June 3, 2012
Long has it been since people first booted up their PC at home, dropped the phone line for an internet connection and started playing Diablo.
The story thus far:
Diablo is set in the world of Sanctuary, created by the Archangel Inarius for angels and demons weary of conflict between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. When unions between angels and demons created powerful beings called Nephalem, the demon Lilith sought to raise them as her servants and rule Sanctuary, leading to her banishment and the destruction of most of the Nephalem. When Lilith returned, a farmer named Uldyssian-ul-Diomed stopped her by destroying the cults of both Inarius and Lilith, sacrificing himself to protect the world.
In an attempt to keep the lords of the Burning Hells from taking over Sanctuary, the Archangel Tyrael captured the three prime evils: Mephisto, Lord of Hatred; Baal, Lord of Destruction; and Diablo, Lord of Terror. The prime evils remained imprisoned until Diablo, through contacts with mortals living in the town above him (Tristram) began bringing minions from Hell into Sanctuary. While a hero managed to slay him, the hero soon transformed into a new host body for Diablo’s soul. With Diablo setting about to free his brothers, a band of heroes went after him, managing to slay all three prime evils. In the process, the Worldstone, designed to keep Sanctuary hidden from the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, was destroyed.
This last installment is meant to close the circle of the Diablo realm in a nice neat little bow, but how well does it actually do it? More importantly, how well does it play? I will try to do this review without putting in too many spoilers or I will at least let you know ahead of time for those that have not bought it yet or those who for some reason haven’t skimmed on through normal mode.
This game, depending on who you ask, is either amazing…. or complete crap. I have followed the franchise for more than a decade and can honestly say, it is a breath of fresh air with just enough of the playstyle to keep you from screaming that it is a different game all together.
I will be comparing many aspects of all 3 releases of Diablo thus far with their expansions included, for completeness’ sake, and let you decide whether or not to delve into this hell torn world once more. So in the words of our good friend Deckard Cain; stay a while, and listen.
In Diablo there were a total of 3 playable classes. These classes included the Warrior, Rogue (archer), or Sorcerer. Diablo: Hellfire offers an additional character class: the Monk, in addition to two hidden character classes: the Barbarian and the Bard. This totals us at 6 playable classes for the original franchise release with the expansion adding more variety to the replay.
In Diablo II there were a total of 5 playable classes. These classes included the Barbarian, Amazon, Sorceress, Paladin, or Necromancer. Diablo II: Lord of Destruction offered 2 more playable classes from the get go, the Druid and Assassin as well as a fifth act to traverse through and a multitude of other upgrades such as multiple weapon pages and a substantial increase in the stash size. This expansion put Diablo II on the map with a large scale community and following.
In Diablo III we have yet again 5 playable classes. Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Wizard, Monk, and Witch Doctor. In all honesty, these fall almost directly in line with the first 5 classes of Diablo II with variables that have been changed. This is not to say that it is bad, it is a bit refreshing to see a difference in the way you play Diablo II and Diablo III with essentially similar class substitutes. The exception is that now you can also select gender.
In Diablo the classes were almost a nomenclature only in early levels as any class could wield a weapon or use spells. The difference really only showed itself later in play when high level spells required 255 magic that only the sorcerer could achieve. Likewise only the Warrior could wield high level plate armors and weapons.
In Diablo II the class system was overhauled and given a new style where each class had the ability to wield specialized weapons and the ability to use certain items that the others could not. They were also given split skill trees that each class would use to attain skills as they leveled where each class was completely separate in it’s uses and spells. This added variety so as not every character was using identical weaponry and spells regardless of class as seen wildly on its predecessor.
In Diablo III, however, the class system was overhauled in a different way. They kept the separate skills per class but instead of letting players “level up” certain skills while completely skipping others they have a strict linear pathway for skills and they unlock as you level gaining different runes that can change the use of certain spells. This is one point that many people seem to think droll but I for one am in love with it. No more are the days of having a limited number of skill points and only ascertaining certain skills to comply with a generally accepted build or otherwise be useless in the end game. This method makes every character unlock every ability and in doing so lets all players have free reign to change and modify the skill set that they want to adorn and play with. This also means, instead of being forced on a path based on the skills I have chosen like in Diablo II ex: Bowazon vs Javazon, I can simply switch between play types on said class by simply choosing the other skills that let me more easily play as that type. This is such a huge improvement over the old style. I no longer need 4 Amazons to have every build that I enjoy playing. I need only 1 with every skill unlocked and ready, simply hit the skill tree and select which skills and modifiers that I want.
In Diablo you were given the chance to add points per level into the stat of your choice. This gave you the chance to create your character on the fly however you felt you needed it to perform. This was nice since most RPG’s at the time did not give you this ability.
In Diablo II you were still given the ability to add stat points where you felt they would best help you gear and fight. This changed when Uber: Tristram and the Diablo Clone were introduced as items that dropped from each gave an exorbitant amount of stats to every category leaving you free to put almost if not ALL point into Vitality and still being able to gear to the teeth effectively breaking the game and how character creation was done.
In Diablo III they have overhauled the stat system and stripped you of your right to choose stat point allocation effectively taking you out of the realm of customizing your character all together. Every Class that gears the exact same will have the exact same damage and health and everything. This may seem trivial but it is one of the only drawbacks I really find with the overhaul of the Diablo system.
In Diablo you had the chance to play with a maximum of 4 players per game and gave you the opportunity to have at least one of every class in any game which gave a good variety of way to tackle the dungeon. This also created less lag and kept games from getting out of hand. You also joined games while connected to Battle.Net through a server list and as a player would select the game you wanted to play in. This made it easy to join custom games made by your friends.
In Diablo II you could now only play online through Battle.Net and could play with up to 7 other people in a single game which gave the world a whole new meaning and with a world at the size of the Diablo II realm, it was easy to lose friends in a game even in the same area sometimes(when not partied). This helped to create PvP and Team PvP functions as well. Two teams of four players could effectively hit the landscape together and have an all out fight to the death and has become a big part of the game amongst players themselves. You joined games in Diablo II much as you did in the original by choosing a game from a list of available games that would scroll showing the game name and players names that were currently connected to said game.
In Diablo III you can now ONLY play online through Battle.Net and can have been restricted to a total of 4 players per game. This is not so much a take away as it is to help with the server lag dupe tricks used in Diablo II to gain non legitimate items. It also makes the game feel a lot more intimate and gives players a chance to revel in their own ability vs the mob of players attacking single targets and effectively giving some players a free ride on the exp train. The only problem with the system in Diablo III is the fact that you are required to log in online to play the game at all which is bad news for those who hoped to buy it and play single player offline.
In Diablo there was no run feature, you walked everywhere. One speed to rule them all so to speak. This led to some slow gameplay if you happened to roll and extraordinarily large map style game. There was also a bit of a limit on HOW you played the game, as in, you would simply walk from one level of the dungeon and climb down and down until you reached the bottom and fought Diablo himself. This was WAY fun the first time through, but led to some loss in the replay value. I for one still like to trek down the 20 some odd levels and down big D ever so often even today but for others it was not so and it kept sales a big stagnant after the first year and a half or so.
In Diablo II they put in the run/walk toggle and all was good; or so you thought. This applied to those times when the legions of hell were on your backside and could also run but you ran clean out of Stamina which caused your untimely demise. A good idea for a feature but it seemed a bit pointless to add it after a while seeing as having a stat point to distribute to it seemed a bit ridiculous. The maps in this game were always on a similar scale even though they were different so often. It was written that there were a sum total of about 95 maps or so for each area that were picked up randomly from the .mpq and looking at the size of that file, it is easy to believe. This however, created TONS of replay value as every time you loaded a new game the entire world was different and created a sense of want in unlocking the maps secrets from beginning to end. A lot of people have spent the better part of 10 years playing through Diablo II and have yet to memorize maps.
In Diablo III the run/walk feature as well as Stamina is gone. This is a blessing and a curse. You always run in Diablo III but it often feels like the original release when you are playing as you move so slowly through the levels. The maps in this release are nice, they are not particularly big but also not so small that they require a simple following of a linear path to unlock the whole grid. The big difference here is that the maps feel more natural but they also feel a bit repetitive. I can remember well running through areas and things being in the exact same location time after time. The maps may change a bit but it doesn’t feel like they were in Diablo II where every game was a complete toss up. I feel like I can run through each game and run through the acts without so much as slowing down to find certain quest items. There is still a ton of replay value as the actual dungeon phases seem to change quite a bit but the world above ground feels very static and unchanging.
Changes that make and break the game:
In Diablo III you are given a single stash that is shared amongst ALL characters on your account. Separate for Hardcore of course. You also share wealth in aspects as you level artisans via gold and certain tokens that you use to help them learn higher level items with. You are however stuck with only 1 account and can no longer create mule accounts for you wears to sit in to sell. The remedy to this is simple. The Auction House. Taken from WoW the ability to add items from characters bags and their stash you can choose and sell items on an Auction House now instead of simply muleing them for other characters or keeping them around to sell or trade later. This is a good and a bad thing. It will keep the market from being bought out by in game item sellers but it will cause people to flood the market with items and to offset the searching for truly good items with obscene gold buyouts set on crap items. There is an up and downside to all of this. It means that anybody can get geared and never have to farm or even complete the game to get the best gear available. This will become an understatement when people can buy items with REAL MONEY. The market will instantly become flooded with people buying the Godliest of gear with real money and never having to touch the hardest difficulty to earn said rewards which I believe breaks the game a bit. There are some saving graces however. These include picking up coin without having to click on it and also when playing with other people, all drops are for your eyes only. No more are the days fighting over that one legendary item drop. Everyone sees their own item drops and cannot effect another players.
All in all, Diablo III may have been overhauled but good, bad, or ugly; it was worth every penny to me. This franchise has been overhauled every time a new release has hit shelves and this is no different. You may or may not like the changes made but all in all it is still Diablo and the game still kicks a whole lot of ass.
Let us know what you think in the comment section below, Love it, Hate it, Haven’t tried it….