Friday, May 25, 2012

Diablo 3 Impressions

My current "alt"
Diablo 3 is a game that will stay in our "In Review" list for a long time. Most game franchises present sequels that iterate on story and tinker with mechanics. In contrast, Blizzard has shipped a title that presents five experiences which tinker with story but heavily iterate on mechanics. For a game that boils down to "click-to-kill" there is a remarkable amount of variety between characters and sub-builds of the same character.

After enjoying the beta and admittedly getting swept up into the hype machine, Maria and I purchased two copies of the game shortly after launch. In waiting a couple of days we avoided the worst of the server load problems and quickly got to enjoying some co-operative play and experience-swapping with our friends over at Splitkick. It's a lot of fun.

Part of the fun is the co-operative experience. Finally a game that Maria and I can play together. Part of it is the game's atmosphere. It's not a graphics powerhouse and the cut-scenes aren't eye-watering CG but the quasi hand-drawn art will age particularly well. Part of it is that loot-driven games hit all of my buttons.

If you've purchased the game and you're not hooked or you're underwhelmed, roll a different character. Though we have yet to beat Act I together, time constraints on Maria's end had me rolling a new character - and opened my eyes to the true magic of Diablo 3. My "main" build is a Barbarian and my "alt" is a Monk. She can wield most of the same weapons as my brute but her abilities engender a much more frenetic (and athletic) approach. Where the Barbarian just stands and bangs with enemies, she teleports around and just inherently feels faster with every hit. Add to that completely new voice acting and the experience feels fresh again. I can't wait until I try a truly different character like the Witch Doctor.

Yes, the always-online DRM is a pain but at this point adding my voice to that complaint is futile. Worse is the inherent server-side hoarding of data. On logging out or dying, you're never quite sure where the game will put you back in, something made worse by a rather badly done checkpoint system. I get the "anti-cheating" rationale (though, admittedly, hacked characters and duping items were part of Diablo 2's single-player fun) but at least give me manual saves. Of course, the most you'd lose would be some quest progression, right?

If only quest progression is what I'd lose! I laugh at people cursing lost time because they're not playing the same game. The base game is, for the most part, easy - and I'm no aRPG hound. After ten levels, however, Blizzard "allows" you to start a Hardcore character. Die even once and the character is gone. Forever. Poof. There's even a warning that Customer Service will never, ever, resurrect a dead Hardcore character. Even if you say "pretty please".

Suddenly the whole game changes. I have to be perfect otherwise Elara will be gone. I'll have no proof she even existed outside of the screenshot above. It's a whole new game. Again.

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