When you think of Diablo you probably have many fond memories of destroying hordes of demons in search of amazing set items and legendaries. For anyone who doesn’t, I highly recommend attempting a playthrough of Diablo II goodness then return to this review.
Personally, what I expected from Diablo III was a graphically polished version of Diablo II with a new storyline and different classes. What I got, unfortunately, is a developer misunderstanding what made Diablo I and II so successful. Diablo has always been a multifaceted experience, and while loot is a large focus of Diablo it is not the entirety of what makes Diablo great. Character customization in the form of stat point allocation and talent trees helped extend the enjoyment of the game. On top of this the finality of the talent points and stat points helped make choices carry more weight.
It is a pretty common argument on the Diablo III forums that stat allocation in Diablo I & II were not actually a choice because there was only one viable way to play. Regardless of the min/max build and stat allocation it still added obscure and strange choices that added to the feel of the game. I personally made a lvl 96 Sorceress in Diablo II that had a virtually infinite mana pool and could spam frozen orbs without ever running out of mana. Though adding points to energy is not considered optimal I did this quite frequently so I never had to worry about running out of mana at the most inopportune moment. This option of choice has been removed in favor of a pre rolled stat increase at each level. Essentially killing a large amount of choice for players to help focus on what developers seem to think is all Diablo players care about… loot.
While loot is a driving force in Diablo II, so was leveling up to get another talent point and more stat points to use. The argument regarding talent points seem to be that most players would just pick 1 ability and pump all points into it. Personally, I see this as one of the downfalls of Diablo II and I feel that the developers should have made the talent trees more interesting so we would want to spread points out more. I knew Diablo III was in trouble when developers separated passive abilities from the initial talent trees they designed. From then on Blizzard continually removed features and simplified the game over and over again. The developers took a game from a 3 dimensional game with talents, stat distribution and loot and simplified it down to a pure action RPG focused on loot.
The even more unfortunate aspect of all this is that the loot isn’t even that interesting. Set items and Legendaries are few and far between like they should be, but unfortunately they are rarely if ever better than a lower quality item. This design choice seems contrary to any other RPG ever created. In Diablo II if a green (set item) or legendary dropped I would be so excited as I knew that most of the time the item would be an upgrade with interesting stats and abilities on them. In Diablo III I already know the legendary or set item will be useless compared to any other item I am using so there is no thrill of seeing one drop. There really isn’t much choice when it comes to loot as each class has a set stat that is primarily used and items with that primary stat and a good amount of vitality is optimal.
I know I must be sounding pretty doom and gloom by now but I assure you Diablo III is a great game. I’ve delved more then 140 hours into the game and have almost 3 lvl 60 characters. The combat and physical gameplay is everything you would expect from a Diablo game. Trying out all the different skill combinations with changing out runes is actually pretty fun. Unfortunately, many of the runes seem either useless or extremely under powered. For example Death Blossom is a rune for arcane torrent that deals enormous damage but makes it so you cannot control where it hits. When I attempted to use this skill the torrent would always hit everywhere except where an enemy was; making it very ineffective and inefficient.
Gems atleast add a minor amount of customization to your gear and are probably the largest customizing option in the game. Unfortunately, sockets are limited to helm, chest, pants, rings, amulet, and weapons and as such is very limiting. The number of choices as far as gem types and colors was even cut down from 7 to 4. Diablo III could still be one of the best games I’ve ever played but Blizzard really needs to make some huge updates to bring in many of the mechanics they originally planned during early development.
Diablo III is a amazing action RPG game that was simplified way too much. The best chance of survival for this title is large sweeping changes to the mechanics of the game and added complexity to the character customization. I’m not going to sugar coat it Diablo III is probably the biggest let down of 2012, let’s hope they can turn it around.
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