Diablo III Review

22 May 2012

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
Diablo III is a promise never fulfilled.

That might sound a little bit grim, but I think it encapsulates both the end product, as well as the core gameplay that the franchise has built itself around. Diablo III is a colossally polished title, that much is clear upon even just a few minutes hacking and slashing through monsters, but it's also one which is never really able to live up to its potential, just as most players who ever pick it up will be able to fully conquer Inferno difficulty.

So, while it might be an exceptionally pretty and expansive game, with more art assets, loot tiers, skill and stat combinations than most other titles on the market today, Diablo III is also unfulfilling, like a sugary snack - it never leaves you feeling satisfied, only wanting more, whether that's more loot, a more competently executed story, or a more interesting character system. For many players, it's that desire to run endlessly on the progress treadmill that will keep them going, and the experience will no doubt be flashy, pretty, and fun, but even so, Diablo III simply left wanting.  For a game with a decade in development, I have to wonder if it was ultimately harmed by so many years in the making - perhaps we'd be playing Diablo V by now, as well.

A Legend in the Making

There's little to say about the Diablo series that hasn't been said. While the original game started out as a faster-paced, atmosphere-drenched roguelike, Diablo II defined the modern hack-and-slash, creating a genre based purely on the most basic elements of RPGs (kill monsters and collect their loot), but did so with such excess and such presentation that the end result is complicated and interesting enough to still be fun for players today. Diablo III, at its core, changes little from its immediate sequel. It's still a game about slaying demons and collecting gear, then doing it all over again. The isometric camera with point-and-click interface remains, some old character classes are still around, the story revolves around familiar and nostalgic faces, and so on. But, as always, the devil is in the details.

Diablo III has been an interesting game to follow. Although some of the first footage became available around 2006, showcasing some drastic changes from the usual formula, such as cartoon-style World of Warcraft-influenced visuals, and towering boss enemies that filled up the entire screen, the title has been in development far longer than that, in one form or other. Leaked screenshots of an earlier version of the game from 2004-2005 have also appeared, showcasing a game that was far closer to the Diablo II fans know and love. If nothing else, Blizzard have been busy endlessly tinkering with the game to bring it to a state they were satisfied with.

Diablo III is also somewhat unique in that it's a game which has had quite a lot of public visibility over the last few years of development. Additions such as floating Health Orbs replacing typical healing potions, a more character-driven storyline, a drastically overhauled skill system, and an Auction House allowing gamers to spend both in-game gold and real currency have all been under the microscope long before the game's release. Even during the course of the beta release, which I had the chance to play a few months ago, there were some drastic changes made, including the removal of one of the game's crafting elements, a restructuring of character attributes, and more.

This long history makes itself visible in Diablo III for better or for worse. It's a bigger title than prior ones in the series, with tons of small details that most developers wouldn't care (or be able) to put in. At the same time, though, Diablo III is also a bit of a grab-bag of ideas, with clumsy attempts at building the narrative and lore of the franchise, and game mechanics that have either been stripped away without clear reason, or conversely, have been kept in despite them not really fitting in with the changes made (such as identifying items). Parts of it also feel strangely rushed and bloated with boring filler content, as if Blizzard ran out of ideas halfway through. For a Blizzard title, who are known for such painstaking polish and playtesting, it's quite curious to see Diablo III with so many rough edges.