It’s been a long freaking time. I played Diablo 3 the first time I attended Blizzcon in 2009. I’ve never played the original. I only dabbled in Diablo 2 for a short time, mostly because by the time I played it the game was pretty outdated compared to what else was out there. However, the appeal was clear. Dark fantasy setting, tons of different ways to play a character and LOOT. Oh the loot. There’s a shiny piece of awesome around the next corner if only you played for a few for minutes. Diablo has mastered this concept. After playing for the first time I was excited. Then I played it for a second time….at Blizzcon 2010. Then I played it for a THIRD time…..at Blizzcon 2011. IT HAS TO BE SOON! The beta is a very small dose of D3, but I can tell just from the very limited time I’ve spent playing that Blizzard will once again be the cause of tens of thousands of hours being lost across the world to this game.
It’s clicking! Next. Ok I’m just kidding, sort of. There is a TON of clicking. Mouse over the enemy, press button, commence destruction. It’s simple and deep at the same time, which is exactly what Blizzard is on record as going for. Instead of a super confusing talent system that lets you make a character that is terrible (hello Diablo 2!), the skill system is vastly different. There are numerous skills available of course, but the catch is that the number you can use at one time is limited. Starting with only two, eventually unlocking up to six, the trick is not pumping skill points into these things, but finding the combination that works best for you. While I understand some users frustration at not being able to access all given abilities at once, it more than makes up for it in a couple of ways. First is that Diablo 3 will contain interesting decisions. Skills can’t be changed on the fly, but doing so is very easy by hitting up a Nephalem Alter. I can definitely see situations in which a certain fight is being difficult, but a quick skill swap to a more AOE focused approach vs. single target will result in victory. This leads to the second thing, which is not all Monks or Demon Hunters or whatever will always be the same as everybody else. Cookie cutter is bad. I’m sure some math genius will find a set of skills that result in the MOST damage per second or whatever, but Diablo isn’t a game that forces you to number crunch, ala WoW. Throw in the fact that each skill can be “runed” (think enchanted) to have a different effect, and the amount of skill combinations you have in practice is very high. The experimentation of different skill combinations and runes is what is going to make the mindlessly clicky combat end up being not that mindless.
- Visuals and UI
I’m kind of graphics whore. Not in the sense that I must own the latest PC hardware at all times kind of thing, I’m content being a generation behind. But the sad truth is that Diablo 2 had trouble holding my interest mostly because it looked AWFUL. I played it about four years ago, so I understand that the game is old and at the time the graphics were fine. Try as I might to look past, it was difficult. Diablo 3 does not have this issue. It’s not a game that is going to tax the PC, but that’s part of its strength. It is SMOOTH. The art style screams gothic horror/dark fantasy nerd wet dream. Enemies explode into really satisfying bloody smears or piles of bones….or explode into a pile of worms that attacks you, if one early abomination looking thing is any indication. Hand drawn character portraits appear when talking to any NPC’s or when the main character is speaking, and it just reaffirms something that I think every time I’ve attended Blizzcon ; Blizzard has some spectacular artists. Environmental effects are cool as well, with some even crossing over into the combat. A wall falling over and crumbling before you looks good, but having it crush the group of demons that was coming at you makes it even more satisfying. The sound is also a stand out (yeah I know this is called visuals and UI. Just shush!). When enemies do explode into the aforementioned bloody smears, the sound is exactly how you think it is. Ambient sounds of pebbles and dust falling in caves or the eerie whale of some ghosts (who are coming to MURDER YOU since just about everything in Diablo attempts to do so) achieve an immersive experience that. It’s that experience I’m assuming Diablo 2 could generate when it first came out, so I’m looking forward to being sucked in to this world.
- Real Money Auction House
Blizzard is rich. They are about to become “I wonder if we can add guest houses ON OUR YACHT” kind of rich. They hated the black market that was buying and selling items in Diablo 2. So now they have control and a cut of every auction posted. There is more loot than I can possibly imagine in Diablo 3. Having an interface on the main menu of the game that enables you to buy and sell for any character is going to be insane. I support his idea. I don’t see myself ever buying an item for real money, but I would not be opposed to spending a little bit of ducats to post some things in hopes of earning some. It all stays in a Blizzard account linked to Battle.net, which means money made in selling D3 items could go toward paying a WoW subscription or even buying mounts and pets. Cashing out those funds into dollars you can literally get your hands on requires a Paypal account and another cut taken by Blizzard. I predict many forum users will be up in arms about this (IT IS MY MONEY BLIZZ WTF QUIT STEALING FROM ME OMGLOLCATS) but it won’t matter. Blizzard is now making money on a minute by minute basis off of a game that used to only generate revenue when box copies were purchased. It’s a brilliant business move.
Now if only they would actually RELEASE THE GAME, we could all get on with being less productive members of society.