by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Diablo III lacks the ability to shape your character’s basic attributes. They are awarded automatically without any intervention of the player, removing a key mechanic of its older siblings. The trusty skill tree system was also deemed old-fashioned and changed completely. Skills are divided into six different categories that are unique to your chosen character class, each giving access to a number of skills. New skills unlock automatically as you level up and there is no choosing involved at all. They’re just there. Runes can be used to strengthen individual skills or to shape them into working a little different. Using runes, the Wizard’s basic ‘Magic Missile’ spell can be made more powerful, fire multiple ‘warheads’, become armor piercing and so on.
Both active skills and active runes can be changed at any given time, seemingly giving you the illusion that you are in control of your character. In reality, this new system never really gives you the feeling that you are in control at all. You see, when nothing you do is set in stone, it doesn’t feel like you have built your own character. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with skill trees and player defined attributes, especially since the new system feels like an arbitrary affair and makes one play-through with a specific character class feel the same as the next.
On the plus side, Diablo’s five different classes are very unique and playing them is very rewarding. Playing a Witch Doctor is a completely different experience from playing a Wizard, Barbarian or Monk and the same is true for every class out there. And whereas ranged classes have traditionally been more difficult to play during the early stages of a Diablo session, things have now been balanced to such an extent that that is no longer the case. I think that may disappoint some though: having put most of my time in as a Wizard, I can vouch for that class holding its own quite bravely during melee sessions, making it more of a Warlock than a Wizard.
Crafting is a new and fun aspect of the game that I am sure many will enjoy. Magical items can be deconstructed and turned into ingredients that can be used to create new ones. Training your crafting skill at the local smithy enables you to create better items with more magical attributes, making them infinitely more valuable in use. Training is expensive, but well worth the price.
Diablo III’s normal difficulty isn’t going to break you a sweat. I’m close to finishing my first single player play-through and have yet to die, and only came close on two occasions. I understand the need to keep the game accessible for the hordes of new players that are joining the Diablo ranks, but even for them the game is too easy at this level.
Good vibe, odd choices
Having played for more than a full day now, I can’t help but wonder what Blizzard has been doing all these years. Work on the game started 11 years ago and while it is a fun and polished experience, the amount of actual game content is a bit sparse. While every dungeon has something unique, many are dressed up in the same way, using the same elements over and over again. Reading reports of people finishing the single player game in as little as 7 hours makes me think something went wrong, especially since the game’s selling price is the highest I’ve seen for a PC game ever which should point to - more - content, not less. An odd choice if you ask me.
Despite some shortcomings and a number of odd choices, Diablo III delivers a tremendously fun hack&slash experience. As one would expect from a Blizzard game, the ambiance and storytelling are top notch. Old Tristram may be in ruins but arriving at the town square, I instantly recognized Griswold’s smithy even without reading the unhinged sign. It was one of two moments that nostalgia kicked in, the other being talking to Deckard Cain for the first time. This iconic character from the original game plays a major role during the early stages of the game. Given voice by the original voice actor, Cain is just one of the many excellently narrated characters found.
All things considered, Diablo III is not only a great leap forward for the franchise, but also proof that fourteen year old concepts can stand the test of time. As with its predecessors, the game’s longevity is found in multiplayer which we will highlight in another review. As such, there is no doubt in my mind that Diablo III will entertain the masses for years to come as they co-op their way to the depths of hell to rid the world of the scourge of evil again and again.
Great storytelling, gripping ambiance.
A little too streamlined.