Where is my loot?
Diablo fans have been waiting more than 10 years for this third installment of the action RPG series. Whe asked why it took so long, the developers over at Blizzard will say that it is because they wanted to make the best game possible. That’s fair enough, I say. Not every game publisher out there can get away with making the public wait so long for a game without having everyone lose interest.
What is more likely to make the players lose interest is the much maligned requirement for a constant Internet connection. Blizzard will likely declare that this is down to protecting the game and providing the player with the best experience. The co-op gameplay is certainly worth having it connected all of the time. But Diablo III is not an MMO and, although I may go on to suggest that the single player experience is not as good as many would have hoped, there are still plenty of gamers out there who don’t have any interest in playing with others. By forcing the game to be constantly connected to the Blizzard servers, players with less than acceptable Internet connections, or players who just want to whip out the laptop and collect some loot in remote places, seem to have been forgotten, or at least pushed to one side to celebrate this gloriously well connected country (note the sarcasm).
But the main problem with needing to be connected to the servers to play the game comes when there is a problem with the servers themselves. The launch was absolute chaos as thousands of players who had been waiting for so long couldn’t connect to the servers and actually play. Things are running fine now, but it will only take one person to press the wrong button and Diablo disciples will once again not be able to enjoy the hack ‘n slash and loot collecting that they have been waiting so long for.
But enough of this negativity. I, like many others, have fond memories of the earlier Diablo games and was desperate to find out if the game is everything I was hoping it would be. And for the most part, it is.
The player is first presented with a choice of five playable characters for this classic dungeon crawler. Rather than the usual Warrior, Ranger, Wizard combo that you find in most dungeon crawling games, Blizzard have taken a slightly more exotic route by providing a Barbarian, Monk, Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor. Oh, and there is a Wizard, I guess they ran out of ideas by that point. The Barbarian and Monk deal with the melee, the Demon Hunter takes care of ranged attacks, and the Witch Doctor and Wizard offer a magical component.
Each of these characters play very differently and can be assigned an attack to the left and right mouse button. As they progress, different attacks will become available, and the already unlocked attacks can be improved upon. Although this can lead to characters of the same type playing differently, there is no real skill tree to play with as the skills are all unlocked automatically as they progress. There are also other skills which are unlocked and assigned to the number keys.
Movement is achieved by left clicking where the player wants to move to. This can be a bit frustrating as it is the same button for the primary attack. Playing as a ranged character, there is nothing worse than clicking on a horde of enemies from a distance and then accidentally running into this horde. Holding the shift key whilst attacking can prevent this, but as a gamer that has become more comfortable with a control pad than the mouse and keyboard combo, having to keep looking down to make sure that I am pressing the shift key was somewhat of a distraction. Most of the time I kept my fingers hovering over the number keys for skills and the Q key for using potions.
But overall, the mechanics work fine. Many Diablo fans will tell you that the game is all about collecting loot, and boy there is plenty of loot to collect. As the player fights their way through the hordes of enemies, which are all quite varied and suitably challenging by the way, they will drop gold, health pick-ups and armour pieces or weapons for the player to use. Organising the loot has been made much simpler within the inventory screen, meaning the player will have to spend less time pouring over stats and such, and more time collecting. I am sure that not everyone will be pleased by this simplification, but I welcome it.
As one would expect, the production values are excellent within the game. There is a fixed camera which, whilst not always making it easy to see what lies beyond a doorway, allows the detailed backdrops and environments to be displayed in the light. Whilst this is all glorious to behold and reminiscent of the older Diablo games, I do still find myself thinking that more could have been done in the years since the previous titles. Again, it is not a problem, or even a negative point for the game, it is just not as impressive as I would have expected.
Playing the game in single-player is thoroughly entertaining, albeit somewhat simple on the default difficulty. Things are turned up a notch though, as the player unlocks the higher difficulties by either reaching a certain level or completing the game. This is where the challenge really kicks in, and where the most impressive loot can be found. It is all about risk and reward – you want to show off the coolest equipment, you will have to take some risks and actually fight for it.
And why wouldn’t you want to have the most impressive loot when you team up with buddies in co-op play. Whilst the always on Internet requirement may cause problems for some, for others it means easily jumping into and out of friends games and sharing the experience. Playing with others will mean that the enemies are more plentiful, but never making it more difficult than in single-player. There are no worries about loot theft either, as the available loot is displayed on the players screen only, allowing each player to only pick up what is rightfully theirs. Playing co-op is brilliant fun, and feels like the way the game is meant to be played this time around.
The Auction House is another feature which makes use of the always on Internet connection. Players are able to auction off their unwanted treasures for in-game gold or, before too long, real world cash. Whilst I am not entirely sure that I agree with this practice, it will certainly make for some interesting browsing.
Does Diablo III measure up with what I wanted from this long-awaited sequel? Well, it’s like I never left Sanctuary. The single-player game is less complex than before, obviously simplified for the wider audience, but the addition of co-op play more than makes up for it. The game has hidden treats for those willing to explore what is mostly a linear, and somewhat generic, story. It is also shorter than I expected, but the extra difficulty modes will keep players coming back for more. For every disappointment, missing feature or unwanted adjustment, Blizzard added or refined something to make the game even better.
There is a reason why every other dungeon crawling game out there is referred to as a “Diablo-clone”. Diablo is the daddy of the genre, and Diablo III has done nothing but ensure that the game will remain an example to which all other dungeon crawlers aspire. If dungeon crawling is your thing, this is the only game you need.