For those of you that read Cracked.com, yes I am stealing a page from their book. I really enjoy the format, and I think it gives a nice break up to the writing. I hope I can do at least a modicum of justice to this format.
You all should have at least heard of Diablo 3, as the trailers have been running since 2008, and should know at least a little bit of what it is about. As a quick summary: Diablo 3 is a single or multiplayer RPG where you fight demons. You are guided along the path of fate to confront and defeat the lords of hell; Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo. It is a game that many (myself included) have been creaming our jeans over since it was first announced in June 2008. 11 years after the Diablo 3 team started working on the game, it came out. In a lot of amazing ways, Diablo 3 delivers what was expected and promised. It also managed to disappoint on almost every front as well. For example…
5. The Artwork
Diablo 3 is set in a very dark time: People are dying left and right from demons, those people then come back from the dead as zombies to eat their families brains (but don’t worry, they won’t eat your eyes). Things are bad and getting worse. There is blood, and broken buildings, and refugees everywhere. The art department did a great job giving you the feel of an almost broken world, where things aren’t over but the end is near. Everything is dark, gritty, gothic, and blood-stained. The buildings are all damaged, smoldering, destroyed, or boarded up. The people are dirty and scared. All of this combines to give just the perfect feel of how a demon apocalypse in process would feel.
Why it sucks:
For practical reasons, everything is a lot brighter than it probably should be. The dark, poorly lit dungeon is actually quite easy to navigate. Traps can be seen easily and avoided. Your character can see creatures far enough off that there are no surprises. Instead of destructible, monsters, and boxes blending into the background, like the probably should, everything pops out. So instead of feeling creeped out and isolated in that dark dungeon, I feel like I am playing a character walking down a well lit corridor with warning signs. While there are a lot of practical reasons for this, this was not the feel I was hoping to get from the game.
4. The Auction House
Many multiplayer games have included ways to sell or trade items between players, but I believe that Blizzard has done it the best. The EBay style Auction House allows you to sell the great equipment that you have no use for to others that can use it. It’s a great way to make in game cash, open up more space in your limited storage, and help others out who just can’t seem to grind up that last piece of gear they need to survive the insane levels of difficulty included in Diablo.
Why it sucks:
Two very simple reasons: The Real Money Auction House and spam. The RMAH is a great idea on paper; those who don’t have the gold to buy the items they want can buy the items with cold hard cash. The problem with this is that it is really scary thing to think about. The RMAH went live on the June 12th, and of course people were lined up to sell things on the RMAH. All the things… Crap items barely worth being picked up were listing for $250 (the cap) IN REAL MONEY! Most items I saw were selling for between $3 and $8, but that is still an insane amount of money for an item that you are going to use for a couple levels and then sell to a shop (or possibly put back up on the RMAH). This also brings us to spam. 3.5 Million copies of Diablo 3 were sold ON THE FIRST DAY and every single person that plays can sell 10 items at a time. Everyone wants to make free gold off the Auction House, so everyone is using those 10 item slots. Not everyone is going to find an item worth buy, but EVERYONE will find items they think are worth selling.
One of the main reasons why the Diablo series really stood out for me was the way items were randomly generated. While it was fairly rare to find insanely powerful items at low level, it is possible. There is a very large luck element to this, which makes sense. You have no idea what kinds of magical weapons the hordes you are fighting might be carrying on their person, until you ruthlessly slaughter them for their shiny stuff. The prefix and suffix system made it really easy to identify right away if an item was going to help you or not, and added a lot more customized feel to your character. Which would you rather use “+10 Magic Long Sword” or “Grandmaster’s Long Sword of Transcendence”? I have not played a game that has done items as well as this (though Borderlands got close).
Why it sucks:
It used to be that any items that you weren’t using could still be picked up and sold to a shop. The more bonuses it had, the more it would sell for. You could make decisions about which items were worth picking up and which weren’t worth the space they take up (arrows, never worth it). But they changed the payoff system for items in game; white (common) items are now worth fewer than 10 gold, and rare/legendary items are only worth around 200 gold. This is most likely because Blizzard wanted an incentive for you to sell on the AH, but it makes even great items feel useless when a little box in the corner proclaims the items worth at 180 gold. As I prefer to the play the game solo, with as little outside human contact as possible, it makes it very hard for me to earn the gold I need to keep progressing. It also used to be that most items were at least a little worth pick up. Now if you pick up every item, you’d become so inundated with common items, that you would be going back to unload every few minutes and only net a few hundred gold over a matter of hours.
Combat is so satisfying in this game, it isn’t even funny. It is unendingly pleasurable to play a Barb, Leap into the midst of a huge horde of enemies, Ground stomp to bring them closer and stun them, and start Cleaving through enemies like they were tissue paper, blood and bits of demon and undead go flying all over the place. The pack mobs and legendary mobs add a little difficulty and a little originality to the easy to kill minions. I remember well the first time I ran into a Jailer Desecrator Fire Chains; that was a horrible experience, and I loved every second of it.
Why it sucks:
AOE is king early on. On Normal difficulty, the best way to get through life is to just do as much area of effect damage as possible. Then as you progress into the later levels of the game, defense becomes far more effective than damage at getting you through the game. Sacrificing 100 DPS for 10 vitality is COMPLETELY worth it. It makes it so there are only a few set builds that will actually make it possible to progress through the game. For example, my favorite Barb build (duel wield axe/AOE) is not a viable build on Inferno. I do not like being limited in how I can build my character. The less room you give me, the more I feel like you are just having me watch your movie. And I did NOT pay $60 for a movie.
1. The Storyline
The basic concept behind Diablo is fairly simple: Evil walks the Earth, Hero comes to save the day, Hero Defeats Evil, the end. But the writers behind Diablo have expanded it way beyond that into something where you can actually get a really good feel for the world and how the people in it react to each other and the horrible things that happen in Sanctuary. You care about the world, and the people in it. You want to save them.
Why it sucks:
The back bone of the game is still “Evil walks the Earth, Hero comes to save the day, Hero Defeats Evil, the end. “ It’s painfully obvious through the whole thing. There are no levels of depth to the storyline, and a very linear path to follow. Instead of feeling like I am on a grand adventure, it feels more like managing to put one foot in front of the other until I reach the goal. There are no side quests to distract the hero looking for some gold, no places where the beautiful scenery is the only reason to be there. You just have the one main path to trudge through each time you play the game.
BONUS: The Blacksmith
I love games that allow me to train up the ability to make my own weapons. There is just something so rewarding about grinding up the mats to make a particularly strong weapon or piece of armor. The problem comes that it is really easy to get this wrong. Skyrim failed at this so hard, as the armor and weapons you could smith were significantly stronger than even the legendary items you could find. Diablo did fairly well by making it so you needed both gold and mats to level up the Blacksmith, as well as adding plans to increase the variety of what you could build. Items are strong without being overpowered, and it is still possible and very likely that you will find better items out fighting demons.
Why it sucks:
It seems like they just randomly chose items to give you at random levels. You start out with a cross bow, a leather doublet, and a broad axe. Then you get boots, then a wand, and then leather cuffs. The first fist weapon you can make is level 24. What about my low level Monk that I want to use fist weapons on? Adding the AH to the game made the Blacksmith obsolete from the beginning. You can buy better items for cheaper from the AH. For 10k gold, I got a full equipment set for my monk at level 17 that I used all the way up until I got to Heaven. At level 17, the best thing I could get from the blacksmith for my monk was a Journeyman Arming Cap. That is also after I spent 28,000 gold upgrading my Blacksmith, and then 1,750 gold to make the item itself. Also don’t forget the gold I lost breaking down magic items for the mats instead of selling them.
Even with all this said I have to say that I have enjoyed my time playing Diablo 3, even if it isn’t quite the game I was hoping it would be. I am frustrated and irritated with how some things turned out, but I can’t really complain. I have spent over 60 hours playing the game… So they have to have done something right. So, Blizzard, here is to you. I hope you take the words of your fans to heart, and think really hard on your next game. Gamers are very judgmental, but we have short memories. If you next game is everything you say it is, no one will even remember there was any issues with Diablo 3. Hey, just look at Diablo 2. Most people can’t find fault with it, but I bet it got a lot of criticism too.