Heads up, this post contains some spoilers towards the end. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Diablo III was a game that I was terribly excited for, but by all rights, I shouldn’t have been. My previous Diablo experience consists of approximately one hour of Diablo II. Early this year, I managed to pick up a brand new, sealed copy (in the big box!) for £10. That’s a tenner I’m perfectly happy to have spent, even if I didn’t get much out of the game itself. I like having physical copies of games, and obtaining a nice collection of old, big-boxed PC games is something I want to achieve. So even if Diablo II hadn’t grabbed me quite as much as it’s successor has, it’s no big deal to me, because I still got a perfectly conditioned copy of a classic PC game to add to my collection.

I’m not sure why I couldn’t get into Diablo II. I think it’s because, to me anyway, it feels distinctly dated, from a graphical perspective. Now, from my previous post, you’ll know that 2D art is something I think generally ages pretty well. But Diablo II, in my opinion, falls into that category of 2D art that does age badly: pseudo-3D. Diablo II isn’t a 3D game. But it almost looks like one. It’s not polygonal, but it uses detailed and complex 2D sprites along with the fixed camera perspective to produce an image that looks 3D. And sure, at the time, the game looked pretty amazing, but like all early 3D games, it doesn’t age anywhere near as well as more traditional 2D art. So, this fake 3D look, coupled with the 4:3 ratio and low resolutions typical of a game from 2000, it doesn’t hold up as well 12 years later. In my opinion of course. Diablo II remains to this day an immensely popular title that many swear by. I just never had the pleasure of playing it in it’s prime.

Diablo III however, is a different story. That game just came out. It’s prime is now. Okay, maybe not right now, especially after the… spotty launch that Blizzard suffered through. But this is a game I’m very much able to play and enjoy during it’s most active years. Hopefully, anyway. Whether or not I continue to play a game long after release usually depends on how many of my friends are also currently playing. Saying that however, I’ve had a lot more fun than I was expecting playing the game on my own. The gameplay is sufficiently addicting. The combat is great, and the notion that you might just get a totally sweet new piece of gear after you beat this big enemy does a great job of keeping you playing.

In regards to the gameplay, the major change they’ve made since Diablo II is the way that the skill system works. Previously, you dumped points into your various attributes (strength, dexterity, etc) and you had various abilities that you switched between with hotkeys and could also put points into to strengthen them. Now, the point-dumping is gone, which to me is a good thing. Having to micro-manage and spend points on abilities and attributes is, for me, one of my least favourite things about RPGs. In regards to character abilities, you now have a WoWesque hotbar on which you place abilities, each of which can be casted by consuming your classes’ equivalent of mana and some of them also have a cooldown before you can use them again. The deeper customisation comes in the form of Runes, which are essentially modifiers, which change how your main ability works. As an example, one of the Barbarian’s main attacks is Cleave, where he swings his weapon, hitting everything in front of him. The first Rune you unlock for this ability makes it so that each enemy killed by this attack explodes, dealing even more damage to enemies around it. Couple this with the unfortunately well-hidden Elective Mode, which allows you to pick and place your abilities as you choose, allows for a truly staggering amount of depth in the character customisation. The fears people had about customisation not being as deep as previous games due to the lack of allocating skill points are completely unfounded here.

Let’s talk a little bit about the story though, as it’s in my opinion the weakest area of the game. Granted, I don’t have much experience with previous Diablo games, but even with that in mind, the general storytelling in the game was just pretty weak overall. Also, heads-up: Spoilers.

My main issue with the story is mostly in the way in which it’s presented. Diablo III adds full on in-engine cutscenes, but they’re very, very limited in scope, with only the truly marvellous, but equally scarce CG cinematics providing any exposition that’s actually fun to watch. It’s also unfortunate that some of the truly interesting things about the plot and backstory are told through lore books which you pick up in the world. The problem here is that a lot of them are completely missable if you don’t look for them, and when you do find them it can be hard to pay full attention to them, simply because you’re trying to juggle taking in the well-written journals and lore books and fighting off a group of fifty angry skeletons. I feel it could’ve been handled a lot better, or simply stop beating around the bush and accept that most people probably don’t play Diablo for the rich and interesting story. The larger focus on plot (from what I can gather anyway, as I said, I have very little experience with the previous games) is one of Diablo III’s major shortcomings.

Diablo's back! Who'd have thought?

Not to mention that, particularly towards the end, the story is just flat out not very good. A lot of things simply aren’t addressed or resolved, and the ending doesn’t leave you with much closure. After betraying the group, Adria buggers off never to be heard from or mentioned again. Leah becomes the host for Diablo, essentially getting killed and losing her soul in the process, but after that, she is barely mentioned again. There’s no real finality to any of the follower’s backstories. As for the ending, you kill Diablo, evil is gone, yadda yadda, and that’s it. The amount of sheer polish and love they’ve put into the entire rest of the game is a pretty jarring juxtaposition next to the frankly boring and uninteresting plot.

Call me cynical, but the issues I have, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them resolved in a future expansion pack. Quests involving confronting the Templar’s order, meeting the Scoundrel’s brother, the Enchantress’s sisters, these are things I’d love too see. Just a shame we’ll probably have to pay $40 for the privilege (or whatever the going rate for Blizzard expansions are). Story and DRM issues (which we had a lengthy talk about in the latest podcast) aside, Diablo III is still a fantastic game that’s well worth playing, and one I hope to still be playing in a year from now.

Also, my BattleTag is Jeo#2685, so feel free to add me, although I tend to either play alone or with friends.

Comment by news, posted on June 2nd, 2012 at 10:57 pm.

Is it okay to place a portion of this in my personal webpage if perhaps I submit a reference to this site?

Comment by Jeo.me » On Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, posted on March 28th, 2014 at 9:15 pm.

[…] I posted a little bit about Diablo III when it first came out, way back when. I enjoyed it for the most part, with my only real issues […]

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