Gaming, Gaming and Technology, OldVenue

Review: Diablo 3

After a 12 year wait Diablo 3 is finally here and even after all this time, it’s the first game to make Diablo 2 seem obsolete. Blizzard’s latest hack and slash, loot driven RPG focuses on humanity’s role in the battle between angels and demons.

Although it’s aggressively linear, the game’s progression and storytelling function well in support of Blizzard’s clear focus, gameplay. For example, audio notes are placed liberally across the world, allowing you to take in non-crucial lore and side plots at your own pace. Inevitably the game is repetitive (all RPG’s of this type are) but it’s also remarkably addictive and enjoyable. The fact that the world is randomly generated every time you play alleviates most of this tedium and encourages you to replay. Indeed there is so much content in Diablo 3, many claim that you haven’t really started playing it until you finish it on normal difficulty and move onto nightmare.

Speaking of difficulty, some critics have complained that it’s too hard, particularly in the latter stages. It is possible to complete the game with good enough gear but this either requires you to be incredibly lucky with item drops, or grind for hours in hope of a unique find. Alternatively you can earn the money to buy the item off of the in-game Auction House. It would be nice if there was slightly more of an element of skill involved at the higher levels rather than grinding away to get the perfect equipment. In this sense, it does seem to have moved away from the traditional structure of the Diablo series, to a more typical World of Warcraft setup.

Similarly to World of Warcraft, Blizzard has introduced an anti-piracy and digital rights management policy: every time you play the game you have to connect and play on their servers. This initiative coupled with server problems meant that the game was not always playable for the first week of its release. These problems have been mostly resolved now. It would be remiss not to mention these issues but Blizzard have a two decade track record of running online services for their games, including the most popular MMO around, so it is bound to be a short term problem. It does a disservice to our audience and to Diablo 3 to dwell on this issue.

The upsides of Diablo‘s server integration are plentiful: from streamlined social functions and painless online play to the newest addition, the auction house. At the moment nobody really knows what anything is worth so it’s like the early days of eBay out there. To make matters even more interesting, Blizzard are soon going to introduce the ability to trade items for real life currency rather than just in game gold, so expect some interesting tales and rich players to emerge from there.

The uproar surrounding server downtime only illustrates what a special game Diablo 3 really is. Frankly, it would have taken much longer to get this review written up had it not been for error 37. Relentlessly logical in its design, everything exists for a purpose and anything from prior instalments that didn’t serve gameplay has been stripped out. This can be jarring for series veterans but as soon as you sink your teeth in, each glaring systemic change reveals itself as a thoughtful streamlining of a gameplay model that has remained popular for nearly two decades. Despite teething issues, Diablo 3 is ultimately a highly addictive, enjoyable and for the first time, approachable game.

02/06/2012

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jasonparrmorley