Welcome to my first ever overview and impressions. Let me preface this with the following. Diablo III (D3 henceforth) is really my first full experience with the series. I do own the Diablo Battle Chest and have ‘dabbled’ with it but never got past level ten in either for whatever reason; possibly my dedication to WoW, but thats something for another time. I never disliked the originals to be sure, more than anything I think I jumped on the wagon for those two far too late. D3 is really almost a full fresh IP to dive into for me, so don’t expect too much in the way of comparisons to the older games in the franchise.
D3 is what we the gaming community refer to as a “dungeon crawl” RPG. You choose your character from one of five classes, male or female and proceed to the town of New Tristram to investigate a fallen star which has rustled the proverbial jimmies of the local demons, undead, corpses and what not. All of this revolves around the “Eternal Conflict” between the forces of Heaven and Hell. The story of how your character becomes entwined in this is what ensues.
The basic character setup is well done; all classes have voice over for both sexes which are used throughout the game in quest dialogue and cutscenes. There is something left to be desired with the characters as you cannot customize their base looks what-so-ever, but the choice provided is very good so I cannot really fault them there. A bit later on you also get the ability to dye your armor pieces for a meager fee so that makes up for some base customization as well.
The basics of the game are simple at the core. You have six ability slots: two are bound to your mouse button and then one through four on your keys make up the remainder, along with the default Q for potions. All of these bindings can of course be reassigned or doubled. The game starts small with one button on the mouse and gradually adds the others to your arsenal as you level up and gain abilities. Here is a small tip I’ll pass along as well. The game sets you up to have one ability ‘set’ per binding. However within the options menu is a small check box called “Elective Mode” that lets you use whatever set of skills on whatever binding you’d like. This makes the game far more enjoyable and flexible, but also allows for you to make ‘inferior’ builds or mistakes that could easily cause you to have problems surviving and progressing in later difficulties too. So if one load out isn’t working for you, change it up and see what you can change, maybe you need more defense, or more offense or just more mobility. Mix it up and find your own personal style for each character.
The gameplay is presented in a standard dungeon crawl fashion of take quest, kill monsters, complete objective (usually killing a harder monster), complete quest for currency and XP with loot drops along the way from all your kills and various things you can break and loot (chests and dead bodies) in the environment. Rinse and repeat through randomly generated terrains and dungeon maps across four difficulties and possibly hardcore mode “dead means dead” if you have the mettle for it. If this seems like a bit of a grind to you, well it is; but there’s something that’s lost in the translation on this one that’s found in the excitement of the gameplay or maybe I just have a thing for constantly improving gear on a character to the point of being a supreme bad ass. This is truer when playing with one to three of your friends, which also will increase difficulty of your current mode based on party size. More people in this game almost always equals more fun for whatever reason. Also there’s no need to be worried about looting as each person gets their own set of loot that drops from each monster kill, chest opening, or object bashing. Items are also easily traded or even dropped on the ground out of your inventory to help others if you so choose which can be a very good idea at the later difficulties as just cause you get an item doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Also available is the option of two auction houses to sell your gear for gold, or for real money; however the real money auction house (RMAH) is not yet available at the time of this writing but should be out sometime next month assuming Blizzard stick to their projected time line.
Also along the lines of having someone help in your adventure are three NPCs that you can have accompany you on your journey if you prefer to play solo but could use a bit of a bump. They are fairly standard archetype characters (melee, ranged, magic) and also have a few slots for gear including a unique slot per NPC that you can upgrade along the way as well. To make these characters more interesting each NPC has his/her own small backstory which provides some nice chatter to break up what could otherwise be a constant sludge of monsters and eerie yet appropriate music and ambience. So yay, bonus you get three mini side stories to go with your main storyline. We all love story right? Not to mention the NPC companions are voice acted as well so that’s more ear candy for you too!
So you say you still need more in your game? Very well. The game also provides two crafting systems via a blacksmith and jewelcrafter each with a NPC to interact with that also have their own backstory to follow. The blacksmith seems to me useful very early on to help fill in missing drops for item slots and then not useful possibly until late game in the final difficulty and otherwise is just a large gold sink. The reason for this is just like drops from monsters you don’t know what you’re going to make. Items are simply described as “magnificent” with X number of magical properties and a required materials and gold cost to complete. The jewelcrafter on the other hand is very useful as he provides pure stat buffs for any items that you acquire with sockets in them. Gems aren’t actually “cut” in this game rather they are combined to make more powerful gems. They usually take three of x weaker gem plus a gold fee to make one of y stronger gem. This may seem rough at first but as you move along you’ll find more and more gems dropping. So many so that I don’t even know what to do with them all now other than throw them in my stash. Ah yes the stash, or ‘bank’ as I call it being from heavy WoW background. This is something I rather enjoy in the game. You have in each “town” a chest. The chest is just expanded inventory; however you can buy more slots for a modest fee and then more pages later on for a large fee. The kicker is this storage is shared across your entire set of characters (sans hardcore it has its own set of artisans as well) so if you find an awesome item you want to use on a witch doctor while playing your barbarian, you CAN! There’s also no “binding” in this game so if your high level wizard outgrows an intellect piece of gear you can bank it for later to use on another intellect using character such as a witch doctor or even another wizard should you so choose.
D3 has hit me like a truck. To say I’m enjoying it wouldn’t do it justice. At the time of writing I show roughly 110 hours logged in the game across 6 different characters, three of the four difficulties and even some time in hardcore mode (not dead yet! Woohoo!) Now yes I know that may sound like a lot to some of you while others not so much. But for me to put that much into one game in a matter of about three weeks is quite a lot. Diablo has let’s say taken me by the horns. My main character is a Wizard level 56 in Hell difficulty as of this writing I should cap him at 60 by the end of the week, I hope. After that I have at minimum 4 more characters to play through all the difficulties with and try a bit more hardcore mode as well. I expect a massive amount of replay time to come from this game as the different classes each present very different styles of gameplay to learn and master not to mention time spent in multiplayer helping friends farm up gear or get past certain areas.
I honestly don’t have a lot to harp on with this game. The biggest issue by far has been the server disconnects which for such a historically single player game is a bit annoying to require the always on connection to play. Some sort of offline mode should be in this game. I don’t think it would have been that hard to do but hey one can hope we’ll see it in a later game patch or expansion. Beyond that it’s minor things like NPC AI seemingly always being on ‘aggressive’ which is apparently getting a fix soon even.
You may have noticed I didn’t say much about the story. This has been done for the most part on purpose. The story is divided up into four different acts similar to a play and each act has multiple chapters and sub chapters which once reached in each difficulty can be reloaded to for farming or re-examination of the story at any time. The game at the normal difficulty level doesn’t take long to run through but I know a lot of people are still picking the game up and don’t want to have any major plot spoilers so I kept this article as clean as I could for that reason. I will say the story is VERY intriguing and quite good, especially in the cinematic department. If there is one thing I have come to expect from a Blizzard game it’s a story that grabs me and makes me want to keep going and some very gorgeous cutcenes. D3 is no exception. Also some nice tidbits are thrown in around the world maps as you travel in the form of lost journals and tomes. These expand on the current story of D3 as well as recap D1 and D2 as you go with short voice over passages, many from one of the Diablo franchise’s main characters, Deckard Cain. Along with this are also many conversations, some mentioned earlier that you can have with the various NPCs and companions as you progress through the game.
I came to D3 expecting a fairly good product and a minor distraction from other games due to my lack of experience and knowledge with the series. What I’ve come away with is so much more and an even greater respect and admiration for the teams and Blizzard and the products they continue to provide us with over the years. Despite some people’s negative outlook on the company and team’s performance since their merger a few years back I feel that nothing with this crew has changed and D3 is here yelling it from the rooftops that Blizzard is still the big man on campus no matter what they do. Blizzard comes out a winner again here, proving they’re willing to go to hell and back to make a quality product yet again. Stay tuned for more from me hopefully sooner rather than later! Maybe even another D3 article!