Diablo III Review (PC)

It has been more than a decade since Diablo II released. Defining a genre much like its prequel, the game stands as a classic. I was there, I was playing that game despite being 10 years old at the time; it defined my gaming childhood in some respects and it’s installed on my PC right now and the same is probably true of huge numbers of PC gamers.

Diablo III has both the nostalgic excitement of Diablo veterans to live up to and a modern audience to impress, one that is considerably different to that of a decade ago. Pleasing fans who’ve been waiting over a decade for this game, as well as those new to the series, was always going to a tricky balance for Blizzard to strike.

[boxout]Before we begin, the elephant in the room needs addressing. Diablo III’s launch week has been marred with technical issues, error 37 being the one everyone recognises most, alongside lag and the maintenance that came as a result of both.

Teething problems were and are expected for the most anticipated PC game of the year (and perhaps in recent memory) when it comes to its servers. The decision to make the game online only is obviously the culprit, though there are reasons for that, even if they don’t quite fully explain why there isn’t a completely separate offline mode. We’ll get into all of that later on, though.

As you might expect, before starting the game you choose one of five classes (Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, or Wizard) and are then treated to a cutscene containing the setup; your class has been wandering for a long time, notices a star falling from the sky and decides to investigate.

The beginning of the game is a tutorial, tips appearing on screen to tell you what you need to be doing whenever something important happens, from attacking that creature you just came across to equipping your first item. Blizzard have managed to pitch this just right, making them simple enough that they’re useful for a new player, whilst an experienced player can just breeze right through.

You almost immediately come upon New Tristram, a trade village built to provide supplies to adventurers who like to explore the nearby cathedral and named after Tristram, the village in the original Diablo (destroyed throughout the game and later revisited in a quest during Diablo II), where you enquire about the fallen star and are subsequently given quests. New Tristram is the area around which the first act centers and some quite important things happen.

That is, they’re quite important if you already care – Diablo III is incredibly strong in most areas, but the storyline and dialogue are not amongst them. The storyline, whilst having some pretty exceptional moments from a Diablo fan’s point of view, is less interesting than previous games, perhaps due to your character being so… good.

There is never any crisis of faith, never a moment when you think things might turn. This is particularly disappointing as the most interesting characters are those that try to tempt you, but your character never wavers, not even for a second, leaving things feeling a little dull.

The dialogue itself is generally acceptable, but often feels cheesy. It’s nothing too bad, but the moments of dramatic dialogue that cropped up in Diablo II are simply missing. Instead, quests are presented via quick conversations that sometimes involve some silly jumps in logic to keep the story going, which leaves it lacking a little of the wonder that accompanied the lore in the previous game.

That lore is still here, but it seems unlikely to catch the interest of someone who isn’t already invested and the storyline fails to really grab you, not least because it’s pretty predictable. All the best elements are not plot points themselves but the background to them; an explanation of how something happened. The companions you find throughout the game have a far more interesting tale than anything the main story serves up.

[drop2]Fortunately the plot is as deep as the mediocrity goes in Diablo III. The gameplay is superb, and perhaps the most unexpected innovation comes from the physics engine. The game has a built in engine that pseudo-realistically governs everything, or at least everything you hit. An explosive spell or melee from a barbarian/monk results in the ensuing corpses left behind to fly across the screen, thudding into walls and falling from ledges. Barrels and skeletons break into pieces that scatter across the screen when they’re destroyed and it’s perhaps this that makes you feel most powerful.

A group of 20 enemies? No problem, just leap your barbarian into the middle and start swinging or unleash the area of effect explosives, leaving you to watch the bodies scatter. It is a tremendous feeling to tear apart a large group of enemies in this manner, there’s really no way to describe it other than cool. You feel genuinely powerful from an early level, especially as one of the melee characters (Barbarian or Monk) that literally send enemies flying out of view from the very beginning. For the first few dungeons I destroyed every table, barrel and chair I came across just to see it shatter into pieces.

Thankfully, the enemies are not merely pushovers. Jumping into a group is all well and good provided you’re strong enough, otherwise getting overwhelmed is a quick lesson in kiting and potion chugging. And they’re smart too, some faster enemies tend to circle around you in groups and use hit and run tactics whilst others hang back resurrecting, the biggest dangers in the game tend to involve a mixture of enemies with different tactics.

The hardest monsters tend to come in groups known as elites. These are essentially mini-boss versions of standard enemies that appear in groups of three or more and are buffed with specific skills drawn from a wide pool. These range from teleport, which has the obvious effect; to mortar, which bombards you with ranged, mortar-like attacks that deal obscene amounts of damage; to jailer, which freezes you on the spot for a few seconds; and to everything in between.

If these abilities weren’t terrifying enough, on difficulties above normal (nightmare, hell and inferno) the elites can have more than one. If you have yet to defeat four elite monsters all buffed with jailer and mortar you do not yet know the meaning of fear. Battles against these enemies can really get your heart pumping and can seriously test your character’s cardio as you kite them half way across the area, fighting them off as you go and possibly running into other enemies whilst doing so.

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  1. This game is pretty much the only game I’m playing right now and I’ve put over 30 hours into it. “Diablo III is as close to flawless as I’ve ever seen a game get.” after my experience playing the game, I have to agree.

    Pretty much all my game time consists of co-op with friends jumping in and out while we chat away on Skype exploring areas and constantly finding new loot and levelling up giving us new skills. This has been keeping the game completely fresh throughout as we’re using different spells and abilities all the time. I don’t think I’ve seen a game so perfectly built for co-op, the fact that each player gets their own type if loot is a great way of stopping any arguments over who gets what.

    Basically, I cant seem to think of anything I could bring the game down on (early server issues aside, which is nothing to do with the gameplay) and the game seems to only get better and better as you start to advance towards the higher difficulties with more powerful loot.

    Worthy of a 10.

    P.S. I don’t think I’ve ever seen CGI as good as it is in Diablo III, in any industry.

  2. Please bring a good port of this to PS3 or Vita.
    My laptop couldn’t run this, but other than gaming I have no reason to upgrade it (and that’s a weak reason with PS3, Vita and an iPad in regular use).

  3. I’m a little put off with it, it’s very good, but didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Videos are gorgeous, but kinda boring. Game is a little too gear focused, which I guess makes the Auction House a more valuable tool. The sound and music is really good, straight from, or inspired by the prequels. I wasn’t that impressed with the voice acting. Most of it is good, but some of it is quite terrible. And the henchmen repeat themselves far too much. Controls are as close to perfect as they can be, too many action RPG’s are just ruined by clunky controls. Server issues are still a big problem for me, there’s still a lot of server downtime happening. Sunday evening, yesterday morning, last night… They need to really get that sorted out. But otherwise a very solid game.

  4. I was a little disappointed by D3. It’s a great game but I can’t help but think I’m playing Diablo 2.5. They had so much time but ended up with pretty much the same character classes they had in D2.

  5. “Defining a genre much like its prequel”

    Just so you know, a prequel is a game (or film etc) that is released after the original but set before it. For example, The Phantom Menace is a prequel. Diablo II on the other hand, is simply a predecessor of Diablo III, not a prequel.

    • You are technically correct, the best kind of correct.

  6. It really is a great game. The Auction House is great but it’s a little too easy to get good gear; towards the end of Act 2 on Nightmare and I can upgrade any item every few levels for a few thousand. At the moment I’m guessing this is because they are low-level items, but by the time I’m at the same stage of Hell and Inferno it will be interesting to see how the economy is.

    There’s every chance that the prices will remain the same as I progress as more and more people are at the same point and constantly undercutting each other on price to ensure a sale.

  7. Good review dude, hit the nail on the head!

    This is soooooo long overdue with only Sacred 2 filling the gap inbetween. But the wait was well worth it

  8. “Price: £44.99 (via Battle.net) £34.99 (Boxed)”

    Have you seen the box prices lately? Due to the game selling out basically everywhere it’s hard to find a copy below the Battle.net price.

    • Ah, I hadn’t seen that actually, I didn’t realise it was selling out. Still, £35 is the price it’s supposed to be ;-)

      • I tried Amazon, Play, Game, Gamestation, HMV, Tesco, ASDA, Argos and more that I cant remember to try and get the game but everywhere was sold out. Ended up buying it digitally from the upgrade button in the game (I was using a free starter edition) which cost me £45. The game was worth it, but id never normally pay that price for a game. With the huge sales this game has achieved, id be interested to see the revenue or profit as at these prices it’s going to be huge.

      • I also got it from Battle.net because it was cheaper than the boxed version and I was able to get it faster (compared to ordering it from the UK or ordering a German version and downloading the English patch afterwards).
        Having the ability to choose the language is probably the best thing about this game. Every game needs this feature.

    • I got mine for £27 on amazon! Glad I preordered :P

      • I had the article page open and they still had the game in stock but then I refreshed the page a few minutes later and the next best offer was a little under 50 Pounds.

  9. Put 5 hours in on Monday and i was amazed that blizzard have made these games interesting again,more than interesting it was top fun.I log back in that evening only to find my character had evaporated along with all he had acquired (and yes i did make sure i was logged into the euro server).I jog over to the forums only to find this a common complaint.
    So it’s on hold,from the ground up it’s designed to be played over and over and i can’t commit to that until the issues long gone.

  10. My Personal score would have been a 8/10. Just don’t find the same magic that I did with the other games and will probably not play this for 10 years.

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