Ok I’ll admit, I was never a Diablo fan, at least not at first. In fact the very idea of ‘loot centric’ dungeon crawling made my skin crawl.
A friend once offered me a free demo of Diablo II many years ago and I checked it out for curiosity’s sake (what did I have to lose?). However what greeted me was a deeply flawed, relentlessly monotonous hack and slash adventure that felt outdated even when it was released back in 2000. I came back to it years later though and slowly started to fall in love with it.
It’s true that the basic premise of the game was simply raiding dungeon after dungeon, looting weapons, armour and items from corpses and selling them back in town but that rinse and repeat nature is what made it so hopelessly addictive. Fast forward 12 years later and Diablo II was still holding its ground.
In fact it still maintains a hefty online following to this day, which is why Diablo III (a game almost a decade in development) was greeted with semi-religious fervour when it was launched back in 2012. Now the dust has settled though and I’ve spent a good year with the game, I can report that Diablo III is nothing more than a good (sometimes very good), update of its predecessors with admittedly monumental production values. It is also however so infuriatingly addictive (more so even than either of its fore-bearers) that it should come with its own health warning!
Although Diablo III is primarily a single player experience, one of the most interesting additions it brought the franchise were the ‘auction houses’, which allowed players to exchange items with other players. There was also PvP (player versus player) combat added in early 2013 in the form of a ‘Brawling’ system, where teams of players are allowed to schedule battles with one another without any statistical consequence.
The real bulk of the multi-player aspect of the game comes in the form of the ‘drop in and drop out’ cooperative mode, which works with surprising fluidity. There were numerous times during my adventure when I was completely stuck on a particular dungeon or boss and relied on the aid of fellow players to help me.
Indeed, many of the games tougher sections would prove almost impossible without help, especially on higher difficulty settings. The actual mechanics of the game are tight and responsive, though admittedly the ‘point and click’ nature of it might mean joystick junkies get a little frustrated. There was however a console port released last year for both the PS3 and XBOX 360 so console gamers need not miss out.
The campaign starts off slow, very slow, so slow in fact that many potential players may be put off. Once you’ve trudged through the initial ‘tutorial’ missions however and the story is in full swing, an incredibly deep and eclectic experience starts to slowly reveal itself. The map is massive and whilst its inhabitants are far from the lively and insightful bunch you’d find in a Mass Effect game, they at least have something to say for themselves. The variety of weapons, armour items and spells is absolutely dazzling, to the extent that even once you’ve finished the games lengthy campaign, you’ll still feel like spending countless hours exploring the world of ‘Sanctuary’.
There was also an expansion entitled ‘Reaper of Souls’ released last year that not only increases the level cap to 70, but adds a whole new side-story to the game as well as improved levelling and loot drops.
The variety of character classes was also expanded with ‘Reaper of Souls’ pack to include the new ‘Crusader’ class, bringing the total class count up to six. This is significant because the game plays in a drastically different manner depending on which class you pick so in theory, you could play through the game 6 times and still only scratch its surface. The one aspect where Diablo III falls noticeably short is in its story, which is the usual guff about ‘dark texts’ and an ‘ancient prophecy’ that will mean absolutely nothing to you unless you’ve spent a significant amount of time with the earlier games in the series.
Veterans will be pleased to hear that Deckard Cain makes a reappearance even though its set 20 years after the last games conclusion, but you’re not there for the story, you’re there for the loot!
The only other games with which I can compare Diablo III is its own predecessors. Whilst there are hundreds of inferior dungeon crawling ‘looters’ on the market, Diablo has always been a cut above the rest and this time is no different. The production values for one, allow for not only startling graphical fidelity, but also a soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place backing a Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movie. The one thing that keeps Diablo III from being a flawless dungeon crawling experience is the mandatory internet connection. Obviously the majority of homes will have a stable internet connection (it is 2014 now after all) but if a problem were to occur, you’d be locked out of a game that technically has no need to be played online.
Does it re-invent the wheel? No, but Diablo III is quite possibly the most fully featured and absorbing dungeon crawler ever released. Whilst it’s competitors might outdo it in terms of sheer graphical prowess and creativity, Diablo III is just a joy to play, addictive as they come and incredibly intuitive. Was it worth the wait then? Just about yeah! But the question is, will we be as patient when it comes to Diablo IV?
Blizzard initially made their name with the Warcraft and Starcraft series of real time strategy games, which cemented them as the dons of the PC world in the mid to late 90's. It was in the 21st century that they really started to dominate the PC gaming landscape though. This was thanks to the global ubiquity of first Diablo 2 and of course the mighty World of Warcraft, arguably the most popular MMO RPG of all time and still going strong 10 years after its release. Blizzard have recently begun building their legacy with Starcraft 2 and now Diablo III, a game which has enjoyed one of the most successful PC gaming launches in history. Rumours of the rise of console gaming and the death of PC gaming have obviously been greatly exaggerated, though Blizzard is moving into the next generation console market, with Diablo III planned for release on the PS4 later this year.
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