Previously, I wrote part one of the Diablo III review, as I had not done much of inferno or tried other classes, we decided to do two parts so that I could cover more of the game in depth with more time spent. Read part one here if you haven’t yet. With that out of the way, time to jump in.
A few notes that I didn’t touch on in part one concern sound and over all graphical fidelity of the game. Blizzard has done it again with the graphics, making them appealing without requiring top of the line hardware to run. The game is without a doubt Diablo. The world is dark, gritty and violent, and the groups of monsters you kill die in spectacular fashion. Even more importantly, they die in unique ways based on how they are killed. With my wizard I would watch a baddy more or less melt as I disintegrated him or explode into ice shards if I froze him before his death. These unique animations are important, as the world feels more dynamic and less scripted. Another important aspect is in the ways you can kill mobs. It is most prevalent in Act 1, where there are plenty of walls and chandeliers to drop on unsuspecting enemies, allowing a level of environmental violence seen in very few games.
The soundtrack is far from the quality of the previous two entries in the series, but it still sounds good. The rest of the sound effects are top notch and the slashes, crunches and crashes that accompany the endless violence are visceral to say the least. There is a bit too much chatter from followers when you play single player after a good 100+ hours of gameplay but the discussions are akin to follower talks between characters in Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect. They flesh out the story a little bit more and give more humanity to the NPCs that join you on your quest.
Since I last wrote about Diablo III I have played nearly every day, for hours on end and have clocked in close to 200 hours at this point. With that being said, my two biggest characters are my monk and wizard, both of which are just starting to dig into Inferno difficulty. The monk has spent significantly more time in Inferno difficulty, and his gear shows it. With my wizard just about ready to enter the difficulty, you can tell that she isn’t all that ready for it, and I expect hours upon hours of gear farming to prepare.
Inferno is the final difficulty in the game, and it is nothing short of brutal. Soon a patch (or nerf depending) will be smoothing out the transition between the acts in Inferno, but there is no way to review that yet. If the change is so significant that it needs to be mentioned I’ll be sure to update it along with the Real Money Auction House information at a later date. In this difficulty, the challenge comes from the champion packs instead of the bosses. Each boss is still difficult, but far from the main focus. Once you reach level 60, killing a champion pack (a group of unique and powerful monsters) give your party a buff that increases their magic find by just over 20% that stacks five times. The idea is that you work through and act to get your full valor stacks and with a big chunk of additional magic find shoot for killing the boss of the act. This will give you many more rare (yellow) items which will help prepare you for the next act. My monk and his pet witch doctor have been farming Inferno a great deal and still have some trouble in Act II.
Hell difficulty (the difficulty preceding Inferno) is still a challenge but not near as brutal as it’s bigger brother. Champion packs will only have three modifiers as opposed to the four that are found in Inferno. What Hell does well is prepare you for the new challenges you face as you enter the end game. Normal and Nightmare are fun and all, but they are a different game from the final two parts. With a recent change to how monster damage scales in groups, the game is a bit easier to face with three additional friends, but Hell still presents a fantastic challenge. These two difficulties change how the game is played. Where as I face rolled and destroyed everything in my path with both characters for the first two, the second two require a slower more thoughtful approach to combat.
It could be argued that using the auction house kills a great deal of the challenge in the game. Gear is sporadic, and it is rare that you find what you need. Instead, you sell that gear to someone else through the auction house and purchase the exact item you are looking for. My wizard was in Hell difficulty in half the time that my monk made it because I was able to buy such great gear with +experience modifiers whenever I wanted since all gold is shared between characters. Does it ruin the game? Not really, the auction house is optional and soon my play group will be playing through the game without buying any gear at all, in game or on the auction house. This added challenge will be great when the servers are hiccuping and we aren’t comfortable risking our hardcore characters lives to the server gods.
Speaking of hardcore, this is where the game really hits you in the face. One death and that’s it. You made it to level 60 and have tons of amazing loot? Then a brutal pack of champions comes and locks you down to the point that there is no escape? Death. Remake and start at level one and forget about all that gear. Hardcore is a heart pumping, adrenaline filled way to play the game that I look forward to digging into more. We haven’t completed the game on normal mode yet, so we haven’t spent much time on Hardcore yet, but the time spent was a new feeling that really puts a ton of stress into every fight. Knowing that my character is mortal and can die based on one mistake is a challenge that few games throw at players these days.
Finally, the RMAH (Real Money Auction House) has gone live on the American servers as of this writing. It works just like you would expect, using real dollars in place of gold. While not all items are able to be sold and purchased just yet, players are able to purchase equipment and weapons. Buying items was simple enough once you jump through the hoops to set up payment options. SMS security is required for any purchasing and selling through paypal or a credit card and the text message containing the security code was slow to show up to start. It seems to be working a bit better now, but expect a few days or weeks before the RMAH side of things starts running completely smooth. I’m not sure what impact this will have on the game as a whole but I look forward to trying to make a little extra cash farming with my wizard and monk. Only time will tell if this hurts or helps the game in the long run but it is nice to see a company taking a chance, even if the fees are pretty outrageous.
What the future holds for Diablo III is anyone’s guess. Many fans are calling foul about many of the nerfs that are coming up and the general lack of reason to replay the game. For me, D3 has scratched that itch that I’ve been waiting so long to satisfy. It’s a deep, challenging and enjoyable game that constantly feeds me more and more loot. While much of that loot needs to be converted to what I need in the auction house, the general speed of progression through the game is enjoyable and keeps me engaged in the constant struggle to get better. I still have three more characters to level to 60 in normal mode and five more for hardcore, so I expect that this game will be seeing me a great deal over the year to come. Just as things start to wear off, I’m sure some big expansion pack will rekindle the fire that I feel even now, a month after release, to log in and get to hacking and slashing. Diablo III may be a bit more casual friendly, but it is still one of the most polished and well designed games out there. With Blizzard’s constant commitment to balancing the classes and really tighten the game up, I know my time invested will be worth it in the long run. I can’t recommend the game enough and hope that each gamer gives the world of Diablo a chance.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Nothing short of a metric ton of content.
+ Classes are unique and have multiple styles of play.
+ Changing skills whenever you like means no more mistakes in character builds.
+ So many loots.
+ Lots and Lots of loots!
– Currently, rare items are generally better than Legendaries (something being addressed in a future patch)
– Blizzard may be too focused on the casual to give the game the same staying power as it’s predecessor.
– Certain skills seem all but required for certain classes.
– Many of the modifiers are extremely difficult to understand, more clarity to stats would be much appreciated.
9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.
Diablo III was developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. The game is available on PC and Mac with an MSRP of $59.99 and was released on May 15th 2012.