It took Blizzard ten, long, arduous years to come up with a second sequel to their action RPG series. Times had changed, First Person Shooters dominated the gaming charts and anything even remotely “retro” was branded as “Indie” and had to have enough ironic connotations to insight feelings of nostalgia in all but the most hardcore gamers to succeed. Blizzard had a lot to live up to and boy did they deliver. The skill in making a top down action RPG is not in the graphics or even in the complexity of the enemies. It’s in the balancing of all the different aspects. From magical abilities, diverse character types and the amount of special loot drops; it’s how they are fine turned that separates the great from the legendary and Diablo 3 set the bar so high nobody has been able to challenge it since.
Choosing between the different character types mean you can end up playing a significantly different kind of game based on who you choose to be. If you favour Barbarian class you are likely to be getting into the middle of a fights and pretty much smashing your way to victory. As a mage you are going to keep your distance and balance healing abilities with attacks from a far. The game is simplistic on first play-through and it’s clear after completion that you have only just begun your Journey. Repeat playing of the campaign and online co-op opens the game up even more to unleash the full potential of it’s leveled battle system. Usually stock piling potions in your inventory meant you could heal yourself to victory but Blizzard refused to allow this as it would have provided no challenge to a hardened game player. Instead potions were given a cool-down period and thus restricting their use. This meant that other abilities and leveling up became a far more important mechanic. It made people think more before running headlong into battle.
But during 4 player co-op fights the game become increasingly difficult and the enemies become more formidable. This means everyone needs to be aware of their limitations as well as their powers in order to obtain victory. But the incentive to win was offered in the form of sweet, sweet loot.
Loot drops are constant in Diablo 3. It’s insane how many different kinds of weapons and stat changing pieces of kit fall out of even the tiniest of enemies. From huge piles of crap to epic finds, your equipment bag will be full within five minutes of gameplay. This means you will spend large amounts of time looking at your inventory screen. Luckily the easily designed interface makes it very simple to compare the stats of all your currently equipped items with those you have pulled from the cold dead hands of your recently beheaded foes.
You can then choose to drop, sell or equip those items. It’s this continuous promise of bigger and better things that means you can’t help but continue forward in the hope of that next big find. This is where the real magic lies. Blizzard are not greedy with their legendary drops but neither are they easy to come across. They really are a significant reward for playing. It’s fantastic to find a weapon that decimates your enemies and make you feel like Conan on a Red Bull binge.
It’s not all been plain sailing. Blizzard have stumbled along the way. Namely with the always online aspect and the notorious auction house fiasco which ultimately ended in them having to revoke the real money version due to fraud and hacking issues. Sometimes the always online problem made it’s original launch a slightly ropey affair. Dropping off of the server became a common issue for players and stuttering/juddering took from the initial experience. But with over a years worth of tweaking Diablo 3 became the pinnacle of action RPG on PC and being online allowed for levels to be randomly generated and kept things fresh. Many other games have tried to compete but with such a high quality of refinement to every element of D3 it’s seldom been equalled let alone beaten.
It was ported onto consoles and released in September this year to great success. Although it lost a little bit of charm in the cross over, it was still a great game. The controller wasn’t just a substitute for the mouse and the game was optimised to work to the thumb-sticks strengths. Incorporating a dodge mechanic was something PC players didn’t get and as such changed how the game was played yet again. Sadly the randomly generated stages weren’t able to be brought over which still leaves the PC version as king.
Diablo 3 is THE action RPG to own on PC as well as console. In fact, why are you still reading this? Go and play it!