Bringing Smash’n’Grab to Next Gen
Diablo III has of course been out for quite a while now being released in 2012 for PC, and most of us have probably beaten the hell out of it six ways from Sunday by now. So I’m very aware that for most habitual gamers there’s little I can say here that will be new to you. That being said, I do personally know a handful of players who have never played Diablo III, or Diablo anything for that matter. Thus, I will go about this review assuming you as the reader are a Diablo newbie.
Even if you aren’t.
Think of this not as a review as in I’m telling you something you don’t know, but rather a review in the sense that school is almost over but there’s one last big test and your professor (that’s me) is giving you a cheat day where he practically gives you all the answers to the exam during lecture.
Pencils up class.
Diablo III is your typical dungeon crawling RPG. Choose a character class. Choose a gender. Then kill everything. Really. That’s it. “Videogames are too complicated to learn” is officially no longer an acceptable excuse for your spouses not to play. I declare it so. There are no alignment choices between good and evil. The story will never branch off or change depending on what you do. There aren’t 50 bagillion sidequests to get lost in. It’s not even open world. You find enemies. And you kill them.
You bash them.
You stab them.
You burn them.
You shoot them.
You laugh maniacally.
You get some sweet loot.
Then you do it all again in the next area. Except better. Cause you got that sweet loot. And some new abilities too.
I can sense your spouses that you’ve forced to read this. They’ve just shoulder slapped you and said “See!? New abilities! I don’t know how to deal with all that.” Be calm newbies, I promise you Diablo III’s ability system is so simple. You have a primary ability (which you can pretty much button mash nonstop), a secondary ability, and 4 miscellaneous abilities, all of them mapped to one button on your controller.
I mean, individually of course. But really it’s like this:
(I’m a Sony guy so this will be explained from a Sony guy’s perspective.)
R1: I STAB IT
R2: I STAB IT. WITH FIRE.
Triangle: I TRICK IT INTO STABBING ITSELF
Circle: I DO A SWEET JEDI BACKFLIP AND STAB THE GROUND SO HARD I MELT THE EARTH.
Square: I heal my party members.
You seasoned players see what I did there right?? You caught that?? Good. That was for you. Really though the combat mechanics are that simple. Push a button, you do stuff. You are not going to find too many other games that are this simple. Especially RPGs, especially on next gen. As you level up and gain newer abilities, your older abilities also “level up” and allow for cool augmentations so really, no ability is “better” than any other. It all depends on your play style, every ability for every class has its place and use. Yeah, sure, you could create a sweet fire demon at level 10 that stabs one enemy really, REALLY hard. Or, you could keep using your own stab with fire cause now it sets your victim on fire who in turn sets any of his buddies on fire if they get too close. Bear in mind all of these abilities are completely fictional and I’m using them solely as examples in the simplest way possible. But they’re really are some sweet frickin’ abilities in this game. My favorite thing to do with my hunter is lie a trap down on a large group of enemies that completely immobilizes them then jump backwards and light them up with grenades.
It’s so cool. It really is. The best thing about the console version of Diablo III is it was built from the ground up to be played on a console. The mechanics, the engines, the button layouts, everything is so smooth you’d never be able to tell the game was first created for PC just from playing it. You know, like that god awful port of the first Dragon Age. (Still a great game though despite its buggy unwieldiness.) Console owners of Diablo III also boast an exclusive dodge-roll ability with a single flick of the right stick. It doesn’t have a cost of any sort and can be executed infinitely. You will not ever, ever feel like you’re not playing a video game that was designed to work on your ps3, 360, Xone, or ps4.
With everything we’ve talked about already you’d be right in guestimating this game is worth buying, even single player. But the real rewards come from the multiplayer experience. Diablo III is a very rare 4-player local co-op game, as well as 4-player online. And despite the game’s simplistic nature there are a slew of cool bonuses and gimmicks that make it more fun to play. For instance, killing 10+ enemies one after another in short succession grants bonus experience toward leveling up. Obviously this can be done more easily with more players in the game. However, I have noticed while playing that more often than not our kills weren’t calculated cumulatively. Thus our kill streaks continued to be separate and we could interrupt one another’s kill streak by landing the killing blow on each other’s targets. I have not determined whether or not this is some sort of game glitch or if the game is designed that way. But I feel like it bears mention.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the level balancing. I jumped into a buddy’s game who was much further along in the story than I am and 20 levels ahead of me. We both figured he’d pretty much have to baby sit me and the only reason I was in there was because we’re in an established game group together and constantly bug each other online. To both our surprises I held my own. I’m mowing down baddies left and right, cackling, hee-hawing, and having a good ole’ time. When I leveled up and went to change my abilities I noticed my core stats were WAY higher than they should have been, and glowing green. When I returned to my own game they were normal. As far as I can tell through forums and hear-say it’s a game mechanic that allows players of all levels to play together without anyone being drastically handicapped and not really enjoying themselves. I also noticed I wasn’t gaining experience any faster than I would otherwise, and I’m guessing that has a lot to do with this thing called “rushing” from back in the Diablo II days. (A low level character could follow close behind a high level party and rack up tons of experience very quickly, while doing nothing. Similar experience formulas have existed in numerous other games since Diablo II.) This is definitely a game for friends, balance is a good thing.
Another console exclusive is magic and rare item drop rates. Personally I consider this more of a fix than anything else and those of you who played the PC version know exactly what I’m referring to. The drop rate was absolutely abysmal. Now, that was sort of countered by the fact that the game features an item craft system that allowed you to make your own gear. But the results were randomized and often times you end up feeling like you wasted your rare crafting materials. Which were hard to come by because of the freakishly low rare item drop rate. It’s a thing of the past. Before I made it to Act II in the game I had over 30 iridescent tears (salvaged from rare items, to craft more rare items). Granted I’m playing on Hard (higher difficulties have higher drop rates and better rewards), but this is still a significant difference from the PC version where on average I had half that amount or (usually) less at the same point in the game.
Now unfortunately for those of you who love to spend hours upon hours creating your characters cheek bone structure and eyebrow shape, there’s no customization for appearances. Ever male of a given class looks the same, every female of a given class looks the same. BUT, armor and weapons all have unique appearances, and that’s cool. Besides, do you really want another game that takes a year to load because you just HAD to create a character that looks just like Mr. T?? No. And that’s great here because Diablo III on the console loads faster than Floyd Mayweather can throw a punch.
That’s very freaking fast by the way.
Area to area. Menu to Menu. Menu to game. Game to Menu. Character select screen to game. You can snap your fingers and the game moves right along. Even during online multiplayer. In most cases there isn’t even a load screen. Cave exit to the forbidden woods?? Ok. *button click* You’re there. That fast. The action never stops save for during story bits and whenever you pause to look through your inventory.
There’s a lot of content that seasoned players will appreciate, but newer players don’t necessarily have to immerse themselves in. The killstreaks. The craft system. Exploration. Etc. With its low leaning-curve and lacking of multiplayer handicap it’s a simple turn-on-and-play game that anyone can jump into at any time and have fun right away. To me, that’s one game that’s well worth the sticker price. And for those of us who waited until Aug 19 for the next gen versions, we even got the expansion content at no extra charge.
Pros: Extremely low learning-curve. Fast-paced. Superb voiceovers. Designed specifically for console compatibility.
Cons: Low replayability for solo gaming.
**On this note it is worth mentioning that some minor map areas feature random dungeon generation. Admittedly I do not have the patience to play through hundreds of times and tell you which exact ones they are. But they’re there. I promise.