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First Impressions: Diablo 3 a Flawed Gem
(Note: Please understand that this is not a review. I was going to write one, but decided a “first impression” was more appropriate, given this game’s nature. This is sort of like the article I wrote back in January for the Old Republic. If you’ve been on the fence about Diablo 3, read another man’s travels into Hell and decide for yourself if you want the game. )#)
Not long after StarCraft 2 was released, the inevitable Diablo sequel was announced. The first teaser alone had me itching to click the hordes of hell to death. For me, Diablo 2 was a game that I’d only played through twice. I loved it to death, but I got on the train a little late. As such, I was excited to play Diablo 3, knowing I would finally get to ride that train up front.
Of course, there was skepticism. People on the beta were saying that the game had lost some of its original feel. Some said that skill trees and leveling were axed in favor of something simpler. Others said the game was far too easy, and many people (myself included) were nervous about forcing players to be online even if they wanted to play the game by themselves. At least Blizzard didn’t tell us there was an “offline mode” that wasn’t actually playable offline this time.
Now that the game has been out for a week, though, all I can say is that this game is everything I wanted out of it. Yes, the servers were crashing on day one, but after the first few hiccups the servers have been running fine. People are quick to jump on the Rage Bandwagon when something goes wrong, but I can assure you the game runs fine as it is now.
What I’m trying to say is this: Diablo 3 is awesome. For those who have never played Diablo, imagine a game like Gauntlet only with loot (oh god, tons of loot) and much more interesting boss battles. Diablo, at its core, has always been a game about running into a dungeon with some friends, finding a diablo 3 gold dozen or so enemies, disposing of them in the blink of an eye and taking their wallets. This core mechanic is still the star of the show.
That said, the game can be tough. The first act will not give you trouble, but the later acts can catch you off guard. It’s easy to feel comfortable fighting an entire horde of demons at once, but in the later levels these demons can and will destroy you if you underestimate them. Occasionally, as with Diablo 2, you will face champions and other higher-level enemies that always drop the juiciest loot, so be on the lookout for them.
With each level, in lieu of skill trees and stats, your character is automatically assigned stat points and you will instead either gain a new ability, or a few runes (modifications) to abilities you already use. At times, this mechanic can be tiresome—I find myself sighing whenever I level up and get runes for abilities I have no interest in using. I don’t see this as a bad thing, though—other players use different abilities than the ones I prefer, so it’s all well and good for them.
My biggest complaint with the game lies with the story. Story isn’t exactly something many people find important in the Diablo series, and that’s fine—but something more coherent than what we got would have been nice. Diablo 2 had a well-written and entertaining story hidden underneath the Baal Runs and dungeon crawls, while Diablo 3’s story feels generic and oftentimes just plain silly. Sure, you still get to fight the lords of hell, and those battles are epic. Despite this, though, the overall plot just fell flat for me. I won’t go into it due to spoilers, but don’t expect a story that’s particularly well-written; many horrible plot twists and hammy attempts at foreshadowing litter the story, among other problems. I will say that the cinematics are at least fun to watch, though they tend to go for style over substance.
Another issue is that being forced to play online means lag even when in single-player. This wasn’t a big issue for me, but I know that it can be a glaring one for others. What about people who don’t have internet connections and want to slay the hordes of hell on their own, or with friends via a LAN? This is the same issue I had with StarCraft 2, and I don’t care what anyone says: it’s a horrible decision that is unfair to consumers because it can limit their enjoyment of the game. Online piracy needs to be dealt with, but why should the common consumer suffer for the acts of a few thieves?
Apart from these flaws, though, Diablo 3 is still the dungeon crawler it always was. While stats and leveling have been a simplified, you will still be trudging through various, randomly generated caves filled with tons of cannon fodder ripe for the murdering. If you are the type of person who played Diablo 2 over and over to power level and collect the best loot, you will not be disappointed. If you’re looking for a story on par with the second game, you might want to steer clear unless you know you’ll still have fun with the game. If you’re somewhere in between, find a friend who owns the game and give it a shot for yourself.
If you’ve already played the game, what was your experience like? Do you love it or hate it? Be sure to let us know how you feel in the comments.