I can stop whenever I want…
That addictive “just one more level” gameplay is back in Diablo III, and just as much fun as ever. The environments are large enough that it takes quite a bit of extra exploring to uncover all of the game’s secrets, and that is a lot more fun than just running through every quest as quickly as possible. There are a few sidequests here and there, and some hidden areas than can lead to unlockable achievements. It’s a real surprise when those achievements pop up, and some of them come with prizes as well, such as new colors, patterns, and sigils for the character banner that you see on the game’s login screen.
Crafting is cool, if a bit simple. Invest your gold in training the blacksmith early and you’ll quickly find him able to make you much better equipment than you could ever hope to find in a dungeon or buy from the merchants you find here and there. You’ll have to harvest the necessary ingredients from magic items you choose to sacrifice instead of sell.
One of the coolest little aspects of the game is how it has been streamlined to allow you to jump into the fun as quickly as possible and keep you there. Town Portal is a skill you learn very early on, making it easy to sell your loot without backtracking. There are no Identify scrolls to buy and carry around–all you need is a few moments of uninterrupted meditation to identify that item, equip it, and move on. And while there is no discrete save feature, due mainly to the always-on server connection, there are plenty of portals so you don’t have to worry about slogging through endless corridors and fields to get where you need to go.
Graphics and sound quality
Diablo III simply looks great–whether you’re in a creepy catacomb, a lost temple, the town of Tristam, or the surrounding fields. The level of detail is excellent, and some of the environments are truly breathtaking. The color palette is relatively muted, forcing me to turn up the brightness in order to see everything properly, and the text could certainly have been bigger. There was some slowdown and occasional stuttering, especially if there was a lot going on at once–hordes of enemies to fight, with abundant spell effects–though I believe that was more of an issue with my somewhat aged hardware than with the game itself.
The music and sound effects are very good, especially with a good set of speakers or a headset. They aren’t generally overwhelming, which is a good thing–Blizzard is careful to make sure that they set the atmosphere and add realism to the experience. While I did find my female monk’s voice to be a little annoying at times, I found all of the voice acting to be excellent, especially Leah and Deckard Cain.
Another nice touch–instead of forcing you to read through tons of tedious text, when you encounter a new creature or aspect of the story you can click on a button and have the new lore read to you while you continue clicking and slashing your way through the enemies that are trying to keep you from your goal.
Buying an advantage
One of the most interesting aspects of the game, the real money auction house, has rather unfortunately been delayed indefinitely past the promised May 22nd launch date. The idea was simple–allowing players to use real money to buy in-game items and currency from other players, but that portion of the game cannot be reviewed at this time.
Should you play Diablo III? The answer is most definitely yes, with a few caveats. Be prepared to manage your expectations, because as good as it is, no game can live up to twelve long years of speculation and hype. It has some shortcomings, but it’s also a lot of fun, especially with friends. Enjoy the ride and let the lootfest begin!
- The same addictive hack and slash gameplay, with much improved graphics and sound
- Excellent art direction, with expansive environments
- Excellent sound design, immersing you in the action with extensive voice acting, great effects and an impressive score
- Some non-essentials streamlined–no more identify scrolls
- Dramatic story with detailed history, lore, and bestiary
- Always-on server connection can lead to unexpectedly dropped games, and makes it much harder to play Diablo III on the go
- Some graphical issues and stuttering on lower-end hardware
- No real character personalization beyond choosing equipment
- Lockstep character progression (“If you’re level 24, you have this”)
- Real Money Auction House not available at launch, or for the immediate future
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