Diablo 3 diary: Monk reflections in the desert

By John Keefer, May 18, 2012 10:00am PDT

I have traveled a good 17 hours into Diablo III and am now wandering the desert of Act II. As a monk, I must reflect on what I have learned an observed in my travels and impart that wisdom to those that may follow. Be warned: These reflections are not meant for those queasy about spoilers. Again, do not read these ramblings if you want to remain unenlightened about key boss battles from my early adventures.

There is something oddly familiar about the boss fights in the game so far. The culmination of Act I has me going against a steroid enhanced version of original Diablo nasty, The Butcher, and while the fight was relatively easy, I had this faint feeling of deja vu. Why was it easy? I had not seen the fight before and I was still not particularly adept at using all my abilities other than mashing the left and right mouse buttons. Then it hit me: I had seen this fight before in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard had recycled some of the mechanics from fighting Icehowl in the Trial of the Crusader raid with other fights that require you to take visual environmental cues and not stand in the fire.

While I can understand one fight pulling from the Blizzard hive mind of creativity, I was not expecting a second fight to plagiarize from the hugely popular MMO. Sure enough, a fight in Act II has me crossing daggers with the demon witch Mahgda, who chooses the form of a spider to try to finish me off. After the first third of the fight, she disappears and send a wave of spiders after me. Rinse and repeat at two-thirds. Sound familiar? The final boss battle of Azjol-Nerub going toe-to-toe with Anub'arak.

While I understand there can be subconscious design similarities from developers in the same company who probably love their World of Warcraft, two major fights in less than two acts seems a bit blatant. It didn't take away joy I had in killing either boss, or looting all the rare goodies and gold that gushed from the corpses, but the challenge is a minimized when players who have played too many hours in WoW can choreograph these Diablo III boss fights almost immediately without ever having been through the game once. It almost felt like cheating.

While the creativity may be lacking in some boss fights, I must give them props for little bits of unexpected flavor they add to the game. While perusing through the auction house to add a few rare items I had found, I stumbled across a legendary item (pictured above) that can only be described as high in saturated fat. No word on whether you can socket a veggie version.

The auction house functionality, though, has me a bit frustrated. While I had opined previously that I love the way the out-of-game AH sends stuff to your stash without the mailbox go-between of WoW, the search functionality is limited to legendary or set items, or looking for a max buyout price. I'd much rather be able to search by keyword. Is a WoW-style AH system too much to ask?

I had commented in an earlier dissertation that I had disdained using followers to try the game as a solo experience. I rethought that position and added the Enchantress follower when I met her. Being passionate about the story and lore in any game I play, I found that NOT having a follower had robbed me of certain insights and stories these three extra characters (a Templar and Scoundrel are also available) can provide. Some of it is colorful banter, while other bits offer a bit of history from the follower's perspective.

Unfortunately, the randomness of the game also applies to these conversations as I am now hearing the same stories and comments multiple times throughout the course of my travels. My monk takes it in good-natured stride, but as his alter ego, sometimes I just want to bash them in the face with my mace, especially when they start talking over the recording of a key diary or tome I have found.

One character whose dialogue I have not minded is my new best friend, the jeweler Covetous Shen. His voice reminds of character actor James Hong and some of his whiny yet witty exchanges have made me chuckle. His prices can be 'ungodly' expensive, but unsocketing items and combining gems is a necessity to get the most out of the gear I find.

I'll be back again next week with more musings for my Monk diaries. Hopefully I can find the ingredients to get me to Whimsyshire. Also, Indie Jeff plans to bring his Demon Hunter this weekend so we can try some multiplayer.

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