Friday, June 8, 2012

A Review of Diablo III: Part 2

Yesterday, we brought you the first half of Dan Lammert's review of Diablo IIIToday, we bring you the conclusion, starting with his thoughts about the multiplayer aspect of the game...

The chaos of questing in Diablo III
You and up to three other players will be able to tear through hundreds of demons as you make your way through the game’s multiple difficulties.  There is a new checkpoint system set up through the storyline of the game that affects which other games you can join, a system that is based on your level and how far you have progressed through the game.  If you haven’t beaten Normal, for example, you won’t be able to play with a friend on Nightmare; however if you’re in Nightmare, you can go back and rush a friend through Normal.  The game’s acts are broken down into quest lines which you can pick and choose to play over and over at your leisure.  Joining a friend is just as easy as clicking their name in your friends list.  Joining a game with random people is just as easy as clicking which quest within which act you’d like to start in (that you’ve already made it to) and then being booted into the game.  The nice feature is that wherever you left off in multiplayer is where you’ll start the next time you decide to play, with all of your stuff in tow.  The thing is, if you’re playing single player, you’re always going to be under the list of available games others can join unless you mark it as a private game.  To be honest, though, after putting in a few hours playing single player, I really haven’t gone back, simply due to the fact that Diablo 3 is best played in multiplayer.  The chaos that ensues is astounding, especially on higher difficulties where it seems like Blizzard is throwing everything at your but the kitchen sink.

Is a constant Internet connection really necessary?
However, due to the nature of the game and mechanics involved, there is one setback: you must always be online (connected to the internet) while playing Diablo 3.  Whether you’re playing single player or multiplayer, you must have that connection on.  You cannot start the game without it.  This is somewhat due to security reasons, but also to lessen the impact of hackers.  This might not seem like a big deal and I’m not truly dismayed by the idea, but there have been times when playing single player that I’ve had latency issues.  Not frames per second issues due to the lack of computer power, but server-side latency issues.  Where playing single player, I’ve had up to 300 ms latency, which has my character “rubberbanding” back and forth across the screen.  While this issue has not happened a lot, in the midst of some major battles, it has been pretty frustrating to die just because of a lack of time to take a potion.  While I would not typically care about the issue if I were in multiplayer, where such a thing is inevitable, this kind of issue in single player lends to the frustration of the lack of offline single player support.  This issue has gotten better over time since the launch date three weeks ago, but still comes up every now and then.   Some of you who have heard about the launch date of the Diablo 3, will have head about the famous Error 37, which was caused by 3 million players trying to play the game on the first day, however those issues have mostly been solved, and I haven’t run into that error or any other subsequent errors since the day after launch.

Need better gear? Visit the Auction House!
Another new component of the franchise is the addition of the Auction House, which is similar to what you might find in World of Warcraft.  While some might find this feature to be a pay-to-win model, others might see it as a way to help their character avoid lagging behind their friends.  Those that find it unnatural can easily avoid the auction house altogether.  There is a real money Auction House that is supposedly going to be released within weeks, where players will sell in-game items for real money.  How this will actually pan out and whether players will actually pay real money for digital gains is beyond me, but Blizzard obviously sees a market for it. 

You get to choose from five different classes within the game: barbarian, monk, demon hunter, wizard, and witch doctor.  While the barbarian is the only class that has been passed down from previous installments in the franchise, other classes, such as wizard and witch doctor, feel quite similar to the previous classes of sorceress and necromancer.  These classes are still quite fresh and new, though because they play quite differently from their earlier iterations due to the changed mechanics within the game.  In fact, all the classes play quite differently from each other as well.  Even though the barbarian and monk may seem like they’ll be similar because they're both melee-based characters, once you spend some time playing each class, you’ll easily see the dramatic differences between the different play styles. 

Customize your character's abilities with different skills!
As you level your character up, no longer will you be choosing which points to assign to different attributes or skills for your character as you do in many other games.  With every level increase, your character will gain a predetermined number of points towards each attribute associated with their class and then will be given an option of which skill they would like to use.  As you level up further, you’ll begin to unlock more skills, as well as a set of runes within each skill.  These runes enhance the skill that they’re a part of, although you can only choose one rune per skill.  Along with these active skills, you’ll be able to choose passive skills that will further enhance the play style of your character.  While this system has caused some unrest within the diehard Diablo community due to what seems to be a “dumbing down” of the character system, the number of options available to you as you create and define your character is pretty exciting.
Craft your own epics!
The gem crafter and blacksmith are also new features in this latest installment.  The gem crafter will be able to combine and create larger and more helpful gems, while the blacksmith will allow you to create new weapons and armor from salvaged components of weapons and armor you no longer need.  While the entry level items and gems created by these two may seem meager, the radiant gemstones and set pieces you’ll soon be able to craft will change how you play the game.  Unfortunately, this becomes apparent only after dumping literally hundreds of thousands of gold into each NPC.  The trouble with crafting currently is that the added attribute bonuses of the items you create are random; therefore you could be creating one or even five of the same item hoping that the bonus matches one of your character’s key attributes.  This system at the moment seems somewhat expensive, but Blizzard has already stated they these mechanics will be receiving some pricing changes in the future to make them more worthy of player’s time and money. 

And that is what you can expect from Blizzard as we have seen with some of their latest releases.  Although it takes them years to release any product nowadays, they’re typically polished to a point where only small changes are needed and they’re more than willing to make the small changes if necessary.  And also typical of Blizzard is their ability to jam as much as possible into their games with the inclusion of achievement points, which can be earned by completing story quests, difficulty levels, and other such triumphs.  While you won’t usually be scouring the achievements list to see what can be had easily, it’s always nice to have your triumphs flashed up on the screen every once in a while.

But in the end, is it worth your hard earned cash?  Is Diablo 3 worth the $60 price tag?  Of course it is.  There is an extreme amount of content and fun to be had with this title.  Whether it’s the game for you is based upon what you like and dislike as you’ve read this review, but for what it sets out to do, it does it quite well with only a hiccup here or there.  Diablo 3, quite simply, is a game that excels in what it presents to the player.  With this title, you can expect hours of fun by yourself or with friends in a truly remarkable and polished environment with more to come as Blizzard still has yet to release player vs. player into the fold.  However, per Blizzard, this feature will more than likely come before the end of the year.  Quite honestly, if you have any inkling or curiosity about the game, more than likely you’re going to enjoy it. 

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