Diablo III – The Devil’s in the Details

Diablo III – The Devil’s in the Details

Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, I know Diablo III came out quite a while ago, and most people aren’t particularly excited about it anymore. There are a couple of reasons I decided to go ahead and talk Blizzard’s biblical murder-fest, prime among them being this fall’s woeful video game release schedule. Not to say there aren’t quality games coming out, but the pickings are going to be slim.

So, rather than neglect the games that came out this summer like red-headed step-children, we’re going to talk about them before getting to the new releases.

Right off the bat, Diablo III has a major hurdle to overcome: The player’s perception of what they think it’s supposed to be, versus what the game is actually like. I know a lot of people (myself included) played the previous installment in the series, Diablo II, back in middle and high school, and have fond memories of that time. As a result, rose-colored glasses are going to be heavily tinted.

Maybe you remember the story of Diablo II being epic, complex, and deep. Diablo III’s story is none of those things, in fact it’s fairly rote, even by fantasy standards. The hero from a far off land appears to save the day, a defector from a haughty and prideful race helps the hero on their journey, the death of a mentor and the corruption of an innocent, etc., etc.

But Diablo II’s story really wasn’t that much better. Most of the game was spent chasing someone through forests, deserts, jungles, and Hell. OK, that last one was kind of a curveball, but my point stands! Blizzard doesn’t really do complex or deep, their stories are never particularly ground breaking or challenge too many ideals.

“Diablo III has a major hurdle to overcome: The player’s perception of what it’s supposed to be, versus what the game is actually like.”

What Diablo III excels at in spades, is being a vehicle for the player’s power fantasy. You get to choose from five different classes: The Barbarian, the Demon Hunter, the Witch Doctor, the Wizard, and the Monk. Each have impressive and visceral special attacks that annihilate scores of enemies in a single blow, and make you feel like a vengeful demigod.

It’s often enough to make you forget that all you’re actually doing is clicking a mouse. That’s pretty much all the gameplay consists of: You click to move, click to attack, click to pick up new gear, click to use potions, click to go through doors and click to buy items from shops.

There’s a lot of clicking.

“Puzzles” are either non-existent in most areas or piss easy in others, and combat itself isn’t what you’d call difficult. Taxing, or tedious maybe, but not hard. At highest level of difficulty the monsters’ attack power and defense are increased to the point that a minotaur’s errant cough can blow your spine out through your butt-hole.

In order to survive or excel in this mode of play, you have to kill lower level monsters for hours upon hours until you’ve reached a sufficient level and gathered enough gear. Then you have to move onto the next area and do it all over again.

Additionally, if you’ve ever considered shoving toothpicks between your fingernails for the hell of it, has Blizzard got a game mode for you! In “Hardcore” mode you have one life; if you die, your character is deleted and you can never get them back. It’s an OCD man’s dream game, but for those who aren’t mentally abnormal, it’s just going to feel like torture.

“What Diablo III excels at in spades, is being a vehicle for the player’s power fantasy.”

Diablo III’s most innovative feature is its auction house. Players can buy and sell any items they find for either in-game gold, or real world money. People have actually made pretty good bank selling incredibly rare items for thousands of real world dollars. It should be noted, however, this is the exception, not the rule. Those kind of items drop once in a blue moon, and most people aren’t shell out that kind of cash for pretend swords and armor anyway.

You can undoubtedly make a few bucks, and Blizzard will even let you use the money you earn in Diablo to pay for your World of Warcraft subscription; which is kind of like selling meth to pay for your heroin addiction.

Sadly, the auction house is the only reason I would recommend giving Diablo III a try. In theory, you can just play the game for a while, and sell enough items to recoup the game’s entire $60 price tag, leaving you with, essentially, a free game.

Otherwise, Diablo III is just a competent, if unremarkable dungeon crawler without much lasting power or replay value for those without a previous investment in the series.

Joseph Frymire
JBN Director