Diablo III on-going review week 2
Diablo III is too big for a simple review. Well, it's time consuming. Well, it's not all there. Ok so it's a compound reason but Made2Game's on-going review format is designed for MMO and pseudo-MMO titles like this. We don't like to test a small portion of these self confessed behemoth's and think we're doing you a disservice were we to do so. If you missed part one of our on-going review, in which we covered the game's basic difficulty and its most simple charms, then you can read that by clicking here. Otherwise, on to part two.
I've got it – Diablo is a puzzle game.
Last week I finished Diablo III on normal, the game's easiest difficulty setting. While it was far too easy, almost brain bluntingly so, Diablo III still managed to assert itself as the new go-to definition of the term satisfying. Well since then I've played through the game a second time on Nightmare difficulty, and subsequently started a run on hard, and things have gotten genuinely taxing.
It's all down to the special enemies. Every so often you'll run into a particular beast with special properties. Perhaps it's a Vortex type that will pull you towards it, or a Molton foe that will chuck volleys of fireballs alongside its normal onslaught. As you increase the difficulty these enemies start to become hybrid types, such as a bull that creates illusions of itself and pulls you in with vortex powers. Yikes.
These special enemies add a much needed interest and spark to the upper difficulties that manage to fuel you through that second and third run. They're interesting, sometimes silly, and in co-op they often facilitate great moments of unpredictable comedy and co-operation as you and friends try to contain the game's latest horror.
And friends you really need as while Diablo III contains some unique entertainment for solo scrappers the real joy of Diablo III is in the willy waving - and in this unique sub genre it really is king.
Willy Waver's are a unique sub-genre of the RPG that favour the player's ability to show off and feel amazing over other typical elements such as cohesive and compelling plot lines or subtlety. Unfortunately, through such pursuits, these games become predominantly ruled by one's ability to 'show off' and can often feel dull and soulless when played alone, hense why Torchlight is barely half as good as it should be. While recent examples of the Willy Waver such as Gearbox's Borderlands and the Dungeon Seige titles have attempted to recreate Blizzard's secret recipe Diablo III truly shows that the Californian developer are still the head chef's in this kitchen.
The key ingredient is that Diablo III is a secret puzzle game. Ignoring the random loot for a minute, every character has six slots for active powers, a fuel for said powers, and three 'passive' slots for buffs. It's up to you to choose which powers you equip, which runes you apply to your powers, and which passive skills would best compliment your offensive style.
For example - my Witchdoctor has a passive ability that increases mana regen by 300% if more than four powers are 'cooling down' (recharging). I was able to apply skills that meant my mana was almost always regenerating so fast that I could use a very powerful 'rain of frog's that would normally rinse my magic power, but now I could use it comfortably thanks to my greatly sped up mana regen while watching a plague of locust, trio of zombie dogs, army of pygmies and personal Frankenstein batter my foes. Plus, it looked wonderfully bizarre.
Working out a nice, tidy, interconnected system delivers satisfaction that feels far above the Willy Waver's station.
In truth everything about Diablo III feeds back into the Willy Waving, and therin lies the itch. You're always toying, always messing and always improving. Powers are flexible enough that nothing ever feels absolute, and you'll always feel like you can improve your style. Plus working together in multiplayer is rarely necessary. To be honest it almost feels like your friends exist just to watch you be the best, and multiplayer sessions in Diablo III thrive on the friendly competition and goading this generates. Other Willy Wavers push you to help each other, Diablo III tells you to show up your buds.
Indeed Diablo III thrives on this childish minute by minute measuring, comparing and waving. But the true genius of Diablo III is that while loot is the most obvious goal - and I would be lying if I said collecting a powerful new hat didn't provide a unique childish glee - it's the element of brain flexing in regards to power choice, and in terms of tackling the trickier enemy types, that gives Diablo III the intellectual depth to persist beyond its often brainless monster hordes and incessant loot gobbling.
It feels good to play smart. It's just a shame it takes the game's later difficulties to realise that.
In part three we will be wrapping up this Diablo III on-going review. We will ask whether, ultimately, it's worth the time sink before planting a big juicy number at the end in order to quantify our thoughts in a numerical value between one and ten that people will likely read into while ignoring the surrounding text.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
Infernal Helm grants the wearer (and PS3 owners) bonus XP in Diablo’s console outing
In week one James fights against a torrent of issues to describe Diablo III's greatest success - making killing things feel good.