Diablo III: Ramblings from a Fan

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© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

In my previous review of Diablo III, I tried my best to tackle points that would be relevant to the general video game player. In this article, I look at the game through the eyes of a “fanboy”, a passionate gamer who, to this day, still holds Diablo II in his top three games of all time. As you can see, the bar is set pretty high, so get ready: things are about to get messy.

Mind you, I should specify that I don’t plan on nitpicking at every minor plot hole and inconsistency, of which there are dozens. Contrary to appearances, there exists a fine line between “critical fan” and “anal-retentive jerk”. Besides, the previous instalment, Diablo II, warned us of grave, unimaginable consequences as the demon Baal corrupted the Worldstone, forcing the archangel Izual to destroy it. If you’re confused about characters sounding different even though the voice actors are the same, well, the Worldstone did it.

What I can’t blame on the magical artifact is Diablo III’s uninvolving plot. You start the game searching for the Fallen Star. A reasonable player might ask why, but Blizzard Entertainment would rather we exclaim, “Why not?” I have a better question: how can I be expected to care about a quest if I don’t even know why I’m partaking in it? With nothing to hook me to the story, all I can do is roll my eyes as the clichés pile on and, by the end of act three, desperately hope the end is near.

It doesn’t help that the villains turn out completely inept. Take, for example, Belial the Lord of Lies, whose human disguise proves so effective I knew right away it was him. If I had any doubts, they were gone by the time I reached his fourth or so “I am totally a good guy” speech. Also consider Azmodan, a cunning strategist whose schemes all consist of telling you exactly what he’s about to do next like some kind of Bond villain. Sun Tzu would not approve.

Diablo, Lord of Terror, is equally pathetic. Being dead and all, he plays no part in the first three quarters of Diablo III and then, predictable spoiler alert, gets resurrected for the final act, a shoehorned character in his own game. Mind you, he comes back with the powers of the other six lords of hell, so we can at least expect a kick-ass fight, right? No such luck: the climactic battle is practically the same as the previous instalment’s, prompting the obvious question, why bring up these powers in the first place?

Maybe they were meant to fit in my backpack, as players can carry a lot more loot and share their stash with other characters. This makes trading equipment a lot easier and cuts down the number of “shopping trips” one has to make instead of staying in the action. The inventory system has been improved as well with magic items now identified for immediate use and their attributes more varied than ever before. It’s unfortunate then that most of them turn out completely useless.

To make a good character, you need only build up the following: your main attribute (strength, dexterity, or intelligence), vitality, a “resist all” defence, and weapon damage. Anything else would just handicap your character. It’s no fun endlessly combing through dropped gear, hoping to find the one percent that might actually serve as an upgrade. As it is, random items have more worth than most legendary equipment, once the pride and joy of expert gamers.

As they say, having too much choice is like having none at all. Take, for example, the character-specific skill system that gave Diablo II such replay value. Diablo III jettisons it in favour of making every ability available and all the gear uniform so that, if you want to try different skill combinations, all you have to do is switch up a few options instead of building a new hero. As a result, you’ve got no incentive to play each class more than once.

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

To counter this and extend the length of Diablo III, the developers have introduced a new difficulty level, Inferno, in which players are required to dig out the absolute best gear to move forward in the game. Unable to cope with the act two monsters that can kill you with a single hit? Then play through act one over and over again until you’ve got the necessary stats. This gets old fast. I suppose you could buy the gear at the upcoming auction house, but then you’d have to either farm a ridiculous amount of gold in the game or make a ridiculous amount of money in real life.

What truly infuriates me, though, is Blizzard Entertainment’s “the customer is always wrong” policy, which first reared its ugly head after the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Consisting of people who’ve never played a Diablo game in their lives, the forum moderators delete any criticism, claiming it adds nothing to the conversation, but then keep all the “Diablo III is awesome, and haters should shut up” threads because those are really constructive. Worse, the company takes no responsibility for the rampant hacking taking place on the servers, putting the blame solely on the players. That’s right: the players, not the hackers!

It may seem unfair to include customer service in a game review, like saying a movie sucked because your popcorn didn’t have enough butter, which is why I didn’t bring it up in my official critique. However, by moving the Diablo franchise to battle.net servers, Blizzard Entertainment accepted the responsibility to take care of its online community. This is a serious mess that only the developers can fix, so you can imagine my disappointment when reading moderator comments like, “Oh, look, once again a player telling us how the game should be designed lol!” The sub-par quality of Diablo III along with this callous attitude has already cured me of my World of Warcraft addiction. When the folk at Blizzard Entertainment learn to respect their fan-base, they can once again have my money.

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Video Game Correspondent: Nicolas or, as his friends like to call him, Dr Nick has a PhD in physics as well as an unhealthy obsession with video games. He won the 2006 Nininger Award for his work in astrophysics and hates vegetarians as a general rule.