How Diablo III’s Solo Experience Reveals A Hollow Game

18 May 2012

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has slapped up a surprisingly negative impressions piece for Diablo III, during which the author laments about the relatively boring single player, the interface, the lack of decent monster AI, the loot balance, the lack of difficulty, and, of course, the always-online DRM. A taste:
But what does Diablo III actually add to the franchise, and even to the genre it created? The skills are made more simple, but in doing so actually end up feeling restrictive. Switching off those limitations only seems to confuse things. The inventory is less of a Tetris-frustration, but in that regard just means you portal to your base, sell all, return, and it plays no meaningful factor. (And the Act II base is hopelessly poorly laid out, meaning running to the one merchant is a bore, and the nearby town a chore.)

Monsters don’t attack in interesting new ways. While what almost everyone wanted was a click-fest, it would have been nice for there to be a reason for having those extra skills. I forget they’re there until I reach the toughest bosses, and then just hammer randomly. I think I’ve died four times thus far, playing solo, and try as I might can find no way to increase the difficulty to anything halfway interesting. I mean, I’ve 87 health potions in my inventory – what are they even for? The game drops so much health in every fight that it’s mostly impossible to get hurt.

The only novel enemy attacks I’ve noticed are the waspy dragonfly things, who just fly away from you, meaning if you’re not playing a ranged character they’re just tedious to fight. And there’s the beasts that cast fear on you, constantly taking away your controls, which has been fun in this many games: none.

The other huge problem is loot and shops. I’ve bought almost nothing from a merchant, since their goods are always generations poorer than anything I’ve looted. And worse, weapon drops haven’t meant anything since the merchant I helped out in Act I sold me weapons literally twice as powerful as I’ve found since. The balancing here is utterly dreadful, and that’s perhaps the most crucial thing for an aRPG to get right.
 
 

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