The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

From Hell’s heart I stab at thee

You played that there Diablo 3? I sure have. Just finished it, in fact. So I know what you’re thinking: wossit like? If you’ve read the forums (which, as always, I do not recommend), then you’ve gathered that it’s not just a high-res texture pack for Diablo 2, for which the nitwits of the world will never forgive it. I cannot penetrate why people would consider this a bad thing, however; Diablo 2’s systems design was pretty shit even by the standards of twelve years ago. It was very, very easy in Diablo 2 to get yourself into a situation in which it is no longer possible to win the game. In fact, it’s nearly guaranteed to happen if you’re not following a guide of some sort, because Diablo 2 gives you something like ten zillion possible builds for each class, but only like two or three of them are actually viable. And when I say “viable” I don’t mean “for beating the Pandemonium event on Hell difficulty;” I mean you won’t be able to beat the game at all, ever. Even on Normal. And Diablo 2 offers no respecs of any kind, so if you find out your build isn’t working, you reroll. If you were experimenting with the skills because it’s your first time playing, and you’re playing like a normal person? You’re doomed. Reroll. Did you try some type of balanced stat distribution? You’re doomed. Reroll.

You see, in Diablo 2, you assign your stat points. People are outraged that you do not in Diablo 3. But to my eyes, that was never anything but a trap anyhow; it wasn’t fun in any meaningful sense, and there was no real customisation available, since if you did anything but 75 strength, 75 dexterity, 20 energy, and everything else in vitality, you’re going to lose. So in Diablo 3, they don’t even bother. This is not a bad thing, kids. Diablo 3 actually has excellent character growth; you unlock new skills automatically as you level, and you can assign one skill of each type to your character at a time. You can also change your assigned skills at any time (they go on cooldown for ten seconds when you swap them in to keep fast skill-swapping from being viable), so you can actually try things out and see if you like them without committing to them forever and ever amen like you have to in Diablo 2. It’s actually super fun and not at all nerve-racking like it used to be.

The core play mechanics haven’t changed much. Click on things to kill them if they’re mobs or collect them if they’re treasure. Kill mobs, get loot, level up, repeat. The only real oddity is that the sale price of items is almost nothing, so there’s no real money to be gained by picking them up; this is a good change overall — it keeps you from having to return to town every three seconds because your inventory is full — but it does take some getting used to. The only way to make any real money from items is to sell them on the auction house, but so far it seems like there are a shitload of sellers and no buyers. This is probably due to a massive glut of low-level players; probably once things settle a bit it’ll be more possible to make a sale. The auction house is sort of a pain in the ass, since there’s a ten-item limit and you can’t cancel anything, but it’s still a nice addition.

Boss fights still aren’t great — Diablo’s always been more fun when you’re fighting huge hordes of monsters than when you’re fighting one dude with a dillion hit points, and that’s still the case — but they’re much much muchmuchmuch better than in Diablo 2. Here’s how every single boss fight in D2 works: you drop a town portal, bonk the boss as long as your equipped potions last, then run through the portal and heal and restock on potions. Then you do it again. And again. And again and again and again. It’s complete shit. Fortunately, Blizzard noticed that it’s complete shit, and they redesigned town portals completely for D3 so now you can’t even use them during boss fights, and they don’t have to balance every boss assuming you’re portal-scumming. Big gain in playability.

Story-wise, well, it’s Diablo, right? So there are these angels and demons, and they’re having a big Zoroastrian struggle, and then here’s this dude to punch people and get loot. The plot is good enough for a Diablo game, but it’s completely obvious; there wasn’t one single twist or surprise the whole way through that I didn’t expect. The voice acting is mostly fine (though the accent work is awful), and you can skip every dialogue and every cutscene if you want to, which is aces. Blizz clearly played The Witcher 2, since Diablo 3 rips off the conceit of the torn-page comic-book narrative cutscene, but doesn’t do it as well. Mostly they’re just used to recap what the talky mans just goddamn said, which is a huge waste of everybody’s time.

Act 1 is my favourite part; I always prefer the low-fantasy defend-the-town stuff over the high-fantasy war stuff. But this time around — unlike in Diablo 2 — act 3 isn’t so godawfully dull that you’ll never manage to get through it! There are no flayers at all in act 3 of Diablo 3. The act structure is exactly the same as in Diablo 2, and almost uses the exact same motifs too (act 3 is the only one that’s different); it even ends with a giant loose end left open so they’ll have an obvious place to go in the expansion, just like Diablo 2!

There’s crafting. It ain’t great, but it could be lots worse. So thank heaven for small favours.

May 21st, 2012 Posted by | Games | no comments

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