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- Written by Eric Schwarz
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Page 4 of 6The DPS War
The greatest consequence of Diablo III's systems changes actually appears in the equipment side of the game. Because all character growth is now effectively gone, characters are exclusively defined by the gear they find, or purchase. This is sure to make players who love obsessing over equipment happy, but it's also easy to look at this decision with a cynical eye.
In Diablo III, DPS (damage per second) is king. At the end of the day, between all the attribute bonuses and other modifiers your gear can have, your ability to deal DPS is the major determinant of success. This doesn't just apply to melee and ranged attacks, it also applies to spells that have nothing to do with your equipped weapon. As a Wizard, dropping a Meteor spell onto a pack of foes is influenced by the DPS of the weapon you have in hand just as much as it is should you choose to bop them over the head with it. While it's a matter of presentation, it just doesn't quite feel the same to know that launching a Magic Missile at an enemy is effectively identical to shooting them with an arrow.
Like most of the changes made in Diablo III, this has some strengths and some weaknesses. On the one hand, the game is more balanced than previous games in the series. Since everything relates to DPS, skill damage and effectiveness scales naturally with your overall progress in the game, and everything retains its usefulness well into the game. On the other, tying everything to gear means you have little recourse when your equipment becomes outdated, as both your standard attacks and skills/spells also become ineffective. This can becomes a problem for some classes; my Wizard struggled with the final stages of the game because the gear I could find or craft simply wasn't up to snuff. Eventually I had to resort to the Auction House to get better weapons, rather than face the prospect of grinding for another few hours.
Truth be told, for a game that places all the emphasis on items, Diablo III is also a little pared-back compared to its predecessor. While unique (legendary) and set items remain, they have been made extremely rare and difficult to find, to the point where many players have reportedly hit level 60 and not seen one of either. Things like runes and runewords have been removed, and the general focus of the item game has been placed on rares. This isn't a terrible thing, but the list of modifiers is extremely low compared to Diablo II, there are few truly game-changing effects available, and uniques are frequently outclassed by rares of the same level and type. Perhaps Blizzard are saving these for future updates or expansions, but either way I don't feel that Diablo III retains the complexity in equipment choice of previous titles despite there being more slots to equip overall.
Other MMO-style conceits make themselves apparent in the loot game. Along with the Auction House, crafting makes up a very long-term goal, existing both as a way to get some effective loot as well as a money sink. Instead of leveling up your character, focus is put on obtaining enough gold and necessary items to improve your different artisans (Blacksmith and Jewelcrafter), and it will likely take months for the most dedicated players to reach the top tiers. Even if you don't want to craft, you'll still need to pour gold or real money into getting the gear you need to compete at the higher difficulty levels. While other Diablo games have been grindy, Diablo III takes it to excess, and, without any PvP or other post-ending goals right now, I had little desire to go back and play the game once I was finished, despite there being many more character classes, weapons and so on to try out.
A Story (Not) for the Ages
Despite being a game primarily built around slaughtering hordes of monsters and collecting the shiny trinkets they all seem to conveniently carry around in their pockets, Diablo has always had a strong devotion to its own lore and characters. Even though many players aren't all that interested in the finer details of the universe or the games' stories, Blizzard has opted to place a greater emphasis on their storytelling this time around.
This has manifest in a number of new techniques for conveying information and plot points that are, as a whole, very effective. The main characters in the story interact with one another directly, and often follow your own character around on quests. No matter who you're playing as, he or she will also take a more active role in conversations, exchanging back-and-forth chatter with NPCs rather than simply serving as a mute player avatar. Idle secondary characters offer up comments as you walk past them, and there are journals and books to find as you explore the environment, a great deal of them optional. These are all storytelling techniques which have been used for years by traditional RPG developers, and they are well implemented in Diablo III.