Diablo III Review
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On 05/24/2012 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus
Crazy clicking creates copious cases of carpal tunnel.
For everyone, unless a case of carpal tunnel actually scares you.
Click. Click. Click. It’s hard to believe that a game that’s entirely based around mouse clicking can be as entertaining, addictive, and all-consuming as Diablo III is. Blizzard took twelve years to deliver the third release of their dungeon-exploring, monster-slaying, loot-hoarding series, and it was entirely possible that this game wouldn’t deliver on over a decade of anticipation. I’m here to tell you that Blizzard did indeed deliver and as soon as I’m done telling you exactly how amazing this game is you can count on me going back in for more clicking, carnage, and loot. Often imitated but never duplicated, Blizzard has given a powerful reminder of who the king of the click really is.
From the moment the game starts up, that impeccable Blizzard presentation and style shines through bright and clear. Diablo III kicks off with a CG introduction that stands among the best in the industry today; lavishly produced and featuring a soundtrack that fits in with Blizzard’s other tent-pole games, Warcraft and Starcraft. It’s the type of intro to a game that lets you know you’re in for something special.
Don’t fret that Blizzard blew the game’s budget on a snazzy CG intro though. Every aspect of Diablo III is jam-packed with impressive visuals, stunning vistas, and oh-so many things to smash, squash, and shatter in satisfying ways. Retaining the overhead perspective of the previous two games in the series, Diablo III walks a delicate line between the exaggerated art style of World of Warcraft and something darker and more serious. You’ll find plenty of examples of gore-soaked environments and monsters that seem to have crawled out of the depths of hell itself; and no matter where you may be in the game, it’s a guarantee that you’re going to see something that will make you stop slaying just long enough to marvel.
That’s because the artists at Blizzard have imbued Diablo III with a sinful amount of detail. Desks are adorned with musty tomes; blood-soaked altars reside in the deepest parts of lichen-covered caverns; small sandstorms whirl across sun-baked plateaus. It melds the lands of Sanctuary into a cohesive and believable world, made all the more impressive when you take into account the fact that many areas of the game are randomly generated. This detail extends to the people you meet and your own champion, as well. Even the most basic piece of armor has an element of craftsmanship to it, subtlety beckoning you deeper into the game’s enticing web.
Impressive visuals will only get you so far, and for Diablo III the devil is in the details…of the combat, that is. The game begins simple enough: click a spot to move your hero, click on an enemy to make it cease to be. And then click some more. Click until you can’t click anymore, and then keep on clicking. It sounds like video games in their most basic form, but therein is the magic of this game; every click, every encounter is immensely satisfying. Monsters perish with gleeful amounts of gruesome gurgling and splatter, and your weapons all have a feeling of weight, heft, and most importantly power.
I may joke that Diablo III is just a game of clicking and at the outset it certainly does appear to be just that. But gain some levels and make progress through the four massive acts of the story and you’ll discover a deceptive depth to the gameplay. The difficulty ratchets up at a steady pace and eventually you’ll be utilizing all six of your skills — selected from a larger list that can be further augmented by stat altering runes — in a challenging display of crowd control and battlefield management. Enemies become tenacious and will swarm at a moment’s notice, all-too happy to slap you with various status ailments. It’s in these moments that the combat of Diablo III really shines. As a barbarian I derived a sick satisfaction from wading into a group of enemies fifteen strong and turning into a whirling dervish of death, pulping them into a shower of blood, gold, and glimmering loot. If you’re picturing the maniacal laughter of Lancelot in the wedding scene of Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail you would not be too far off.
I mentioned loot - glorious, glorious loot. Satisfying combat, gorgeous graphics and a plethora of main quests and additional content is all well and good, but it’s the loot that will keep you glued to your computer screen until your eyes are dried out and your mouse hand has devolved into a mangled claw. Diablo III is positively demonic when it comes to the way loot is handled as even the trashiest of mobs have a chance of dropping something useable for your level. Much of the early level gear will be garbage of course, but considering the fact that you start off nearly naked the first joy of the game is derived from simply getting a piece of gear in each of the eleven equipment slots. After that it becomes a game of discovery. In a piece of brilliant design any “rare” gear initially has a big question mark over its stats in your inventory. It’s not until you right click on it that it becomes revealed in all of its collectable glory.
Beyond any impressive gear that spews forth from the bodies of slain foes or the delightfully named Resplendent Chests you’ll come across, there are ways to max out your gear even further. After completing an early quest you’ll gain access to a blacksmith who can craft all manner of equipment you require for a nominal fee. Spending gold to train his skills will give you access to affordable and effective gear. To a point, that is. You’ll inevitably to a place where the items you find in the wild will be much better than anything your smithy could ever concoct. Later on you gain a jeweler that can help you augment special “socketed” gear with various gems. This gives you a high level of customizability when choosing the right outfit for the job. Heaven forbid you should show up to a battle with Belial without some good hit point boosting gear!
Of course, with all of that heavenly content there has to be a little hell mixed in as well, but thankfully the sticking points of Diablo III are few. The game can be accused of being a little too forgiving, especially for seasoned Diablo veterans. While I found the game to move up to a satisfying challenge level, I managed to make it through the first ten hours unscathed, and I’m a Diablo neophyte. The environments are so detailed that it can be a little jarring when you end up exploring a randomly generated dungeon that bears a striking resemblance to a place you’ve been before, but at least you will almost always encounter a different layout.
These are all minor issues, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Diablo III requires an internet connection for play, even for solo players. The upside of this “always on” format is that it’s a breeze to drop into and out of multiplayer games and the implementation of an auction house is a great way to find that perfect piece of gear. But it should go without saying that with an internet requirement come servers, and with servers comes the possibility of them being down for maintenance or simply jammed up with too many players. In the course of my review period I got kicked out of my single player game a couple times and was unable to connect at times within the launch window. While frustrating, my larger issue with the game is the matter of lag, even present when playing solo. I have a middle range internet connection so I can only imagine what it must be like for people in remote areas. There’s also the chilling thought that at some point these servers won’t exist, keeping later generations of gamers from enjoying this amazing game. But that’s an issue for video game archivists and not a pressing concern in 2012.
At the end of the day, my love for every other element of this game far outweigh the issues with having an always on connection, other than the fact that it would be great to play on my laptop when I’m not near a wireless access point. Diablo III has consumed my gaming life, and I find myself thinking about it all…the…WOW! A Socketed Masterwork Maul of Mashing with 10% critical hit! Why are you still reading this? Go out and buy this game. As for me, I have more clicking to do. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclick….