A Few Thoughts About Diablo III, A PS3 Review

by A.J. Coltrane

Love Diablo 1 & II? You’ll *like* Diablo III, probably.

Diablo III is different.

1.  Instead of a skill tree you get skills, then sub-skills to choose from. Evidently it was simplified because the developers felt that the skill tree concept was too complex for this day and age, or at least too complex for their target audience. I don’t know about that — there are many popular games that use skill trees, and as for me I enjoy having to pick between two trees, or two good skills within the same tree. Want 5 offensive skills and no defensive skills or buffs? Great! As it is now you can put any skill into any slot, then select the most optimal sub-skills to go with the build. If you’re not happy with the choices you can change for free, on the fly, at no cost. I think that the way they implemented it dumbs it down too much.

[In a related sidenote — in the modern era, most games that use skill trees allow you to respec (change your skill choices) for a nominal cost. Fallout doesn’t, and Diablo II didn’t either — you had to have a *really* firm idea of what you wanted the end result to look like, otherwise you’d re-roll. (Create another character and start over.) A patch changes the game balance? Tough! Go live with your sub-optimal build or re-roll!]

2.  If you’re a long-time player there’s going to be a good chance that you won’t love the new plot. In my opinion the writers took some liberties with the canon that they should be left alone. I’ll leave it at that.

3.  Diablo III is easy! Like, super easy! We played two-player split screen and defeated Diablo on Normal difficulty without drinking a potion. Some of the other boss fights end with the boss dead at about the same time that they finish monologuing. I think we finished Normal difficulty with over 100 healing potions each. There aren’t anymore super high dps baddies like the Death Knights, Raptors, or Succubus. Elemental effects as a group are relatively harmless except maybe the lava. This was probably a balance decision — the healing potions have a 30-second cooldown, so if you *did* want to spam potions you’d be screwed. I think they they erred too far of the side of low damage by the monsters all around.

For reference, I remember playing Diablo I & II with a buddy on the PC. For the really nasty boss fights one person would “drive” and click the spells, and the other guy would have his fingers over the number keys on the keyboard — each number key representing a healing potion — the driver would say “healing”, and the healer would use the next potion… it took too long to take your hand off of the mouse, find the next potion, and hit the key — you’d be long dead by then.

Heck, for that matter, if you died in Diablo I you’d drop all of your gear. Good luck fighting back to your corpse to retrieve it when you’re naked. Usually you had to re-gear from scratch. (People would outright rage quit Diablo I  if it were released today.) Diablo III gives you a death timer that lasts a few seconds, then you can jump right back into action fully geared, the only cost of death being an insignificant gear repair fee.

In fact, all gear repair fees are insignificant. I don’t know why they bothered to implement that again, other than maybe “we had that feature last time!” It’s just one more fiddly thing to deal with that doesn’t add fun to the game. Repairs cost around 200 gold every 30 minutes of gameplay, which is basically the same as zero cost.

Related to that —

4.  White drops (commons) are fairly literally valueless. At this point (level 50) we’ve got around 500,000 gold. Whites are worth about 9 gold at the vendor. The opportunity cost of picking up a White gives them a negative value if we do accidentally or intentional pick them up.

5.  The maps are only vaguely random. The exits all tend to be in the same places game after game. Part of the fun of the other versions was finding the waypoints and the paths to the next zone. Not so this time.

6.  Runes are gone. No more Runewords either. The devs insist that they kept the runes. The runes now are really what I was referring to as sub-skills, above. Can’t fool me. Opportunity missed.

———-

Overall those points come across as “things were better in the old days” gripes, and that’s fair — Diablo I & II had their irritating qualities. If I’d come across this game completely “cold” I’d probably like it somewhat more than I do. But I think that they took a fundamentally near perfect game in Diablo 2 and made it easier and dumber. A total overhaul wasn’t necessary, but that’s the route they picked.

And it took them thirteen years to do it.

Still, it’s prettier than the old ones. They fixed some of the worst of the problems from the Diablo III PC release from what I’ve heard. (No more auction house, no more required to be online to play… two truly awful decisions.) It remains a fun hack-and-slash high-fantasy game with random loot drops. If that’s your thing, and you can pick it up for around $20 you’ll get at least a few evenings out of it, and maybe more, so I’d say go for it.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it *is* fun sometimes to run around and smash monsters.

 

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