ReBrews: Diablo III

It’s been twelve years since Diablo II and the Lord of Terror is back with an all new vendetta.  Play a barbarian, demon hunter, wizard, monk, and/or witch doctor as a rich tale unfolds in Blizzard’s latest installment to one of their flagship titles!

What can I say? It’s got class…

An early screenshot of my demon hunter, Sanderson

The classes in Diablo III are all very unique and require you to master a wide range of tactics, skills, and abilities if you want to be able to give ol’ Diablo a good fight.  While I’ve only played a demon hunter, I’ve co-op’d a significant portion of the game already along side the rest of the classes and I’m happy to report that each class is significantly different.  While you’ll find that a wizard and demon hunter could serve similar roles in a group, slinging projectiles and nuking demons with AOE (area of effect) attacks, the means to the same end role can be quite different.  For one, the demon hunter seems to place a lot of emphasis on mobility and evasive-style tactics.  You can get in there and do some burst damage, but then you better use something like your “Vault” skill to get the heck out of there.  I noticed the wizard could hold his ground a bit differently, putting up a protective shield buff that would allow him to stand still, immune to damage, and keep nuking.  So I was running (or jumping) around a lot on my demon hunter trying to avoid damage, while my friend playing the wizard was actually able to ‘tank’ at certain moments in the game; now, some of this could have been due to some level disparity–he was a bit higher–but still, the flexibility of play style is there in the unique classes alone. And this isn’t the only place you’ll find variation in play styles.  The skill tree (or lack of ‘tree’) system affords a lot of variation as well.

…It’s also got skills…

I think one of the coolest things D3 has going for it is its skill system.  At certain level milestones throughout the game, your hero will unlock new skills and new options or ‘perks’ that will help modify that skill to better serve your play style. As an example of how flexible this system can be, we don’t need to look much further than, yes, my demon hunter.  As I’ve said previously, the demon hunter is a range-based hero–the skill system can easily change this, however.  After some time of level progression, and unlocking multiple customization options with my skills, I was able to create a demon hunter that could actually hold his own quite well in many close-combat situations.  All I had to do was use one skill that allowed me to recover hp as I did damage, and then begin spamming an AOE attack; as a result, I would essentially remain at full health as I fought in the midst of a sea of monsters.  Pretty cool, huh?  I’m not even what you would consider the type of player who is great at min/maxing or figuring out cool things like this.  The fact I was able to figure this out says more about the game than me.  It really gives you the chance to learn your hero and figure out what works best for you.  That’s a hard thing to come by in class-based games these days.  Even better yet, simply checking “elective mode” in the gameplay settings allows you more freedom to customize how exactly you use your skills, eliminating what may have previously seemed rigid in the skill system.

Rich Storytelling

I think the story in this game is truly great, and while sometimes a bit predictable and formulaic, it still was one of the primary reasons I kept playing.  At some points it will feel like you’re playing for quite some time before hitting the next story beat, and it was at this point that I started to feel some sense of fatigue, putting my hero on what seemed like auto-pilot til the next part of the story hit, but when the next bit finally did hit, I found myself invested once again.  There are also apparently moments to discover back story elements on your specific hero–I haven’t come across any of these yet on my first time through normal mode, but I am curious to discover them, as that will add yet another layer to this game.  I’m not going to spoil anything here and will leave it to you to find out what happens in the story, but I think D3’s story alone makes the game worth picking up.

Moments of instant gratification

Sanderson post-normal mode completion with all his sweet loots

When it’s not the story that is keeping you going, it will be the loot system.  The equipment in this game drops randomly with often an assorted goodie-bag of skills, though still seeming to be tailored to the current level range of the dungeon.  Especially in act 1, upgrades will drop often and you’ll find yourself constantly checking your inventory to equip something new.  This is a good thing! You’ll find yourself guilty of saying, “Just one more monster,” hoping it is the one that will give you something epic, or even legendary.  Upgrades will seem to slow down a bit as you progress through the game, but that feeling of instant gratification never really seems to leave.

Gorgeous pre-rendered cut scenes

The cinematics in this game are truly beautiful and compelled me through the end of each of the four acts.  There’s not really much more I can say about that. I’m not sure I can advise buying the game just to see them, because let’s be honest, you can probably YouTube them by now, but for the players already invested in the game and story, the cinematics are really the cherry-on-top.

Old-school mechanics may have never felt this good

A lot of D3 still thrives on the core mechanics from the original Diablo of the 90s and 2000’s Diablo II, but they changed enough to make it still feel fresh.  Although controller-compatibility definitely could be a welcomed addition to the game, playing with purely a mouse and keyboard doesn’t really get tiresome, and I found myself progressing through dungeon after dungeon without too much fatigue on the hands.  It may just be “point-and-click” at its core, but if you keep playing you’ll soon find that the gameplay has quite a bit more depth beyond that.

Replayability

With a variety of mode difficulties that can only be unlocked with full-game completion of the previous difficulty, there is a lot to experience in Diablo III.  Beyond that, there are also 5 different classes to play and master.  D3 even encourages mastering them all with a heroes tab on your player profile that shows off all the heroes you’ve played.  Although I have yet to play any mode other than normal mode (I just cleared normal today!), I’m curious to see how compelled I am to keep playing through each difficulty and each different class.  Where story was a compelling element in the first playthrough, I’m sure its novelty will be gone in additional plays of the game, putting a lot of stress on other elements of the game to keep players motivated.  While I’m sure D3 will stay just as compelling for many players after their first completion of the story, I’m curious to see if I personally will remain motivated to keep playing.

Bottom line…This game is crack

While I love playing video games, it’s not often that I find the endurance to sit in front of a screen for hours and play one title.  I was able to this with D3 and that truly is saying a lot.  There’s great story, interesting characters, and tons of loot! This game isn’t easy either, providing a pretty solid challenge on the first playthrough of normal mode without being so difficult that you want to smash your head through your monitor–I’m sure that will come on later difficulty settings! If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, previous Blizzard Entertainment titles, or other rpgs, I highly suggest you check out Diablo III.

My rating: 4.5/5 cups of coffee

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