Diablo III – Game Analysis & Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Designers: Jay Wilson, Boyarsky
Composers: Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence, Neal Acree, Laurence Juber, Edo Guidotti
Engine: In-house engine (Physics System integrated)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Genres: Action game, hack and slash, dungeon crawl
Modes: Online single-player, online multiplayer
Blizzard’s newest project, the top-down action RPG Diablo III, is a major event. The game bursts onto the scene already under intense scrutiny from an enormous fanbase, married to a years-past classic and expecting a sequel that takes Diablo gameplay and mythology to the next level. The game also has to contend with a marketplace that has moved on in many respects since Diablo II’s release 12 years ago. Now that the game has arrived, there are some definite technical drawbacks, the narrative is overly linear, and the battle gameplay tends to be repetitive.
Fortunately, the developers took pains to improve many of the in-game systems for this go-round, making Diablo III an extremely engaging experience, full of gory combat and eerily beautiful visuals. The game is very much of a piece with its predecessors, featuring the same structure and basic gameplay. Monsters are defeated with a click, skill choices when leveling up are agonized over, and rare items are found in labyrinth hellscapes. The difference is the new skill system, which affords players a lot more latitude in developing characters’ strengths to the desired effect.
An early major roadblock to the game’s success, unfortunately, is its lack of an offline single player mode, as players are dependent on Blizzard’s iffy servers and the stability of their own connections to play the game’s campaign, either cooperatively or solo. The game is difficult enough to not have to also contend with the extensive lag that can sometimes plague the servers, sometimes shutting them down for hours. Without an ironclad connection, unfortunately, the game, despite all its splendor, isn’t worth it.
The multiplayer Diablo III experience, when it’s running smoothly, however, is a string of tense and epic confrontations that can be shared with a group of friends. Boss fights suddenly become an opportunity for camaraderie between Monks and Demon Hunters, as does looting (the player can only see his/her own loot, to prevent feuding over spoils). The game’s harder difficulty levels become much less of a chore when you run through it with friends.
There is a real vision and artful consideration behind Diablo III’s production design, as each of the acts has a distinct visual style and its own brand of horrendous supernatural characters. The spectrum of locations shift from autumn tungsten to fiery reds, and the monsters also shift in size to add variety to the proceedings. One of the beasts fills the monitor, and others attack in numbers, offering plenty of violent visual splendor. If one ever tires of leveling up, though, it’s hard not to notice that the core, combat-driven gameplay is simple and often relegated to simple point-and-click inertia.
The bottom line is that the leveling up is addicting and rewarding enough to boost the gameplay’s quality to at least within reach of its stunning production design. Exploring the entire high resolution arena for items become a much higher-incentive game in Diablo III’s world, since moving forward with the amount of leveling necessary to take out the harder bosses requires a lot of looting and dungeon clearing. When I traverse the beautifully realized, yet utterly horrific realms of Sanctuary and realize this game will be circulating on PC’s for at least as long as its predecessor did, I have to admit that Diablo III has all the qualities of a classic.
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