Review

Diablo III Review (PC)

Who needs that mouldy old Tristram and Den of Evil when you’ve got New Tristram and a hot sidekick companion Enchantress? While times may have changed the core that is, the Diablo experience remains with its demonic heart beating strong.

Wait. How is that possible? What about all that Battle.net server business, talk of auction houses and lack of a sorceress class? HUH?! These are all legitimate concerns for the avid Diablo 2 fan. The wait for Blizzard to bring us the next instalment to the iconic action-RPG has been a painful one, and you could feel the hysteria when the studio first announced it, followed by the venomous reaction from the more vocal circles in the community over how World of Warcraft-like it was appearing to be.

Any skills per category, one rune per skill; it’s the law

Of course all that is moot as now we have this beast in front of us. Let’s get it out of the way right now shall we? The initial launch week for Diablo III was a mixed bag because of the inclusion of Blizzard’s Battle.net service which mandates you to be connected to their servers in order to play the game even if you’re just looking for a solo adventure. The sheer demand from PC gamers crushed the server farm Blizzard had in place with error codes plaguing others. Achievements weren’t registering and connections were being lost. As launch weeks go it could have been a lot better.

Whether you agree or not with the Battle.net route Diablo III has taken, this review will be focusing on the core game itself and not debating this community enriching/DRM feature all that much.

Creating a hero; the classes available in Diablo III are - save for the barbarian - similar but not the same as its predecessor which is, I believe, a good decision on Blizzard’s behalf as it helps jettison some of the baggage from the series and lets the team get on with creating something familiar but different in almost every level of the game. We get barbarian, monk, demon hunter, wizard and witchdoctor as our character classes. We’re given a back story to each of our choices and even voiced narrative from our characters, male or female, as to why we’re even involving ourselves in this ‘fire from the sky’ madness. These serve as a good story device to help propel us forward throughout the game and to remind us what’s going on at key moments – plus they look and sound cool, with impressive voice acting.

Our first destination is New Tristram and it is here in Act I that we’ll be learning a lot about how Diablo III operates for new and old timers of the series. There have been some fundamental shifts in how we develop our characters but one thing remains constant; kill monsters and reap loot. Literally down the road are our first foes to slay before we get introduced to the townsfolk which are all given such higher degrees of life thanks to the greater variety in animation and interactions they perform on their environment. We get some juicy gossip too and hear how demons and our hero are impacting the people of the land. A pat on the back is always nice.

As we start to level up we’ll be unlocking abilities which we must assign. Gone are the points we used to have to spend in our respective character class trees to gain access to powerful moves. Now as we level we earn all our possible powers, which are further augmented by Runes which alter the base abilities with additional effects. Some are small changes while others have a profound impact that can have you re-evaluating your combat tactics. Speaking of which; you can at any time change what abilities your hero can use simply by accessing the skills window.

It’s here the skills are broken into six different categories which are tied to key assignments, with the top two representing the left and right mouse buttons and the remainder by default tied to number keys. In the options you can enable what’s called Elective Mode which lets you mess around with the assignments. You can enable one skill or many per category but only one Rune per skill. Again these are easily changeable at any time, except when a skill is on a cool down. Grrrrr. What may seem odd is that there isn’t a way to just use your weapon as you’re forced to always use a skill which happens to use your weapon to bolster its damage. Playing as a witchdoctor it feels a little redundant to wield a ceremonial dagger considering I don’t actually stab anyone with it – it’s like an offhand.

The Barbarian of course does swing his weapon but again only if the skill you’ve picked actually includes it as part of its function. Bash for instance is about smashing monsters in the face with your fists. It’s a little jarring to get used to but equipped weapons are by no means just for show as they provide powerful boosts to your stats and feed your skills’ damage capabilities.

There are also passive abilities which unlock as you go along your way to level 60 and you can eventually have three of these active at any time. These can be game changers for a character class as some provide extremely beneficial boosts and should be closely studied to help you define what best suits you.

It’s fair to say you’ll be fulfilling the role of pack mule on your adventuring and thankfully Blizzard has tweaked the inventory system from Diablo II so we no longer need to play a Tetris mini game to fit all our stuff in. Now items follow a set of simple rules which mean weapons take up two vertical squares, while chest pieces, pants and helms take four blocks. Rings, amulets and jewels occupy just one block. Still you’ll be running out of space before long and desperate to reach the point of earning the Town Portal addition to your action bar.

Ah yes, Town Portals. Gone are those silly Town Portal scrolls which just took up valuable real estate in your backpack. Now you just need to simply click a button or push ‘T’ to start up a little power up that will zap you back to town or camp. There’s no limit or cool down associated with it – only the power up. Also you won’t need scrolls to identify items any longer as you just need to right click them and they’ll be fully revealed to you. I’m grateful that these two arse aches, frankly, have been removed from the Diablo formula. They served no purpose other than creating more busy work, and your gold has much better places to be spent.

Merchants are a major source of comfort in Diablo for they take away all that crap we’ve accumulated and give us some gold in return. They also hammer our equipment back together before it falls apart on us. Bless ‘em. Crafting has also taken up a serious role in the form of the Blacksmith and Jeweller. When we first unlock these two they’ll be at the bottom rung of their profession but we have the option to upgrade their skills and thus what recipes they offer. It’s a costly affair for beginners but because of Battle.net tying our multiple heroes together, the upgrades to either crafter are account wide and not only for the hero who paid for them. Not all upgrades are gold based as some need you to provide recipes found on your travels.

Loot. It’s why you click that big ‘Play’ button

You’ll find yourself more often than not taking anything that can be broken down to the blacksmith so that you’ll be able to craft gear later. Each item you choose to make also costs gold to produce and the results are random but can be quite powerful. Don’t underestimate crafting, which can also provide little moments of joy as you land a crazy awesome bit of gear. The jeweller serves to let you combine gem fragments to make more potent versions and to let you remove gems from socketable gear, both at a cost. Gems aren’t random and give you a predefined amount of stat boosts.

This wealth sharing applies to our personal storage chest found in towns and camps. We can store whatever we like in them and our other heroes can interact with the items. We can spend gold on the stash chest as well opening up more slots to store gear. Gold itself is account wide so starting out a new character needn’t mean you’re back in the poor house. An entirely new and optional avenue to explore is the auction house which is similar in design to World of Warcraft’s mass trade system. You can easily search for items and define what search parameters you want to use.

While the auction house is the lifeblood of World of Warcraft’s player economy, the same doesn’t really apply to Diablo III, although you could make some hefty piles of gold if you happen to have some gear dripping with juicy stats and DPS. I personally avoid the temptation of the auction house for a few reasons. The first is simply how easy it is to go and blow your piggy bank as you get swept up in the whirlwind of some very enticing gear. Secondly it can actually have a detrimental effect on gameplay as suddenly all that gear you’re collecting whilst looting can’t compare and is just plain trash. Why bother scouring the forest or desert for a rare drop when you can just buy it? Thirdly, if you don’t aim high enough when going after a weapon then you’ve just blown potentially a large sum of gold for nothing as you’ve landed a rare or legendary easily replacing it.

Soon Blizzard will open the real money auction house which I feel will suffer the same drawbacks. Battle.net pulsing through Diablo III does have some advantages to be sure like getting you and your friends joined in a game. It’s very easy to start a game together and all the gold and loot dropped on your screen is entirely your own to claim – no sharing, unless you want to. Even if you prefer to solo most of the time you can join a chat channel to keep yourself socialising or even ‘entertained’ by the banter of your fellow loot addicts. Of course there’s a drawback to this too; I’ve already witnessed the first wave of gold farmers attempting to plug their wares.

Monsters out in the field come in the traditional sense; trash mobs made up of grunts, but also lurking are elites which receive special bonuses to their health and are gifted a special ability. These come in the variety of jailer, waller, teleporter, vortex, nightmarish and probably others I’ve forgotten to mention or even discover yet. The jailer for instance will periodically arrest your hero and any allies to the spot leaving you only with ranged skills to do anything. A waller will erect temporary walls to box you in and hamper your ability to fight ranged, and could trap you in with some nasty foes. Vortex sucks you for close quarter fisticuffs and nightmarish could set you of running in terror. I’ve just remembered another; molten.

While avoiding any spoilers, the main boss fight events are no mere click fests. Blizzard have learned a lot of lessons from their time of crafting boss fight events in World of Warcraft and have applied that knowledge to Diablo III. These aren’t just straight up fights as now bosses will perform special moves like calling in additional monsters while rendering themselves impervious or having you mind the environment as it’s turned against you. It certainly spices up the action and a careless hero can easily lose time and time again. Of course you could also request help from another player.

If you’re in a co-op game then sticking together couldn’t be easier as by the main portal in town will be a banner representing each friend. Simply click on the banner and you’ll be instantly teleported beside them – easy. You can also resurrect one another if you’ve happened to fall in battle although you’ll still suffer the 10% hit to all your items durability; death isn’t free you know. Also there’s no more running back to your corpse to recover your gear. It’s almost a shame that if you’re in co-op you don’t get to partner up with the companions on offer, unless the story demands their presence. The Templar, Scoundrel and Enchantress are all more than just some guy or gal following you around.

The companions also have their own lore to be discovered if you’re inclined. They also have a fair bit of banter with your hero, each other and offer their opinion on what’s happening. Each of the three levels up with your hero and you’re able to choose one of two skills at set levels to define what abilities they can use. These are easily reset by manipulating their portrait in the top left corner. Items can also be equipped to them providing they aren’t exclusive to a hero class.

Speaking of lore; there’s plenty to be discovered. If you’re frightened of having missed much of the Diablo series history then fear not because narrated journal entries litter the land for us to happen upon. Stay a while and listen, to quote Deckard Cain. Achievements also play a role in Diablo III, which serve as an addictive metagame so that even if you’ve reach the heights of level 60 with mouth watering gear, there are still new goals to be conquered. Sure some are just plain silly or even mean sounding, but they’re there for those who enjoy the challenge and brag rights.

Thanks to the game ramping up in difficulty if the player wants it to and the randomisation of dungeons and sprawling lands, Diablo III is kept fresh. Also now hidden out there are special events that range from surviving waves of enemies to escorting someone to safety. These can mean you’ll get access to a merchant or even some nice loot in the process. It’s just another flavour of variety that Blizzard has sprinkled in, among finding those highly elusive unique monsters to slay, and legendary item drops of course.

There are still plenty of tense moments in Diablo III, especially with health potions on a cool down, and in later Acts don’t be surprised to find yourself left using the kite tactic of luring a mob or elite (especially if they’re molten imbued) away from a horde and picking them off in smaller chunks. That’s always been the wild card in the series – one minute you’re top dog and the next you’ve wandered just a little too close to the entrance of another room and pulled in an avalanche of monsters before getting to finish of the first lot. And yes, those b*rstard minion summoning Fallen Shaman are back. At least we get to use the environment to our benefit occasionally by landing a chandelier or crumbling wall on monsters, stunning them briefly; these don’t hurt us though.

Salvage your loot in the pursuit of – you guessed it – getting more loot!

Battle.net, when it’s not hiccuping, makes monster slaying and loot pillaging all the more satisfying by getting your friends into your games easily. Felling a boss on your own is of course a gratifying moment but grouping with chums and taking on those bad boys with the challenge cranked all the way to 11 on the dial, can be the most thrilling moments you’ll find in Diablo III. That’s after all the hilarity you’ll have on the way to those big shot demons.

The true power of Diablo III lies in its replayability thanks to its versatility, which is the greatest kind of ability there is for a game like this. Playing through once from Act I all the way to Act IV’s conclusion isn’t going to be enough for most gamers and that’s perfect because it’s the way it’s meant to be. With all those dungeon randomisations, boss events, challenging difficulty, co-op play, loot gathering and the general mayhem of monster slaying, Diablo III is a ride that may tire if binged on religiously but one that’ll haunt your dreams long-term to get back to it, just like its predecessor.

Top Game Moment: This is hard but I find it difficult to get past the identity revelation of The Stranger without eliciting some girlish glee. Having said that; it’s the monster slaying and wading through loot that sells the Diablo universe. What will that next drop bring?

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Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 29, 2012
SirRoderick
I'm too miffed off by the whole "online singleplayer" crap. Besides, I'd like to play on my laptop.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on May 29, 2012
FoolWolf
Well, I have to say that Diablo 3 is the best disappointing game there is right now.
There are so many "bad" things that you will find once you start looking and questioning and especially if you go into how you like a game to be or not - but anyways, the game is fun to play and it is a mad rush for items. Luckily the items and making will get some new updates in the coming patches.

The always online is a real problem - every time i start the game and resumes the game -it stutters the first minutes. My characters are locked to areas, have a ridiculous short name available and stupid rules about character names, the updates I do is not bound to account but servers so switch to Europe server and suddenly my blacksmith is level 1 and all the updates I have made are null and void here. My inventory is also back in Americas servers... That shit is just crazy, stupid and plain annoying.

The entire no attributes, no skills etc is a 50-50 anguish - I prefer the old system but the newworks. It is fun and interesting but feels a bit watered out since it is so easy to redo - everything lacks that oomph of accomplishment. My first perfect skull in Diablo 2 felt like a victory - now - the biggest gripe - the auction house makes that a few clicks away and cheaper than making it myself ingame - what gives?

The entire game meachinc of items have been forced into the auction house and the scale of how this works is really off setting. A gold item sold by vendors in game are hard to find, most often rubbish and you need to buy for your other characters, your Demon Hunter finds an amulettte that would be great for your Barbarian etc... The loot drop more or less on the same scale - best in game items comes from making them your own via blacksmith. The blacksmith however costs fortunes of gold to upgrade - and all of a sudden they need blueprints - and there are no blueprints to be found in the game. All this with items is still a mess and pretty unbalanced IMO - and since this is such a central part of D3 - it kinda makes you feel cheated when they say they will make changes in patches that will change this a lot - and well - just waiting for the patches to arrive before playing.

I like the review though - brings up a lot of the good things - but misses some of the really bad things. But all in all - Diablo 3 is a game that is easy to start playing but hard to stop playing. Though, it is easier to stay away from then D1 and D2...

No rush to buy it though - let the patches do their magic...
By Kres (SI Elite) on May 29, 2012
Kres
I'm in no rush either. Hearing too many different things about the game to have some interest in it. I may as well skip it altogether. It's as well not exactly my kind of a game. So that might be the prime reason.

And no mods... !
By wongie_quan (I just got here) on May 29, 2012
wongie_quan
Diablo 3 plays more like a MMO clickfest than a single player game. And the difficulty scaling is... ugh. Its a pushover on Normal, but when you get to Hell, the special monsters are just irritating and (almost) impossible to kill.

I have other complains, but I'll just say that this is one purchase I regret. Succumbed to peer pressure. :(
By SiyaenSokol (SI Elite) on May 30, 2012
SiyaenSokol
May I be one of the few people who doesn't have too much to complain about when it comes to this game. Sure, it might not have been what everyone expected, even I was baffled by some of the things, but none the less, it is a good game, and loads of fun, if you really want it to be fun.

I got the game on launch date, completed it soon after, and I am still playing. I know that a lot of Gamers feel that it is not a lot like Diablo II...... it is not suppose to be, because it is a new game in 2012.

Others feel that the game could've been much better, since we had a 12 year wait... that part I might agree, but then again, it doesn't bother me about how much better it could've been, because the game (for me at least) is great now.

Each to their own of course. Thank heavens we all have our own opinions about things.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on May 30, 2012
JustCommunication
The click-fest aspect isn't new - Diablo has ALWAYS been a click fest, from the first game right through to the second one, with the odd hotkey press inbetween.

But yeah, playing it on Normal myself right now and haven't died once yet... it's not a total breeze but... hmmm.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 30, 2012
herodotus
With most averaging the score at around 8.5, this is a whopping endorsement of the game, Simon. I haven't played it, and probably won't for some time.
All I can say from my impressions from the video reviews I've seen is that "D III" is way too long in being released, and has borrowed very heavily from "DoW II" (by how much, though I was stunned).
"SC II" was over-delayed, and I'm afraid for me that was a big mistake. The same I daresay will happen here.
By Kres (SI Elite) on May 31, 2012
Kres
User scores, 9.6. Just talked with editors since I haven't played it, and they assure me that the game deserves the score it got.

If the game was called "SOME NEW GAME", what score would you give it? Let's ignore that it would be a diablo clone ;) and lets ignore current online issues eh...
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on May 31, 2012
Wowerine
Awesome game. Finished it on Hell. Now playing on Inferno, lvl60 Barbarian. Game of the year folks.

Plus i have a Monk on lvl 25 or so. Kickass :)
By SiyaenSokol (SI Elite) on Jun 01, 2012
SiyaenSokol
xD I didn't think that I would see anyone posting something good about the game.

Thanks Wowerine.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jun 01, 2012
FoolWolf
When I can play it, and the stuttering isn't bad and I get some hours with it, I would say that 8.2 would be a good score. It is a good game in comparison of what is out there. The problem is that this is number 3 - where number 1 and number 2 were games that I would rank close to 10.
It is a big budget game with nice eye candy, addictive game play - but it will not be compared to CoD or Minecraft - it will be compared to the memory of D2 and D1 and some of the better Diablo clones...

Also, yesterday I had 1.5 hour for gaming when my wife puts our son to sleep - during that time the servers showed the unmerciful error 3003 - no Diablo 3 for me.
Actually - that pisses me off. I paid for a game or service that doesn't deliver - that simple.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 01, 2012
JustCommunication
Yeah, it does suck, but I feel you have to seperate the always online issue somewhat from the game itself, and you have to also ask who's fault is it that Blizzard felt the need to do this is in the first place?

I seem to remember that the always-on thing is connected to the Auction House, so it's possible that you have to be connected to the internet for technical/security reasons.

It sucks, but it's not like the game is going anywhere so once Blizzard stabalise things, you can play it till the cows come home.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jun 01, 2012
FoolWolf
Problem is that I mentioned above that the auction house has become too much of a central thing for Diablo 3 - it is becoming a distraction to the gameplay IMO. Now I know that most players favor the loot loot loot options - but for me, it is giving a just desert of whoop-ass to Diablo and other devils...

Also, the online thing will be a problem only for as long as the game feels "fresh". I can't see myself playing this for as many years that I played Diablo 2. I think that once I'm done with normal and playing throw again with some other characters I guess that Hell and then I'm fine thank you very much...
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Jun 05, 2012
Praetorian
Its a great game no issues, except in the beginning when it launched with servers a bit, but definitely game of the year, playing it enjoying it, its superb!
By SiyaenSokol (SI Elite) on Jun 05, 2012
SiyaenSokol
The game gets better the deeper you get into the game. Things get really intense once you get to Hell, and I am frightened to know what Inferno is going to be like.