The antagonising wait finally comes to an end. Diablo 3 has officially launched – a very surreal moment for long-time fans of the series. The days of playing Diablo 2 via battle.net on a 56k connection are no more. Development of Diablo 3 began in 2001 and was unveiled to the public seven years later at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitation in Paris, 2008. Debut gameplay footage of Diablo 3 received a majority of negative feedback concerning the artistic design – colour saturation seemed too colourful, not supporting the eerie atmospheric aesthetic of the Diablo franchise. Petitions were even created in favour of a darker look to the game. Blizzard stuck to their guns and decided not to change any aspect of visual design and gladly to hear so.
For those who are not familiar with the franchise: Diablo is an action-RPG that involves an excessive amount of loot drops and constant mouse clicking. It’s safe to say that the Diablo franchise is more well known for its core gameplay mechanics rather than the plot/story. People play Diablo purely to level up character classes in conjunction with finding the best possible equipment, well, that’s what I think anyway.
Unfortunately Diablo 3 hasn’t had the best of launches. Technical problems prevented users from logging into battle.net. Diablo 3 requires a constant internet connection to play, even whilst playing in single-player mode. Certainly a wise decision made by Blizzard, probably for the best, primarily in preventing piracy activity.
Prior to the launch of Diablo 3, controversial decisions were made regarding game mechanic changes, in addition to removing previously announced content (PvP). An interesting concept; Runestones were initially to be found and equipped in combination with skills to further add a visual difference to the base skill with a unique attribute stat. After much deliberation Blizzard decided to scrap the idea and offer a more streamlined experience. Gone are the possible 600 rune variants in favour of Skill Runes, associated with each character class, to which can be added regularly as your character grows in level. In addition to the revamped Runestone system, companion pets were removed alongside the use of scrolls to identify items or teleport back to town.
Much of what made past Diablo games a great success is retained in Diablo 3, only with slight alterations and tweaks to core gameplay mechanics to opt for a more streamlined, user friendly experience, appealing to a wider audience.
Diablo 3 is set in sanctuary, twenty years after the events of Diablo 2. The plot is simple enough – a mysterious object falls from the sky, and ends up destroying Tristram Cathedral resulting in the disappearance of Deckard Cain who was studying a prophecy at the time of impact collision aside his nephew, Leah. The Nephalem, you the player arrives in New Tristram to investigate the fallen star.
Diablo 3 shares many similarities with its predecessor in terms of act locations and characters traits/skills. There are five characters to choose from. The barbarian is a savage warrior who excels at close-quarter situations, dealing massive amounts of damage. Barbarians are brutally dominant and skills they can use will dramatically increase armour and life values, evidently turning them into living, breathing sponges, absorbing any kind of physical damage thrown at them. Interesting fact: The barbarian is the only class to appear in all three Diablo games.
The monk is another close-quarter class that specialises in dealing holy damage with rapid-fire attacks. Monks are somewhat reminiscent of the paladin from Diablo 2 in a sense of dealing holy damage and active auras or mantras that offer additional protection or to aid in dealing extra damage. The demon hunter, somewhat a mixture of amazon and assassin skills and traits from Diablo 2 is a class mainly consisting of ranged attacks and traps.
Theoretically the sorceress from Diablo 2 returns in Diablo 3. The newly-named wizard has control over elemental nature. Wizards to an extent are ranged classes also, only difference being the use of elemental attacks, either for offensive or defensive purposes. Lastly the witch doctor – spiritual warriors capable of summoning creatures from the dead and using curses/hexes to weaken enemies.
Each class as you would expect requires a kind of resource needed to cast spells or skills. In previous Diablo titles, mana was the primary universal energy source, which regenerates overtime. In Diablo 3 things have changed. Individual characters have their own unique take on resource management; the barbarian in particular is rather intriguing. Replacing mana, fury is unique to the barbarian. Fury rises when barbarians either take or deal damage. When outside of combat fury quickly deteriorates. Interestingly the witch doctor is only class to use mana, similarly the wizard, using arcane resource energy which also regenerates overtime.
In past Diablo games, a fixed number of stat allocation points were manually allocated to the character, after gaining a level. Diablo 3 completely eliminates that idea. Attribute points are now automatically distributed between strength, dexterity, intelligence, and vitality. Strength for example is the primary attribute for barbarians which increases damage dealt and armour. Wizards and witch doctors share the need for intelligence for increased damage, and for every other character the intelligence attribute will enhance all resistances.
Regarding character classes as a whole, earlier Diablo games had limited customization options. In Diablo 3, before you begin your adventure, selecting a class involves being able to choose desirable gender which is a first for the Diablo series. As you progress further into the game you can in fact buy special dyes to change armour colour too.
Diablo 3 is structured around four acts. The very first act is based in Tristram – an iconic locale of the Diablo franchise. Each act is characteristically rich in detail and with great supporting environmental assets reflecting upon the theme of the act. To anyone who has played previous entries, you may have an idea of what to expect in regards to location.
Early on in the game you won’t have much trouble in slaying the minions of Diablo, in actual fact, only right up until the end will you experience the unexpected case scenario of being utterly surrounding by monsters, resulting in possible death. Death in Diablo 3 is relatively forgiving compared to say Diablo 2 where you would lose gold and experience points gained together with dropping equipped items. If you’re playing cooperatively with a friend (which I highly recommend) you can be revived after a short while by a fellow companion. Playing alone will have you teleport to the most recent checkpoint, alternatively the case when playing cooperatively.
If you insist on playing Diablo 3 by yourself, it’s advisable to hire followers, after you meet them, naturally. There are three followers for you to pick from: the templar, scoundrel and enchantress. All followers share the same level, much like how accumulated gold is also shared, amongst created character classes. Followers also have skills to unlock, additionally being able to equip items to improve follower stats. If you choose to progress through Diablo 3, with an accompanied follower, on a regular basis conversations breaks out between one another – charming to say the least. Dialogue does repeat itself every now and again, which is a shame.
Combat in Diablo III is very engrossing. Character abilities have much variety thanks to the Skill Rune system. There are definitely fewer abilities in Diablo 3 than what has come before in the series. That’s not to say abilities are lacking in the third instalment. Skill Runes are essential modifiers to character base skills, with added potential. For instance, one of the first skills you unlock with the wizard is ‘wave of force’ – discharging a wave of energy that repels incoming projectiles and knocking back enemies. Reaching character level 49 will unlock a rune, ‘force of affinity’ that adds an additional characteristic, in this case eliminating casting cost and a reduced cool down.
Skills are split into three sections: mouse skills, action bar skills and passive skills. Mouse skills consist of primary (left-mouse click), and secondary (right-mouse click). Action bar skills are assigned to the number keys on the keyboard. Passive skills offer additional buffs for your character, each of which differs depending on character class chosen. A handful of skills are actually restricted to placement on the action bar. By default skill selection/placement is locked until you enable the Elective Mode via options. As to why Blizzard decided to lock any sort of customization regarding action bar skills is beyond me. A tutorial of such would have been ideal, explaining the user-interface and all other aspects of Diablo 3.
Experimenting with class skills and traits in relation to skill runes is a joy. So, what else does Diablo 3 have going for it? One word: loot. There’s a massive amount of items to be found in Diablo 3, a huge step forward from Diablo 2. At the beginning of act 1, your character will have generic armour and weapon(s) equipped. These are normal items, shown in white. Normal equipment is pretty much useless – no magical properties and worth absolutely nothing. A step-up; magical items are represented in blue and offer superior properties. Rare items, yellow in colour have great potential in relation to character specific attributes. Legendary and set items are distinctively exceptional pieces of equipment. I’m currently on my second play-through. No legendary or set items have been found as of yet. When playing co-operatively, loot becomes your own. Essentially each player will find loot different to others in the game. Opening an exquisite chest may reward one play with a rare item, whilst others might be in with a chance in getting something entirely different, for better or worse.
Loot comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s vital to manage your inventory so that you won’t reach full capacity. If you want to rid of unwanted items, you can simply sell what you have to the merchant in return for gold or for salvaging, by the blacksmith. Remember the gambler from Diablo 2? The blacksmith role in Diablo 3 is an equal to an extent. The blacksmith can forge items, though, not knowing what attributes they hold. The salvaging facet of the blacksmith involves breaking down unnecessary items, and using materials gained to craft better-quality pieces of equipment. If you plan on playing Diablo 3 with more than one character, instead of selling and/or salvaging loot you can store selective pieces of equipment in your own personal stash, in preparation for future use.
Some items found in the world of Diablo can only be equipped on certain classes. To name a few: mighty belts are exclusive items for the barbarian, typically more value in armour than regular belts, and orbs - special items equipped in the off-hand for use with the wizard.
Progressing deeper into the game, every now and again you will find equipment with sockets. This is where the jeweller comes into play. Jewellers can combine gems, increasing stat potential. Flawed, chipped gems alike do crop up quite often from defeating monster or opening hidden chests. The rarer, perfect range and beyond hardly ever make an appearance. Here's hoping that won't be case come hell difficulty. Mechanically the jeweller is just like the Horadric Cube from Diablo 2, only in human form. When inserting jewels in equipment it was much of a permanent thing in past titles. Thankfully much more flexibility is at hand in Diablo 3. The jeweller can offer a service to remove gems in already inserted equipment, inevitability saving you time in finding gems of a lower rank to combine.
Besides all things in-game, there’s actually an auction house to use via the main menu. Do you have no patience at all? Interested in cutting corners? The auction house is for you if that be the case. Using in-game currency you are able to purchase items of your choosing. I primarily chose to use the auction house for buying gems. Prices are cheaper than if one would use gold to combine gems at the jeweller. Convenience eventually grew into greed. I found myself purchasing way too much stuff, most of which items I didn’t even need. Blizzard surely have raised a few eyebrows in regards to the auction house. The community have labelled the whole feature as cheating, eliminating the excitement for loot drops in-game. Personally I only see myself using the auction house up until my third play-through when I begin inferno difficulty – there’s no such thing as rubbish loot in inferno.
Despite questionable changes made, Diablo 3 is a huge success, for what it is – an addictive loot simulator. Whenever I come across loot, I tend to get overly excited... am I the only one who feels this way? Surely not. Diablo 3 really opens up post-completion where you can further continue playing on harder difficulties, resulting in better loot. As an action-RPG, it doesn't offer anything new to the genre. Though, mechanically it does everything you would want/expect an action-RPG to put forward, with near-perfect execution.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 30 December 2012 16:52|