Diablo III and the Road to Hell

11 Oct 2011

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Blizzard Entertainment
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date:2012-05-15
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Fierce Competiton

Obviously, there are people out there who are going to buy Diablo III no matter how much it costs - and to be fair, that's completely fine, as there's certainly nothing wrong with supporting developers whose games you enjoy. At the same time, though, Diablo III isn't just going to be a fully-priced retail game, it's also going to find itself, for the first time, fighting a battle against not just its own legacy in Torchlight II, but competing with an extremely dense market, not just as far as point-and-click games go, but all other RPGs... and frankly, I'm not convinced that it's a fight Diablo III can prove itself as the go-to action RPG, or even a particularly relevant PC RPG in the grander scheme of things either.

Beyond the obvious threat of Torchlight II, there are a lot of other games out there that look hungry to take the action-RPG crown away from Diablo. Most notably, Grinding Gear Games' Path of Exile, in development for five years now, looks poised to cut into Diablo III's market share significantly by providing a free-to-play and persistent online experience - if anything, it comes across as a truer sequel to Diablo II than Diablo III is, with an even stronger focus on online play, and a gritty, dark aesthetic and smart writing which seems much more in line with what Diablo fans grew up with. On a similar note, Crate Entertainment, formed out of ex-Iron Lore developers, are reusing their impressive Titan Quest game engine to make Grim Dawn, an action-RPG that seems to very much follow in its spiritual successor's footsteps, but unlike Titan Quest, it trades in its Greek mythology for an aesthetic that once again is much more in line with what many Diablo fans want.

On a more general and mainstream level, there's also plenty more competition out there in the form of the industry's biggest RPG developers, who are cutting into the action-RPG market in a way that, while not directly threatening to Diablo's reign, still captures the same target market and the same desire for action-RPG gameplay. Bethesda plan to satiate millions with the impending release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim only a month from now, which provides a dense action-RPG sandbox world to explore. Larian's recent Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga similarly provides a huge amount of content and fast, demanding action-RPG gameplay, and Piranha Bytes' Risen 2 looks to provide much of the same quality that made fans fell in love with even after the loss of the Gothic license.

The indie circuit is also bustling with activity, no matter what your taste in RPGs is. The recently-released Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon provides an old-school dungeon-crawling challenge that hasn't been seen on the PC in a long while. Jeff Vogel continues to crank out his own brand of CRPG on a near-yearly basis, with Avadon: The Black Fortress as his most recent and successful of all, especially as he's now decided to bring them to the masses on Steam. Knights of the Chalice was GameBanshee's own Indie RPG of the Year 2009, and still remains one of the most faithful Dungeons & Dragons adaptations seen on the PC. Finnish developer Instant Kingdom are working their way toward the Q1 2012 release of Driftmoon, their own quirky action-RPG that seems to draw from a dozen different sources. And, while it's been a long road, it seems like Iron Tower's long-awaited Age of Decadence may see the light of day sometime next year (fingers crossed).

Of course, none of these games can be said to replace Diablo directly, and I would never dream of suggesting it - the last thing any genre of gaming needs is for an entire style of gameplay to disappear due to trends. That said, it's clear that RPGs are very much in style in a big way these days, and there is a huge selection of games to choose from; chances are no matter what you're interested in, there's likely a game which will appeal to you. Assuming you're are on a limited budget, picking and choosing between Diablo III and any number of RPGs might be a good deal more difficult than it was back in 2000. For what it's worth, Diablo III is still the one and only Diablo - if that's what you're here to see, then you'd might as well take a ticket and get in line. For players who just want a solid RPG, though, Diablo III is only one of a hundred games on the market, and even within its particular niche, it's under threat by both the mainstream and indie developers, both directly and indirectly.

Always Connected

Previous Diablo games have, of course, largely gained their longevity out of their multiplayer side, with the original Diablo launching Battle.net and setting down the framework for centralized online networks that many games would take after in the future. At the time, this was an innovative step forward for online gaming on the PC. Friends lists, IRC-like chat functionality within the game itself, leaderboards and ladders, game searching, and so on were all things Diablo boasted over its competitors, and those same systems still exist years later in just about every single other online gaming network. However, despite all these multiplayer features, they never ended up imposing onto the main single-player game, or TCP/IP direct connection play for that matter.

Right from the beginning, it's been clear that Blizzard intend Diablo III to be a multiplayer-centered game first, but fans soon learned it would come to the detriment of those who weren't interested in online play. Taking from the infrastructure and successes of World of Warcraft and StarCraft II, no doubt, the new Battle.net offers up a wide variety of new features that gamers now expect from online-focused games. Achievements and other meta-game challenges are in. There's the Auction House, borrowed from World of Warcraft, to help centralize and control the item trade market; however, in a new twist, it will also be possible to sell your hard-earned loot for real money, a decision that's proved controversial amongst players who value the in-game economy. The player-versus player (PvP) side of the game has also been overhauled, complete with new arena levels made specifically for battling others.