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My Thoughts on Diablo 3

June 9, 2012

On May 15th, 2012, Blizzard Entertainment released arguably the most anticipated game of the year so far. They gave Diablo 3 the same treatment they gave Starcraft 2 a few years back – bring a classic into the 21st century. Modernising it while keeping a lot of what made the old games so much fun. Now, while I very much enjoy Starcraft 2 and the e-sports element that surrounds it, Diablo 3 didn’t really do what I had hoped it would.

Diablo 3 is pretty good. That’s what I answer whenever someone asks me what I think of the game. It is pretty good. But in the end I’m just not very excited about Diablo 3 anymore. It’s strange, because before the game came out I could barely contain my excitement. I don’t know if I was just swept along by the zeitgeist or if I was truely excited about Diablo 3, but I was fully invested even without really researching the game prior to release. Almost everything I knew about the Diablo games I got through osmosis over the years. I can’t say I’m a huge Diablo fan or anything. I didn’t play the first one and I never really got “how to play” Diablo by the second one. I didn’t play online and I don’t think I ever noticed that you could play the game again on a harder difficulty with the same character. To be honest, I don’t even remember finishing it. The thing is, I wasn’t really into those kinds of games back then. I played first-person shooters. That was my thing and that’s what I stuck to. It was what I knew and what I was good at.

Once Diablo 3 started to get advertised I instantly got very excited. Despite never looking up anything about the game beyond reading about the classes and watching the odd gameplay video the only experience I had with Diablo 3 was watching someone else play 15 minutes of the demo. Still, there I was, hunched in front of my computer on the day of release waiting to play. I had a few problems and had to redownload the client and only got a few hours of time with it before I had to go to work, but after that it was all Diablo all the time.
And boy, did I play. It’s all a blur, but I think I spent about 20 hours with the game in two days. I was lucky not to have any problems with errors or connectivity issues beyond having to redownload the entire client. It wasn’t until I started playing with other people that I even realised that there had been any issues at all!

Now, I might write a few things that make it sound as if I don’t enjoy the game, but the fact of the matter is that I’m still playing the game a whole lot. There are just a few things that really lessen my experience with it and keeps it from being one of my favourite games of all time.

To give you some context, I play a Wizard. It was the first character I made and I’ve stuck with it ever since. I hit level 60 a few days ago and the only other class I’ve dabbled in is the Monk which I left behind at level 32.

When I started playing my first impression was how beautiful the game looks. I had heard a few grumbles about the design, but since I didn’t have any nostalgia for the old games it didn’t bother me. It looks amazing. End of story. While I made my way through the campaign, on my own, on the normal difficulty I just couldn’t step away from my computer. I was already stuck. I had to explore the next dungeon to find a new rare mob to maybe, maybe get a new piece of loot. This loot lust kept me going all the way to level 60 and still keeps me going to a certain amount, but it gets more and more frustrating as I go along.

I encountered my first legendary around level 35 in act three. I immediately got out of my chair in sheer excitement and with a shaky hand I opened my inventory to inspect my amazing new piece of loot. Oh, legendary bracers several levels below my own and that are a severe downgrade from the rare ones I already had on my character. In defiance I put them on anyway. I had gotten a legendary item and I wouldn’t let a little thing such as it being terrible stop me from wearing these bracers. I stomped out of the current nondescript cave I was murdering demons in and didn’t think much more of it. I had bragging rights.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of this particular nit that is in need of picking. Over the many hours I played Diablo 3 the loot got to me the most. But before I go on I have to make it clear that I remember nothing of the loot in Diablo 2 and even if it had the same problems that I’m about to mention, it doesn’t matter. The loot is not to my taste. Time and time again I picked up loot with stats and restrictions that didn’t even make any sense. “Awesome, a new wand! Oh, a wizard-only weapon with strength and increased range of gold pick-up. I guess I’ll keep this sword with tons of intelligence on it.” This happens to me all the time. And don’t get me wrong, randomised stats are pretty cool, but it’s very frustrating getting class specific items with useless stats on them. I’m not averse to grinding to get an upgrade. Rather, that’s what I expected from what I’ve heard of the Diablo franchise over the years. But getting rare items (the second level item with stats other than DPS, magic items being the first level) with wholly useless stats and relying on gems if the item has sockets (there are four different gems for Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence or Vitality depending on the stat you’re looking for), to keep them from being sidegrades adds to my already building frustration.

The other thing that puts a damp cloth on my experience is the skillset. I’ve heard complaints that it’s too dumbed down and simple and isn’t true to Diablo. I view it more as streamlining and, to be fair, you do have a lot of skills to choose from. The problem lies in that I find a build that I like and I stick with it. It wasn’t until the latter half of the second to last difficulty, Hell, that I was forced to rethink my build to add survivablity. But even then I find a build that I can pretty much stick with without having too much of a problem. It does get to be a challenge, that’s not what I’m saying, but I didn’t feel that I had to change the way I played in any significant way at all. I also didn’t find the elusive “Elective Mode” until I had finished the campaign on Normal. Ticking this option lets you move and map your skills in any way you want. If you haven’t chosen that option you have two skills for your mouse buttons with one group of skills per button. Same thing goes for the four buttons you get as your action bar. Why they didn’t surface this option in any way I don’t know, but it made the game a lot more fun.

Zap.

Beyond that, what’s not to love? As always, Blizzard serve you deliciously beautiful cinematics and a overall solid storyline that, if not amazing, at least kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen. I think the classes are different enough to keep the game fresh if you think your own character is getting a bit stale and playing with your friends does nothing but heighten the experience. The Auction House leaves me indifferent as I’d rather gather my gear myself, but it has served its purpose on those occasions that I’ve been in need of a big upgrade.

I don’t know if playing World of Warcraft on and off since it came out ruined a lot of what I expected from the loot and the stats as well as not having any nostalgia for the old games, but the loot keeps getting on my nerves and so does the lack of challenge to try out new builds. But in the end, I am still playing the game and I am still enjoying it. I’m hoping to finish the game on the hardest difficulty within a week, but before that, I’ve got some grinding to do. Diablo 3 is pretty good.

Image Link: Battle.net: Wallpapers, Screenshots, GamersHavenNews.com: Diablo 3

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