Twelve years after the release of Diablo 2, Blizzard has largely accomplished what it set out to do in revisiting and updating one of its most beloved franchises with bigger and better graphics, sound, cinematics, and polished gameplay. It's even implemented a solution (maybe?) for the cheats and hacks that bedeviled Diablo 2's multiplayer. But are solo players willing to put up with online "advancements" they don't need?
By now, a week after release, many of you have probably plunked down your cash for Blizzard's epic action RPG and hungrily devoured its story campaign at least once. But some of you haven't -- maybe you've been on the fence or are waiting for a long summer break -- and that's who this review is primarily aimed at.
So, first thing's first: Diablo 3 is an awesomely entertaining, intensely engaging experience that you'll probably want to play and replay, alone or with up to three other players in co-op. It deftly picks up on the Diablo storyline 20 years after the end of Diablo 2, when you, the Nephalem, are summoned to the town of Tristram to investigate a fallen star that has had the unfortunate side effect of raising armies of the dead to attack the living. Each of the five playable character classes -- Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard -- offers its own unique play style, personal history, and personal interactions that encourage replays and make you feel like a kickass action star while leveling up your character with better weapons, armor, magical items, and skills, and spells. Trust me: knocking back undead skeletons into walls with the slam of a Barbarian club never gets old.
The Barbarian's Power Slam feels ridiculously powerful right from the start.
The Prime Evils of Hell are back? What a surprise!Like its predecessors, Diablo 3 has one of those grand but uncomplicated four-act storylines (The Prime Evils of Hell are back? What a surprise!) that's also easy to ignore as you frantically click your mouse to kill monsters and grab loot. It's not that you'll necessarily want to ignore it -- there are a couple not-too-surprising reveals and betrayals -- but, frankly, the story isn't as compelling as the action. Lorehounds can get a deeper dive into the backstory by chatting with major characters and hunting for diaries and logs scattered around the dungeons, towns, and vast expanses that you visit, but don't expect more of a reward than some bonus experience points and knowledge. Even the three Followers you meet -- a Templar, Scoundrel, and Enchantress who can fight alongside you (one at a time) -- have their own story arcs. Exploring their plot baggage is completely optional, which is fine, however it's disappointing that there's no tangible benefit for doing so, such as opening up new quests or unlocking unique pieces of loot
Loot, of course, is the bait that drives you to kill just one more demon… which quickly turns into killing a thousand more demons at 4am. Managing inventory has been thankfully streamlined since Diablo 2. Gone are the days of playing "inventory Tetris" trying to make everything fit, and teleporting back to town to sell items is a quick and easy process. That said, the new loot system teeters on the dull side. For example, why did the designers even bother to include unidentified magic items when every character can freely identify them just by clicking the right mouse button? (In previous Diablos you need a Scroll of Identify or paid Deckard Cain to do it, and you can't use an item until you do.)
This demon sure talks a lot of smack for a guy who looks like a pudgy owl.
The fun of crafting new items by experimenting with recipes and Diablo 2's Horadric Cube has been replaced by an in-town Blacksmith and Jeweler.Likewise, merchants are mostly useless except for selling items or buying health potions; their paltry selection of wares can easily be outclassed by arms and armor picked up in the field. (And don't expect to get rich off selling non-magic loot; the average sell price is a whopping 3-5 gold pieces for each regular item.) Even the fun of crafting new items by experimenting with recipes and Diablo 2's Horadric Cube has been replaced by an in-town Blacksmith and Jeweler who make it all for you from preset recipes and randomized magic stats. Blizzard has simplified the process to the point that the mystery and joy of discovering a unique, special piece of kit perfect for your class has all but been removed.