Diablo III
Genre: RPG
The ESRB has rated this product:

Release Date(s):
05/15/2012 ( Win PC )
Desc: Diablo III is a hack-n-slash role-playing game with a focus on collecting fantastical weapons, armor, and skills. Five playable classed - Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Sorcerer, Monk and Demon Hunter - each are available to stand against the forces of darkness. The goal is to trudge through a demon-infested world and defeat the minions of Diablo, the Lord of Terror, while gaining loot and experience points. This hack-n-slash RPG pits players against hordes of enemies such as zombies, demons, and the legions of Hell. You collect items, armor, and weapons to create more powerful characters, and join up with friends online to tackle extra-powerful demon hordes.

Lets start off with a full disclaimer and some history: I am an admitted Diablo II addict. When it was released back in 2000 Diablo II, while being a complete blast to play offline or across a Local Area Network with my brothers, had several issues that detracted from it's full online Battle.Net experience. Griefers and Spammers ran amuck, terrorizing pretty much any game session not wise enough to be locked down with a password. Cheaters duplicated items and inflated the economy to a point where the value of a gold coin was pretty much nil and any trading of items was a dangerous prospect at best.

And yet, it was one of the best games ever made, recently placing at #19 of G4's Top 100 Video Games of All Time. With the bar set so (damned) high, any new addition to the franchise would undoubtedly have its work cut out for it.

Fast forward to 2012 and we finally have a true sequel to the Diablo franchise. Diablo III takes place roughly 10 years after the events of the Diablo II Expansion pack, Lord of Destruction, where our fateful hero, with the help of the Archangel of Justice Tyrael, had to detonate the Worldstone (turning the entirety of Mt. Arreat from a mountain to a crater in the process) in order to save the world. Since then the land of Sanctuary has had a peace they had never known prior, with the demonic armies of the three Prime Evils - Diablo, Baal and Mephisto - receding back to their own personal corners of Hell now that their masters had all been defeated. Everything seemed to be coming up roses until...

Wait. I'm getting ahead of myself here. Lets step back and look at the key points we like to hit in our reviews here on GameGeex, and we can get back to the story in a moment.

If looks could kill
Without a doubt, Diablo III is a beautiful game. Even on the lower graphics settings, the characters are crisp, the backgrounds are lush (or arid and desolate, where appropriate) and the shift to true 3D instead of the pre-rendered 2D of the previous titles loses absolutely none of the franchise's signature "over the top gothic" aesthetic. Special effects, rag doll physics and particle systems are in full effect here, with some abilities causing creatures to fly across the room or explode in a shower of bloody chunks that cover the area in a deep crimson hue. Needless to say, this isn't a game for children, or even one that should be played in the same room as children. The violence is excessive yet in its own way cartoonish. helping to exaggerate the action in an entertaining way, not distract from it in a disturbing way like some games.
The audio is just as detailed, and an essential part of the Diablo experience. Few things bring a shiver to my spine faster than the chittering sound of a giant spider in the near darkness, or are as satisfying as the "sploosh" of said spider splattering into a spray of gore. Every line of text, from NPC interactions to journal entries, is fully voiced by top notch voice acting, and the cinematics are all 100% re-watch worthy. All in all, the presentation of this game is flawless, exactly as you would expect of a Blizzard title.
Stay awhile, and listen
So where was I? Oh yes. As I was saying about the story... Everything seems to be coming up roses until a mysterious star streaks through the sky and crashes into the ancient cathedral outside of the abandoned ruins of Tristram. Your character - chosen from amongst the likes of Barbarians, Sorcerers, Witch Doctors, Monks or Demon Hunters, and as a first for the franchise, from either gender for each class - follows the star to the town of New Tristram where they are currently fighting back the waves of undead that started to rise when the star struck ground. 
The adventure that follows from that point is rife with peril, drama, and more spoilers than you can shake a battle axe at, so I will have to shy away from mentioning specific plot points. Speaking as vaguely as possible, if you follow along with the story and let yourself become invested in it, you will find yourself experiencing severe heartbreak during at least two points along the way, and an ending that tries to paint all the desolation in a hopeful light but (for me, at least) comes up lacking, like the small talk of how things will "work out for the better" directly after a bad break up.
Got the skills to pay the bills
Where the story left me wanting a bit more, the game mechanics themselves were exactly what I didn't realize I wanted. Gone are the deep Talent Trees of the previous Diablo titles, in favor of a system where each character gets all the abilities of his or her class doled out on a per level basis, but can only have a certain number of them "slotted" at a time. This actually eliminates the need for creating alternate characters or having a respec system - if you don't like the newest ability you just gained you can easily swap the slot back to a previous ability with nothing but a short cool down as penalty. I quickly grew to love this system, especially after discovering an option in the settings that allows an "expert mode" where you can place abilities in whatever slots you want, not just the ones recommended by the developer.
There are a few elements of the game where Blizzard showed pure genius in terms of addressing Quality of Life issues from the previous franchise entries. One of the most subtle but beneficial is having all characters share a single money pool. This completely cuts out the need to transfer cash back and forth between characters on the same account and makes it effortless to use one character to farm cash and another to spend it. Also, gone is the need to store up scrolls/books of Town Portal or Identify, with both being replaced by innate abilities early in the game. This saves on both cost and inventory space, and just feels more streamlined.
You gotta fight for your right to party
Speaking of Quality of Life issues, the place where Diablo III truly advanced over the previous games is in how well it deals with its online components. While there was much kurfluffle and ruffling of virtual feathers across the Internet over the "Always Online" requirement of Diablo III, I found that it made partying up with friends online a seamless and buttery-smooth process. It was easy to see not only when my friends were playing, but what class and level they were currently adventuring with, as well as whether they had room in there party for me to join. It also has provided for a far more secure and cheat-resistant game than the previous Diablo II experience, as now your character is being stored on the server instead of your local PC and various anti-cheating preventative measures are in place. 
Soon after launch, however, there were several reports of "hacked characters" rolling in, though from what research Blizzard has reported not a single one of those occurred on an account secured with a Blizzard Authenticator, an independent device (or smart phone app) that has long been a near-must-have accessory for anyone playing World of Warcraft or Starcraft II. The Authenticator is also required for anyone participating in the Diablo III's Real Money Auction House, another feature that has some self-appointed Internet pundits up in arms over claims of Blizzard "fleecing their players" and "turning them into gold farmers". However, this is a discussion best left outside the scope of this review.

Ahh Fresh meat...

So after all this has been said, how do I feel about Diablo III? When you get down to it, I mostly love Diablo III. I know many people that have burned through all the difficulty levels - Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno - and continue to go back, time and time again, to try to pull every last randomly generated legendary item they can from the clutches of evil. For them, the game is the same neverending loot piñata that Diablo II was, and has the same near-addictive draw that has them signing back in every night.

Personally, though, I have come to find that I am simply not the Diablo player I used to be. Once I completed the game on Normal level, I had pulled all the story content from the game I could, and I simply had no desire to run through the same content again at a harder difficulty level. I'm sure I will go back and play a different class when I have some free time (ha!) or re-join the adventure when the inevitable expansion pack or DLC comes out, but I no longer feel the sirens' call of randomly generated items that is the foundation of Diablo's gambit. But is that a flaw in the game design? No. It just means that I am no longer the target audience for this style of game play. For those that are, this game once again sets the bar even higher than Diablo II had ever dared to dream.

tl;dr - Too long; Didn't read
Diablo III marks the return of Blizzard's venerable franchise to the Point-and-Click RPG throne. With dramatic zeal, it casts aside both Sacreds and the original Torchlight, claiming the bloody crown that once rested upon Diablo II's brow as its own. All hail, the king has returned.
Aesthetics: 5.0
GamePlay: 5.0
Story: 4.0
Quality: 5.0
Overall Score: 4.5
1 Comments for this post.
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Great review, from my short time playing I completely agree.

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