Diablo 3 First Impressions: A nightmare in red and black.
It’s been a while… welcome back mortal…
It’s back! The hack and slash that introduced many a gamer to the wonders of LAN and co-operative gaming, and is responsible for many a left-hand mouse button crumbling under the APM intensive gore-fest. The Lord of Terror has returned, and be prepared, because things are going to get a whole lot more interesting. Read on.
Diablo is a franchise released by Blizzard Entertainment with the first installment dating back to 1996. Diablo was a hack and slash game, which required players to control one of three classes through a maze underneath a cathedral in the town of Tristram. Things aren’t what they seem however, and the maze extends far down into the depths of Hell itself. The player defeats Diablo, and tried to destroy himself to stop the Lord of Terror from returning. However, in Diablo 2, the characters from Diablo 1 were infected by evil, and a new hero stepped up to defeat Diablo and his entourage once again. Diablo 3 bring players back to Tristram and beyond, to fight the dark forces once again.
Diablo 3 has exploded in popularity, fueled by the twelve years of dedicated fans and an ever growing interest in the franchise. The official launch date was midnight, May 15th 2012, and launch events were held all over the world in celebration. The official launch event held in California and covered by Machinima.com was a highlight, streaming all over the globe with developer interviews, collector’s edition previews, giveaways and more. The night was very successful, and the hype reached critical levels in preparation for the servers going live at midnight.
But there was a little bit of trouble in paradise. Despite Blizzard thinking that they had prepared for the massive influx of players to be expected upon the servers going live, the game was unplayable for at least an hour after launch. This was due to the absolutely overwhelming stress that was put on the servers at midnight, which resulted in all Blizzard sites to close down to try and lighten the burden. People all over the world were forced to wait for the servers to return to working order, resorting to Blizzard’s twitter page to register their complaints. To be honest this was to be expected, but it does raise an issue over the appropriateness of the implemented DRM, which I’ll discuss later on. After the initial wave had calmed down, the servers were back up, however, they have been on and off since launch, constantly updating and trying to deal with the massive stress which they must be under. Hopefully this will be fixed in the coming weeks, but for the time being, the game is playable, and what a game!
How does it play?
Diablo 3 features anywhere up to four players battling it out against the armies of hell and everything that is nasty in the world. Players can choose out of five classes, all broken down in depth on this very site HERE. The distinct characteristics and play style of each class really encourages experimentation, especially in a group scenario. Diablo 3 features drop-in co-op, which means that when allowed by a party’s leader, random people will be able to drop into the game, with the difficulty scaling appropriately. Class skills can be adjusted on the fly, with a quick cool down to ensure you don’t spam different abilities, which mean that you can adapt your character to different situations without any sacrifice.
It’s a very adaptive game style really. All throughout, the environment changes, as it randomly generates along with the creatures that inhabit it. While the style of the setting won’t change, the physical layout will, meaning that every playthrough will be that little bit different. This extends to the availability of certain events or dungeons, and where they exist in the game world. It really just tells the player to explore, and have fun while doing it.
The apocalypse looks pretty
These environments all look magnificent, as do the creatures that inhabit them. The art style is very Blizzard, in the sense that it is a mixture of realistic influence with a cartoon or comic book style. Bold lines and bright colours scatter the world, which looks stunning on the highest settings. The foreground is littered with things to either destroy or dismember, while the background features some of the greatest environment detail that I’ve seen. From waterfalls to entire villages, the detail is nothing short of brilliant, and you may often find yourself stopping to look at a piece of scenery that you have no way of interacting with. This also couples with a somewhat destructible environment, which will break apart around you during all the chaos and mayhem. It’s a shame that this wasn’t explored a little bit more though, since at the moment this only extends to wall fragments and the like.
The hardware requirements aren’t too demanding. Playing this on a mid-range rig I managed to get the graphics working smooth on the highest settings, although it got a bit choppy during the more dramatic areas. The lowest settings are a little bit higher than Starcraft 2 however, so if you struggled to play that one, you may need to get an upgrade before moving on to Diablo 3. I also found that this was a particularly graphics-card intensive game, while the CPU wasn’t put under a ridiculous amount of pressure.
Another point to mention about the setting is the audio in particular. Absolutely everything sounds astounding, and the musical score is brilliant. The sound effects after a while may get a little repetitive for the more impatient gamer, however it isn’t a massive problem in the grand scheme of things. Absolutely keep the music on in this one, because you’ll be well rewarded.
Outside the game
Of course, I can’t go into specifics about the story in Diablo 3 without parading banners of spoiler alert and mischief, however the lore surrounding the game and the depth of the characters in it really has expanded since the last iteration. While at some points the plot can be a little predictable, there are a few twists and turns that will keep you on your feet. Each of the four acts also has a ending cinematic, which lives up to the established Blizzard standard of cut-scenes, and tells a significant chunk of the story thus far. The most important thing to note here is that the story never detracts from the gameplay. Every bit of lore and every cut-scene is skip-able by any player in the team, so that you can get straight back into the action. This becomes especially helpful upon repeated playthroughs, where you would otherwise have to sit through a characters speech or cut-scene for minutes at a time.
A lot of controversy has also been thrown around about the Auction House available from the main menu. Here, players can sell their hard-earned loot to other players for in game cash, or, (here’s the kicker) real money. At the time of writing, the real-money auction house is yet to be implemented, but it will definitely be interesting to see the player base reaction.
Also of controversy is the DRM system that Blizzard have implemented with Diablo 3. Players must have an active internet connection at all times while playing Diablo 3, whether playing single-player, of with somebody in the same room. All players actions have to pass through Blizzard’s servers before they register in game, and it can get quite frustrating, especially at launch when the servers were under pressure as it was. It quite unnecessary and insulting in some ways, as this makes it impossible for me to play in places I may not have access to the internet, despite having purchased the game. It’s very similar to Ubisoft’s DRM in the Assassin’s Creed 2 era, but this was developed over time to only an initial activation being needed online. Diablo 3 requires a constant GOOD internet connection to play, which should definitely be considered before purchasing, especially in countries where internet is not as readily available.
Conclusion thus far
Scrappy DRM aside, Diablo 3 is an astounding piece of work, and it really is a good representation of the amount of time that the game took. for long term players of the franchise, it will suitably satisfy your need for more Diablo, and is filled with plenty of Easter Eggs that will appeal to fans of any Blizzard games. It’s such a blast to play, especially on the higher difficulties, when you have to strategize and plan ahead. A full review will be coming soon, where I’ll examine the acts and classes in detail, so keep your eyes on the site.
Also feel free to comment with your experiences of the launch, and the game after the dust of the post-launch hysteria cleared away. Until next time.