Review
Diablo III

By Tim Krynicki - June 3rd, 2012

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Recently, while cleaning eavestroughs during a heavy rainfall, I was struck by both a branch and an observation about Blizzard’s highly anticipated action-RPG.
Diablo III, a follow-up almost twelve years in the making, shares much of the excitement you would see in a non-existent Chevy Chase film that might be titled National Lampoon’s Family Move. Imagine, being excited about moving day (having packed for it weeks in advance), only to suffer a moving truck break down during the trip to the new property, as well as discovering that the previous owner managed to clear out jack all before moving off to Dubai with no forwarding address.

I took it upon myself to stay up on launch night (3AM Eastern) only to experience a series of events Clark Griswold himself would be proud of. When time finally came to login, Error 37 took its cue to keep me from logging in and it kept plaguing my screen until 4:30AM when I finally gave up and said to myself, “Nuts to this, I’m going to bed.” Sure enough, I tried to get back in again during the morning hours of 8AM Eastern and everything was right as rain.

Off the bat, I could tell that the requisite always-on internet connection was going to cause problems at launch; effectively locking players out of the single player campaign until Blizzard’s servers untangled their knots. Until this point, I have never encountered online lag in the single-player campaign portion of a game but I suppose there really is a first time for everything. Online jokes aside, the first thing I noticed about Diablo III is the complete redesign of practically everything else under Big Red’s hood. Hell, if it weren’t for the Diablo name, Blizzard could have gotten away with introducing a brand new franchise instead.

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Diablo III is all about atmosphere. If you’re not careful, your character won’t be able to experience the atmosphere anymore.

It’s not hard to imagine the disappearance of stat point allocation throwing a curve ball at returning players who had already mapped out their previous builds from previous years. The other head-scratcher comes from the fact that normal attacks have been made obsolete in favor of a system that has you map attack and support skills to both your mouse and keyboard.

This is fine, since you will encounter certain boss fights that will turn more easily in your favor if you set your skills up to focus on a single foe rather than swarms of the undead; but rather than switching from a crowd-control skill template to a boss fight setup, you have no choice but to re-examine and reassign skills to their respective shortcuts all over again. Not being able to pause the action, as well as having to suffer a cooldown period, is more of an annoyance than anything else.

Even then, I could never figure out why my Demon Hunter character has the potential to equip one-handed blade weapons and not be able to use them as the only attack skills that Diablo III allows me to assign are only reserved for archery weapons. I also came face-to-face with another nuisance when I browsed through each act’s assortment of shops: there is virtually nothing worth saving your hard-earned gold for; at least not through your first single-player run-through on the default (normal) difficulty. Regular merchants are good for equipment repairs and potion restocks, but they have little use outside of those two occupations.

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Sadly, there are no Legendary sets of long underwear.

Artisans and jewel-crafters are introduced to you through the game’s four acts and their list of goods can be updated to better-quality magic items – provided that you have enough gold to buy their level-ups. While it’s certainly a different approach to keeping stock up-to-date, it is also not uncommon to feel as if you should have saved your gold for something else. Nine times out of ten I kept on finding equipment out on the field that was of far better quality than the stuff I kept finding for sale at each act’s hub city.

Nuisances aside, it still wasn’t enough to ruin my first play through Diablo III. There was a chuckle when I saw a couple of familiar faces return to lay Armageddon exposition through the course of the game’s four acts; and the story (even though “save the world” is as simplistic as it gets) is soaked to the bone with gallons of lore and world detail. Definitely a lot more than you would expect from a dungeon-crawling adventure based solely on looting and grinding out level ups – a feat that certainly lives up to the Blizzard standard.

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I’d be worried about using any spell that generates heat in a cavern full of large, glowing eggs.

So, rather than complaining, one can look at this like an update to Facebook: it’s different and not what users have been used to for years; but eventually, around the half-year mark, there will a point when you simply subconsciously accept these changes and continue playing. Clocking in at just 23 hours my first play through, I can say with full confidence that Diablo III is absolutely worth checking out (if you don’t mind dealing with the initial slew of online technical problems).

Post review note:
Naturally, content and patch updates will only serve to make this game a better overall experience. It would be very interesting to revisit this particular Diablo in either a year’s time or after the first major content update/inevitable expansion.

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    One response so far:
  2. By Marco
    Posted on Jun 14, 2012

    Great review. I especially like the facebook analogy at the end.

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