Video Games Review of Diablo 3 by Blizzard Entertainment

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    Review of Diablo 3 by Blizzard Entertainment

    If you wanted to explain to a friend who knew nothing about Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or any other RPG, what might be an easy way to do it? Well, you could sit down and show them books, character sheets, or miniatures. Or if they liked computer games, you could invite them to play a few hours of any of the Diablo series of games, and tell them, “It’s like that, but without the computer!”

    To me, Blizzard’s Diablo series has been one of those gamer-geek “infection vectors” for getting non-roleplayers into D&D. So while Wil Wheaton might use Settlers of Catan (see [ame=""]Tabletop Episode 2[/ame]) to spread the nerd-phage, if you want to give someone the basic idea of a hack-and-slash style of roleplay wrapped in a tasty story coating, then Diablo has definitely worked for me. And let’s face it – even though it’s not a true role-playing video game, the games have always had an amazing dark fantasy storyline, cool monsters, tons of action, and is one of those PC games that just feels good to play when your regular D&D group can’t get together.

    And last week, Blizzard Entertainment finally released Diablo 3, making the epic story of good versus evil a full-blown trilogy now! It’s been 16 long years since Blizzard introduced the genre of “dark fantasy action role-playing” when the original Diablo hit the shelves in 1996, and the new edition to the series might be considered one of the most anticipated games of this year! With a ton of new features, online play, updated graphic, and a continuation of the epic storyline, Diablo 3 could be poised to break the sales records set by its predecessors.

    So the real question is: Will all these new features really make Diablo 3 the crowning jewel of this epic dark fantasy action roleplay game series?

    Diablo 3 by Blizzard Entertainment

    • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
    • Platforms: PC & MAC
    • Requires: Internet Connection
    • Release: May 15, 2012
    • ESRB: M (Mature)
    • Retail: $59.99 (on sale at [ame=""][/ame])


    Diablo 3 is a dark fantasy action roleplaying adventure game set in a world stuck between a war between Heaven and Hell. The player takes on the persona of one of five different heroes (character classes), and sets forth to oppose the demons of Hell, while the angels of Heaven argue over the fate of mankind. The adventure takes place in the world setting created for the previous games in the Diablo series, with new lands to explore, new monsters, and new powers and spells for characters to use in order to prevent Armageddon and save the world!

    Author’s Note: This review was written after playing the game on a PC with the following specs: AMD Phenom II Quad Core 3.50 GHz with 4 GB ram and an ATI Radeon HD 5700. This system qualifies for the Recommended Specs for playing Diablo 3.

    Production Quality

    The production quality of Diablo 3 is simply stunning, and by far the best of the series. The graphical engine has definitely evolved over the course of the three games, and the characters and monsters look and move with amazing fluidity. And one thing can be said about Blizzard – they know how to make VISTAS. Blizzard has demonstrated time and again that it can render some incredible fantasy world vistas which have a certain breath-taking WOW factor (pun completely intended) when first encountered, and Diablo 3 has plenty of eye-popping moments. The “play” areas of the game look rich, marvelously detailed, and have a truly 3D feel to them, whether tromping around a sewer or ruins in a dungeon crawl, or wandering through the farmlands, forests, or deserts. From my perspective, I think the underground environments were far more awe-inspiring and 3D feeling than the outdoor vistas, but that’s just splitting hairs, because it’s all incredibly detailed.

    As for audio, it’s clear Blizzard knows how to make some great music and amazing sound effects. If you have ever played any of the previous Diablo games, you’ll definitely hear tunes you’re familiar with, like the Tristram theme, as well as new scores for various lands and up-tempo epic scores for battles, particularly boss encounters. Overall, the music works well with the game’s environments and action sequences, and definitely enhances the play experience. And if you really like the music, Diablo 3’s soundtrack is on sale at the iTunes Store right now.

    Seeing as Diablo 3 is an action adventure game, awesome sound effects are an absolute requirement, and the game definitely delivers. There are plenty of both ambient background sounds and battle effects sounds in the game, ranging from creepy skitterings and rockfall sounds in dungeons to the splattering of gore from monsters being slain, not to mention a plethora of booms and zaps from magical spells being set off. Without a doubt, there’s a full audio package of music and sounds which totally enhances the game play experience.

    The Game Play
    With a game of this magnitude, there’s no real way for me to cover everything going on in Diablo 3 in the detail it deserves. If you want more details about the game, Blizzard has done an excellent job of creating a Diablo 3 resource site, and it discusses pretty much all the aspects of game play and features. But I wanted to touch on the aspects of the game I really loved, as well as the parts I think were a let-down.

    Character Classes & Advancement

    While Character Creation was fairly basic, offering you a class and a gender, I was glad that Blizzard finally let you choose your own sex! In previous editions, certain classes were male and others were female, and I thought that showed a real lack of imagination on the part of the designers. Of course, there are no racial options in the world of Diablo – everyone is basically a human – but they did a good job of creating a range of humanity, from the pale Nordic-like Barbarians to the African-based Witch Doctors.

    For the purposes of the review, I played every class to at least 10th level to get a feeling for what they could do. For new players, I’d strongly recommend the Barbarian, because he’s a brute, relatively straightforward to play, and has strong self-healing abilities. The Monk is amazingly fun as well, has great healing, and it was fun to have it based upon a Russian rather than the expected Asian theme. The ranged casters – Wizard and Demon Hunter – are also awesomely fun to play, but require a bit of finesse as they can get overrun quickly by hordes of monsters. However, the Witch Doctor I found to be a really poor design, being the only “pet” class in the game. While the pets are cool but their AI is dumb as a box of rocks - they cannot be controlled, and I watched them run into combat after combat and get mauled in area of effects which I avoided. Without active pets, the Witch Doctor is fairly anemic, and I think Blizzard made the character class that broke the melee and ranged archetype molds without really tweaking it to make it useful.

    I also really enjoyed the new character advancement system, where the player is slowly doled out new powers and spells which fit into the various hot keys (left and right mouse, and numbers 1 to 4). This was pretty smart, in my opinion, as it allowed both newbie and veteran players to get used to the interface and the new powers. With four powers per hot key, as well as four “rune” enhancements per power, it gives players a wide range of options to meet their particular style. I also liked that the power load outs can be changed on the fly, making it possible to change powers and enhancements to meet various monsters and bosses in the game.

    In a game like Diablo 3, advancement occurs not only by leveling and power increases, but also through gear. While the gear looks pretty awesome, the gear drops themselves have been pretty uninspiring, often well below the heroes’ level, and I remember far better items dropping in the previous games of the series. Thankfully, there is a tradeskill system in the game which allows the hero to “shard” magic items, and then take the essences and reforge new items with a blacksmith NPC. Regretfully, the list of creatable items is sparse, but they are usually far more potent than the dropped items unless a rare (gold or orange) drops. And to make your hero look nifty, they have added armor dyes to change the color scheme, or to make a piece of armor invisible. I like that they have added stuff like this, but the dye color palette is fairly small so far and I hope there is more colors added later on.

    Questing & Storyline

    The storyline of Diablo 3 has, so far, been excellent and epic feeling, and I’m only in Act II! It continues on from the previous games, involving the crusty old Horadric Mage, Deckard Cain, guiding the hero to fight against the last of the Lords of Hell.

    While the storyline and the questing are a linear in form, the dungeons and monster encounters are completely random, and there are plenty of sidetrek dungeons to be encountered in the wilderness for fun. One of the great things about the storyline is that it is all narrated by voice actors, and the acting is really good. There are also gorgeously rendered cut-scenes with graphical characters so life-like and real looking, it’s a bit creepy.

    The NPCs also have stories and comments to make on a wide range of topics, including offering discussions about lore and the history of the previous games. While I know that many gamers would not define this sort of interaction as role-playing, it does give the game a real and solid story around all the hacking and slashing, and the writers have done an excellent job at engaging me as a player as I “stay a while and listen”.

    Killing new monster types also offers the chance to hear commentary from a loremaster or from Deckard Cain. These two make the game feel more in-depth and immersive, and gives an interesting perspective on the demons and beasts encountered and fought.


    The combats in Diablo 3 are epic and gory, with monster bodies thrown around and often blown into grisly chunks which bounce around the battlefield! Rag-doll style motion to the bodies and splattering blood effects is certainly one way this game rated an M for Mature ESRB Rating, but it does make for a visceral thrill when you Leap your Barbarian into a pack of demons and start splattering them right back to Hell!

    I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed early on to be fighting some of the same threats I faced in the previous two versions of the series – the Skeleton King and the Butcher are the first two bosses... surprise! But the enhanced AI and graphics, as well as the new powers of the monsters made the fights quite a bit more epic and fun in the long run. Overall, the AI of the monsters is pretty sharp, although some of the critters have bizarre behaviors that sometimes get the best of them – like stopping to munch on their fallen comrades or stopping to laugh at you.

    Another new feature to combat is what 4E players would recognize as single-use terrain powers. You can drop iron sconces, piles of logs, loose walls of stone, and other hazards onto enemies and help soften them up for the kill. And frankly, they added quite a bit more breakables in the game, which means that every combat is one of those “don’t blink or you’ll miss something” affairs, with monsters, spells, and debris flying everywhere!

    I should mention that they also include three NPC companions for heroes to take along during the game – a Templar, a Scoundrel, and an Enchantress. You can only take one with you at a time, but they are quite helpful in combat, and add a bit of that “role-playing” stuff to what would be an action adventure game. All three companions have amusing quips to share between fights, very different reactions to the heroes and other NPCs, and have very detailed back stories which can be accessed over time through conversations with them. The Templar seemed a bit pompous to me, but I really enjoyed the personalities of the Scoundrel and the Enchantress, the former being a greedy womanizer with some humorous comments before and during combats.

    Non-Combat Activities & Other Features

    As I mentioned, there is a tradeskill system in the game, with both a blacksmith NPC and a jewelcrafter NPC to make the heroes’ their gear. One oddity of the game was that the upgrades done to these crafters were universal across all characters for an account. I wasn’t sure I liked that, as I felt it detracted from the individuality of the heroes in their own storyline. Money and the storage locker are also shared across all characters, which again I did not like as it pushed the game away from the role-play aspects.

    There is also an Achievement system in the game, which I thought was rather trite, awarding a player for rather silly things like using dyes or reaping coins. The only nice thing about the Achievements was that it did open up new patterns and symbols to use on a player’s banner for the account. However, an account banner was, again, uninspired to me, and I would have rather seen a banner system possible for each character. I think the main reason for a banner and Achievement system was to impress your friends, because it serves little to a solo player killing his way through the game.

    And here, I should probably discuss the big downside of the game – Battlenet. Despite the game being a single player experience, with the option of cooperative play, you cannot play Diablo 3 at all, unless you have a Battlenet account and are playing with game with a live internet connection. Yes, that’s right, you cannot play the game locally – you have to play it on Blizzard’s servers or not at all.

    Blizzard claims that this is to support cooperative play, PvP arenas, and two Auction Houses – a game gold version and a real currency version. Also, Blizzard claims that forcing online play makes sure that accounts are more secure, and prevents players from hacking their items and characters. But honestly, none of this make any difference to me, and yet I have no choice but to play over the internet on their servers, even if I don’t want to play cooperatively, do PvP arenas, or buy and sell things from Auction Houses! Nor do I give a rat’s ass if other players hack their characters and items to win the game, and I don’t need account security if I didn’t have an account to begin with and was just playing by myself at home on my PC!

    Previous versions of Diablo allowed players to play cooperatively by LAN or across the internet by hosting a game on their own PCs. All Blizzard has accomplished here is inconvenience the end-user, and give them a terrible play experience because of server lag, daily downtime for server updates and maintenance, and occasional disconnections that reset games back to their last “checkpoint”. So far, since launch, there have been server maintenance times of an hour to as long as six hours, and night’s when the lag was so bad, my character was stuttering and screen jumping back by as much as three seconds. In addition, I have twice lost around 20 to 25 minutes of game time and progress because of disconnections from the Battlenet servers, which is epically frustrating as well!

    Frankly, the only reason I can figure to force players to all be online is greed. I can only assume that Blizzard plans to eventually sell expansion packs, premium content, and to get a cut of real cash from the curreny based Auction House – which is still not live as of yet, I might add. Thankfully, there is no monthly fee to play, but then again, players should not have to be online to play what is essentially a SOLO GAME, and there is no excuse for inconveniencing a customer after they make an honest purchase.

    Overall Score: 3.75 out of 5.0


    For the most part, Diablo 3 is a great game and a worthy successor to the series that started the whole dark fantasy adventure game genre. The graphics are beautiful, the storyline is engaging and epic in scope, with character classes that are fun to play. The combats are definitely thrilling, full of action and suspense, and often quite challenging to win. But Blizzard’s decision to force all players online and play Diablo 3 with the risk of lag and disconnection, and the inconvenience of downtime has certainly marred what could have been a perfect action adventure role-playing experience. I doubt I would play through the game more than once, given the frustration I have already had with lag, disconnects, and server downtime, and that alone cost the game a full point of score in the final tally.

    So until next Review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
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    Last edited by Morrus; Wednesday, 6th June, 2012 at 12:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Wow, you thought the storyline was good? Does it get radically, incredibly better after Act I? Because I've got to tell you, if it doesn't, I have no idea what you're thinking. I played Act I and was less than impressed. Then I watched the Act I end cinematic and quit the game. If D3 had been a book, I would have thrown it across the room at that moment.

    Please understand, I don't expect great storytelling or scintillating dialogue from a computer game. The D2 storyline was not inspired, but it was enjoyable. This was just... stupid. It made no sense whatsoever. I am now trying to decide whether I enjoy the gameplay enough to turn off all story features and just play it as a straight action game. (To be fair, it is quite a good action game, but story is very important to me.)
    Last edited by Dausuul; Thursday, 24th May, 2012 at 05:04 AM.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    Wow, you thought the storyline was good? Does it get radically, incredibly better after Act I? Because I've got to tell you, if it doesn't, I have no idea what you're thinking. I played Act I and was less than impressed. Then I watched the Act I end cinematic and quit the game. If D3 had been a book, I would have thrown it across the room at that moment.

    Please understand, I don't expect great storytelling or scintillating dialogue from a computer game. The D2 storyline was not inspired, but it was enjoyable. This was just... stupid. It made no sense whatsoever. I am now trying to decide whether I enjoy the gameplay enough to turn off all story features and just play it as a straight action game. (To be fair, it is quite a good action game, but story is very important to me.)
    Eh, it gets a little better. Much like StarCraft 2, it's a very generic "epic" story that tries to shove production value down your throat as a substitute for good storytelling. It's not Valve writing, that's for sure--it's not even BioWare writing. The hokey dialogue, one-dimensional characters, and general clunkiness pervade the game's storyline.

    Once you adjust your expectations for this, though, you may be pleasantly surprised that a few moments in the story are legitimately awesome, the world is well fleshed out, and (some of) the main characters have interesting dialogue throughout.

    Of course, you're meant to skip through all the cutscenes and dialogue after your first time playing.

    Edit: Oh, you hated the Act I end cinematic? I thought that was one of the good parts. :c Luckily D3 is not a book, it is an action game.
    Last edited by GX.Sigma; Thursday, 24th May, 2012 at 06:10 AM.

  4. #4
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    Quote Originally Posted by GX.Sigma View Post
    Eh, it gets a little better. Much like StarCraft 2, it's a very generic "epic" story that tries to shove production value down your throat as a substitute for good storytelling.
    You can kinda say that about almost any computer game (I would say any, from my experience, but among those I've missed is probably the gem).

    Those of us who come from RPGs or from reading a lot of fantasy novels can sit down in front of nearly any computer game and realize after a bit that "this is no better than my DM/GM from high school 20 year ago, and he was high half the time and failed lit class."

    But that DM/GM didn't have the production values, graphics, voice actors, and pixelated boobies.

    I play WoW, my younger brother plays WoW. We're 10 years apart. I grew up reading (we didn't have a TV until I was 8). Read a -LOT- of fantasy, classical lit, and have gone on into political science and reading Asian and African history.

    My brother grew up in front of a Nintendo. Read his first book in college. He is a physicist.

    I find WoW lore thin and contrived. He finds it amazing and deep. Its not written for me, its written by people of his generation for people of his generation (at least the subset that is more TV/game and less 'read a book'). I looked at D3 (got it free due to WoW sub), and came away thinking it was really not for me either.

    Video games are fast supplanting movies and TV as the -primary- form of adult-age (as opposed to adult-themed...) entertainment. The others getting pushed over to the space now filled by 'them book thingies' and radio.

    They are gaining in production quality from this as their available budgets get higher. But they're not going to gain in scripting from it - TV has even worse scripting... and worse acting... (watch your average TV show/movie, pick any A through B-list actor, and look through that actor's filmography: 70% odds they've played the same role, with the serial names filed off, for most of their career).
    - Which is to say that we can get braced for the stories to get worse, as soon as those Hollywood actors and writers start showing up at game companies with a resume in hand.

    TLDR version: Just kinda have to shrug and accept that 'deep soul shattering storyline' isn't their market. I play WoW / Blizzard games to kill elves, and gloss over the text boxes. I'll show up at D&D night to hear the quest text.

  5. #5
    Wow, they made Diablo 3 a rent-a-game? You know, a game you pay for as if you bought it, but in reality you only rented it until Blizzard sees fit to shut down their servers? Pass.

  6. #6
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    Diablo 3 is a good game. Lots of polish, gorgeous environments, fun combat, powerful character customization, but.....

    Good story??!! What in gods name are you talking about? This game doesn't have a story. That's pretty much it. There simply isn't a story. There are some incredibly cheesy voiceovers/dialogue, but how anyone could point to this and say that there is an "epic" story is truly astonishing. This game has about as much story as Super Mario Bros.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squire James View Post
    Wow, they made Diablo 3 a rent-a-game? You know, a game you pay for as if you bought it, but in reality you only rented it until Blizzard sees fit to shut down their servers? Pass.
    You do realize that the original Diablo came out in 1996 and you can still play that game for free on, 16 years later right? I don't see Blizzard shutting down servers anytime soon. Isn't it EA that has a tendency to kill off older versions of games that have an online component?

    I've been playing the game since launch and I participated in the open beta. Have there been a few server problems, sure. They did have 7.5M copies hit the streets in the first week, counting the 1.2M free copies from people doing the WoW Annual Pass deal. They did a very small (especially when you consider each character has over 30 powers and each power has 5 runes) fix yesterday that included about half bug fixes and about half nerfs as far as player abilities and rune changes went. They're doing pretty well as far as that goes.

    As for the NPCs and stash being cross character, I have to wonder how much loot switching the OP did in D2. Whether it was just between my own characters via a "mule" (aka a bank character) or with friends in the game to hold it open while I hopped characters quick, in D2 people would swap loot to other characters they didn't play just so they could pass things around. The unified loot solves that problem.

    No passing money and gear thru your mule to get it to a new character you are starting. Or your Barbarian finds 2 Paladin set pieces. Would you really vendor them? No, you would either have a trusted friend in game or be in your own passworded game, drop them on the ground, quickly switch characters, and rejoin the same game. BAM! Paladin is now well geared.

    A year before WoW came out the 1.10 Diablo 2 patch was released that added skill synergies. This meant no more waiting so many levels before you actually started putting points in abilities. Now you could power up some abilities that would give you bonuses along the way. Some friends from an online BBS and I started playing D2 again every night, trading gear, cubing runes up and sharing the wealth. We played for hours every night right up until WoW came out and we started a day 1 guild that lasted for over 5 years.

    I know I played plenty of D2 solo at home and occasional games of it over LAN when 5 of us were living together, but I definitely spent more time on B/net, especially when you started seeing drops that were not in the home game and would only be in the ladder games online. Very cool stuff and some of it was pretty achievable even at low levels.

    I keep seeing people refer to D3 as a single player game. It isn't. Blizzard has made the 3rd Diablo an online game. Yes, you can choose to play it alone, but even doing that, if you have any friends on your list, they are always a quick message away, even if they're playing SC or WoW. The game is an online game and while single player is an option, it's seems clearly designed to foster an online community, which Diablo 2 did as well, w/much worse tools.

    In teh end I coudl care less. My wife and I are both having a great time w/it, but so far it's been working on our own characters. I have a 4 day weekend this week and I think when we're not at the pool w/the kids, we may well be playing D3 some more. After all, I burn real easily and we're already going to be out all Friday evening. Need to hide from the daystar some

  8. #8
    Like I said, I don't expect great story from a computer game. But I had come to expect at least a decent story from Blizzard. They did a fair job with Diablo 2; the story was nothing special, but it gave me enough of a hook to engage with the game world, and the choice of Marius as narrator for the cut scenes meshed perfectly with the game's atmosphere of brooding horror.

    The story of D3 actively pushed me away from the game world, and shredded the atmosphere. Nothing destroys a horror tale like a lot of blundering "epic" baloney. When the big moment of the Act I cinematic was [spoiler]Tyrael throwing a temper tantrum in Heaven[/spoiler], that was it as far as I was concerned.

    [spoiler]"You won't help the humans! I'm so mad that I'm going to rip my wings off, what do you think of that? It doesn't do one goddamn thing to help the humans, in fact it turns their best ally from a giant flaming archangel to some dude with a sword, but it shows you all how mad I am, so there!"

    And then Leah looks up at Tyrael with big admiring eyes and starts gushing about his "sacrifice," when she ought to be screaming at him "YOU IDIOT! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!?" At that point, I concluded Tyrael had boarded the freight train to Mary Sue-Ville, and it was time for me to get off.[/spoiler]
    Last edited by Dausuul; Friday, 25th May, 2012 at 11:04 PM.

  9. #9
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    D3 was a fun game, but it's a long way genre defining. It's probably better thought of as a redux of D2.

  10. #10
    It's sort of stupid to ignore what Blizzard says is the reason they want people online simply because it irritates you. Yes, it's to stop piracy and hacking, both of which plagued previous versions of the game. Your nerdrage doesn't make them liars, and it weakens your review to accuse them of such.

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