Review

Diablo III

Click Like Hell

Diablo III deals with the devil.

By Gus Mastrapa • May 22, 2012

There are two ways to play Diablo III. The first is to run willy-nilly from boss fight to boss fight, pausing only to smite the demons who stand in your way. Or obsessive  dungeon crawlers can methodically sweep every cursed cave and decrepit castle exterminating all evil, collecting every piece of gold and hoarding busted old swords and boots like a medieval Fred Sanford.

Either way, Blizzard’s 12-years-in-the-making action role-player is about compulsion, ambition and the delightful friction of conflict—all the evils that men do.

It is not coincidental that Diablo III hinges upon the eternal battle between heaven and hell, with humanity forever caught in the middle. Everything goes south when your hero (or heroes, since up to four can play cooperatively) follows a fallen star to a feudal town where the dead are rising from their graves. Here we meet Deckard Cain, the Yoda of our tale, and Leah—a plucky lass who has absorbed the old man’s arcane knowledge the occult as a non-paid intern. The game’s developer, Blizzard, holds Star Wars in higher estimation than Judeo-Christian myth. Despite being indebted to the vision of Hades popularized by Dante, the game is scrubbed clean of crucifix and pentagram, but Leah damn near quotes Luke Skywalker when she tells the tale of her father’s untimely death at the hands of demon marauders.

Though there’s fantasy lore and some solid character motivation to be found on the sidelines, Diablo’s plot is really about the scenery—where you go, who you’re killing there, and the big nasty you’ll face at the end of it all. The progression feels good. Once the zombies and skeletons are cleansed from their tombs and torture chambers, the whole production migrates to a sandblown approximation of the Arabian Nights, across the ramparts of a massive fortress under siege and, as if there were ever any doubt, from the depths of the abyss to the gates of heaven.

Diablo III

The fact that you fight a horned devil named Diablo at the end of Diablo III should come as no surprise. The trajectory of a dungeon crawler like this unspools predictably. That’s because it is meant to be consumed over and over, like a Catholic rosary. The lures to do so are many. The promise of epic weapons and resplendent pieces of armor are a huge motivator. When monsters die, gold, gems, and armaments explode from their fallen corpses in a satisfying fountain, leaving the heroes to scrabble for their goodies like kids scavenging the innards of a broken piñata. There’s always that chance of scoring a super-rare item with the orange aura of a legendary find—the kind of gear your character will wield for ages, or pass down to friends and family like an heirloom. And as any lottery addict will tell you, you can’t win if you don’t play.

In a major departure from RPG doctrine, Blizzard has streamlined the dull work of statistic tweaking in favor of something more gratifying. As the game goes on, your character gains new skills that can you can immediately try out on your foes. Much of the moment-to-moment fun of Diablo III is found experimenting with combinations until you’ve found the sweet spot that best suits your play style. With teammates, these decisions are more interesting. A tight-knit team can wreak major havoc by freezing, slowing, and crushing enemies in concert. Or a thoughtful partner can support a reckless ally by providing a well-timed heal or distracting ranged attack. This free-wheeling experimentation also means that players can come at a tricky fight from a new angle—altering their character’s powers on the fly when facing a tough monster a second time, or even in the midst of battle.The fact that so much customization can be crammed into a game that’s so easy to play is somewhat surprising.

Diablo III

Blizzard took years to sand down all the rough edges, leaving the only purposeful, for-fun friction to get between the player and their goal. Some of the best moments are when the game swats your hand to guide it. A lumbering tree-beast leaves poisonous cabbages amongst its roots, discouraging combatants from simply standing and fighting. Stand in poison, fire, or swirling black sorcery, and you’ll die. This is one lesson among many, and it’s revisited in surprising ways, preparing the player for future encounters. 

Diablo III did not come off completely without a hitch. Slammed servers plagued the game’s first several days, underlining the fact that you’re playing Diablo III online even when you’re rolling solo. This isn’t the great blasphemy that some make it out to be. You’re meant to feel a little weird for wanting to play a game like this alone and disconnected, coveting your save file like it knows your greatest secrets. Diablo III is a game best played promiscuously, with best buds, acquaintances and strangers. It wants to be taken out of sequence, from new angles and, most importantly, over and over and over. And since this is the future we’re living in, all this happens in public, on a server, under the watchful eye of our corporate overlords. Tying the game to one company’s network hub gives the game a limited lifespan. When the apocalypse comes, you sadly won’t be able to play Diablo III on your Omega Man stationary bike. Sinfully anti-consumer? Maybe. But we all knew the world was going to hell anyway.

Diablo III
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Mac, PC
Reviewed on: PC
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • doyourealize

    The user “reviews” of this game over at Metacritic make for some entertaining reading.  This review appropriately mentions the server problems in a single sentence, amplifying the fact that maybe you couldn’t play on release day, but you could the day after, and still can now, so the idea of giving a game a 0 out of 10 based on “I had to play another video game instead of Diablo 3” seems spoiled.  I understand a little irritation, but apparently it’s still a great game, so tone it down a bit.  To quote, Louis CK, “Would you give it a minute?  It’s going to space!”

    As for me, I have to wait to spend money on this, and it’s killing me.  And this review doesn’t help.  It sounds like just what I need right now.  Is getting married worth having to wait a few months before you can spend money of fun things?

    • dreadguacamole

      Meh. I really like the game, but not being able to play offline is a pretty big problem and a horrible precedent. Of course there’s asshats like the ones overreacting on Metacritic, but I really do think that requiring the game to be online if you don’t intend to play with others is a pretty rotten idea. A very rocky launch has only underlined this.

      • Effigy_Power

         @dreadguacamole:disqus is sadly correct, I find. Great things can be significantly wrecked by details and the way Blizzard is going with its games is not encouraging.
        Diablo III would have been a nice entertainment this summer at the lake, whacking demons on the noggin’ while sitting by a roaring fire, but since there’s no internet in the sticks, I don’t get to play it.
        Sure, that’s a pretty specific complaint and won’t affect a lot of people, but my issue is that this was kept secret until the day of release.
        Blizzard had 12 years to prep people for this kind of piracy-protection (which, according to plenty of torrent sites, doesn’t seem to work for more than a few days anyways) but chose not to. Instead one is overloaded with legal screens and login-boxes on launch day (or hilariously critical reviews the day after).
        The only reason I can think of Blizzard keeping this such a tight-knit secret is that they knew it would cut into sales. That makes the secrecy about this a little detestable.
        The game is still pretty fun, not as world-shattering as the decade-long delay and massive pre-order hype would indicate, but well done enough. But playing it this way feels a bit as though I have someone look over my shoulder at all times.

        • Cheese

          Secret until release day? They announced it something like 9 months ago according to a cursory googling.

        • Effigy_Power

           Wow, second failure to research something properly on my part.
          Doesn’t change the fact that it is there, but changes a lot of what I said.
          My bad (Number 2), @TheOnceAndFutureCheese:disqus .

        • dreadguacamole

          There’s always Torchlight 2; no online requirement, LAN support, and the fact that minus the production values, it’s looking at least as good as Diablo 3. Grim Dawn, which should be out sometime next year, also looks very promising.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Still, the fact that you, an average consumer with an above-average interest in games culture (indicated by your commenting on this site), were unaware of this aspect until release indicates that Blizzard was certainly less-than-forthcoming about it.

        • Effigy_Power

           @bakana42:disqus : That may be my own fault however. I’ve ended my gaming relationship with Blizzard after wresting my life away from them after succumbing to 17 months of WoW. I wanted to give them another chance with Starcraft 2, but was so disappointed with it (again, until launch I wasn’t aware that all we get was the Terran campaign, through my own bad research or Blizzard being a little quiet about it), that now I am evading every article that names Blizzard.
          Again, my criticism is very centered on my own gamer-profile and shouldn’t be taken as general advice. I watched 30 minutes of Diablo 3 at a friend’s place and found it somewhat amusing, but to be honest I think that Torchlight has infinitely more charm and just seems to run a lot better.

        • DadlikedThomasEdison

          The thing about Starcraft II is that there are practically the same number of missions in that Terran campaign as in all of the first game. To compare it to one campaign in the first Starcraft is to complain for the sake of complaining rather than actually compare the two games.

          When I read comments of that nature I get no indication from the commenter about whether or not they played the game and were disappointed in some real aspect of the game as opposed to projecting what the game would be like (or just feel like) based on a few words they focused on.

        • Effigy_Power

          The criticism is that I liked the Protoss many times over the very boring and scifi standard Terrans and got barely more than a teaser of them in SC2.
          Feel free to nitpick, but don’t pretend to know my reasons for criticizing things. I’m not going to rewrite my complete list of negatives for every bucko who comes along when I already mentioned them several times before in other posts… that’s the luxury of a small community I take for myself.

      • George_Liquor

        Shades of the Starcraft 2 release here. One would think Blizzard would have taken a few notes when their servers shat the bed the first time.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Didn’t Valve already set this precedent like a decade ago by requiring you to be online and logged into Steam to play any of their games?

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Only kinda. When you’ve logged into Steam and started a game, you’re good. You won’t be thrown out of your game or anything should your connection or their servers crap out. You can also put the client in offline mode if you want to take your games on the road, or if there’s a scheduled maintenance. Also I don’t know of any Valve games where the actual game logic is run on servers. Apparently some Australian players are pretty much fucked right now with 300+ms pings. D3 isn’t Virtua Fighter or anything, but roughly 20 frames of input lag can’t be good.

        • dreadguacamole

          No, not really – You should only need to be connected to download and install the game. After that, Steam games usually work even when offline.
           I’m not a Steam apologist. but at least if their games don’t work offline, it’s because something went wrong.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      The problem is that the servers didn’t just go down on launch day. They went down repeatedly for a couple of days after launch day, and they’ve also gone down for several minutes at a time at various points throughout the past week.

      On top of that, quite a few players are reporting lag issues that make it appear as if character and NPCs are jumping around the map.

      And now, several players’ accounts have been hacked, which has made it impossible for them to access their accounts. The hackers weren’t guessing at passwords; they actually found and exploited a security flaw.

      Look, I really love the concept of the “cloud,” where everything is stored on mega-servers, and it’s available to be accessed any time, anywhere, and on any device. But until developers can ensure hack-proof security, as well as minimal, scheduled downtime, and until everyone has access to cheap, lightning-fast Internet, it simply isn’t practical. Blizzard is trying to operate ten years in the future with the tools of five years ago. Of course it wasn’t going to work.

      • doyourealize

        I heard about the accounts being hacked, and that sucks, as is sucks to not be able to play your game right away.  I know these things, and as I said, “I understand a little irritation” (more than a little for those whose accounts were hacked).  I just think responding with rage that seems reserved for the worst kind of situations seems overblown.  User reviewers should take a second to think about what the argument really is.   Launch day (week) problems are just that, launch problems, and they will be ironed out.  It does not mean “Blizzard doesn’t give a **** about his community/fans/users/clients” (user review). 

        Also, about Blizzard jumping 5 years into the future, i think someone had to do it.  And whoever did it would probably experience a small disaster.  The real question will be, “How does Blizzard respond to the disaster?”  Especially for PC, always online was, if not a necessary step, a predictable one.

        • morley

          @Merve I just mean that there’s hearsay and conjecture about the hacks being a system-wide security exploit, and not the result of phishing or keylogging, which are not system flaws.

      • morley

        I’m not sure I buy your conclusion that Diablo 3 hasn’t worked. 

        The launch day downtime was pretty bad, but considering that millions and millions of people tried to play the game that day, and still servers were back up by 7pm EDT, things turned out pretty well. Has there ever been a major MMO release that hasn’t experienced launch day hiccups? And this has to be the biggest-scale release yet.About the hacked accounts: so far, I’ve only seen anecdotal evidence and hearsay. The reports about exploits were merely conjecture offered by forum posters. I reserve judgment on that front until the facts are in.

        And about requiring an internet connection: this argument seems specious to me. No one complains about Guild Wars or WoW requiring an internet connection. While it’s conceivable that Blizzard could have designed a non-Internet-enabled game, it’s their choice what sort of game they want to design. And they were pretty clear they wanted to design a game that required an Internet connection.

        My own personal experience — and yes, this is anecdotal evidence — is that I got my money’s worth.

        • dreadguacamole

           Diablo 3 isn’t an MMO, though. Take away the online aspects from Guild Wars 2 or WoW, and you lose components vital to the gameplay. Diablo 3 would lose multiplayer and the auction house.
           This is a lot closer to Ubisoft requiring a constant online connection to play their games. Only that Blizzard have built a lot more goodwill than Ubi, so they get people defending them rather than lambasting them.

           Have I gotten my money’s worth out of Diablo? Sure; I’ve finished it once already, soloing all the way – and I’m now starting to wade through it at a harder difficulty. Have all the problems I’ve had playing the game this last week dampened my enjoyment of the game? Absolutely.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        @doyourealize:disqus: Don’t get me wrong; I think Metacritic bombing is hilariously immature. But I do think that people have the right to be ticked off if a game they paid good money for doesn’t work when they want it to.

        @morley:disqus: I hope that Eurogamer employees aren’t making up stories about their own accounts being hacked, but you never know. Video game rage can cause people to do crazy things.

        Blizzard is well within its rights to make an online game if it wants. I just question whether that decision has led to a better experience for the average player.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I’m in the camp that it sets a terrible precedent for us people who buy and play games. It’s not only that I can’t play it when my internet craps out, I can’t play with mods or mess around with the settings or anything like that. And what about other countries without widespread broadband internet? They’re just shit out of luck.

      The lack of LAN in SC2 was bad enough, and this is just terrible. I like to play my games singleplayer, even though my internet isn’t that great all the time.

      • doyourealize

        And I think there could be a reasonable argument to be had about this…it’s just not going on at Metacritic.  I said somewhere else on this board that Blizzard’s choice to always be online was at least a predictable, if not necessary, step, but either way it’s a new thing that will become the norm or fade away.  From a business standpoint, I understand Blizzard’s decision.  From a gamer’s standpoint, I feel gypped, or at least would if I had the game.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Oh, no doubt that most “gamers” who post comments online are self entitled shitwads. I’m just worried about the precedent that this sets. Activision-Blizzard have been slowly going this route with their games over the past few years and it’s pretty awful to see people complain so vocally about but buy them anyway because they’re spineless. Like, it’s not that difficult to not buy a videogame.

          But yeah, I haven’t bought a Blizz game since WC3. I think the goodwill they’ve earned over the years is starting to dwindle, finally.

      • caspiancomic

         @Douchetoevsky:disqus basically nailed my exact feelings on the matter. I understand the viewpoint that the Diablo III servers eventually returned to life and now everyone can play this groovy game in peace, and whatever. But really, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I feel like this is a terrible direction for games to be going in. Video games are already a really bizarre medium, and we put up with a lot of garbage from companies that adherents of other mediums would never tolerate.

        (Tangent: Can you imagine if film companies released a movie on Blu-ray, and then like 3 months down the line released a fifteen minute short with the same characters and charged people ten bucks for it? How about if you always had to be connected to the internet in order to read a book on your Kindle? It’s even weird thinking about how we have multiple incompatible platforms for our games: when there are two competing formats in the video industry one of them tends to go down in flames before the other really takes off. Remember HD-DVDs? How long were they around, like 3 years?)

        But yeah, like Fyodor said, this Blizzard thing is a lot bigger than people realize, and just because the launch week wrinkles got ironed out doesn’t mean that the system works. People haven’t even asked about things like the modding community, or community patches, or anything like that, and that may not be important today, but in ten years’ time it could be pretty important. And don’t say people won’t be playing this game in ten years, if Blizzard keeps this pattern up we won’t be seeing Diablo IV until 2037.

    • caspiancomic

       Metacritic bombing is a really interesting phenomenon to study. See, on the whole, I think it’s a very interesting, useful, and effective method of getting the majority’s voice heard by companies that often seem monolithic and uncaring. Theses companies pay attention to things like Metascore, some smaller development companies even get bonuses from their publishers based on their games’ Metascores, so seeing that critical reviews are through the roof but user reviews are through the floor sends a pretty clear message. Especially if that message is something really specific, like “this game is or should be good, but invasive DRM is ruining the experience for the players.” I remember something like this happening for Spore when it first came out.

      On the other hand, when you look more closely at the individual reviews that make up the whole, it tends to be a complete clusterfuck. If every 0.0 review was erudite and level headed it would send a much better message, but so many of the reviews are embarrassing childish tantrums. The most killer part of it is that in my opinion the gamers are right, and we should let Blizzard know that we don’t want mandatory online DRM cluttering up our games. But instead of getting a reasoned, unified movement of users utilizing a service available to them to communicate with their corporate overlords, we get a bunch of petulant children throwing their toys out of the crib. It would be like if you got a really close look at Occupy Wall Street and instead of a political protest it was actually just a huge barbecue.

      • doyourealize

        People’s comments on this thread make me wonder how backwards the gaming community is (even more so than before).  As you, @Douchetoevsky:disqus and @Merve2:disqus have pointed out (and others I’m sure), gamers have a legitimate gripe about Blizzard’s decision to go “always online”.  And as I’ve said, I understand Blizzard’s decision as a business practice.  Put these two together, and the gamers who yell so loud about these problems have a simple solution:  make DRM a bad business.  In other words, stop buying these things.  I wonder how many of those yelling the loudest knew all this stuff beforehand, and still took to the internet to bitch about it after they bought it anyway.  My guess is 100%.

        I know it’s been said before, but “it’s not that difficult to not buy a video game.”  I’ve spent most of my time just getting irritated at the screamers that I don’t think I ever heard the actual argument behind all the noise.

        Edit: I know the above “solution” seems obvious, but I’ve always just thought, “If it’s really that bad, people wouldn’t buy it.” After reading everyone’s comments here, I realize that’s probably not true.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Spydrouge Melissa Kronenberger

          It’s not that difficult to not buy a video game? Honey, that’s like telling a football enthuse  it’s “not that difficult to miss the Superbowl”. The experience I get from playing the game dramatically outweighs the irritation I get from the DRM, so I buy the game. As long as Blizz (or any other company) is releasing games that supply a greater positive experience than the irritation posed by the DRM, people will buy.

          Gamers are not going to unite to protest online authentication because current online authentication methods don’t suck enough. They aren’t bad enough. They don’t irritate enough people. They irritate you, and me, and some other guy, and the next guy, but statistically speaking it’s just not bad enough to stop me from buying, and I’m in the majority. Also if you haven’t played the game, or if you aren’t the game’s target market, then you really don’t know what you’re saying when you espouse ‘It’s not that difficult to not buy a video game.”

          DRM will peak and remain at whatever level that optimizes user happiness + games-not-pirated. Blizz will look at our irritation, look at the marketing data, and decide if it was worth it. If they irritated us too badly, and their methods were too ineffectual, online authentication will be dropped. But if we were only /somewhat/ irritated and if that number matches up with games-not-pirated in a statistically pleasing way, then online authentication will continue. 

          I am only very slightly irritated. So if they stopped enough pirates and the marketing data looks good, DRM will most likely continue. If they didn’t catch enough pirates, my slight irritation will be enough to end the online authentication. 

          • doyourealize

            When I first read that “it’s not that hard to not buy a videogame,” I though the same thing as you. But after I thought about it, I realized I do it all the time. Certain games are more difficult to steer away from than others, but there’s always another game you can play, whereas there won’t be another Superbowl until next year. And I am exactly the target-market for Diablo 3, so it’s not that, either.

            Also, if you’re only “slightly irritated”, then you don’t fall into the category of raging gamers over at Metacritic that I was criticizing, and therefore your response to DRM is reasonable, which is the kind of reaction I think we should all strive for.

  • Swadian Knight

    I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d get it until I read it had poisonous cabbages. Now I’m completely sold.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Video games need more vegetable-based villains. Keen Dreams can’t hold the torch all by itself!

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom had a plethora of fruit and vegetable-based heroes and villains!

        Also, as chance would have it, I’m just now getting around to playing through FF12, and just encountered this adorable set of “bosses”:
        http://www.esperiae.net/ffxii/walkthrough/images/chapter7/sochencavepalace1.jpg

      • HobbesMkii

         When do we get a videogame adaptation of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        @HobbesMkii:disqus: Wikipedia says that three video game adaptations exist: one for 8-bit computers; one for the NES; and one for the Gameboy. But there hasn’t been one in the past twenty years. I think a full-fledged 3D Killer Tomatoes game in the vein of No One Lives Forever would be awesome.

  • PoorPoorBob1

    Just finished my first play through last night. Oddly enough, I found the final Diablo fight less challenging than the boss fight at the end of Act II, but then again, I’d learned a lot about how to handle certain types of fights in between the two. 

    Overall, I love the game, hate the online-only aspect. I’ll be notching up the difficulty level and playing again soon.

  • Basement Boy

    I’m still slowly wading into the game (my Demon Huntress is only L7 thus far) but am loving it. Good old-school questiness paired with gorgeously dark environments, and I’ve only experienced one server drop… no biggie; in fact until that point, I hadn’t realized the extent of randomization going on in levels.

    Still wishing there were WASD movement controls (which are deeply ingrained in me after 300+ hours of The Binding Of Isaac)… my left hand gets pretty bored just occasionally punching the “1″ or the “Q” key… on the plus side, it frees Lefty up for in-game masturbating… kidding!!

    Also, I followed some random online dude’s advice and have been playing with headphones (while being lightly baked, my addition to the equation) and the sound design is fucking amazingly layered!

    P.S. Thanks for the writeup Gus; after many years of video-dungeon-crawling, I’d never considered myself “a medieval Fred Sanford” but I do tend to scout and scour all the nooks and crannies for goodies.

  • blastor138

     The problem with playing a one-player game online at all times is that if you have a bad connection (or what the Bliz servers deem to be a bad connection) you’ll be dropped from the game and have to start whatever dungeon you were playing over again.  It’s called “Error 3007″.  I’ve tried all kinds of work arounds that the Bilz staff suggested on their forums and I still can’t play the game for more than 15 minutes without getting booted.

    So, yeah, the online thing is kind of awful.

  • tedthefed

    Why are video game companies so bizarrely desperate to get us all playing multiplayer and all social and all connecting?  Video gaming is about playing a damn game.  Nobody cares that I got an achievement or a certain number of kills or a high score… why is the entire industry starting to be about this stuff?  Aside from Words With Friends, I can’t understand how being online is adding one iota to my gaming experience.

    I’m seriously asking: Why are they doing this?  How does it help them make money?  

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      The always online thing is so that they can prevent piracy (lol). Also, without LAN and the need to be connected to their servers, they can make sure that if you want to try it out with a friend, you both need to buy the whole game. And I think they’re planning on making bank with the real money auction house, so forcing everyone to be online is a way to shove that in your face. 

      My favorite part about all this is seeing them try to spin these clearly anti-consumer “features” into actual “we love you, you stupid gamers! features.” Oh, and the fanboys who eat it up and defend it in comments.

      • Cloks

        I think the always online thing was so that players couldn’t fake items for the auction house.

    • http://www.onelinetaxcode.com/ root (1ltc)

      As long as there has been arcade games there has always been score competition. Putting that aspect of it online is the easiest way to have limitless competition without leaving your house to find it.

      Most players of games only care about competing against their friends, and most players don’t have the luxury of congregating in the same physical place to do so, at least frequently enough to make substantial progress in playing something. Making everything online just facilitates this process as much as possible.

      An insidious aspect to this all – which I’m personally encountering for the first time, as I’ve avoided online RPGs like PSO and WOW like the plague – is that this mentality implicitly demands that you devote more time to playing than you may want to commit, because if you don’t play as much as your friends do, you are left behind and become a liability.

      • tedthefed

         I don’t buy it.  Competition works when it’s Galaga; it works for Words With Friends, and it works for Street Fighter.  But even in the days of the arcade, most people just wanted to let off steam and have some fun; the dudes all gathered around one machine were the weirdos.

        What people want, really, is either entertainment or a story, and nothing else matters.  Frankly, I think a lot of industry people (and industry researchers, who are my colleagues and who creep me out) are just really fucking ideological about SHARING AND OPENNESS AND GODDAMN THE FUTURE INTERACTIVITY AND AARRRGHG
        I think people who go into making video games are just low-rent Zuckerbergs who think that IF ITS NOT SHARED THEN YOU’RE LIVING IN THE PAST, when really no one gives a fuck, but we’ll all having it forced upon us regardless.

        Personally, most on-line games are completely ISOLATING to me, because I’m surrounded by strangers and none of us are doing anything that matters at all; none of what’s happening adds up to anything.
        But a game with a story, or with a great gameplay mechanic, I feel like I’m connecting with the designers or writers. 
        Thankfully, indie developers get that, but the big companies just don’t.

  • http://www.onelinetaxcode.com/ root (1ltc)

    I’m in the middle of Act 3 and halfway to Level 31. I played Diablo 1 for all of ten minutes and never Diablo 2. Thoughts:

    I’m surprised by the bad scripting and voice acting. A majority of the spoken lines follow a stereotype of the character’s image so closely that it borders on comedic, and I’m displeased with how the characters wildly and cyclically move when speaking. Yes, you want to have a visual cue when the character is speaking, but shouldn’t they do more than flail their arms about in a robotic rhythm? At least, shouldn’t something more than that be expected from a game by Blizzard? The overall narrative is similarly cliched. I haven’t sought out other reviews of this game to see if it’s been mentioned elsewhere, but I was hoping to see anything written about it here.

    Playing the game still feels rather tedious overall, especially at the beginning. The mechanic of “click on an enemy and watch the character attack and be attacked until something dies” is not particularly engaging, and doesn’t evolve much throughout the course of play. In respect of this, to respond to a line of the review:

    In a major departure from RPG doctrine, Blizzard has streamlined the dull work of statistic tweaking in favor of something more gratifying. As the game goes on, your character gains new skills

    The new skills to be acquired are sparse and only a few of them actually allow the character to do something different from the standard attack. I also don’t see how new skill acquisition is particularly distinctive, as many RPGs which I have played within the last 10/15 years offer the same concept.

    I also feel like statistic tweaking is still a major part of this game. After spending a few hours playing, it became very clear to me that the most important things to pay attention to is what kind of intrinsic bonuses your equipment gives and maintaining distinct sets of goods in order to facilitate a given goal – ability augments for boss battles, gold increases to work on increasing crafting ability or inventory space, and experience increases when trudging through the standard course of the game.

    I wouldn’t say that Diablo 3 is terrible, but so far I’m not very impressed.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I’m not too keen on this genre at all. I hate grinding in games, and it seems like that’s all of what these games are. I played a bit of Diablo 2, Torchlight, and Titan Quest (which I played with some friends). None of them seemed particularly fun, just getting higher numbers for your health and attack and all that.

      Then I hear some people say that they play all of Blizzard’s games for the story. When have they ever had a good story for a game? The writing and voice acting is always either passable or just bad. It’s usually cliche after cliche, and the art direction is usually boring too. I honestly don’t understand all the fanboys. 

      Blizz games always seem like they have been polished to death, but lack anything spectacular. I guess they just aren’t for me. 

      ALSO, I hate that they cost $60 now. Valve games are still $50 when they come out on PC. harumph.

      • http://www.onelinetaxcode.com/ root (1ltc)

        Do you not remember when Genesis and SNES RPGs were $70 new? And that’s in 1990 dollars.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Oh, I know. But still, going back to that is definitely an annoyance, at least. I rarely buy at full price anyway, because Steam sales. So it really doesn’t matter for me, but it’s there.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/KDAH337DI42PLCMPSXDKF47HOY Thomas OLeary

        I actually thought that WarCraft 3 had an excellent story, especially the Human Campaign.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          I don’t really like the fantasy stuff in general, but if something about it is exceptional (writing, whatever) I can enjoy it. Warcraft 3′s story did absolutely nothing for me. I sort of wish I got the hype, but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on anything.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Spydrouge Melissa Kronenberger

        I guess I’m just mildly confused as to why you’ve posted on this particular forum topic so much. You don’t seem to like the genre of the game. Which, by default, means you probably aren’t going to like the game- even if its the best in genre. 

        I mean it would be like me disliking action movies and then hanging around commenting on an action movie.  

        Why so interested in talking about it? The DRM moving you to act out?

        As for the storytelling, again I don’t think you’re the target audience. The story in a Blizz game operates at about the same level as the story in Avatar. If you disliked one, you probably dislike the other. These stories are like pulp fiction novels: they are for pleasurable consumption, not mind-blowing deep-thinking.

        If you critique a pleasurable-consumption game for not being mind-blowing, you’re critiquing an apple for not being an orange. 

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          I think it makes for an interesting discussion. It seems strange to me that there are all these game breaking issues that people are dealing with and the reviews are still overwhelmingly positive. 

          I am actually concerned that this is setting a terrible precedent for future releases by showing companies that people really don’t give a fuck about DRM and stuff like that, as long as they can play the newest game that everyone is talking about. 

          I also think Blizz’s fanbase is interesting. I am rather curious as to how they still have so much goodwill from gaming communities in general. They honestly seem pretty shitty to me. 

          I’m probably not in the target audience, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t/shouldn’t criticize it. It’s strange how much people let slide when it comes to this stuff. 

    • dreadguacamole

       Yeah, the writing is terrible, but there’s a lot of it; I’ve found that if there’s enough lore, even if it’s poor, a percentage of people will flock to it. Since so many people play Blizzard games, that number is quite big (and vocal). It’s a weird phenomenon.
       Though I agree with a lot of your points, I still liked it a bit more than you did; I’m a bit of a sucker for the genre, though.
       It’s a very, very slick game – slick to the point of being a bit soul-less, like most Blizzard games – but the rewards and progression are calculated perfectly, and the feedback from the game is wonderful – the way the different classes affect both enemies and the environment feels great and does a lot to make the moment-to-moment gameplay feel good. It’s a bit of a hollow experience, but a very addicting one nonetheless.
       One thing I did notice is that the pacing is a bit shoddy throughout; you know in Torchlight, where goblins or whatever jump at you from ledges or climb up the scenery at you? While Torchlight does that to hurl numbers of enemies at you, Diablo throws them at you one at a time… sloooowly. there’s a sparseness to the game that works against it. It gets much better when you play with others or in nightmare mode, so having the option to start out in a harder difficulty would have been extremely welcome.
      The other thing I can’t find is a way to switch abilities easily on the fly – a la other ARPG’s weapon sets, which makes boss and mini-boss encounters a pain.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Spydrouge Melissa Kronenberger

      I am not sure you are the target demographic. You don’t seem to like the /type/ of game that Diablo3 is.

      • KidvanDanzig

        I don’t know why you keep saying this. Activision / Blizzard doesn’t really have a “demo” for D3, it’s about as close as games get to James Cameron event films.

        Also, game design is a craft, it can be done poorly or well, and with that said it’s not necessary for one to get on board the fantrain before you can level a critique at something.

  • eaturbrain

    “In a major departure from RPG doctrine, Blizzard has streamlined the
    dull work of statistic tweaking in favor of something more gratifying.”

    I dunno, I kinda find statistic tweaking pretty gratifying. I recognize that others don’t, but it would have been nice to have the option to allocate points as I wanted. I like the skill/rune system in theory, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference in gameplay based on which runes you pick (at least for my level 34 Barbarian, currently in Act I of Nightmare).

    I am not a huge fan of the always online feature. I didn’t have a strong opinion about it going in, but the launch day mess, and the times I have lost loot/progress because of it have made me dislike it quite a bit.

    The game overall is fine. It’s fun, but I don’t have nearly the compulsion to play it
    as I did Diablo 2. I think that might say more about me and other games on my hard drive than it does D3.

    Also, I’m sure the other games in the series weren’t any less dumb about their plot/story, but maaaaan is this one goofy.

  • frogandbanjo

    I apologize for the rant, but I’ve needed to get this off of my chest. It’s a forum, it’s on the internet, so here goes.

    The only meaningful player skill in Diablo 3 is running away. The point-and-click interface (with an assist from the wretched player pathing AI) is a horrible one for facilitating precise and quick movements by players. This is what is known colloquially as a cosmic boner.

    While that’s probably the worst non-decision Blizzard made, there were plenty of other proactive decisions that were equally terrible. They included a skill-gating leveling system in the game, despite the fact that they wanted people to figure out skill/rune combinations to solve problems presented by various packs of elite mobs – which, at endgame, provide better loot than the far-easier plot bosses. This decision was terrible for two reasons: first, it had players go through the entire game multiple times without ever having had access to their full toolset, while all the while they were supposed to be experimenting with builds to solve particular problems effectively. Second, by restricting the number of skills available at any given time, Blizzard introduced a “run and/or die” slowdown into the game every time a spec needs to be changed for a particularly pernicious elite pack. Adding insult to injury is the level 60 stacking magic-find buff for keeping your spec the same whilst killing consecutive elite packs; which is it, Blizzard? Swap skills to solve problems, or find one really great catch-all build so that the loot lottery becomes slightly less painful? Here’s a hint: if you’re a melee class, choose the least fun and melee-appropriate build you can think of. That’s the one out of which you’ll get the most mileage at endgame.

    By failing to tweak the interface at all, save allowing easier access to six active skills via keyboard shortcuts (and yet, no keyboard movement…. sigh) Blizzard also failed to solve one of the core problems of D2: that melee-as-melee is a boring, binary affair where the math says you win or you lose, give or take a few proper button pushes where applicable. Yet, they still included melee classes in the game. I harp on the specifics below, but it’s best understood as a critique of Blizzard’s entire approach to D3. They spent a decade – ten years! – polishing a cracked foundation. And they didn’t even do such a great job with that, setting aside two things: sound, and prerendered cut scenes. Leah looks great in those cutscenes; can’t take that away from them.

    While perhaps monks are having an easier time than barbarians in the breach, the basic problem remains the same: what can you do to make melee interesting? You have your vampiric regen, distance-closers, crowd control, and your damage dealing. That’s pretty much the whole bag of tricks, except for simply stacking defense in the form of more health and more mitigation. If you give the melee character the tools to do the job, he sits there and clicks his distance closer, maintains cc, and swings his weapons. If he loses, he’s either hilariously inept at using an AoE stun or a knockback, or his offense/defense is deficient for the content. The former could, conceivably, be true for the (easy) plot bosses. They have huge tells so that player skill becomes more of a factor. That’s why they’ve all been downed already at max difficulty. For the elite packs out in the world, tells mean little when 4 or more enemies are all telling you you’re going to die from different angles. It’s really a simple math problem at that point. Basic, boring, bland.

    In practice, it appears as though barbarians in particular are being forced to play as a ranged class at higher difficulty levels – albeit one that has a shitty resource mechanic for ranged, and more than half a class worth of abilities that are useless for a ranged kiting build. There’s stages of grief, after a fashion. First you think it’s the gear. Stack defense, use a shield. Then you think it’s the spec – focus it all on defense. Then you think it’s just cooldowns – stack long cooldowns, go in and actually fight for 5-7 seconds, then run away. Then, finally – roundabouts Act II Inferno, according to most reports – the gearing and leveling no longer kicks you backwards in the stages periodically. Finally, you’re forced to admit you’re just going to have to play a ranged character. Now, why does that happen?

    It’s because after ten years, Blizzard’s best ideas for making D3 “challenging” was to make enemies hit too hard, have too much life, and put down shit on the ground (sound familiar?) that also hits too hard. They waved the white flag; running away was the only skill players could actually bring to the table, and so that’s the only thing left for Blizzard to force players to do (while occasionally presenting them with no-win situations just because they don’t want to bother excluding certain combinations of abilities.) But remember, they nevertheless kept an interface that hinders the player’s ability to move around the board with accuracy.

    And finally, the plot, dialogue, and characterization are all hilariously sub-par. They could’ve hired a top team of writers for 5 years with one month’s worth of WoW subscription fees, and produced something that was truly a decade-worthy step forward – something that delivered on the vague, moody promises of the Diablo universe that were thus far unfulfilled by an actual Diablo storyline. Instead, we got a cheap, diluted Metzen stew. SPOILER ALERT: That stuff you wrote in junior high about angels with names like Hope actually providing hope to people, and then getting captured by the Despair demon? You know, like they made fun of on Red Dwarf? Yeah, that shit won’t get you hired anywhere, but it’s enough to keep a job at Blizzard once you’ve got tenure, apparently. The world-building incidentals are vastly superior to the main plot, in fairness, but there’s an awful lot of chip-cashing involved (snippets talking about past characters and places, etc.) that Blizzard never actually earned with any decent storytelling the first two times around. Even at its best, the Diablo series demands that its fans do the heavy mental lifting of infusing its characters and setting with enough life to justify its sweeping, world-ending pretenses.

    Phew. Okay, I’m done. For now. But really, this is a terrible game, and it’s terrible mostly because it was ten years in the making by the juggernaut of the video game industry. How the fuck do you not innovate at all in ten years, or write a story worth a damn? How the fuck do make the same mistakes all over again, while making new ones too? That’s simply unacceptable.

    EDIT: because Disqus continues to suck at paragraph breaks.

    • blastor138

      And yet, you bought and played the game.  Blizzard wins.

    • Basement Boy

      All totally valid points, but for me, having gone in with low expectations (and wearing headphones, and being a little high) I’m still enjoying the game. My only real beef is the clumsily running around because you tried to click on fast-moving little bastard and instead of attacking you go charging into the middle of the pack. (Again, a WASD option would have been nice; move with keyboard, aim with mouse… nothing revolutionary there either…)

      And, you’re right, that in 10 years they should have evolved into something more/better, but to me, it actually feels good playing something so old-school (yet looks fucking great), dorky NPCs included. (Granted, I skipped D2 and haven’t really played anything in this genre in a long while…)

    • acpc2203

      Blizzard really seems stuck in terms of stories, I think every game since Starcraft has had someone good ending up corrupted or dealing with another person who had previously been corrupted. It’s gotten to the point where people can tell what the major “twist” is going to be before the game even comes out because they always do the same thing. Another bad trend I’ve seen is that the stories becoming extremely NPC centric, to the point that your player character ends up playing a secondary role to whatever NPCs are around. 

      • frogandbanjo

        It’s a huge weakness in most games where the player does not take on the role of a predefined character. The technology doesn’t yet exist to make it work; every plot, story, and character development still has to be manually crafted by the game’s designers, which is an exponentially expensive endeavor as a game’s length and scope increases. The Mass Effect series collapsed under its own weight, and that was with a (relatively) predefined main character, not a Skyrim-like cipher.

        That said, the main NPCs in D3 weren’t all that compelling either. The betrayal wasn’t just predictable, it was hollow. We had no relationship with that character, nor with the pawn (trying to avoid spoilers, just in case one person still cares.) No villain we killed really had much development either. The big badass’s main trait was being a brilliant military commander. The other badass’s main trait was (supposedly) being a really good liar, I guess? In two cut scenes, Blizzard made Baal a richer character than pretty much anyone/thing was in D3. No followup there, but still, at least they tried, you know?

        D3 made some stabs at telling the player why their character was important, but it was poorly handled. It was too much telling and not enough showing. If you accept that D3′s “point” is to illustrate the consequences of the shattered Worldstone on the human population of Sanctuary, then the whole thing turns into a prelude where, narratively, you’re waiting for your supposedly-important character to actually have some agency, as opposed to being dragged along on someone else’s adventure. It turns out that superpowered individuals aren’t all that interesting without some agency beyond killing stuff and collecting loot.

        Blizzard’s lore is usually too complicated, and I don’t think D3 is any exception, though obviously it cannot begin to compare to the clusterfuck over in WoW. But dense lore alone does not a compelling universe make. You have to be able to tell a good story about engaging characters (in this genre, at least) that makes good use of the world, not one that barrels in through the front door demanding that it be taken seriously because it’s “so epic.”

        EDIT: Because once again Disqus sucks.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    The demon bloke in the main image looks like a shitty diner cook who just stubbed his toe.

    And that girdle is not working for him. Should try something with vertical stripes, far more slimming.

  • lordofexcess

    Great review, did blizzard write it? 

    For the record I own the game, have played 2 characters to 60 (Barb, DH) done a little bit of inferno.  This is a game that we’ve waited well over a decade for, if this game as it stands was put out 8 years ago it would have been an instant classic.  Being released today it is a dud.  It was fun from a nostalgic perspective for a few weeks, but it doesn’t offer what D2 did for today’s gamer.  Back when D2 was released (it is essentially the same game as D3 with obviously now dated graphics) it was one of the best games on the market, it was fun to idle away the hours grinding gear or another toon to 99.  Today there are games that are far superior to D3 on Steam for 10 and 15 bucks.  Torchlight 1 is better than D3 and with Torchlight 2 just around the corner there is no reason to play D3 for me.  League of Legends is more fun than D3 and that is sad.I feel like this is the worst Blizzard game ever put to market and no matter what they do with patches and expansions it isn’t going to be a game that is worth $60.00.  At that pricepoint this game should have been a superior game.  Skyrim for me was on the boarderline of being worth 60 and it was one of the best games released in the past several years.  D3 is a horrible game at $60.00.  Blizzard though is simply cashing in on its legions of mindless hillbilly fans who buy whatever they produce for Ma, Pa and the six kids.  D3 broke all kinds of sales records but from everyone I’ve spoken to who bought the game, perhaps 1 or 2 out of 10 are satisfied (and those are the frothy fanboys).  I won’t bother to talk about the launch glitches, the AH still not working properly weeks after launch, etc. etc. that has been hashed and re-hashed.  I honestly don’t hate the game, I have enjoyed playing it, but I am very disappointed with it overall in terms of what it could and should have been.  Blizzard is more than capable of making good games, they chose to really just go for the money and left quality at the curb.  The game would be a great game at $20.00.  At that pricepoint I wouldn’t expect that much and 7-10 hours of standard game play would be worth the money.  At $60.00 I expect 40+ hours of core story content … this is a game that is on par with many free to play titles and any review should really take that into consideration. Yet all I’m seeing is cookie cutter blizzard fanboy gushing reviews.  I guess though most video game review sites online are just advertisement spam dumps who cut and past other reviews so par for the course I guess.