As a change of pace and to stretch my legs out a bit after my recent health troubles/inactivity on my blog, I’d like to do a Game Review not related to tanks. Bear with me, sweet reader(s), for you are about to go on a dark, magical adventure. Well. Kinda. There may be unicorns, diminutive and frustrating goblins, and an irritating mechanic involved, but trust me, it is dark and it is magical.
First, a little back story about me and the Diablo franchise, to help explain why I’m writing this article in particular. I was (and in many ways, still am) a huge fan of Diablo. I played the first game into the wee hours of the night, traveling the lethal labyrinth lurking beneath Tristram, hunting demons and collecting sweet loot. It is one of my most poignant memories of PC gaming, alongside StarCraft and WarCraft matches and Starship Titanic. But I digress.
Diablo was amazing and I loved it. When I hear about Diablo II, I and my entire family were very excited to play it and we weren’t disappointed. Admittedly, I think they nerfed the poor Necromancer into obscurity, but that’s more a pet peeve, than anything. I loved it, I loved most of the Updates, and I loved the Expansion, Lord of Destruction. Many, many, MANY hours of my life and the lives of my two brothers were lost wandering across that bleak landscape and dying in amusing ways during duels.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the release of Diablo III. Much anticipation and anxiety abounded for me about the game in equal measures. For those unaware, there were generally mixed feelings and ambivalence at a Diablo game produced without the input of the lost Blizzard North, in addition to the always on DRM, changes in the skill system, and a shift in the art style. It was released and I played the demo and saw what my friends thought of it. After studying how the Auction house functioned, it became pretty clear how horrible it could (and did) turn out to be. There was no end-game. Private games were and still are limited to only 4 players. As a result, I didn’t buy the game at that time and it slipped to the back of my mind as I focused on other things.
Now we leap one more time, to March, 2014. A generous and close friend offers to buy me the game and the soon to release expansion and play it together. I take them up on it, as I have become nostalgic about the series and also wanted something different in my line up of games (which heavily featured World of Tanks and ArmA III, to the exclusion of all other things). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Auction house was on its way to obscurity and that overall, the game was quite enjoyable, though it still very clearly lacked much purpose in the End-game. However, Reaper of Souls, the aforementioned expansion, would help address some of that. I made a monk, and thoroughly, though briefly enjoyed the experience at the time. You see, it didn’t really stick with me at that time. Some of the new features were poorly explained in the game, of what they were and how they functioned, most namely Adventure mode and the Nephalem rifts. So my end-game experience with it was limited, despite getting to around Paragon Level 30 before setting the game aside.
That in mind, we move forward to the present. Several patches and updates later, Blizzard has introduced the Seasons and some rather positive changes to the game in those updates and the Seasons. So let’s cover what the Seasons are first.
Seasons are, essentially, a Player Ladder/Ranking system. You start your character out carte blanche, without the resources, equipment, progress, or Paragon Levels you attained previously. You work your way forward, trying to progress with the promise of new, exciting items, gems, quests, and features that only become available in the rest of the game after the Season in question ends. The first two seasons were apparently tests to see how well the various facets of this would work. Season 3 is the first extended test that includes many of the features they hope to continue in Seasons, which means that provided they keep up with their development and work in the future, Seasons will make a nifty way to keep the game fresh and interesting for everyone, as well as provide a competitive side to the game.
It’s Season 3 that I’ve been playing recently, and it is an absolute blast. I’ve finally got a good grasp on the end game, and in some ways, I prefer it over the regular game progress for its ever changing nature and how it encourages players to push the envelope of their character’s abilities and limitations to get that much more performance and neat stuff out of things. The way the game plays and handles is heavily reminiscent to me of my cherished days on Diablo II and this is pretty close to the game I was hoping Diablo III could be.
As of the time I wrote this, the list of options players have available to amuse themselves in the game ranges from PvP, to exploring Nephalem Rifts, to tracking down the ever-expanding list of Treasure Goblin variants. And of course, one may always enter Whimsydale to annihilate Pink Fluffy Unicorns and traverse its psychedelic landscape for a few chuckles, but now they can do so through the Rainbow Goblin, which, when killed, leaves a portal to that world. If I had a gripe or two, is that the level 70 level cap is weird and irritating (why can’t we just get to Level 100, Blizzard? Is it really that much to ask for?) and that Blood Shards and throwing them at Kadala can be a frustrating experience, especially when she taunts you about how nice the 6 low stat magical shields you just obtained were really worth the effort of getting those shards.
I really wished Blood Shards had more you could do with them than just fritter them away on chance. Or perhaps provide a low cost, but highly random ‘grab’ bag option that could be anything from Gems, Gold, crappy shields, or anything else. Or some way to otherwise customize or improve your gear (maybe upgrading that standard legendary to an ancient with enough blood shards?), anything, that would make them seem more than a currency for getting enraged at a string of twenty low roll rares. Please.
I also wished that we could trade a little more effectively between friends and guild members (I run a small guild that’s really just a way for me to collect my friends and their friends in a single chat space and organize parties). As it stands, it’s extremely, head-bashing-against-a-floor-frustrating that I cannot trade (for instance) a set piece that might help a friend’s Barbarian for a set piece for a Crusader that would help my build, UNLESS we were in the same game and traded within two hours of obtaining said items. I understand that Blizzard wishes to limit the influence of Gold Miners, cheaters, and the like, but it’s also not so cool that people on my friends list or in my tiny guild cannot effectively work together to pool resources and play the game more cooperatively. I do support that if you’ve modified your gear’s stats with enchantment, that it shouldn’t be tradeable, but the fact remains that I feel the lack of trading between people closely associated with one another is a detriment to the game experience.
Another thing I really dislike is how the game seems to limit private games to only 4 people. I miss the days when you could have a mob of friends rush bosses and dish out goofy amounts of damage. You still can, kinda, but it’s not the same with only four players.
Map layouts can be either huge or small. There’s a woeful lack, however, of the same sort of rambling, labyrinthine dungeon spaces that you found in the previous games, excluding sections of Act 3 and Act 5 where you have areas that resemble the earlier versions of the game, albeit altogether smaller and less epic in general scale. The details throughout every area of the game, though, are marvelous and it’s a joy to smash things, even if there are considerably fewer barrels around for people to smash through with glee.
I also will insert my obligatory desire that they’d not given us Witch-Doctors, and instead stuck with the (really really awesome, I thought) Necromancers as a class. Alas, alas…
All that, however, still does not detract from the overwhelmingly positive and fun experience I’ve had since I started with Season 3, and I hope that those who are still on the fence about the game reconsider and give the game a try (with the expansion, Crusaders are so much cooler than Paladins ever where) or at the least, look into it. The game-play is glass-smooth, each class feels unique and purposeful for a specific role in a party, and the overall feel of the game is reminiscent of the earlier titles. I wish the game had a more oppressive, desperate environment and feeling but the music and ambient sounds are top-notch, and many of the other sounds you get are great as well. I miss the satisfying ‘klonk’ of skulls in my inventory, but for the most part, the sounds in the game are great. The voice acting for characters is solid, and the dialog well-written and sometimes rather amusing. All in all, a game worth the money in my opinion, if you miss dungeon crawlers as a whole.
For those interested, here’s a link to the official Diablo III website: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/