Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: May 15th 2012, Price: €59,99
Ratings: BBFC: 15, ESRB: M, GRB: 18+ (Real Money Auction House removed), USK: 16
Blizzard is known for making their fans wait. It took twelve years between StarCraft: BroodWar and StarCraft II, just as it took another twelve between Diablo II and Diablo III. Often, people wonder if Blizzard’s games are worth the wait. StarCraft II was well worth it, but was Diablo III?
The answer is yes. Definitely.
Please note that this review will not consider the server problems at launch which ruined the experience for many players. It will also consider a fully-functioning Action House which is, in my opinion, a great addition. But we’ll get to that later.
Diablo III is set twenty years after Diablo II’s expansion, Lord of the Destruction. To recap the story (with some spoilers for Diablo II): the three Prime Evils—Diablo, Mephisto and Baal—and two of the Lesser Evils—Duriel and Andariel—have been slain by heroes. However, as of late, the dead have been rising and your character follows a fallen star into New Tristram.
In Diablo III, you get to choose between five classes: Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, Monk and Wizard; and, in each class, you select your character’s gender. So far, I’ve completed the game with a female Demon Hunter, have a fledgling level-6 female Wizard and just tried the other remaining classes for a bit. The player characters have more distinct personalities this time around and they speak far more than their predecessors.
The voice acting, save for Leah’s actress, is nothing special. Same for the characters. Even though they have more defined temperaments than they ever did in the Diablo games, but the only well-made character is Leah, who is sweet and a key element to the game’s plot. Yes, I did appreciate the banter between my Demon Hunter and the Templar, the Enchantress and the Scoundrel, but outside of that, you don’t really care what happens to them; they’re just entertaining.
The story is fitting at best. It’s your run-of-the-mill dungeon crawler story with a “oh there’s a big Evil and only you can stop it” focus, but it gets the job done. Also, the game is so much fun that you won’t really want a complex plot to interfere with it. I give storytelling in games great importance, but sometimes it’s not needed for a game to shine and this is the case with Diablo.
Yes, the story is nothing special, but it never was, and never will be. The main focus of the Diablo franchise is gameplay and when it comes down to it, Diablo III is very different from its predecessors.
In the second installment of the franchise, you placed skill points in your favorite abilities of each tree. You had to choose carefully where you placed your points, because squandering them all on lower-level abilities kept you from strengthening your high-level attacks later on. Also, you couldn’t go back once you decided.
Diablo III’s mechanics are wildly different. You have two primary attacks on your right and left mouse button and four skills assigned from keys one to four, and you unlock skills, attacks and runes as you go. The thing is, each slot is for one type of ability and one alone. You can’t have arrows and grenades at the same time because they belong to the same tree. This is limiting strategy-wise, but allows you to change your gameplay style much more quickly and efficiently than Diablo II. Where Diablo II’s system was more foreshadowing and definite, Diablo III’s is flexible and ever-changing. Both have their qualities and flaws and while I preferred Diablo II’s system, I can see the value of the changes. If your gameplay style isn’t working, it’s easy to change it with a few clicks—just as it’s easier to try new things.
The looting system is a bit worse than Diablo II’s (with Lord of Destruction) was. For instance, rare items are not very hard to find. Neither are legendary ones, for the matter. Within twelve hours of gameplay, I already had some legendary pants, something which took me a lot to get in Diablo II. This is perhaps due to the introduction of the crafting system, which renders looting almost obsolete. You can make much better items by crafting than by finding them and, considering the materials you need for crafting are easy to get, I felt that making my own gear was the way to go.
Of course, if you don’t feel like going through the trouble of looting and crafting, you can always go to the auction house. Using either in-game gold or real money, you can get almost any item via bidding or buyout. In my case, when I was near the end and my Demon Hunter’s crossbow was mediocre, at best, going to the auction house saved me a lot of trouble.
And the multiplayer! Granted, I only played with friends once, but it was so much more enjoyable than playing alone! The game’s difficulty increases according to the amount of people in your party, never making it too easy on you and I confess that having a Barbarian, a Demon Hunter, a Witch Doctor and a Wizard all in the same screen makes for all kinds of mad chaos, something the Diablo franchise is renown for.
Finally, to the aspects that disappointed me the most: the mapping system and the music. Don’t get me wrong, Diablo III’s music is, like a great deal of the game, fitting and competent. It’s just … nothing spectacular. As for the mapping system, Diablo II’s maps were truly randomly generated and through my various runs through the game, I never got two similar environments. I did get repeated areas in Diablo III and it was a letdown.
Summing it all up: even though it doesn’t have groundbreaking storytelling or amazing visuals, Diablo III is a competently designed game. More importantly, it’s an extremely fun game. Gameplay is where Diablo III shines and it’s sometimes so difficult and chaotic that you will almost invariably die—but dying in Diablo III doesn’t make you want to give up (I should know this. At one point, I was screaming and swearing but I still refused to give up!). It makes you want to play more and kill everything in your computer screen.
A mindless, challenging game that’s just a joy to play, Diablo III is a worthy successor of the franchise.