Diablo 3 review

Diablo III doesn't mess with a good thing, and while the launch was less the ideal, the game proves that good things come to those forced to wait.

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The Diablo series has been a source of many fond gaming memories for me. Beating up on hordes of minions from Hell alone always made me feel like a hero, and I felt especially rewarded when recovering all the loot that spewed like a fountain from the corpses of the fallen and chests scattered throughout the dungeons in the games. And now, 12 years later, all those feelings came rushing back as I played Diablo III. The game has not substantially changed from its predecessors. Sure, it looks prettier, has an MMO-like auction house, and an annoying need to stay connected to the Internet even when I'm not playing with friends online. But the overall feeling of power and control still prevails--and it's what makes the game a success. I chose a monk to play through the story line because of the enjoyment I used to have playing that type of in-your-face finesse class in pen-and-paper role-playing games. As I progressed in level and knowledge, the class really played as I had envisioned it when describing my actions to the dungeon master in hours-long play sessions. Now, no such description is needed; the sessions are still hours long and Blizzard has succeeded in becoming the dungeon master. No more talking, just doing. The story is again well-crafted, but that is nothing new for Blizzard. As with any trip to a Diablo-imagined Hell, there are portions that feel familiar, with a few characters and monsters making return appearances. The Horadric historian, Deckard Cain, is back and guided me through the game with interesting bits of lore about the races and monsters I encountered throughout. There was something reassuring about hearing that gravelly voice again. But, about half way through the game, the story pace quickened, speeding up my heart rate as I frantically battled wave after wave of hellspawn, even as friendly soldiers died around me. The adrenaline rush of making it through that part of the game is something I don't often feel these days, and it made me anticipate the end game even more. Followers add a nice twist to the familiar parts of the game. At different story points, I met characters who traveled with me for a time, helping me battle enemies, while sharing their stories and adding to the ambiance and lore of the game. The Templar, Enchantress and Scoundrel each have varied backgrounds and back stories. They also provided additional firepower and skills to assist me in the completion of my goals, although they weren't nearly powerful enough to keep me alive through a stupid mistake. Their witty, and at times comical, banter with me while traveling provided some levity in the otherwise dark moments of the game and I actually found myself as interested in what made them tick as I was in following the main story plot. Even the blacksmith and the jeweler, who you encounter later in the game, have stories and wisdom. I found myself using the talk option with those characters almost as often as that to craft new gear or upgrade the gems I had found.

Some of the battles in the game offer a huge adrenaline rush

Combat is a fairly simple matter, with only two mouse buttons and four hotkeys to worry about. Skills can be modified with runes and hotkeys reassigned with relative ease, so it is easy to test different combinations in combat without having to unlearn skills. I only ran into trouble when I was overwhelmed by numbers or tried to go toe-to-toe with a group of mobs or a boss when I should have been kiting or moving to wait for a skill cool down. In fact, some of the boss fights were easier than the Champion groups or Elite individual mobs I ran into while exploring. At no point in the game did I get a sense of been-there, done-that to the point of tedium, at least in my initial run through the game. Once you pick up a different class, or choose to go through the game at the next difficulty level, that feeling can creep up, but by virtue of the random generation of dungeons and encounters, a new play though is never exactly the same. And each class has new skills to learn and new angles from which to view the story as a participant observer. The only spot where the randomness caused a problem is the magic gear dropped from monsters, or the magic imbued on crafted items I was able to create at the blacksmith. There are so many stats and abilities that can be placed on items that finding one suited to my needs was fairly easy, but I found that I could never get a rare item that didn't have a wasted stat or two. I was able to complete the game with relatively few deaths, but heading into Nightmare difficulty demanded an upgrade in gear and that was something that wasn't easy to do under the find-and-equip or create-and-equip system in the game. Enter the auction house (AH), a new addition to the Diablo franchise and plundered from World of Warcraft because of its success as almost a game unto itself. At first, I found the AH a bit awkward. Trying to find items specifically suited to my class with no wasted stats was cumbersome, but the more I played with it and found how to refine my searches, it became a bit easier, to the point that I was able to upgrade my gear so much (at relatively bargain prices) that I am now navigating Nightmare difficulty with relative ease. The Auction House still has some minor issues as bids and buyouts can timeout, which apparently occurs when a buyout is attempted on an item that is being purchased by someone else and the server is processing the request. Blizzard continues to play with it and, at this writing, the AH is down for maintenance.

The jeweler Covetous Shen can remove gems from your old gear

While Diablo III had well-documented server problems and error messages early in the launch--keeping me out of the game for at least the first few hours--things have stabilized significantly. But the fact that the game must always be connected to the Internet to satisfy Blizzard's need for DRM is frustrating. I cannot play my single-player game if my Internet connection drops and there is nothing Blizzard will let me do about it. That said, being online to connect with friends or strangers and play through the co-op mode has been entertaining, especially since the public game system pits you with people at your level and on the same quests you are trying to complete. I started grouping in Nightmare mode as the game's difficulty ramped up. It will probably be a necessity to group in the final two difficulty levels of Hell and Inferno since Blizzard continues to tweak the balance of the game with hotfixes. One "fix" in particular significantly impacted my monk's self-healing ability so that it is a bit tougher to get through long fights. For me, a partner has become almost a foregone conclusion. Diablo III is one of those rare games where its faults are easily forgiven because it is so easy to forget about them amidst the abundance of things the game does right. Blizzard was smart in not messing with success by radically redesigning and instead refining it to the point of exhilaration. Now excuse me while I go back to my Nightmare to prepare for Hell. (Follow my monk's travels in our Diablo III diaries).
[This Diablo III review is based on a digitally downloaded version of the game provided by the publisher as part of a World of Warcraft annual pass purchase.]
Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 24, 2012 7:00 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Diablo 3 review.

    Diablo III doesn't mess with a good thing, and while the launch was less the ideal, the game proves that good things come to those forced to wait.

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 7:34 AM

      I'd sooner opt for my anus to be walled up and poop into a colostomy bag than give into this slimy bullshit.

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      May 24, 2012 7:43 AM

      "The story is again well-crafted, but that is nothing new for Blizzard."

      I think there's more than a few people that would disagree with you on this, especially considering StarCraft II. Blizzard storytelling isn't what it used to be.

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        May 24, 2012 7:44 AM

        [deleted]

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        May 24, 2012 7:44 AM

        I wouldnt call the story in d3 or sc2 bad, but I also wouldnt call them well-crafted. they are just fine for a video game.

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          May 24, 2012 7:52 AM

          Yeah I'd call it serviceable but that's it. They aren't really memorable.

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            May 24, 2012 8:06 AM

            Eh, I enjoyed it, what can I say? The lead into Act IV was something I didn't expect, although I did see the Act I and Act II finale's coming. And when i say well-crafted, there are no plot holes. A cliffhanger or two at the end, and I really like the addition of the stories that the followers bring. I admit it isn;t involved as say SC2, but to each their own.

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              May 24, 2012 8:13 AM

              So well crafted that PA could make a comic on the inconsistencies in the first 5 minutes?
              http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/05/21

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              May 24, 2012 8:15 AM

              Well SC2 was a pile of shit, so if this isn't as involved, that speaks volumes.

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              May 24, 2012 9:03 AM

              I was pretty let down that given the time and buildup of the followers' stories, there was no endgame to them. They should've culminated with a mission each.

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              May 24, 2012 9:44 AM

              But there are plot holes.

              Like...the whole thing with Tyrael becoming a "human" (i.e. "nephalem")?

              The lore outright states that humans/nephalem are one and the same. If angels can become "human" so easily, why couldn't all the angels just become nephalem and fucking destroy the evils? It's stupid how Tyrael becomes "human". I mean they could have resolved this by making him a MORTAL fucking angel, but no: they made him a human and create this giant fucking logic fuckup.

              I dunno, maybe I'm missing something here. But after reading the Book of Cain and listening to the lore in DIII, I was under the impression that humanity and nephalem were one and the same, just that humans nowadays were de-powered version of the nephalem. If that's true, then Blizzard screwed the pooch pretty hard on this one.

              • reply
                May 24, 2012 9:46 AM

                Tyrael became mortal, which seemed to be different from human/nephilim.

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                  May 24, 2012 10:11 AM

                  He discusses his "humanity" in numerous conversations with you.

                  • reply
                    May 24, 2012 6:08 PM

                    And in every case, it's about the difference between mortality and immortality.

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 9:12 AM

          The story of SC2 was fine - the script writing - well, that wasn't so hot.

          Then again, when you are dealing with a game about bugs, aliens and rednecks do you really expect Charles Dickens quality work? I don't but some people are hard to please.

          • reply
            May 24, 2012 9:14 AM

            [deleted]

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              May 24, 2012 9:28 AM

              zerg rush was the story afaik

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              May 24, 2012 9:41 AM

              APM, macro, make more shit, banelings banelings banelings whoa....and of course Terran OP

              Raynor is down on his luck, but with the help of his friends rallies systems against arcturus mengsk. In the process he learns about an artifact that can supposedly return sarah kerrigan back to human...he just has to invade the zerg's new homeworld to try it.

              Seems reasonable to me for any game about bugs vs aliens vs rednecks

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              May 24, 2012 10:40 AM

              I was going to write something up but I'll just steal the plot description from Wikipedia.

              Four years after the Brood War, the Dominion is once again the dominant Terran power in the Koprulu sector. News reports reveal that in the four years since the end of the Brood Wars the standing Dominion military forces have been reduced and trillions have been spent hunting down rebel forces that operate against the Dominion. For reasons unknown, Kerrigan gathered the swarm at Char and then vanished from sight. With the Zerg gone, the Protoss have once again taken a passive role in the galaxy. Jim Raynor has formed a revolutionary group named Raynor's Raiders in order to overthrow Dominion Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. On Mar Sara, Raynor meets with an old comrade, Tychus Findlay. Together, they liberate the local population from Dominion control and also discover a component of a mysterious Xel'Naga artifact. As the Zerg begin to overrun Mar Sara, Raynor arranges an evacuation to his battlecruiser, the Hyperion, captained by Matt Horner.
              The Raiders embark on a series of missions to find the remaining pieces of the Xel'Naga artifact, which they sell to the enigmatic Moebius Foundation in order to fund their revolution. Along the way, they meet with Gabriel Tosh, a rogue Dominion psychic assassin known as a Spectre, and Ariel Hanson, a researcher on the Zerg and leader of a small farming colony. The Raiders perform missions to help Tosh procure the raw materials to train new Spectres. They also aid Hanson as she attempts to secure her colonists who are caught between the Zerg infesting their planets and the Protoss attempting to eradicate the infestation. Horner also arranges a series of missions to undermine Mengsk, recovering intelligence information about his war crimes and broadcasting them to the Dominion. Finally, Zeratul sneaks aboard the Hyperion to deliver a psychic crystal which allows Raynor to share visions involving a prophecy regarding the future of the Zerg and Protoss, as well as a mysterious hybrid of the two, the ultimate revelation being that only Kerrigan has the power to prevent the eradication of all life in the sector and beyond.
              After collecting more artifact pieces, Raynor's forces encounter Dominion battleships at the pre-agreed Moebius Foundation rendezvous point. The Moebius Foundation is revealed to be under the control of Valerian Mengsk, Arcturus' son. Valerian, intending to show himself as a worthy successor to his father, asks Raynor to help him invade Char and use the artifact to restore Kerrigan's humanity, thus weakening the Zerg. To the initial dismay of the crew, Raynor agrees. With Valerian's aid Raynor recovers the final artifact piece and the Raiders and Dominion invade Char. The Dominion fleet is severely damaged by the heavy Zerg defenses, but Raynor secures a foothold on Char and rendezvous with Dominion forces led by Horace Warfield. Warfield is injured and appoints Raynor commander of the Dominion survivors. The combined forces push towards the main Hive Cluster of the planet, protecting the artifact while it charges energy, and the artifact eventually destroys all Zerg within its blast radius. Raynor's team finds Kerrigan restored to human form; however, Tychus reveals that he made a deal with Arcturus Mengsk, trading Kerrigan's life for his own freedom. Raynor defends Kerrigan from Tychus' attempt to kill her, shooting Tychus in the process. The closing scene shows Raynor carrying Sarah Kerrigan across the battlefield in his arms.

          • reply
            May 24, 2012 10:02 AM

            The story in starcraft 1 was great, starcraft 2 was terrible garbage. I'm not expecting a classic work of literature or anything, but they have definitely gone downhill.

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 9:13 AM

          It's not just fine for a video game. Video games have matured beyond the drivel put out by Blizzard.

          There were at least 10 games in 2011 that had great stories, with great storytelling without compromising gameplay.

          D3's story is written like a bad fanfic script.

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 10:16 AM

          Exactly. More cutscenes would bore me. I could care less about a story in these games.

      • Zek legacy 10 years
        reply
        May 24, 2012 8:13 AM

        Blizzard storytelling was never anything special. All their most beloved games had stories primarily driven by people reading monologues at you.

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          May 24, 2012 11:06 AM

          they should take a page from valve's book and go back to a more minimalistic approach(though they wont). I think it was more fun filling in the blanks compared to now, feels like sadfat fanfic brought to life

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        May 24, 2012 9:10 AM

        This story would be a fucking failure in a 3rd grade writing class.

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        May 24, 2012 9:37 AM

        I'm enjoying the gameplay, but the story in D3 is garbage and the dialogue is worse. The dialogue boils down to:

        Boss: RAWR You will never destroy my anal poop shooter from hell!
        Hero: We will defeat you and your poop shooters!

        ** hero destroys the first of two anal poop shooters from hell

        Boss: HAHAHA! You have defeated one anal poop shooter from hell, but I still have another! Bwahahaha!
        Hero: We will destroy your poop shooter and then we are coming for you!

        ** hero destroys the second of the two anal poop shooters from hell!

        Boss: HAHAHA! I didn't need those two anal poop shooters from hell anyhow! My minions are at your gates this very moment!
        Hero: The forces of light will defeat you!


        Blech...this dreck sounds like something from a 90's era Super NES game...

      • reply
        May 24, 2012 9:39 AM

        Yeah, Blizzard's storytelling has always been second rate.

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        May 24, 2012 9:40 AM

        The story is crap but the gameplay is top notch.

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        May 24, 2012 10:42 AM

        WarCraft III was my favorite Blizzard Story

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 7:43 PM

          The human campaign? I loved that.

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        May 24, 2012 11:00 AM

        I would have agreed with his statement going in to Act II, but now that I finished Act II it seems like the storytelling has gone to shit

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        May 24, 2012 8:04 PM

        Yeah about that story wtf are you thinking?

      • reply
        May 24, 2012 9:00 PM

        Well-crafted like a brick to the face.

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 7:49 AM

      Not buying on principle, which is hard since I really want to see the continuation of the story. I am afraid the trend might continue with SimCity5 if they keep the always-on, you can play it like singleplayer but always-on connection BS.

      Oh well, Torchlight 2 and Grim Dawn, here I come :)

      • reply
        May 24, 2012 8:15 AM

        People with principles: we should form a gang and stomp out evil with kindness and a good-heart.

        I'd love to see where the story goes, but I have heard it described as "silly".

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        May 24, 2012 10:19 AM

        ur cute

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        May 24, 2012 6:12 PM

        You're denying yourself one of the most fun games of the year on a stupid principle that won't change a thing? Have fun with that.

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        May 24, 2012 6:26 PM

        the story is atrocious, just read the wiki page then.

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        May 24, 2012 8:06 PM

        Wow. Stick to those principles, and miss out on the biggest game in ten years?

        • reply
          May 25, 2012 7:33 AM

          Biggest - sure. But lots of crap is popular. I also don't watch American Idol

      • reply
        May 26, 2012 10:46 AM

        I'll summarize the story for you.

        Tyrael is black. Diablo has tits. Obvious betrayals.

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 8:00 AM

      Another gaming web bites the dust.

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        May 24, 2012 8:09 AM

        Gotta love the trolls. The sad part is that even when you burn them, they still come back.

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 8:14 AM

          I'm struggling to understand what these people are even talking about.

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          May 24, 2012 8:15 AM

          To be fair, your review is preaching to the choir. The only jist of it to me is you're a longtime Diablo fan and would have busted a nut over this game regardless of what it turned out to be.

          Great for you, but it makes me miss old school gimmicks like when game magazines would have 3 different people review a game, with at least one or two not caring about the genre as much.

          Now it's often just the guy who loves a series reviewing it which doesn't tell anyone much of anything.

          • reply
            May 24, 2012 8:20 AM

            There's the rub, though, and I'm not trying to bash, but do you want someone reviewing a game who doesn't know the context? Yeah, I loved the originals, but I wasn't fanatic to get to Hell and Inferno. I hate the DRM, the AH is still a work in progress and the unexplained nerfs are frustrating. I'm not afraid to say if I don't like something, but was the game worth what I paid for it? (and yes I did pay) Definitely yes.

            • reply
              May 24, 2012 8:39 AM

              You guys just need to commission a review from someone who hasn't played anything since Pac-Man. I know a guy, he works cheap.

            • Zek legacy 10 years
              reply
              May 24, 2012 9:08 AM

              Out of curiosity, supposing this game were like D2 with an offline mode, would you have played an offline character when reviewing the game?

              • reply
                May 24, 2012 10:18 AM

                Probably, yes, BUT the caveat is that since an online mode is available, a proper review would have to cover that experience as well. I rarely play in a group, but I had to enlist a few friends and strangers to try it out for the review.

            • reply
              May 24, 2012 9:42 AM

              My issue is that what you call DRM, I call a "feature" that makes the game unplayable. The ping on the internet available at my house makes the game unplayable. I'd be fine if it were just DRM that required an always on connection, but it's not. The game is basically a single player MMO. When I try to play there is rubber banding all over, when I click to attack enemies it takes a second for the hit to register. I was quite upset, but it's too late now, money down the toilet.

              • reply
                May 24, 2012 10:35 AM

                How far we've fallen that we're willing to accept DRM requiring an always-on-connection as an improvement to something worse

                • Zek legacy 10 years
                  reply
                  May 24, 2012 10:52 AM

                  We've been over this stuff a million times, but it's all a matter of perspective. I consider D3's system to be an improvement over D2's for the way I've always played the game, which is exclusively online. Playing Diablo offline has never even been a consideration for me, so I wouldn't call it DRM any more than I would for WoW.

            • reply
              May 24, 2012 11:05 AM

              Actually, yeah. Reviews from people who have little awareness of the game's context and even the genre are often insightful because they pick up on cues your mind has passed over (assuming they're not a troll and put honest effort into trying the game in the first place).

              • reply
                May 24, 2012 6:14 PM

                Hmm. I'm not saying they don't have value, but I think they have significantly less value than a professional reviewer

            • reply
              May 24, 2012 6:53 PM

              Ideally, you'd like the reviewer to have the same familiarity as the typical person considering the game. Since the typical person interested enough in D3 to read a review in order to consider a purchase is probably a fan of the originals, sounds like you fit the bill perfectly.

        • reply
          May 24, 2012 6:41 PM

          The sad part is if you are going to http://www.shacknews.com and not http://www.shacknews.com/chatty you are doing it wrong. Most of the gaming news you front page jockies post comes straight out of the chatty and you have no problem reposting it as if it was your own without giving any kind of credit to who you took it from. You should be happy one person read the god awful shit you guys post lazy fucks.

      • reply
        May 25, 2012 2:42 PM

        LOL, *this* review is the signal that heralds the death of the shack and not the fucked redesign and corporate shilling weve seen for a while now?

        Let me fix that for you, *your* comment and the others like it herald the death of the shack, and Ive been here in Scary's

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 9:08 AM

      Lol, haters gonna hate.

      SC2 and Diablo 3 are both awesome games. Thoroughly enjoyed/enjoying both of them.

      Still playing SC2 as well, and will play it again before HotS despite having already done a Brutal runthrough with all chevos.

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 8:18 PM

      Was this the single greatest challenge in your entire career as a gaming journalist?

    • reply
      May 25, 2012 7:18 AM

      While there's a shitstorm of players on Diablo 3's forums complaining about how bad the game is, reviewers keep on writing about how great the game is. The developers claimed it would take at least a month to finish the game, then a bunch of people beat it in less than 3 days. I'm guessing the developers don't have know much about RPGs and how to beat them.

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        May 26, 2012 10:57 AM

        Preeeetty sure they were talking about beating Inferno.

        Also, the sole reason most people go to Blizzard's forums is to whine.

    • reply
      May 25, 2012 9:36 AM

      What is there to review?
      Its the same game from 12 years ago with physics.
      Another fail from Blizzard.
      You can pick up, I don't know 13 other games going back 12 years and it all plays the same AND you can do it WITHOUT this damn DRM.
      So no thank you Activision/ Blizzard took you 12 years to crank out the same thing? What have you been doing all this time?

    • reply
      May 25, 2012 2:39 PM

      Finished it, love it. One of the only games Ive ever bothered to finish

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