When the first Diablo game was released I was 11 years old and I remember the mere thought of fighting hordes of undead monsters scared me into playing Settlers 2 instead. But I watched as my brother, then 8 years old, and mother played the game and I loved the concept. When I was 15, Diablo 2 came out but for some reason I never got around to playing it until ten years later (and especially remembering the lovely installation process - "insert disc 2"). Now, 2012, I have been anticipating the third part of the series as much as the next guy and eventhough I have been swamped in work lately I have done my best to avoid the beautiful swedish pre-summer to work on my anti-tan indoors by the computer playing d3. Inevitably I intend to share some initial and random thoughts on what I think of the D3 experience. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Let's start with the good news; Yes, D3 is very addictive. I can't put my finger on what exactly is so much fun about running around for hours randomly killing shitloads of mobs just to see what they drop, but it is. It was fun 1996 and it is still fun today, and by fun I mean it is nearly impossible to stop. WoW has a lot of this but for some reason I never enjoyed the random farming of mobs as much in WoW as I do in D3, it just makes more sense in Diablo than it does in WoW. Maybe because there are other things to do in WoW but farming is really what D3 is all about. I've only tried two classes so far - Witch Doctor and Barbarian - and seen Monk and Demon Hunter being played, but my general impression is that all of the classes are fun, fairly balanced (although apparently the ranged classes are considered superior at the moment). Instead of talent tree and stat choices of Diablo and D2 we get the skill choice system that Blizzard intend to also implement in WoW for MoP. I quite liked the talent tree of D2, but I think I like the skill choice system more. It does allow for a much simpler and convenient way to adjust your skills after your mood and foes, making re-speccing a core feature of the game (and as far as I remember, you couldn't even re-spec in the previous Diablo games).
Diablo 3 is something as freaky as a multiplayer singleplayer game. No, it doesn't sound like it makes any sense, but it really does. As long as Blizzards servers are working, this concept really is a good one, where you can join any of your friends and play co-op with just a click (something that can be abused by trolling friends, making sure you don't have morons on your friends list has never been more important). All the money you collect is shared over your characters, which nearly made me choke on my morning tea when I started a new character and saw over 100k gold lying in his bags, before I realized what was going on. Items can be put in a stash that is shared among characters, allowing you to pimp up your lowbie characters with ease (and we all know how much fun pimping is)(that came out wrong...). This does not apply to hardcore characters however, who are completely left on their own, regarding co-op and money/item sharing (other hardcore characters might be able to join possibly, don't know about that).
|My Gargantuan chilling with the ladies|
One of the best news, and something I hope any game designer who intend to stuff their game full of lores copies, is the read-out lore. Some games come crammed full with pieces of lore, sometimes amounts that rivals any encyclopedia and I don't know anyone who reads it. All those man hours put into something that could've been spent building a better storyline, graphics or physics motor. And it is not because of disinterest, at least not in my case. It is because when I sit down to play a computer game, I do not want to spend a couple of hours reading - I read books when I want to read, I don't play games. Blizzard have solved this by having any found lore read out loud, so that you can listen to it while you continue to play, ingenius if you ask me. I could wish for the possibility to find all the lore in some menu to re-listen on occasion, in case I didn't pay too much attention the first time around. Listening while trying to kiting ten angry, charging bulls off your ass is a challenge. It is possible this feature is there somewhere, I just haven't found it.
But then there are a couple of things that poke on my awesome grinding experience like a (albeit small) splinter in my eye. As with real eye splinters, they're quite dull and something you'd rather be without. So let's see, where should I start?
The story of D3 is quite... I'm sorry to say, but uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, I am not asking for Shakespearian dialogue and Game of Throne-esque character development. The Diablo series is not known for it's ellaborate story line, but I would've definitely wished D3 to be more like the first Diablo rather than the second in this regard. There is a reason people think back to Diablo with a look of pure happiness on their faces. Diablo wasn't just about the grinding, it was a game with great atmosphere and great gameplay. The look my brother made when Butcher screamed "FRESH MEAT!" was priceless and about as classic as the dogs crashing through the windows in Resident Evil, a defining moment of many peoples childhood.
I'm not asking for Fallout-esque characters either, but something slightly less annoying than Leah would've been welcome. I am sad she has such a big part of the story, when everything about her screams unoriginal, stupid and predictable. Even my Gargantuan is more interesting and lovable (seriously, he is amazing). Fortunately, most other characters at least do their part of the story well enough, eventhough I don't think any of them is particularly memorable. Am I asking for too much when I want Blizzard to put some minor effort into the story and not just into creating more rares for me to find? Maybe.
There are some small issues with gameplay, but they're so small they're barely worth mentioning, but just barely. The movement AI of the character isn't always the best, if you stand next to a stair and click it it doesn't always understand to walk up the stair but tries to walk straight into the wall instead. The companions and pets are maybe a little too eager on getting into new fights, I don't mind them being bold but pulling mobs I wasn't even heading towards when I am low on health is more than I wish for. And why can't I check my skills when they're on cooldown? That is actually really annoying, especially since some skills have over a minute cooldown. Once I've used it I have to wait for the full cooldown before I can even check out the runes or options for that skill slot. I realize this is probably to prevent people from changing skills that are on cooldown to ones that aren't, but not even allowing me to look is taking it too far.
Since I am WoW-damaged by now, I am also somewhat uncomfortable with the fact that I can't have any addons. It's not so much the addons as the fact that some things about the UI just plain bug me. I dislike not having my cooldown/proc skills and my resource in eye level for instance but instead I constantly have to avert my eyes from the killing and possible standing in shit and down to the action bar, like this was 2005. It's a small distance for mankind but a massive distance for a gamer i.e me.
Overall, I know D3 is going to suck many hours out of my life however and I am going to enjoy every second of it. It will possibly, probably, also have the highest replay value of the three and I could easily see myself go back to this game in five years and enjoy it as much as I am today - there is just something about finding treasure and rare items that never gets boring. And I have only found one legendary yet, that needs to change.