I’ve got the latest Diablo update in, so I guess I’ll buckle down and finally finish my review of Diablo 3. Well… actually it won’t be so much a review as it’ll be me talking about diablo 3 and diablo 2 in general and rather randomly.
First of all, I didn’t buy reaper of souls yet. There’s no way I’m spending forty bucks on and update. I would have been perfectly fine going on with the “old” game and progress my achievements, but it’s nice that all players will enjoy some updates such as: new level cap, new loot system
Blizzard had stated that the Action house would be removed on march 18, when the new loot 2.0 got introduced. Instead, the update was released yesterday. That means that all the gold I was saving up for the AH in order to do some last minute rare shopping is wasted. And that would suck… except it doesn’t. Here’s why: In the old Diablo experience I was able to level my hunter to lvl60 and I didn’t get to see a legendary item until lvl 55. And during that time, not a single rare item was anywhere remotely as useful as the stuff I could get for gold at the AH. But I just spent a fifteen minutes playing now, and within that time, I got TWO LEGENDARIES and at least two rares that were significantly better then AH material that I’d gotten just two days ago.
The new loot system is not just an upgrade then. It’s a game changer. Literally. It changes the play experience completely and makes diablo 3 a little more similar to diablo 2, which is a good thing according to everyone on the planet. Same thing goes for being able to manually distribute paragon points. Yay.
I’ve been more then a little conflicted about the Action House from the start. At first I firmly believed that AH was nothing more then an irritating tack on, designed to squeeze money out of gamers by more or less forcing them to spend more cash, just to beat the game. I hated the rationale that Diablo 3 required an online connection at all times to be played, just for the stinking AH to work. I finished my first Hell run without even touching the AH, but when I got to Inferno, the game started kicking me in the ass. I checked out the AH, got a few items that made my wizard roughly 10 times as strong, and it was smooth sailing from there.
Over time, I started returning to the AH, in search for even better gear. Gear that the game would never give me in random drops. First, buying and selling stuff became fun, and after a while I was booting Diablo 3 just for the sake of checking out what was new in the AH. I was starting to come back on my earlier opinion that the AH was not a part of the true game experience of the Hack and Slash adventure. But just when I more or less embraced the idea of the AH being there, Blizzard decided to REMOVE that bitch from the game alltogether, saying that it was a mistake ever putting it in. In return, they promised an improved drop mechanic, as the game should have featured from the start.
And now… it turns out that they delivered. Which in a weird way must suck for all those people who put down real money for gear, which is now all being outclassed by the much stronger items that drop in loot 2.0.
Anyway, there’s a bunch of other tiny details that I’ve noticed already, which are going to make playing the game more enjoyable; Gold falls in neat piles instead of gushing all over the screen, there are some new and improved animations, characters speak more (for instance when you portal back to town), new gems, and I don’t know. Just details. The thing that Blizzard is so well known for. I haven’t even visited the new npc’s yet.
What I am NOT PLEASED ABOUT, is that my achievement progress fell back from 34** (about 78%), to just 2350, or 23% progress. WHAT THE FU**!? There’s a bunch of new achievements, and I get that some things would change due the new difficulty system, but this is kind of a big thing. Blizzard should have thought about tossing the achievements around, if the changes are going to cost players a third of their progress :S
My Diablo experience began on a farmers’ field almost fifteen years ago. I had initially overheard some guys talk about it, while working a summer holiday job de-flowering lillies. Which – in English – sounds like a questionable activity, but it’s what we did, and it was about as fun as watching grass grow.
The bunch of us would go into the field each morning, and pull the unopened flowers off of miles, upon miles of lilly plants. Anyway, these guys just kept on talking about some sort of awesome medieval fantasy world, where you could kick some serious deamon ass, while suited in the most magical armor and wielding grand weapons to match.
When I got my hands on Diablo 2 shortly after, I spent three weeks of my summer holiday playing the crap out of it with a ice cool Paladin. Most games back then were all about figuring out just what the hell was expected from the player to do. I think I thought I liked RPG games, just because I was into fantasy. But Diablo 2 was the first actually good RPG that I ever tried, and it’s hard not to review *it* on accident now that all the memories are flooding back. But yea, let’s just say I loved about every inch of Diablo 2. Almost as much as I loved Nox, but that is a whole other story.
When Diablo 3 was first released, I was eager to get started with it. I had slain countless of demons in the legendary Diablo 2, and everything seemed to indicate that Diablo 3 was going to be a true evolution of an already awesome game.
After noticing some early adapter issues with server the servers ( famous error 73 ), and poor availability ( 5 stores I checked couldn’t deliver ), I decided to postpone the purchase. I could be patient. This was after all the game I would be playing for years to come.
Then one day, I finally got my hands on a copy. It took a bit of effort to get started due to the stinking pile of shit that’s known as “Always online”.
But a few days later ( due to errors with connectivity, updating the launcher, and setting up a battle.net account… I got in.
The game itself was everything that I expected and more. During my first hours in the game I cought myself just standing around occasionly, marveling at the amazing level of details that the Blizzard artists had poured into the game. The giant statues in Tristram’s cathedral. The occasional bridge that spans over a torrent of water. The atmospheric scenes in the mysty distance. The first act served as an awesome introduction. Not to mention the hell realm in act 3. That shit blew my mind.
When I finished the first act in Diablo 3, I was secretly hoping to be treated to a desert environment, similar to that of Diablo 2.
I… sort of got my wish, since Diablo 3’s second level is indeed set in the desert. But to be honest, it was not just the same. Right of the bad, the basecamp was outright confusing, making me walk all over the place just to find the right merchants, or even leave the encampment.
And then there were those damned, godawfull wasps, which would spit out four smaller wasps at me. First off, it makes no sense for a wasp spit poisonous baby wasps, what?. Secondly, they were too damn hard to hit if there were any other enemies on screen shielding them. Thirdly, the mini did way to much damage for something that’s so easy to overlook. And finally, I just freakin hate wasps to begin with.
The oasis was kind of cool, but didn’t even remotely compare to the sheer size of the third act of D2, which had a real proper jungle. In D2, Curast was a serious swampy jungle, where as the oasis in D3 was just a small part of the desert theme. I guess it was similar to the outer space level in D2, which was also a small level towards the act of act 2. Except D2’s wacky Escher-esque astral plane was much more memorable due to the impossible architecture and crazy specters.
I don’t know.. Nothing really stood out for me in act 2, so my initial excitement was a bit tempered. The game was still very good, but because of minor annoyances, it was losing that “great game” feel. It’s weird that the final boss of act 2 – Belial – has been one of my favorite bosses from the entire game. I don’t know if he’s as memorable as Duriel who was the final boss in D2 act 2, but he has quite a few things going for him.
Let’s consider Duriel first. In D2 I was always on the run from her because she was scary as hell. She was fast, took huges chunks of life with a single hit, and looked like something… well, like something from some kind of hell I guess. Leaving behind a trail of flames or throwing potions at her were my safest bets in a fight with her.
Belial in D3 fights you twice. The first time he appears like a not too intimidating demon. I managed to kill him quite fast. But then, Belial transforms into this giant etheric being. Big chunks of the level disappear, and he gains super powerful attacks that will kill in the blink of an eye, unless you stay sharp and run. So in that way, both the Duriel and Belial fights are challenging and rewarding.
The third act did a lot of good to make me exited about the levels itself again, and quickly became my favorite act in the game. I caught myself marveling at the many wonderful design elements again. The monsters and knights fighting in the background, the winged beasts that would randomly fly over and scoop up a castle guard into the air. And just basically the monsters that I faced on the field, which became so much bigger and creative at this point. No dumb as wasps anymore, or the cliche skeletons and zombies from the first act. No, chapter 3 is where things got serious.
I especially liked Keep levels. On the one hand, the keep is full of monsters that are really weak, so I was able to stomp through them with the same ease of crushing a carpet of hazel nuts in autumn. But then out of nowhere came this new type of monster that had massive HP and would knock my character back through a room. That thing would even break through walls! Crazy.
By far the biggest shock came after I beat the giant gate keeper at the entrance of mount Arreat, and basically entered in Diablo’s hell. If I had been amazed by the surroundings before, then this place blew my mind, because of the giants that were chained to the walls of the mountains. Every step of the descent, they served as a constant reminder that this was the realm of the forces of evil, and that basically, some serious shit waited ahead.
I think that the hell levels’ only point of critique would be that they were a little to repetitive. The monsters were really varied and interesting. You had the small scorpion creatures that would swarm the screen, the half naked harpy ladies, and the giant teleporting beasts.
Each level I felt like I truly descended into a deepening horror, with who knows what waiting at the bottom. Plus a giant half woman half spider named Cydea would drop in every so often to gloat and tell me just how much trouble I was walking in to… So I guess it *had* to be true. Sure enough, once I finally got to confront the end boss Azmodan, a few beats of sweats may have been shed.
But to be honest, I do find that despite of being incredibly epic, the third level in Diablo 2 had a few bonus features that Diablo 3 lacked. It was more mystical, more varied, just plain bigger, and introduced more memorable weapons, such as the crystal sword, and crown helmet. All the years after not having visited there, I can still recall a host of special places in Curast. But will I be able to remember a lot of places in the third level of Diablo 3? Probably not.
Still, level 3 had made me forget the annoyances of level 2, and I was all pumped up to defeat the final chapter.
In Diablo 2, the final chapter was located in hell itself. I remember it being a cold, dark, and eerie place, with danger lurking around every corner. It was a hard level to get through, and it really did feel like a final all or nothing push.
In Diablo 3, the final chapter is located in heaven, so that’s a pretty big contrast right there. This could have been a very interesting twist. But out of all levels, this is the one that fell short the most. There was not a whole lot to see there. The basecamp even stayed the same, as you were teleported back to the castle of the third level each time. Lazy. Also, the surroundings were waaaay too repetitive. Act 4 had only two different kinds of looks. There was the clean and white heavenly architecture, and there was the dark red hell corruption. And that’s a shame, because the individual design elements were clever and imaginative.
What got to me most though, is how short the final chapter was. In just a few hours I was standing face to face with Diablo himself, and annoyingly enough, I beat him with minimal effort. So the game ended before really reaching a peak there. In one playthrough, I even got the “beat act 4 in under one hour” achievement. On accident!
I wish the final chapter had had a unique base camp and unique play areas that packed it with a few additional hours of gameplay. If only it could have wrapped up the individual story lines of the supporting heroes. If only the Diablo fight could have been a bit more… I don’t know, engaging, or meaningful. Then at least the ending would not have come so abruptly.
The uber boss from Diablo 2 that I’m sure everyone remembers most is Diablo himself. Facing him in battle was a truly nerve breaking event. But in Diablo 3 he’s kind of a wimp. It’s in part due to the way he looks, which is somehow less menacing. Also, he has boobies now?? Plus his face looks like a dead cat or something. But mostly he’s just underpowered. I’ve had more trouble going through some of the normal mobs, then I’ve had dealing with Diablo. Diablo 3 diablo sucks. He just barely escapes being my least favorite uber boss, coming in right behind the skeleton king.
#In the end
If I would have to pass an honest judgment and compare Diablo 2 and 3 based on just the first playthrough, I’m not sure that Diablo 3 would win. Certainly it has better graphics, and a lot more eye candy in general. But it doesn’t have the same character and atmosphere that D2 did have. And some parts of it were simply lacking in imagination, and the game just felt a little emptier. Plus I LOVED the paladin class in D2, and there’s no paladins in D3, so…
Also, the Blizzard team had made some really strange design choices. The skill tree was hard to figure out, due to the ability to jump between available runes. Which – by the way – once I found a playing style that fit me, I stuck to it 100% of the time, making the whole adaptable skill set mostly invisible. Missing weapon animations also tripped me up. It was very confusing to equip a monk with a sword, or staff, or hammer, but then to see him only throw punches.
It’s also stupid that weapons were not properly class tied. The fact that a mage would benefit more from a dual wield katana, then a wand a source was ridiculous. The weapon with the highest DPS was almost always the best weapon for every class. That means that high DPS weapons such as echoing glory (the hammer) were being used by all classes equally. Barbs, and mages both running with the same hammers? That’s just crap.
I think that going through the world of Diablo 3 is essentially a mindless exercise. To keep from getting bored while playing this game, I’ve listened to “Learn Japanese” Audio tapes, all of the tracks on the sixtysymbols channel, stand up comedy on Spotify, and the You are not so smart podcast.
Achievements work very well to keep me coming back. By now I am leveling my fourth character to 60, and the game is staring to remind me of putting together a Pokemon all star team. Off course, I can only play one of the characters at the same time in Diablo, but leveling and gearing all of them does give me a sense of having a team, rather then individual heroes that exist side by side in parallel storylines.
Also, I recently created my first Hardcore character, for whom one death means game over. And for the first time since my very first playthrough two years ago, I feel like I’m playing the game, rather then coasting mindlessly through it.
I don’t know… I feel like I could keep tying about Diablo for ten more hours and not cover half of the stuff that there is to be said about it. Blizzard has created a huge world here, and I’ve spend hundreds of hours playing the game, reading forums, reading the books and just randomly day dreaming about it.