Blizzard’s wildly popular Diablo III was released two weeks ago among high anticipation. The third in the dark horror series, Diablo III follows a linear storyline. Twenty years after the events of Diablo II, evil has revisited the world of Sanctuary. The residents of New Tristram suffer ghastly horrors soon after a star falls onto the infamous Cathedral in the ruins of old Tristram. Amid regret for having built a new town so close to the accursed site, the people cry out for another hero to save them.
Players who care about storyline will be somewhat satisfied with Diablo III. The story seamlessly connects to past events in Diablo II, including the reemergence of familiar NPCs such as Tyrael and Cain. Where the game goes awry is that it follows the same formula as the second; it takes place over four acts in the same environments. The main antagonists are yet again two “high” demons who are wreaking havoc among the mortals. Thankfully, the rich and talented voice actors add depth to the story during cinematic moments. Another saving grace is that Diablo III is rich in lore with an endless supply of journals, which can be found in optional dungeons and side quests that also provide miscellaneous equipment and extra experience. Unfortunately, the game does have the feel of grinding as the player has to repeatedly tear through hordes of demons and monsters, even if they opt to skip out on side-stories.
Before one can jump into the hack-and-slash, one must first choose a hero. Diablo III offers five character classes:
Witch Doctor: Many have compared this to the necromancer class found in the previous game, but Blizzard contends that it is a class of its own. The Witch Doctor dabbles in the dark arts associated with voodoo, such as harvesting souls, summoning monsters, casting curses, etc.
Barbarian: The barbarian is a force to be reckoned with. This class relies completely on immense physical ability in order to cleave, crush, and destroy.
Wizard: Rather than a sorcerer or sorceress class, players can choose to become wizards if magic appeals to them. Wizards’ spells involve the natural elements (e.g. lightning, fire, and ice) as well as time and space (i.e. slow the flow of time and teleport).
Monk: Whereas the barbarian is brute strength, a monk is fast and dexterous in order to employ martial arts. Monks also fulfill the holy warrior role of Diablo III.
Demon Hunter: Although the demon hunter is new, this class does incorporate the skills of the amazon and assassin. Demon hunters prefer to maim with deadly bows and traps. Unlike barbarians and monks, demon hunters are not meant for close melee combat, hence they rely on defensive maneuvers to keep them alive.
Character creation is blissfully simple, but some may find it too simplistic for their tastes. For instance, players cannot randomize names or customize their characters beyond choosing which gender they would prefer. Appearance and voice are pre-determined, and players cannot truly role-play the character when it comes to choices. For example, players do not get to choose which response their character would say in dialogue. Blizzard makes up for this by providing each class with its own distinctive backstory, providing a reason for why a particular hero courageously battles terrifying demonic forces. Additionally, each character has a unique personality that is revealed through narration and dialogue. The writers were realistic in character development in that each class also exhibits flaws (e.g. the demon hunter does not fear death, but her obsession with revenge may cause her to lose sight of other matters, whereas the monk can see clearly but lacks emotional depth). The differences in each character enhance the game’s replay value.
The game graphics complement the creepy environment necessary to games of the horror genre. Players will experience nostalgia upon hearing the soundtrack, as it is mostly the same as what they have heard in the previous Diablo games. The creators have implemented a variety of landscapes as was done in Diablo II. For the most part, the maps remain the same, but the locations of key areas and items are randomized, again adding to replay value.
The game mechanics feature both good and bad elements. The good is that playing the character is simple; a player only needs to use the left and right mouse buttons in addition to a few keys, rather than memorize a complex set of keys in order to pull off a combo. Simple is nice, but since movement is also tied into the left mouse button, this can be bad. In the midst of an attack, one can easily forget to hold in the shift key while attacking and accidentally walk into yet another swarm of enemies. Several players prefer to use the keyboard in order to walk. Another feature that can be both good and bad is the shared gold and resources among characters. Each player who creates multiple characters can share gold and resources amongst them. This is bad if you share your account with a guest; your guest could spend your accumulated wealth or take your supplies from the storage chest. On the other hand, players who like to create farming characters, or mules, will find this feature useful.
Game graphics and style are similar to the game’s predecessors, especially Diablo II. One feature that stands out is the artistic, hand-drawn feel. Graphics are clear and satisfactory for special attacks and spells. From time to time, players are treated to realistic-looking cinematic scenes to propel the story along.