Diablo III Review
I am a huge Diablo fan. I’ll admit right now that I lost myself for many, many hours between the first two games. So when I heard that after 12 long years Diablo was finally getting a third installment – you can imagine how stoked I was. The disappointment I felt after playing through the game, however, is something I could never have imagined.
Anyone familiar with the Diablo series knows some of the basics already. At its most simple, Diablo III is a point and click action RPG: roll your mouse over an enemy and click till it dies. It’s simple and it actually works really well. You can assign skills to the hot bar and the right mouse button, adding some depth to the simple hack and slash formula. It’s a slight change from the potion belt and hot key set up from its predecessors, but mostly this is how Diablo has worked since the first game and isn’t anything really new.
What is new… you no longer allocate skill points to attributes. That’s right, unlike Diablo 1 and 2 you no longer have the option to add to your vitality or buff your strength. It’s gone… it’s automatic. I wouldn’t particularly care for this in any RPG as it is, but the fact this is the third game in a series where part of the charm was building your character… this is unforgiveable. And to top it off, skill trees have been trimmed down to a small core of skills per class where each skill can be “customised” with various runes. Unfortunately, the skills only feel slightly different when you change a rune and offer little true variety. To make it worse, you can change the skill on the fly. You are never locked in at any point. You might see some reviewers champion this new skill tree, but to me it was a massive step back from Diablo 2. Not only is building my character’s stats stripped from my hands and automated, but now I really can’t build my character in terms of skills either. This makes for extremely bland and non-distinct characters of the same class. My monk doesn’t feel any different from any other monk I could create or run into online. There is no reason to reroll a class and play it again. Why bother when you can change your skills on the fly, have no attribute points to allocate, and the only real difference is what loot you choose to use?
And sadly, athough loot does make its return, there is a feeling that something is missing. Whether it is the rather tame and unremarkable affixes to each weapon or the fact that all classes rely on the DPS attribute of a weapon instead of a specific attribute unique to the class… I can’t say. All I know is when I hear the loot hit the ground I’m no longer sprinting to check it out. For a Diablo game, that is shocking. What makes it worse is the fact that I have yet to personally find a legendary drop. By this time in Diablo 2 I had run into at least one or two reasonably rare drops. But from what I’ve heard from other players I haven’t missed anything either. Legendary set drops are vastly outclassed by simple magic item drops. Another mark against the loot system.
There may be an explanation for this… the Auction House. Diablo 1 and 2 had a rather vibrant trading community. Players would farm or stash unique or legendary loot to trade for items they wanted. There was also “black market” sites around the internet that could also be used by buyers and sellers alike. This black market prompted Blizzard to create the Auction House: an official site to trade items for gold and eventually real world money. But this meant the drop rate had to be reduced in game so this trading economy would be viable and would not be flooded with duplicate items driving the price down. Personally, I would never use that auction house, especially trading real world money for an in game item. I personally find the auction house not only a useless option, but one that affects the rest of the game in far too obvious and detrimental a manner when it comes to certain mechanics. But I could have forgiven this by itself.
Then there is the story. Simply put: the story is horrid. Granted, the Diablo series isn’t celebrated for its story. The first game was mostly built on its atmosphere with a skeleton of a story. The second crafted a simple but memorable narrative but still the story was never the main focus of the game. Diablo III retains that sense but oddly decides to throw continuous story into your face. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except it is so terribly written and filled with some of the corniest melodramatic dialogue you will see in a video game release. The story played more like an episode of Power Rangers than Diablo… and that is discouraging. All the villains lose their mystique and aura and instead come across as hokey cartoon villains that pose no real threat. I do applaud the efforts to build lore however. Finding books and journal entries is at least interesting and tries to construct a more vibrant world. Sadly, however, it is almost impossible to connect this world to the world of the previous Diablo games.
Finally we come to the graphics. Mixed with the changes in levelling and the story, the graphical style finishes off the impressive feat of completely divorcing Diablo III from its predecessors. The graphics themselves aren’t bad. They are smooth and look amazing, especially the backgrounds. However, the colour and design completely abandons and betrays the dark, gritty gothic atmosphere the series is not only known for… but loved for. Gone are the halls and plains filled with rotting corpses and pentagrams and dangling bloodied bodies. Gone are the chilling dark reaches that actually make a player wary and guarded. Instead, we are treated to bright colours and halls filled with radiant splashes of blood and flames next to baskets filled with heads that don’t really look like heads and explode comically when hit.
I know this review is rather bitter. But I can’t lie… this game is perhaps the most disappointing game I have ever played. I came in expecting a dark, chilling world filled with mysterious demons and loot to horde. Instead I found a streamlined character indistinct from every other character in a cartoonish parody of the universe. Diablo III has all the marks of a company streamlining and stripping out features in an effort to reach a broader audience. I don’t level my character… the game does it for me. I don’t have to carefully choose a skill set and deal with the consequences… I am given a small core of skills that not only fail to offer variety, but that I can change on the fly thus nullifying any variety that was left. I no longer have to think about what to equip my character with… buff armour with resistance or vitality and simply search for the weapon with the best DPS. Essentially, everything that made Diablo 1 and 2 not only fun, but gave them a decade long life span, is gone.
My review can be summed up quite easily: Diablo III is a decent stand alone title, but it is an absolutely horrible Diablo game. In fact, it is Diablo in name only. I would not recommend this game to any long term Diablo fans, only to those new to the series.
Diablo III scores a 4 out of 10 from me.