Diablo 3 has been out for a week now, and after waiting years for it’s release, I can honestly say, I’m a bit underwhelmed. The story seems decent enough (though a bit predictable), but the acts are largely the same as Diablo 2… many of the enemies are the same as from Diablo 2 only prettier (which I guess makes it feel more attached to the previous games, but), difficultly is extremely varied, and performance on my Mac is extremely mixed. But let us tackle the last couple as the big points for me.
1. Difficultly. Normal difficulty, for my wizard, was largely a joke. I may have died 3 times in the whole Normal difficulty, and at least one of those was when a call came in and I was unable to pause (I was playing with someone else, so there’s no way to pause). Most areas are extremely easy, but you’ll come upon a boss, or a group of enemies that make things suddenly quite tense. A friend had a heck of a time with the boss at the end of the second act. Many complain about him being one of the hardest. Up to that point, the game is rather easy, and after that point, it’s easy. Worse for me was that in Normal, the game was cake until Act 4, when suddenly it became a little challenging. The difficulty shouldn’t be exponential (increasing slowly at first, then rapidly at the end). It makes things feel rushed, like the end of a movie where they spent the whole thing exploring characters only to give the last 20 minutes to actually resolving the plot.
2. Performance. The game looks very pretty. Levels are very detailed, and that’s part of the issue. I’m guessing the experience with WoW taught Blizzard a bad habit: render everything realtime. My, admittedly older, Mac runs great, until parts of Act 3 and Act 4, where there is all kinds of “stuff” happening in the background (usually below the character). Units fighting, people cheering, water flowing way down below, etc. All of this is rendered realtime, and doesn’t SEEM to pay attention when you try to force it to only render at 1FPS. Like I said, it LOOKS pretty, but all the background stuff, assuming you can’t actually influence it, should be PRE-RENDERED! At least when you install the game, have it take a few minutes to go through and render that crap, and save it out. I shouldn’t have to suffer in gameplay for something that has no real influence on anything other than “ooh… there’s a dude down there fighting”. From an engine standpoint, it’s more scalable… but from a logic standpoint, it’s kinda silly. Why have my GPU wasting time on stuff that has no real bearing on what I’m actually playing the game for.
Also, the story feels kind of rushed as it goes on. Act 1 is extremely long relative to everything after. The Acts get shorter as they progress, with Act 1 taking a couple hours, and by the time you’re in Act 4, it’s maybe an hour, if that. The pacing just seems… off.
The elephant in the room though, is D3 is really too much like WoW without the MMO part. In fairness, WoW is basically Diablo in the Warcraft universe (since Warcraft was an RTS, not a RPG). So it seems fair that there’s a lot of influence from WoW, but it’s a bit over the top at times. And as a friend points out, the biggest issue many have is the items in the game. Magic Find is largely broken. Blue items often have better stats than Legendary, and Rares almost always do. I played the game for probably 20 hours before I saw a Legendary, and it sucked relative to what I already had. And often times, the blacksmith can MAKE better items than monsters will drop. Plus, PLUS, act bosses often won’t drop anything but blue items. BLUE! A boss should almost always drop at least SOMETHING rare, even if it sucks. Diablo 2 would sometimes do this, but it was so easy to do Mephisto runs that it was okay. And at least one of his minions would drop something good. And magic find (MF) actually mattered in Diablo 2. In Diablo 3, it’s really hard to tell if it matters at all. Most people say it doesn’t, and even Blizzard has said it has toned it down.
Ultimately, Diablo 3 is, as a friend put it, an MORPG. Just the “massively” is missing, and even then, with the Auction House (which is the only real way to get good stuff)1. The auction house kind of tries to bridge the gap between MMO and Non-MMO, by making you rely on the community for help with acquiring gear. Anyway, the game just doesn’t have the real “feel” of Diablo. Where Diablo 1 -> Diablo 2 kept much of the same feel. Diablo 2 felt like a game you could jump on for an hour, do a few runs with friends, possibly find something epic, and be done. Diablo 3 feels like something where you spend hours and hours searching for something to make you a little better, and still end up nowhere.
Anyway, that’s really about it. I’m guessing I’ll give the game enough to play through Nightmare, but I’m not sure I’ll bother with Hell or certainly not Inferno unless I start getting some real good equipment2.
Overall, it’s fun, but it’s fleeting. I expect the expansion will deal with a few loose ends, but I’m not sure how/where, and all and all, it’s going to be hard to justify anything beyond one expansion, and certainly not a Diablo 4. Blizzard has kind ended up like Nintendo… how many Mario/Zelda/Metroid games can you make before you actually have to create some new material? Starcraft might have more story left in it (we’ll have to see after the two expansions that are already announced), but they had already announced those when the game was released, so you KNEW there was more. But an Starcraft 3? Who knows.
Let me be clear. The game doesn’t suck by any means. It’s enjoyable, but it’s certainly not as enjoyable as Diablo 2 was, or Starcraft 2. The actual story of the game, is good, it’s just told in a very awkwardly paced way, is a bit predicable, and borrows heavily from the previous games in the franchise (*cough* Mario *cough*). I mean, how many times are we going to be surprised that we have to fight/kill Diablo in a game called Diablo? Or kill King Leoric? I get it, evil never truly dies, as always there, etc. But come on, even one of the characters in the game has the idiocy to think that we might actually vanquish evil. Really?
I will possibly up that number if any upcoming patches address the performance issues (which even PC users with decent hardware are seeing), and the item quality/drop behavior. But even then, the story/act pacing issues will still exist. And, truth be told, I may drop the rating if the real money Auction House completely destroys the usefulness of the gold auction house. I only see myself playing the game, on and off, for maybe a few weeks or a month. I certainly don’t see it having the staying power that Diablo 2 had, where I came back to the game several times, and spent a total of probably, 4-6 months playing the game, looking for items, maxing out characters, etc. While I might play through Normal again with a Monk as a second character, I certainly don’t see playing through with each of the 5 classes. =/
- Which, btw, once the real money Auction House comes online, it will almost certainly ruin the whole experience since everyone will try to get real money for their crap, rather than just trading in the in-game gold auction house. But, maybe it’ll be limited to certain classes/levels of items [↩]
- which is, as I said, completely arbitrary. People are beating Inferno difficultly with Rare and Magical (blue) items, and ZERO Legendary/Set items [↩]