Yes, yes, I know, it’s a big name title. But I do feel that even though everyone else, their dog, and their dog’s dog is reviewing the AAA titles, well, let me just say this. Even if there is an elephant in the room, eventually everyone is going to take a look at it and tell you whether or not it’s a damn fine elephant.
So here we go.
So what’s this Diablo business, anyway?: Well, Diablo was Blizzard’s version of the ‘Roguelike’, a term which has less and less meaning now that fewer and fewer people know what Rogue is. Basically what it means is you pick a character and take him through a randomly generated dungeon for the sole purpose of getting better loot.
And there have been three of these?: Yep.
For the love of God, why?: Because it’s goddamn addictive, that’s why.
So, this is the third one. Do you need to know anything at all about the previous ones?: Nope. I mean, there is plot, but just like you don’t /have/ to have played Warcraft 1-3 in order to get World of Warcraft, nor do you have to have played Diablo 1 and 2 to get 3. Stuff is recapped in journal and lore entries, and the plot really doesn’t get in the way of you killing a whole bunch of dudes.
It’s PC-only, right? What was the install experience like?: Blizzard’s really streamlined their installer. I had no trouble logging onto Battle.net, downloading the install file, running it, and letting the downloader do its work.
So how does it play?: Also streamlined. I’ll break it down for you. If you’ve played World of Warcraft or similar games, it’s much simpler. You really only have right and left click, along with about four or five hotkeys. That’s it. Only two attack abilities equippable at a time. Movement is point and click. It’s really pretty cathartic in its simplicity. If you’ve played the previous games in the Diablo series, the skill tree is gone, replaced by a rune system and abilities unlocked by level. No skill points, no having to decide what build you want, nothing like that. I’d say it was dumbed down, except that it never really should have been that complicated to begin with. Also, there are health pickups now, so it almost feels like you’re playing Gauntlet or something. Again, it’s really no better or worse than how it was before, just a little different.
So what are the things that caught your attention, in a positive manner?: The diversity in the character classes. Each has their own unique resource, it’s not all based on Mana anymore. Some are familiar (the Barbarian basically copies WoW’s warrior rage mechanic), and some are new (the Demon Hunter really stands out as being different). Also, and I’m going to count this as a positive, even with all that’s changed, it still feels like a Diablo game. it’s familiar. Additionally, the multiplayer this time around was very well done. I love the idea of being able to hop in and out of my friends’ games at will, and it’s a feature that I think was implemented pretty seamlessly.
And the negatives?: I’ve been pointedly avoiding talking about this, but I’ll just throw it here. No matter what the reason, no matter if it’s a good reason or a bad reason, the fact that you are forced to log into Blizzard’s servers in order to play the single player portion of the game is ri-goddamn-diculous. If the servers go down, you are locked out of the game. This is absolutely unacceptable for a single player game, and it’s something a lot of people had to deal with, and got very angry about, on launch day when the servers were overloaded. Predictably. Now, I’m not pissed about it because I know what I was getting into when I bought it, but it is, and should be, a definite dealbreaker for some people. I’ve been told that the reason for the always-on connection is to facilitate an auction house by which you can purchase in-game items from other people for real money. I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment, so you can fully process exactly how ridiculous that is. And then say nothing more about it, ever. Now that I’ve gotten it out of the way, my other complaints really just boil down to repetition. It’s the nature of Diablo that it does get pretty repetitive after awhile, so it’s not a game I would play for a marathon session. Especially because my hand starts to hurt from all the clicking. Really, would an auto-attack option have been so bad?
So, all in all?: If you like Roguelikes, or action RPGs, or have a continuing fascination with loot and the achieving thereof, it’s a great game. If the above things become repetitive for you, then maybe not so much. If you didn’t like previous Diablo games, this one won’t change your mind, but if you did, it’s a great iteration in the series. Also, if you don’t have a stable internet connection, the game will not be playable, in any form, at all, for you. So take that into account.
[This review is reposted with my permission at Attack Initiative.]