The lord of terror returns in Diablo 3 and fans are once again pitted against hordes of evil minions that have come to destroy mankind. It has been 12 years since the release of the second game and Diablo 3 has quite a bit to live up to for fans. As a huge fan of the second game, it was time to put Diablo3 to the test. Did Diablo 3 manage to drive back the horrors of evil into the depths of hell or did the heavens tremble and fall into oblivion?
Story: Diablo 3 takes place 20 years after Diablo 2 and you play as five different characters (some old and some new). Throughout your journey there will be a lot of surprises that you may either see coming or that will just leave you there with your jaw dropped. Diablo 3 definitely engages the player and provides them with an array of plot elements to keep the story going. However, there are some areas with annoyingly repetitive dialog combined with some cheesy statements. This dialogue doesn’t necessarily ruin Diablo 3, but it can get annoying when replaying the game.
Replay Value: At the time of this post I have beaten Diablo 3 four times on normal and I am almost on act 2 nightmare. The games has a lot of replayability as you will find yourself venturing out to battle evil with each character on each difficulty with each of your friends. Furthermore your loot and gold is shared across your characters, which makes starting over that much easier.
Better Game Mechanics: Compared to Diablo 2, Diablo 3 is much more forgiving in terms of game mechanics. As I mentioned before, you have a shared stash and additionally you can share gold across different characters. Blizzard also removed stat points and skill points. Every time you level up you simply unlock new skills and stat points are automatically allocated for you. Surprisingly enough, while one may think this is limiting, the changes work very well. There is still quite a bit that you can do to customize your characters, for there are a multitude of different gear combinations and dyes available.
Difficulty: Some people complained that the Beta was too easy. However, most of those complainers failed to realize that it was just a portion of act 1 normal. Diablo 2 was exactly the same way in this regard as the game started of easy and then gradually got to the point where it was really hard. I can say that without a doubt Diablo3 is a hard game once you get passed normal. If you don’t have the right gear, which most of us probably won’t have our first time around, you will die left and right if you aren’t careful. Furthermore, it is also important to have the right skill combination. The player can no longer screw around in nightmare, they really need to know what skills works for each situation and how to save not only your life, but your friends lives as well.
Online Only: Diablo 2 had closed battle net which seemed to work okay for the time. The game also had a single player experience for those that either didn’t want to play cooperatively or didn’t have a way to connect to the internet. These types of people are not gone from the world. Believe it or not these things happen in today’s society. Blizzard choose to ignore those folks touting better security and the fact that Diablo 3 is meant to be a coop experience from the get go.
However, they fail to realize that every single game gets hacked and their DRM can be intrusive to others. As for playing by yourself, they did implement followers for a reason and there isn’t an excuse to force people into playing the game online. Simply put, this online only standard in the game did little to help the average consumer and instead it created numerous headaches and challenges for both the developers and the customers. As you may recall, Diablo3 had quite a rocky launch with many service outages and emergency maintenance downtimes.
Graphics and Performance: As a hardware enthusiast, Diablo 3′s graphics feel subpar for the requirements. This is 2012 and compared to other games currently out on the market, Diablo 3 just doesn’t seem up-to-date. You may think to yourself, “hey the game was meant to be played on a lot of rigs right?” I say you are wrong in this area. The minimum requirements is a 7800gt or an x1950. To put this into perspective, these GPUs are almost equivalent to what is inside of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Some Intel GPUs can still play the game, but the minimum requirements seem to suggest that you would be getting better visuals than what you are presented with.
The art style is one thing, but there are some pretty obvious effects that are simply not there. For example, there is no bump or normal mapping in the game, which would be okay if the models were detailed, but the character models in the game are lacking. If you zoom into your character, you will notice low poly counts and the lack of detail right away. If that isn’t enough most of the lighting is baked into the environmental textures. This means that some of the lighting is literally just painted onto the environment. You would think that this would lead to even the lowest of the low end rigs to run the game, but you are wrong. This information is based on the GDC presentation by Christian Lichtner, the art director of Diablo 3.
One could also compare this game to Titan Quest. Titan Quest came out in 2006 and it still looks great to this day. Furthermore, their requirements are also much better than Diablo 3 while even sporting some better graphics. Basically, if you have an old GPU like x800 or 6800 series from nvidia or ATi (now AMD) you can play Titan Quest, but you may have trouble playing Diablo 3. So, as you can see there seems to be some optimization issues going on in this department.
Again, the art style is rather interesting and it aims to make the game seem like a painting, which is done to make more elements of the game stand out. However, at the same time the game leaves a lot to be desired in the graphics department, and there is no reason for Blizzard to make such a compromise in terms of graphics. They could have used higher poly models with bump mapping and they didn’t have to bake the lighting onto various surfaces. Basically, the art style still could have worked with better graphics put in place. Again, this is 2012, people have been waiting for 12 years for this game. Some individuals expected some awesome visuals, but unfortunately there is still a huge gap between what you are playing and what you see in the cut scenes.
4 Player Limit: Aside from the graphics, the player limit is the most frustrating part of the game for me. Contrary to what I said before pertaining to the single player offline experience, I am a huge COOP fan. I would like to play this game with all of my friends whenever possible. However, Diablo 3 simply blocks you in this regard compared to the previous game. Diablo 2 had an 8 player limit and it handled that quite well. So, for me to hear that the developers could not balance Diablo 3 for 8 player was rather shocking. While it could be performance issues or balancing issues, in my mind it’s just a step backwards. I lost count how many times I was in a 4 player group looking at my friends list aching to invite them into the game to play with us. At the end of the day the 4 player limit doesn’t make sense. Hell, even a 5 player limit would almost be fine since you could at least have one person playing as each class.
Diablo 3 has taken quite a few steps forward, but at the same time it takes a few steps back when compared to the previous game. Things like a shared stash, shared gold, a better leveling system, and more difficulty levels really add to the game. However, other areas such as the online only DRM, the lack luster graphics, and the 4 player limit really hinder the game in some aspects. Overall, Diablo3 is certainly a must play for both new and old fans. It will definitely keep you busy over the summer and while there are quite a few things that I personally don’t agree with, the game is still an enjoyable experience.
Diablo 3 review by FacTor-X