Diablo III - On-going Review: Week One
Diablo III is a huge game. A game that Blizzard are cautiously rolling out over the course of its first month. PvP is absent, for instance, while early server issues put a damper on initial impressions the Internet over. Made2Game's ongoing review format is applied to games with prominent online functionality, and is designed to give a broader overview on the successes and failure of these often larger than average titles. In Diablo III's case, it should also buy us the time to cover the game's belated features and factor them into the full critique. Enjoy!
The Rolling Stones once sang about they couldn't seem to get any satisfaction. Well if Sir Mick could take a moment to stop appearing in every American thing under the sun and sit down with Diablo III, then he might just be able to address those original lyrics.
'I just got my. Sat-is-fac-tion'
Every hit you deliver - every level up, enemy kill, quest completion, taunt, ability, fart etc. – in Diablo III is tailored for maximum fist thumping, yes shouting, endorphin releasing gratification. From impact-induced screen shakes to the overenthusiastic particle effects and sound samples, every element of Diablo III is dripping with exquisite enough flair and penache it could make a Wolverine purr.
Good thing too, because in Diablo III you do a lot of fighting. In fact there's very little reason why, at any point in time, you shouldn't still be batting away some hungry hell spawn. OK there are two reasons for that rare occurance; you're checking your recent loot haul to see if anything you've picked up will help you smush things better than before, or you're talking to someone in order to receive a flimsy reason in order to justify your excessive smushing of things.
Smush smush smush, loot loot loot. Diablo and its numerous imitators have never prided themselves on subtlety and it's perhaps to Diablo III's credit that it is proud to be as subtle as an alcoholic's vocabulary.
This comes with caveats, of course. Diablo III's story is as interesting as a bar of soap. Easily visible plot points and corny dialogue present a story that feels almost ironically predictable, with events unfolding almost exactly as one would forsee. The reasons for events and some of the characters involved are interesting, but only in their unique personal capacity. Everything concerning the Fallen Star and its repercussions on the world feel like loose framework to create lots of big things for players to obliterate.
But that doesn't matter.
Normal mode is also a walk in a cushioned park with stabilisers on. It's a necessary funnel to get players accustomed with their hero's powers but that doesn't mean it isn't worryingly easy. Enemies seem to cause minute damage, even to the weaker Wizard and Witch Doctor classes, and elite foes are rarely interesting, only having one unique attribute such as teleportation or the ability to sprout walls in your way. Bosses provide a bit more of a challenge, but even then a little common sense will see you fine. You can't play the actually difficult nightmare mode until you finish normal, the rather punishing hell mode until you finish nightmare, and the ultimate what-is-this-argh-my-spleen difficulty, inferno, is locked away until you've chalked up a completion hat-trick.
But that doesn't matter either.
In the moment to moment Diablo III is a wonderfully tailored barrage of psychological pampering and pandering that can endear it to even the most harsh of critics. The raw brutality of combat married to the incessant deluge of ever improving gear and new skills makes even 'my little pony' difficulty a compelling endeavour.
It's just so. Dang. Satisfying.
Seeing a Barbarian leap into combat, launching enemies sky high with his mighty swings. Or witnessing the witch doctor's private army naw through an encroaching wave of enemies. Or seeing a professional Demon Hunter round up a herd of demonic bulls before mowing through them with dual crossbows, pelvis arched forward in the most cocksure manner possible. It doesn't matter that Diablo III is easy, or predictable, it makes you feel awesome.
And that's what it is - Diablo III is ultimately a cypher for all those dungeons and dragons fever dreams. All those moments you wish could always happen, do. Diablo III doesn't want you to be some flawed hero, instead it casts you as the wittiest, most confident hero to ever walk the land. You can destroy evil with a wave of your hand. When the odds are fifty to one, they're still in your favour. Even in multiplayer you're just showing off, proving to your allies how amazing you are while they try and one up you rather than being relient on healers, tanks and all that regimented rubbish. Diablo III takes the RPG genre and gives it directly to the player, with a wink and a smile, aims its laser sharp focus on combat, and says 'have fun'.
Smush, smush, smush. Loot, loot, loot. Fun, fun, fun.
Diablo III may be an unsophisticated gothic power fantasy, but damn is it satisfying with it.
Part two of our ongoing Diablo III review will focus on how Diablo III's gameplay changes in the higher difficulty settings, and asks if this pseudo-MMO really does enough to sustain player interest.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
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