exists in the third game, except that it's either cranked up to 11 or simplified to meet genre standards. In some cases, these simplifications are a glorious thing; in others, they are an annoyance that makes you wonder why the amazing polish team at Blizzard overlooked them. And that "how could they miss this?" scenario describes the third game in a nutshell--it offers the perfect formula, but the few flaws that permeate it keep it from that perfect rating.

Cautions

Hell is a mean place, and you are particularly mean to its denizens. Blood and violence are the name of the game, and the "cartoony" look of things doesn't dampen the effect.

Gameplay

95Outstanding

We all know how the clickety-clicking core formula of the game works, and I’m happy to say that it’s still fun as hell. (Yeah, pun intended.) You pick one of five classes, then run amok bashing enemies, collecting loot, tackling the random enemy spawn packs, besting bosses, and watching cut scenes with more budget than most movies this summer.

More things are scripted than in previous iterations of Diablo, with ambushes happening frequently and more player interaction with the environment. Unfortunately, though, player interaction with the environment can have a negative affect on game play because many bosses tend to impact large sectors of the playing field with fire or other negative things that can make you regret being there in a hurry. They typically only do this during certain phases though, so it’s not a not a nuisance through the whole fight.

Enemies will happily walk into your death-dealing tools.  For once I won't complain about the AI, because if the 100,000 enemies I kill throughout this game all had evasive manuevers, it'd be a lot less fun than punting skeletons off cliffs effortlessly!

So I just mentioned phases and environmental damage/don’t-stand-in-the-fire mechanics. Yes, this game has evolved partially into WoW in that respect...and in others as well. Loot is now sold at the auction house. Public player interaction is now completely random--you have no idea whose game you are joining when you sign up for a quest. Loot is even distributed to players automatically, and this is a double edged sword--while you don’t have to fight for what you get, you won’t know what the other players got unless they happen to brag about it. Remember trading for that coveted set item that just dropped? Sadly, that option seems to no longer exist.

Also, I hope you like debuffs--every class brings them to the table and stuns even work on bosses fairly well all through Nightmare. Yes, you can almost stun lock Diablo himself. (Pardon me if I find that a bit of a buzzkill.)

This evolution in the series is admittedly for familiarity and simplicity’s sake, though. Attack speed is now broken down to a numeric value, which I am thankful for, but many other stats are far simpler, for better or worse. It makes equipping a class a breeze compared to finding specific super bonuses like the second game. No longer do you have to seek out super specific stat items or the finest builds in order to get your desired character cranking--you now learn everything automatically with levels. I’m a little miffed by this. I feel that the ability to switch builds whenever and wherever destroys player uniqueness.

The standard Blizzard polish shows everywhere in this title. Everything from the UI to physics is spot on and I have next to no complaints about it. There’s a mix of cut scenes, from traditional super-detailed ones to more imaginative hand-drawn ones that are voiced by the character you’re playing as, depicting their struggle against the darkness in a more personal manner.

There are a few blunders, though, most notably the auction house. Why is it not accessible in-game? Everything else is streamlined perfectly and while I’m certain it’s a database issue that can’t really be worked around, it feels silly to have to drop what you’re doing and hit the main menu in order to shop around. Want to get around it and use trade games? Too bad! The inability to create named games like before turns the entire player market into either your battle.net friends, or the auction house. Act 4 also feels a little less polished and finished compared to the rest of the game, or maybe that’s just Diablo’s influence.

Graphics

82Good

While a beautiful game on the surface almost regardless of machine power, I do wish Diablo III pushed the envelope a bit further. There’s very little in this game that couldn’t have been done 5-7 years ago. Still, when battle erupts and enemies are getting pummeled about, the bloody details and flying bodies are a sight for sore eyes. The cut scenes are top notch in every way and once again prove that Blizzard is one of the kings of the industry in that respect.

For those of you who always wanted to wear a tiki mask, the Witch Doctor does not disappoint.  Their masks are crazy!

Special mention goes to the amazing character armor designs. Some were worried that Blizzard couldn’t pull this off after the … mismatch fest that is WoW. Rest assured that they did, and your barbarian or monk will look every bit as badass as he/she should.

Sound

97Excellent

Sporting much more voice than before, both from players and NPCs, it was important that Blizzard pull no punches in selecting quality voice actors--and they didn't. Every character--from a scared Tristam villager to Diablo himself--sounds appropriately good, scared, or prime evil. When people aren’t talking, the epic soundtrack fills the scene and sets the mood. Easily the highlight of the game, everything sounds perfect. From the moment you hear that familiar item drop noise that hasn’t changed in 20 years you know you’re home.

The music is perhaps the most lasting and iconic aspect of the Diablo series, and was a genuine concern for me throughout the beginning of Diablo III. As many have noted, the opening overture is full of over-the-top Wagnerian brass and doesn't quite pair with the seductive yet solitary (and somehow maniacally-driven) stylings that are part and parcel of the series. That, and the music of Tristram seems an outright ripoff of Matt Uelmen's masterful work. But, happily, Russell Brower's own style starts to peek through with the start of Act II and crescendos upward through the final encounter and into the credits, making Act I more homage than outright hosing.

I have to say this review is quite possibly the single most dishonest thing I've ever read in my life. The game developer still to this day deals with constant lawsuits. Blizzard issues refunds and apologies for their shoddy game like its going out of style (and in a sense it is).

I've played d2 for years and I loved it. However, d3 is just enjoyable. The game is nice gameplay-wise but it has MAJOR flaws. I cannot understand how the hell one can enjoy the voice actors of this game. So much meaningless dialogue between the hero and the follower that hurts my ears. Itemization is just the worst in the history of aRPGs hands down. Inferno is ridiculous, one shotting everything and bosses drop worse loot than a random mob. This game was in development for at least 5 years. If this is the best they could do, I'm really disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, the game is fun and I've enjoyed my playthrough but it has MAJOR flaws.. Monk who is considered a strong melee dpser has to use 5/6 pure defensive spells and 3/3 defensive passives just to be able to Slowly progress.

This game certainly is getting too much credit while there are better aRPGs that are overlooked because they are not called diablo.

It *could* be a good game. I don't know nor will ever know.

For me the major deal breaker is the heavy handed DRM. It's so bad that I won't even consider buying the game. I shouldn't have to be logged on to the internet constantly to play single player. Half Life 2 tried this back in the day and they quickly learned the error of their ways and patched it out.

Blizzard isn't exactly known for learning from their mistakes.

I played the original Diablo when it came out all those years ago...I finished the story, left the game and never went back. I did the same with D2 at release, thinking both were decent games but rather short and shallow.

When Blizzard first announced D3 my buddy went absolutely bat-shit crazy about it and I've spent the last 2-3 years trying to figure out what made this game so great. I was amazed to see a still-thriving D2 community so many years after that game's release, especially in a world where graphics and game complexity seem to be the ONLY reason to generate hype about a game. I just couldn't understand it...until last weekend....

I bought D3 last Tuesday and have been playing fairly consistently since then. It's fun, if simple, gameplay seems to hit the sweet spot of being enjoyable and rewarding without requiring the massive time commitments of other games I play. I was playing through normal mode, still trying to understand the undying devotion so many players have for this game when I finished act 4. The Story was good, even if a little disturbing, the soundtrack (as noted in your article) was good, but I still didn't "get it". Then I looked at my XP bar and realized that I was only level 35 and the game was over....but there are 60 levels in this game?!?!?!

Next thing I know, I'm back in Act I again, but I still have my levels, gear, skills...everything. I start going through the motions again but notice a stiff jump in playing difficulty and that's when it clicked! This game has very little to do with storylines or anything else I"m used to....granted, you need some type of plot device to give players a reason to continue progressing as well as for thematic reason but, truth be told, this game would be just as enjoyable if there weren't any storylines and instead just random milestones for Part I, II, III and IV.

In this game, loot is king. Your whole perspective is not to tell a story (that's a bonus!) but to scour every map, every dungeon, every little nook and cranny looking for mobs. Big, Bad, mean and ugly mobs that drop awesome loot! To find loot for your character and your alts...to find loot for your friends and trading partners....to find loot for the sole purpose of bragging rights. Storyline be damned (pun intended) I am obsessed with finding something that nobody has ever seen before, regardless of whether it's an item, a boss, an event...anything! And now that I understand that 'traditional' gaming logic doesn't apply to this series I'm loving every minute of it!

On the flip-side, there are a couple of negatives for me; the biggest being the Auction House. Not just as you noted in your article that players have to leave the game to access it, but that it exists at all! I understand that D2 had a huge black-market for item trading, and I don't even have a problem with Blizzard wanting a cut off the top, my problem goes deeper than that. In a game where loot is the be-all, end-all of your gaming delight, where your sole purpose is to find more of it and farm until your gear is good enough to progress....it's very anti-climactic knowing that I can just quit my game and buy whatever I need without needing to spend those countless hours scouring the game for it. Trade games such as you mentioned are one thing, that requires a relatively small pool of people to barter with, but a universal auction house containing everything that everyone is trying to sell seems very self-defeating.

All in all, though, I am having a blast with D3. I understand it's allure, and I am beginning to join the ranks of those devoted legions. It's been many years since a game has captured my excitement (and this level of obsession that is forcing me to lose sleep, skip household chores and ignore the family for just another dungeon run!) and I can see myself playing it for a long time to come.

Good (and accurate) article. It's just sad that so many people, like I did with D1 and D2, will play through normal mode, finish the story and walk away from this game without ever knowing they've only experienced about 1/4 of what this game is all about.

I never played the other Diablo games but so far I am loving this one. I do wish that I could play offline though.

Having a blast back in the Diablo universe. As a devote fan and by far my most favorite ip ever from Diablo on through, I am thoroughly enjoying D3. The beta did not do the game justice and now on Act 4 normal (been very busy with RL) I like it more than D2; imagine that!

Best. Game. Ever!

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