After more than a decade Diablo 3 has finally been released. So, after a week of gaming we have to ask, was it worth the wait?
The game’s launch and pre-orders certainly showed that people really wanted it, but as always not all game launches go smoothly.
Since the game needs an always-on internet connection to work, even people that just wanted to play single player felt the sting of the dreaded Error 37 (servers are busy). Something the vast majority of people experienced on the launch day.
Blizzard’s servers were just completely overwhelmed by the flood of players desperate to play the game. Sure things could have gone smoother, and Blizzard could have invested in a better server infrastructure, but would that have helped with such a large influx of new accounts?
They have since added more servers and more players have continued to join the fray.
It’s not all bad
It’s not all bad though, in fact it’s far from that indeed. The game is actually very good, and certainly feels like previous Diablo games. Although there are changes; specifically to the skill system. You’re no longer stuck into a specific skill tree; instead you can easily change skills as the situation calls for it. You only have to worry about a short cool down after selecting a new skill.
Each skill also features several upgrades, known as runes. As you level up you unlock more for each skill, and they all enhance the skill in various ways. From making you teleport to an enemy for a direct punch to their face to reflecting absorbed damage from your shield back onto your attacker.
There are also some very useful passive abilities that you can unlock, and you can have any three active at a time. (If you have unlocked them and the passive ability slots.)
It’s rare that I consider a game’s interface good, but Diablo’s is not only very responsive it’s also quite gorgeous.
I suggest that you activate Elective Mode and Advanced Tool Tips however. Elective mode allows you to assign skills to any free skill slot as you want, without being forced into their original positions. For instance if you wanted to have three defensive skills on your action bar for 1-3, followed by a fourth aura based skill to buff yourself and your friends.
Advanced Tool Tips, simply displays more information on skills when you hover over with your mouse, these extra little details can be essential when you get a new skill.
Real money or Gold?
If you haven’t heard yet, Diablo 3 features an in game auction house to sell and buy all the rare items you want. Although what makes it different to all other games is that it allows you to use your own hard earned cash. Not just in game currency such as gold.
Many people might be reluctant to use real money to buy a virtual item in a game, but there are always people that want a competitive edge in things, even games. One could argue that Free-to-Play games with micro transactions are similar, in that you don’t “need” the item but you’re still willing to pay real money for it.
Unlike that model though, the money goes to the player that found the item and listed it on the auction house, Blizzard of course to get a share of the money. So we can see the justification for it all. The player selling is happy, the buyer is happy and of course Blizzard are smiling all day long as the money keeps rolling in.
If however that doesn’t take your fancy you can always use the good old fashioned gold based auction house. Where you can safely spend your in game treasure on in game items.
Blizzard have never been known for spectacular visuals in games (except for amazing cut scenes), but they have always featured very stylised and effective graphics. I must admit, I was worried that Diablo 3 just wouldn’t appeal to me and others after expecting another very dark & grim looking game.
I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised by how well the game looks. The art direction and style chosen certainly works well.
The game features good old fashioned dark dungeons and caves, but also beautiful lush oases, sun scorched deserts, cities, keeps, and even hellish and angelic areas.
The animations are smooth, and the special effects are not too shabby.
I just find it hard to fault it really, and one can even make the argument that the engine powering Diablo 3 is essentially World of Warcraft’s, which in turn was Warcraft 3’s. So if you go by that, Blizzard have done a wonderful job making Diablo 3 so appealing.
The story is rather good, it carries on several years after the events of Diablo 2 and the game’s pace is good. It doesn’t feel too short and despite some people having rushed through it in around six hours, it certainly lasts longer than that when you take your time to explore the areas. Personally it took me over 20 hours of gameplay to finish the game, that being on Normal difficulty.
After Normal difficulty, you have the option of playing again at a harder setting such as Nightmare, followed by Hell and then Inferno.
There is also the choice of making a Hardcore character, although if that character dies for whatever reason it will be deleted and you would have to start from scratch. Blizzard have stated that they will not resurrect any Hardcore character, no matter what the reason for its death.
Personally I would have liked the ability to also choose a different difficulty at the start, as Normal just feels too easy. Yes I died a few times, usually down to rushing into large groups of elites, or thanks to good ole lag. Even so, it felt too easy.
Playing with friends is really what makes the game though, along with high the higher difficulties. The more players in your group the more challenging your opponents become. So if you have a full group for four players things can get interesting; especially if you are playing on Hell or Inferno.
The max level in the game is also 60, which you can only reach after having played on Inferno. Something to note however is that the harder the gameplay, the more rewarding it is in terms of gold and special/rare items. As such it functions as an incentive to play at those higher settings.
The main game play is essentially the same as previous Diablo games; you’re going to be mashing your poor mouse into oblivion in challenging fights. The game no longer features a standard attack though, so you’ll essentially always be using a primary skill of your choice.
It does make the game a bit more interesting, although some people might not like the change.
Each class features their own unique source of energy/power, so everyone isn’t stuck with just mana. Health potions also play a much smaller role, and they now feature a cool down after use, so you can’t just click them all the time in a fight to try and stay alive. Instead there are now health globes which are dropped by slain enemies or badly beaten up bosses which will heal you. You can also find armour pieces that increase the amount of health granted by the globes.
One of the best changes is the removal of scrolls of Town Portal and Identification. Now you can unlock a Town Portal spell that you can use all the time just by pressing the icon or T, and to identify an object you can just right-click it to start the process.
Let’s not forget about Achievements, it seems a Blizzard game just isn’t complete without them. They come in all forms as usual; form the trivial ones to the unique and skill based ones.
They all add points which get totalled together, so if you’re the bragging type or a completionist you can aim to get as many as you like or all of them.
The main draw for many players is the hunt for rare and unique items in the game and making their characters unique. Unfortunately, you are unable to customize the appearance of your character at the start of the game. So if you and a friend have both decided to play male Demon Hunters, you’re both going to look identical.
The main part of customisation is taken up by items, they range from common (white) items (aka trash) to magical (blue), rare (yellow) and legendary (orange), with some set pieces as well (green).
To help enhance them you have gems, which come in varying type of quality, all adding different statistics or enhancements. Later in the game you are able to combine lower quality gems to form more potent versions.
There is also the blacksmith, which you will get acquainted with early on in the game. You are also able to improve the blacksmith, which results in him being able to craft you better items. Some unique items can be made, with the help of finding their schematics throughout your adventures.
You can either use these to enhance yourself, or put them on the auction house to make some money.
Since the game can only be played if you have an active internet connection there are some problems. As mentioned before they can range from not being able to log in, or just dying because of lag. Even worse, you might just get disconnected all the time. So having a stable connection is very much needed. Blizzard’s servers also take much of the responsibility however. As the first Sunday after the game’s launch the EU servers were down for the majority of the day; inciting anger and frustration from people that have paid for a game that they simply were unable to play.
You can even find some meme about the day in question.
There are reasons for the decision to have the game always online though. In Diablo 2 cheating was rampant as many people edited their characters offline and Blizzard wanted to prevent this. Especially now that they are introducing an auction house that uses real world currencies. Cheating would simply destroy its functionality and the game in the end.
Then again, one could argue that they could simply have made offline characters unable to be played online in an attempt to prevent those issues.
In the end though the game always being online is just another form of DRM, and players will simply have to deal with it. Blizzard are continuously improving their server infrastructure however and lately I have not seen any errors when attempting to login or play.
Despite the games problems (which could be a deal breaker for some), it’s actually very good and a lot of fun when played with friends. It is story driven, the gameplay is simple yet engaging and the visuals and music add a good atmosphere.
I would suggest that anyone buying the game to also get an Authenticator, they can be bought directly from Blizzard or you can get a free smartphone app. They are essential if you want to protect you online account and games.
Diablo 3 can be picked up at most games stores and online retailers, or if you want you can buy a digital copy directly from Blizzard.