Born in 1996 and succeeded by a massively successful 2000 sequel, the Diablo
series is one of the crowns jewels of the action RPG world. But as parent company Blizzard
moved more and more into the MMO fold, fans feared they would never see a third title. Behold Diablo III
By now you’ll likely have heard nightmarish accounts of the opening days in Diablo III’s
life – server errors kept millions of players out of their newly purchased game and anti-piracy measures that forced a constant net connection on unwary players. As the furore dies down, the only real question remains – is the game any good?
veterans, Diablo III
will feel instantly recognisable – presenting a similar isometric viewpoint (albeit one that looks down on some fancy 3D graphics), filling it with monsters and tasking you with clicking them to death. You’ll find five playable classes (Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor), a sprawling, randomised world and an endless array of glistening loot to sell, wear or just gloat over.
The graphics are serviceable, paling in comparison to the movie quality CG which kicks off proceedings but more importantly are extremely scaleable – in deference to older pcs. The bells and whistles may all be new additions but the gameplay itself feels almost quaint, focussed as it is on plethora of clicks as hordes of enemies descend. Those making the transition from contemporary RPG’s may find the system all too basic but it’s actually finely honed – Blizzard
has refined things down to their bare essentials to make the game as accessible as possible.
It’s a sound move but can feel lacking in depth and choice. Levelling in particular has been heavily streamlined – character attributes are automatically buffed while new skills just become available at certain levels. This can lead to feeling somewhat divorced from your creation, making it more difficult to craft a truly unique character. Fans of other western RPG’s like Dragon Age
or Mass Effect
may find the storytelling a little sparser and less epic than they’re used to, though the stakes become just as high as Diablo
One new addition which adds depth without needless complexity is the rune system. Essentially multiple runes can be used in conjunction with skills, adding new effects that can make a massive difference to gameplay. Early buffs add extra stopping power to basic attacks but as you activate different combinations you’ll get the chance to change the way you interact with the world. It’s a feature that’s both fun and accessible and an iterative change that makes it clear why Blizzard
are the world leader in their field.
It has to be said though that Diablo III
doesn’t make the best first impression, and that’s without taking into account the server errors at launch, with jittery play still a potentially deadly issue. Even your first play-through is marred by a strangely low default difficulty setting, the only one available at the outset. Hardcore mode is an interesting addition; unlocked at level 10 it lets you take on the game with a single life, and level 60 players will get to head to Inferno mode for a real, escalating challenge.Blizzard
want to present you with more than a mere afternoon’s entertainment and new players in particular will want to set aside some serious time to get used to Diablo III’s
quirks. Thankfully, they needn’t be alone in this endeavour – one advantage of the controversial always connected model is that you can easily jump into a co-op game through Battle
in a few seconds. Taking to the world of Sanctuary with up to three human allies is a very different experience, forcing you to change your playing style to support rather than dominate. It’s fun and frantic and makes the streamlined controls all the more essential.Diablo III
still lacks some features, like a dedicated PvP mode and the online Auction House which is coming on May 29th, but already represents a good investment – particularly for fans of the original games. Blizzard
may not be redefining the genre with their hack and slash, isometric-ish click fest but they’ve refined their own formula to a pure and eminently accessible form.