It’s been over a month since I reviewed Diablo III. I gave Diablo III a score of 8.1 out of 10. In comparison, my retro review of Diablo II is 9.1, a score that I feel it still deserves to this day. Why would the sequel to a game released in 2000 score a full point lower? Mostly because it just didn’t have that Diablo “magic” at all and my thoughts on the game reflected this. However, I was still in the “honeymoon phase” of Diablo III when I reviewed it, and that phase has since worn off. As a veteran of the Diablo series since day one, I’m going to look at Diablo III again and cite what’s wrong with it. This isn’t another review, but more of an analysis of why I believe that my review was not harsh enough and why this game may not even deserve to be above 8/10, something that is almost unheard of for what is supposed to be a major blockbuster game.
Nobody Likes Diablo III
Now I know what you might be thinking! “Hold on guy, I really like Diablo III!” Maybe you do and there’s nothing wrong with that and heck, lots of people like Diablo III. However, there are a lot of people who have flat out tossed the game aside and said that they don’t want to touch it anymore. What really gives me the impression that Blizzard dropped the ball badly with Diablo III is the fact that, of five people I know in real life, all have stopped playing Diablo III. Two quit on the Hell difficulty, I quit on Nightmare, and two quit before even beating the game on the starting difficulty. To be fair I could have made it to Hell and kept playing at least for a little bit, but a freak event that occurred against Diablo on Nightmare saw me die when he had only a sliver of health left and I ended up shelfing the game as a result.
So everyone I personally know who played this game has stopped playing it already. 100% of real life players have quit, 0% remained for more than a month. This is pretty shocking that not even a single person in my real life circle stayed with the game. Things are a little more divided online with a lot of people still playing the game, but it’s impossible to deny that this game ended up being a disappointment to many long time Diablo fans. Pro-Diablo III supporters can mumble all they want about the game clearly being good due to selling like wildfire, but that argument means nothing at all. This game sold because of a loyal fanbase that was hyped for a sequel to two games that were proven winners. The six million plus people who bought Diablo III thought that this game would be a winner as well, but clearly various aspects of the game just didn’t meet their expectations.
Where’s The Atmosphere?
Diablo III is boring. There, I said it. The four acts in this game may be interesting enough the first time through the game, but once you experience the four locales and realize that there isn’t really any compelling and exciting areas in the game on the scale of several Diablo II areas, then the magic wears off in a hurry. Act 1 is a rehash of the first act of Diablo II. Ditto for the second act. Even the third act is modelled after Diablo II’s expansion pack but with a lot less interesting areas to explore. While I’m on the subject of the third act, I have to say that it is probably the most disappointing storyline chapter I have ever experienced in a video game. We were returning to Arreat to witness the destruction caused by the destruction of the Worldstone, but we spent half of the act mucking around on top of and inside a giant tower? There was little sense of progression and, when we finally did get out onto the snowy fields, it didn’t last long and we were immediately thrown into a Hell environment that was shoe-horned into the game just for the sake of there being a Hell environment. The fourth act was moderately interesting, but it didn’t even last an hour regardless of how fast or slow you progressed through the chapter.
There’s also the fact that, after the first act of the game, the story just fell flat on its face as a result of Blizzard’s questionable story telling abilities as of late. Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to agree that the first act was indeed the highlight of the game, as it certainly possessed the most genuine Diablo “feel” to it. Anyway, this sort of leads into the next point.
Been There, Done That!
Why is this essentially just a melting pot of good ideas from Diablo II that have been bastardized? Aside from the crafting NPCs, there have been no major innovations in Diablo III. Heck, you could even argue that Shen is nothing more than the Horadric Cube with an annoying voice and desire to milk you of your hard earned gold coins. Actually, doesn’t this make Shen a step back in terms of features? The Horadric Cube allowed us to upgrade gems for free.
My biggest beef is that every location we visit just feels like an area of Diablo II with a new paint job. Blizzard could have gone in many different directions with this game, but they chose not to. We could have explored beaches, murky marshlands, rocky mountain pathways, or actual dense forests with meadows and winding rivers. Instead we’ve been given the Tristram area (for the third time), a desert (for the second time), and the Arreat region (for the second time). Has anyone seen a map of Sanctuary before? There are at least two dozen places we haven’t actually seen that would be worth going to. Are we EVER going to see the awesome city of Westmarch? It is referenced in every Diablo game but we’ve never seen it. Instead we’re thrust into Caldeum which is arguably not even half as cool as Lut Gholein was when it was introduced.
Why do we need to visit Tristram with each game as well? Blizzard can only throw us back into that hamlet so many times before they start retconning their own lore. We’ve had to run through the town of Tristram three times now and we’ve had to delve into the Cathedral twice. This doesn’t seem like a series that wants to advance. Blizzard is stuck in the past, unable to get over their admiration for the town of Tristram. Well I say get over it, because no series should make the player constantly revisit the same old areas time and time again. That’s not pushing the boundaries, it’s unimaginative game design.
Money Rules Everything
The fact that the auction house has become such an integral part of the Diablo III experience is disappointing. Remember when these games were all about hunting for loot? Remember when we did that and it was fun? Diablo III doesn’t remember since the game seemingly forgets that gear should be found off of monsters, not listed by John Doe on the auction house. This takes all of the fun out of finding loot. The fact that Blizzard made improvements freakishly difficult to come across pretty much says it all in my opinion. Looking at my Diablo III character, I found a few great upgrades in the first act on the second difficultly, but do you know what? By the time I was fighting Diablo, I was still wearing items that the Skeleton King had dropped all because Blizzard decided to make decent items much harder to come by so that we would be encouraged to use the auction house. There’s something wrong with that picture.
What is even more disappointing is the real money auction house, or RMAH. I can’t even fathom how it is morally acceptable to sell virtual pixels with numbers attached for over a hundred dollars. What boggles my mind even more is that there are people willing to purchase these items for over $100 just so that they can see slightly higher numbers dance across their screens as they wail on goatmen and giggling skeletons.
Diablo III: Wrath of Error 37
Even though Error 37 is mostly a thing of the past, it doesn’t change the fact that one fundamentally wrong thing about Diablo III is the fact that the game must be played online at all times. We, the players who laid down $60, are not allowed to play whenever we wish. Even those of us with stable connections aren’t as fortunate as we like to think. What if our ISPs are doing routine maintenance for a few hours? No Diablo III for you. What about on Tuesdays when Blizzard conducts routine maintenance for eight hours? Again, no Diablo. Despite the fact that Blizzard conducts the maintenance when most people are at school or work, it still scews over Australian players and the like who are in different time zones but use the US servers. Australian players are upset that they cannot play during prime time hours on Tuesdays, and who could blame them? Most of us like to unwind in the evenings and play a game or two for a little while, but Australians cannot do that with Diablo III despite paying good money to play it.
A lot of people like to take a pretty radical stance on this issue and say that nobody has bought the game, that we have only paid Blizzard a license to be allowed to use their product. Wait, what? There is literally no other medium where this is an acceptable practice. Would you let Levi’s take away your jeans because they decided that they want to perform an eight hour inspection on your pants despite the fact that there’s clearly nothing wrong with them? What if it is your only pair of pants? Imagine if you just bought a beautiful Dodge Viper but, at any random moment, Dodge could flick a switch to forbid you from driving your car. You’d be pretty pissed off, wouldn’t you? Diablo III is essentially a library book that the library is allowed to take away from us at any moment without warning us or letting us know. I don’t like this one bit.
Many people support Blizzard in this stance, but I can’t fathom how or why. These people would be up in arms if this applied to their favourite offline single player games. Imagine if Nintendo pulled this with Mario once a week. For eight hours every Tuesday, nobody would be allowed to play Mario because Nintendo would have to inspect Mario’s jump physics or something. I’d be up in arms. So would everyone else. If you lay down money for a game that comes with a single player aspect to it, you don’t expect random disruptions that prevent you from playing the game.
Play Our Way Or The Highway
I was supportive of some changes Blizzard made for Diablo III back before the game launched, but not so much anymore. I’m okay with them removing a little freedom of choice. Maybe we don’t need attribute points or skill points to fiddle with each time we level up, but come on Blizzard… taking away EVERY freedom that players enjoyed in previous games? We can’t choose what areas our characters will physically specialize in, we can’t choose what skills they will learn or when, and we can’t determine what field of expertise our characters will follow. Everything is 100% decided for us. Every single aspect of our character development is set in stone.
Now this is where some loyal Diablo III players will pipe up and support the rune system. That’s not character development and it’s not customization, it’s just picking skills. That’s it. When anyone can copy your “build” within thirty seconds at zero cost, it’s not customization. There is no customization in this game, I’m sorry to say. Even the process of gemming isn’t as thorough as it used to be. Gemming in Diablo III is only half as deep as it was in Diablo II. Hell, we don’t even have as many socketable items anymore. Does anyone else miss diamonds and skulls? What about REAL runes?
Hollywood, Get Outta Diablo!
The story is utter garbage. Why does Azmodan constantly tell us exactly what he is plotting? Does he want us to stop him? Isn’t he a master tactician? If he is, why is he blabbing his fiendish master plans to the entire world? I don’t know, maybe he’s just lonely. He certainly does like talking a lot. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every single time his fat holographic head appeared because the music would suddenly change as if it was some badass scene when, in reality, I just felt like Azmodan was Claw from Inspector Gadget who randomly decided that he thought spilling all of his plans would spice things up a bit. What the hell?
And what was with Cain’s death? That had to be the crappiest death I have ever seen for an iconic video game character. He didn’t even get to go out in a blaze of glory. What killed Cain? A sissy little projectile that wouldn’t even make a quill beast flinch. They tried to make his death feel dramatic, but it didn’t. Cain’s death was cheap. Blizzard merely killed him off for the “whoa” factor. The cinematic at the end of the act was kind of sad, but it would have been a lot better if Cain didn’t go out like some weak bitch.
Should I even touch upon Adria and Leah? I mean really? Adria practically had “look out, I’m a traitor” branded on her forehead from the moment she was introduced. Even Kulle pretty much made fun of the player for keeping Adria around. You know what would have been a good story? Siding with Kulle and taking down Adria before she could even pull any lame stunts. At least that would have spared us from having to endure the sight of Diableah. I’ll give Diablo props for making Leah’s own mother sacrifice her and allow her to be Diablo’s host, that was pretty cool… but the aftermath was not. Here’s the end of the game in a nut shell.
Bam, I am Diablo and I’m inside of a human girl.
Bam, now I am myself again… though I now have a sexy swagger and great hips.
Bam, now I’m dead.
It all happened so fast, and why the heck was Diablo so social? I don’t recall him talking at all in the previous two games. I mean okay, I think he spoke when he was the Dark Wanderer and I had no problem when Diablo was talking when he was still using Leah’s body, but half of the “terror” he made me feel in the first two games came exclusively from his silence. Diablo was a silent antagonist and it worked in his favour tremendously well. You could always trust in two things… First, that Diablo wouldn’t utter a word. Second, that Diablo would fuck shit up. I just… I can’t even fathom how Blizzard thought this story would fly. I haven’t spoken to a single person who has said, “Wow, awesome story in Diablo III!”
Have I Been Here Before?
Remember when Diablo III had lots of randomization? Yeah, neither do I. Blizzard promised that this game would have loads of randomization similar to what we experienced in the first two games, but did we? Well, not really. Almost every area in this game is entirely static. I think that the only randomization I experienced was in the Tristam Cathedral, but even there the randomization was pretty poor. There was hardly any variety in the set pieces used in the randomization and everything always felt the same.
A good chunk of the fun of past Diablo games came from the fact that nobody ever knew where to go. Finding a dungeon’s exit was often just as challenging as defeating the inhabitants of the dungeon. It gave us a lot of opportunities to explore and collect additional loot. None of this exists in Diablo III. Right from the very start the game is a linear line until the Tristram Cathedral. Everyone knows exactly where to go, and that’s not what made Diablo fun. The only thing Diablo III has working in its favour would be the random dungeons, but even these are static locations inside. Woohoo.
In conclusion? I was too nice to this game. Too many changes have been made and almost none of them were for the better. Diablo III is a massive step back from Diablo II in all departments other than graphics and gameplay flow. If you want a deep and engaging action RPG, then Diablo II is the way to go. If you want to go a little more modern, check out Torchlight along with Torchlight II when it releases sometime this summer. So what score does Diablo III truly deserve? Probably around a 6.5 or so at best.