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PC Game Review: Diablo III

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There’s a subtle yet distinct difference between playing a game like Diablo III and playing it with zeal. Many players participate until the game is finished and then move on to another game. Other players go all out. They ensconce themselves in the game for months, even years, giving the term ‘zealous’ a whole new meaning.

A friend of mine, who has a cush-job testing for Blizzard, is definitely a zealot, having dedicated mega-hours every day for a whole year plunging into dungeons, snatching up plunder, and annihilating Diablo and his bad-ass buddies. When asked about his single-minded pursuit, my friend told me, “The attraction lies in the metagame. Completing the overt story is simple. After that, though, there’s the real challenge of finding the best way to navigate the game. It’s about supremacy.”

Translation: Diablo III is not just another hack and slash, slice‘em and dice‘em game. You’ve got to take the metagame concept and run with it.

Diablo III occupies a point on the timeline 20 years after the world of Diablo II. There are five avatars to choose from: Monk, Witch Doctor, Wizard, Demon Hunter, and Barbarian. Once you make your choice – and choose wisely – then the adventure, composed of four acts, begins.

The rationale behind the warning to choose wisely is that the various avatars encompass different abilities, which means, depending on your avatar, you have to alter your tactics. For example, Monks and Barbarians, so-called melee warriors, are best in Kill Bill situations – wading into the middle of a horde of bad guys and going berserk. On the other hand, Witch Doctors avoid direct confrontations, letting their underlings do the Kill Bill stuff, while they let fly death-dealing missiles from a vantage point in the rear.

Diablo III has a bunch of much improved minor characters, nothing more than hired-guns, that you can have tag along on your adventure. Or – even better – you can team up with three friends and go that route. And it seems obvious, once you get familiar with the game, that the developers designed the game around the teamwork concept. This explains the various abilities (strengths and weaknesses) of the avatars. Their powers are designed to balance each other.

Diablo III is pretty straightforward. Click and tick thrashes the bad guys. The game is user-friendly and you don’t have to have the reflexes of Usain Bolt to kick butt. And, there’s a new level structure that allows players to level up through creative use of adaptable powers rather than just skillfulness.

But be warned: the game is so addictive you begin to wonder if there isn’t some kind of hypnotic thing going on. It’s like going to Las Vegas and winning. Once you start, you can’t stop. The developers allow players to level up just often enough to keep them hooked. And each time you level up you get a whole bundle of new goodies — body armor or some totally cool, ramped-up weapon on steroids. This diabolical system of rewards pushes you on and on.  

That being said, Diablo III has two primary flaws: first, since it requires an internet connection, when your ISP implodes, so does the game. Of course, if your ISP is reliable, then it’s not a problem (unless Blizzard’s servers implode). Second, the point saving set up is less than wonderful. If you have to stop playing to take the trash out, you might lose your points. Or maybe not. That’s the problem — the system is capricious.

The best alteration the developer made to Diablo III from previous entries is the auction house, which is where players buy and sell stuff in their quest to assemble the Ultimate Avatar. It’s like Ebay operated by Darth Vader. The main benefit is that players are not totally dependent on finding stuff. Lady Luck is too fickle. Utilizing the auction house lets players buy what they need or want.

Diablo III is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Violence.


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