Monday, August 20, 2012

The Misadventures of Sir Click

Game: Diablo III

System: PC/Mac

Release: May 2012

Diablo III is Blizzard's much anticipated follow-up to the smash hit Diablo II. In the ten years between tittles old systems have been streamlined and new features implemented. Overall the developer covers the most important aspect of any videogame--it's fun. There is, however, much to be desired especially for those of us in it for the long haul.

Diablo II was an unforgiving mistress. Players could invest hours upon hours into a character just to find out the skills selected are useless at higher difficulty levels. This is not the case with Diablo III.

Stats are automatically assigned while leveling up, and each character has access to all their abilities once they reach the level cap at 60.  A set number of abilities and/or spells are mapped to the hot bar for use in game. Each ability has a rune that offer enhancements or changes specific properties. Selecting the different builds can be done at any time, however, it is difficult to switch things around when monsters are trying to kill you.

Although I miss the synergy features found in the skill tress of old, I do appreciate the new skills system in Diablo III. You can start your Wizard off performing ice spells, then switch to arcane or lightening on the fly. What I don't understand is the sheer number of useless runes. Many of the enhancements are unimaginative (add knockback, stun, etc.), and often the higher level runes are less effective then their earlier counterparts.

There are five classes in Diablo III--Barbarian, Monk, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, and Wizard. The spells and abilities for each class are typical to the franchise. Some smash. Some cast spells. Some smash, and cast spells, with a touch of healing. Each class is fun to play, but I would have loved to see more. The plot doesn't hold up well after the first playthrough, and adding additional classes would improve the replay factor.

Speaking of plot, Diablo III provides another boring main story surrounded by interesting filler and background lore. Fans of the series will be re-introduced to all their favorite characters like Cain or the Skeleton King. In fact it seems like the main heroes from the last two games are the least important characters in this fictional world. The playable cast are around just to make Tyrael look good.

Probably even less important then the heroes are their followers. They fall into the typical caster, warrior, rogue trio and frequently add such witty remarks as, "Look at the size of that monstrous creature." As they level up skills are unlocked, and each follower can equip a limited number of items. They provide decent support in game, but are never missed if you have a friend to team up with.

Yes multiplayer is where most the fun is for Diablo III. Teaming up with some friends to slaughter waves of demons is a real treat. With each additional player the difficulty increases ensuring the challenge is never lost. There is no fighting over loot because each player gets their own drops that no one else can see or pick up. As of this post there is no PvP, which is a massive disappointment and severally hinders the replay factor. You can only kill Diablo so many times, with so many different groups, before you get sick of the clickfest.

The other major issue, besides lack of PvP, is the armor system and auction house. Stat distribution on armor is completely randomized and the drop rates are horrid. Many times I found stats that would not work for any character; like having intelligence on a giant two handed axe suited for a Barbarian. Also none of the armor I have equipped on my two highest characters came from in-game drops. The auction house is where you will find relevant armor without wasting days of your life with the vain hope that the game would produce some decent equipment.

At one point I found myself spending an average of twenty minutes per game session in the auction house. This was not fun, and I started to realize there was no point to acquiring all this awesome armor just to replay the same four acts one more time on the highest difficulty. Add to this a lack of PvP, and you begin to realize there is no fun end game for Diablo III. This is a disappointment after Blizzard produced such addicting games as Diablo II and World of Warcraft.

That said Diablo III is not dead yet, and still has plenty of potential. The previous tittle really didn't take off until the first expansion hit. I'm confident that Blizzard will make some key changes to increase the replay value, but I'm hesitant to fork over any more cash. If you haven't already purchased Diablo III, then you may want to hold out until an expansion is released. The game is fun, but not quite worth the full price of admission.

No comments: