First, a warning: If you don’t have a reliable internet connection, you shouldn’t buy Diablo 3. The game disc that you paid $45 to $60 for has artwork, animations, movies, music and dialogue on it. However, the actual game engine itself, the part that determines what enemies you face and what rewards you earn? That all takes place on Blizzard’s servers. If you can’t stay connected to their servers AT ALL TIMES, then you can’t play the single-player game you just bought.
This was brought to the forefront during the game’s launch, at which time too many people (Blizzard announced previously that they had over 1 million pre-orders) were trying to connect to Blizzard’s servers so that they could play the game they just purchased.
The servers crashed — and crashed hard. And then the servers were down for maintenance, and then there was a short period where people would login but not play the game that they had paid money for. … Basically, you can play the game you bought when Blizzard says you can play. Caveat Emptor.
The servers have been somewhat more reliable in the three weeks since the game’s release, but they still go down for maintenance semi-regularly, so keep this in mind.
The storyline is a bit muddled at times, but we get to see favorite characters return such as Deckard Cain, that wizened fount of knowledge and story exposition. The archangel Tyreal, last seen in Diablo 2 destroying the protective Worldstone that the demon Baal had corrupted, also makes a return in a significantly expanded role.
As you move through the story, in an eerie echo of Diablo 2‘s story progression, you’ll go from the ruins of Tristram to a desert environment to a snowy mountainscape, and finally to an otherworldly realm. The enemies come fast and steady, the on-screen effects are beautiful, and the loot piles up quickly. But something indefinable feels as if it’s missing from Diablo 3. It feels like this is just a “prettified” version of Diablo 2.
There are five different types of characters that you can play, but the basic tenent of role-playing games, the skill points and attributes, are gone in Diablo 3. As you level up, you unlock new abilities and new variants of those abilities without having to spend points to do so. This takes a bit of getting used to if you had in mind spending points and choosing your abilities with care. It does, however, allow you to completely change how your character’s powers are utilized at any point, on the fly (even in the middle of a fight, if you’re feeling brave). Protip: Turn on “Elective Mode,” which allows you to fully customize which abilities are linked to which mouse button or keyboard key.
There are three companion characters that you can choose to bring along with you on your questing, and they help fill in some of the gaps that your own character’s abilities may have. The Templar helps by wading into the thick of battle, the Scoundrel stays back and does ranged damage with bows, while the Enchantress calls down the elements on your enemies. It’s a nice touch that helps to make your gaming a bit easier.
Blizzard has a history of including “Easter eggs” in its games, and Diablo 3 is no exception. You’ll find references to the TV show “Lost” as well as the “Dune” series of books, and many, many others.
While part of me absolutely hates the fact that what is, essentially, a single player game has been crippled with this always-online restriction, another part of me understands some of the reasons that Blizzard gave for the decision. The game is addictive, that’s for sure, because I find myself constantly wondering what loot may drop if I play just a little bit longer. But I find myself multitasking while I play, talking with people or watching a movie.
With the earlier games in the Diablo franchise, you were always looking for the next great reward, that special piece of armor or that “perfect” weapon to outfit your character with. In Diablo 3, the new Auction House takes all that randomness away. With so many players constantly playing, you simply need to go to the auction house, look for what you want, and chances are very good that someone else has it for sale. Also, when the feature launches later this year, you’ll be able to sell and purchase in-game items for realworld money (with Blizzard taking its percentage, of course).
The core, the heart, that made the Diablo games so enthralling seems to have gone missing in the push to the online and social-gaming arenas for Diablo 3. It’s a good game, but by no means is it a great game.