qkt's Diablo III (Mac) review

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Dutiful Sequel

I will always remember a time hazed in nostalgia, whereupon I read that Diablo II was the Guinness World Record holder for most users. Or something along those lines. This was in a land in the time before World of Warcraft.

Today, we find ourselves in a very different environment, both literally and metaphorically. When a game has been in development for so long, it's not difficult for the direction of its execution to wayward. Diablo III is a game so long in the making it has had almost enough people holding their breath to make this game carbon-neutral. With such anticipation and expectations, it could prove to be Diablo's downfall.

On the contrary, Diablo III is one powerhouse of a game. It pulls you in quickly as normal difficulty is a breeze by most parts. The redesigned skill system draws from more contemporary game design as it drips feeds you and holds you in there as each level promises you a new Skill or a Skill Rune which drastically modifies the way the Skill behaves.

The redesigns in the skill and attribute system makes the game more approachable (but not in a bad way) and fluid. Allowing the player to make changes to their specification similarly to the way one might change their gear.

The Diablo franchise has famously been known for the enormous nature of its loot system. In Diablo 3, we see a more approachable and functional system, with gold automatically being picked up by your character and fewer deadweights in the economy. However, some of the complexity is sacrificed for a more variety in items, as legendary and set items are the most attractive anymore. In addition to this, there's now an auction house, both in gold and real currency, which makes item value and quality far more transparent than in previous games in the series.

Diablo III has exploited the advantages of this age, and has greatly improved visuals and audio. Monsters are much more vocal and so are NPCs and even your own player character. However, I won't be praising the voice acting too much; the tone of the game has changed a lot in this aspect.

Diablo I and Diablo II were remembered for their dark and gruesome nature, (see The Butcher's Lair) dismembered bodies littered the wilderness and blood is not in short supply. Diablo III kind of throws this out the window and the game is delivered in a much more sober fashion, with lots of (mediocre) comic relief, specifically in the form of the followers, Diablo III's iteration of the mercenaries of Diablo II. Their dialogue is poorly written and is malformed as each of the three followers have the exact same lines and responses to different character classes and genders (though the player characters' dialogue does vary).

Diablo III's approach to story is such that it delivers the meat of its content through conversations with NPCs and lore books. They vary from being interesting insights into the world's lore to complete nonsense which has very little worth and can literally obstruct gameplay, depending how your UI settings are. The quality of the writing suffers for this as the story concludes with several loose ends to build an expansion on and many of the bosses and villains are received as being quite two dimensional, i.e. conveniently revealing their plans to you through their arrogance.

With any MMO game, it is difficult for the developers to satisfy every part of their online community. Now although people often get inflammatory about RPGs in particular it has to be said that Blizzard have not been so very successful in diffusing some of the inflammatory feedback and the post-launch issues. As of now, Blizzard has yet to implement PvP, something that will impact the game's economy significantly, and address the continuing issue of bots.

Diablo III is an excellent, well produced and executed game. But too often it feels experimental, with things like the auction house only kind of fitting in with the game's dogma, the redesigned matchmaking system and the near-to-end and end game. The game has been patched several times up to this date, and it shows how some of the game's direction has gone a bit squiggly in its long development time, as core components to the games systems are being considered to be altered in future patches.

On the other hand, if you need your hit of Diablo, your computer can no longer play PowerPC games or you want an up-to-date Diablo, Diablo III will scratch those itches. Just don't spring the trap and let the game rule your life as the previous games might have done.

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