By now, most, if not all of you reading this have heard of Diablo 3‘s server issues. I will say up front, that I believe always-online DRM for a game that can be played through in single-player, is bad business practice and it needs to stop. It would be understandable if only the multiplayer function was affected on the first days of the game’s launch. But when people can’t play a game they just spent 60 hard-earned dollars on at all, it becomes a real problem. The first two days were basically unplayable, and the servers have seen various stages of lag ever since – try sending your friend a message and laugh when a wall of text pops up 2 minutes later. And if you don’t have an internet connection good enough to reliably play multiplayer games, Blizzard has left you out in the cold completely. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of what the future holds for DRM and digital games. It would have to take a pretty damned good game to overcome all of that nonsense.
Luckily, Diablo 3 is quite good.
Diablo 3 is a very simplistic, top-down RPG. All you’ll mostly be doing during gameplay is clicking on monsters and watching your characters attack them. That sounds pretty boring, but there’s a very addictive and satisfying nature to the gameplay. Finding and purchasing new weapons and armor is awesome. Just like in Skyrim, new armor shows up on your character’s model. Trading goods with merchants and other players is always exciting. There’s a great sense of progression to the game, and after each mission you feel 10 times more powerful than you did when you began it. When you level up, you gain access to a new skill, which fits into a slot- you’ll gain more of these as you go along. Skills can be mixed and matched as you see fit, and almost always provide interesting results. More hardcore gamers may scoff at the idea that your choices are never final, but allowing players to change skills constantly keeps the gameplay fresh and fun. Beyond that, there’s runes, which allow you to modify the skills even further. Being able to customize so freely also enables the player to better suit their preferred gameplay style. With all these things combined, gaining a level usually feels like Christmas.
Of course, the decision of who to choose as your character also greatly determines your play style. The Barbarian is a musclebound giant that can tear apart foes with ease, up close and personal. The Demon Hunter (my favorite) quickly runs about a room, leading enemies into a crowd that can then be shot to pieces using powered-up dual crossbows. It must be said that Blizzard has done a great job on the sound design, as every sword hit or energy blast provides a satisfying crunch and death yell. When you get the right set of skills and runes stringed together, it can create such a satisfying scene of utter carnage as to be breathtaking. One strange thing to note is that some classes never actually wield their equipped weapon – for the Wizard, for instance, a staff and a sword are the same thing, only with a different damage number to judge the attack’s effectiveness.
The game’s art style is quite beautiful- it looks like a digital painting, or concept art come to life. Each of the four acts takes place in a completely different land, starting out in a dreary, zombie infested, gothic town, then moving into a sand-filled Arab-esque world, into various other places I won’t spoil. Beyond that, the character deign is flawless, and the variety of enemies is downright staggering. And they’re not only cosmetic changes – every enemy has a different attack pattern and A.I. behavior, which will keep you on your toes when you’re presented with an onslaught of all manner of hell-beasts.
All of this, of course, is better with friends, and luckily Blizzard has made joining your friends seamlessly fun. In just a few clicks, you can be by your friend’s side in the heat of battle. Diablo 3 has a real focus on story, and the strange thing is that when playing with multiple people, there is no voting. If someone skips dialogue, it skips for everyone- same with cutscenes. Also, I booted up Diablo 3 with my headset on, only to discover that there is no voice chat! What year is this again? Oh yeah, it’s 2012- where you have to be online to play single player, and stop mid-battle to hastily type to your friends.
While scoring this game, I was presented with a problem I haven’t had before. Yes, Diablo 3 is a great gaming accomplishment, utterly addictive and great fun for friends. But there is that undeniable flipside, where I feel obligated to let the consumer know that because of pointless DRM, the game does not always play well- be ready for possibly being kicked out of sessions or dealing with unplayable lag at times. Is this something we should simply accept? Should I give Diablo 3 the score it would have gotten without this beleaguering issue, this dark cloud over an RPG masterpiece? I won’t condemn it entirely, but for the record, Diablo 3 would have a different score than the one seen below under better circumstances. For those willing to deal with these issues, Diablo 3 will give you many hours of demon-slaying joy with your friends.