It’s been over ten years since the last release of Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo franchise. Diablo III was released on Tuesday, May 15th to much fanfare and anticipation. It was the most pre-ordered computer game in Amazon and Blizzard Entertainment history. While the sales have been strong, the game play leaves something to be desired.
Its predecessor Diablo II was once of the most played games of the decade due to its repeatability. That was in part due to the drive to obtain the best equipment and create the best, most dominant character. Characters were shaped by what armor and weapons they carried, as well as the allocation of their skill points.
While the driving force in Diablo III is still to acquire the best and most valuable equipment, skill development has been completely ignored. Diablo II awarded a character a single skill point with every subsequent level gained. Those points could be put into a one of thirty different skills. Each skill had a cap of twenty points, and the total number of points available was around 110. Players had to carefully plan how they would develop their character and its skills.
In Diablo III skills are awarded as the characters level up, but no commitments must be made. Skills can be switched around as needed, and there is no proper way to enhance one skill instead of another. While this does allow for a single character to play a number of different styles, it loses one of the primary purposes of character development from Diablo II.
Diablo III has done an excellent job of keep the style of its predecessors. While a majority of current games are three dimensional with incredible realism, Diablo III maintains the isometric third person view that is classic to the series. The graphics are certainly an improvement, but it is also pleasing that the game developers kept the style without altering it too much. It does bare some further resemblance to Blizzard stalwart World of Warcraft, though its gameplay certainly differentiates it.
The story is uncreative as those of most video games, but that’s never really been key to the Diablo franchise. The game has four different difficulty levels allowing players to replay the game multiple times, increasing their skills and equipment as they venture through. The main game takes over a dozen hours to play straight through and subsequent times about the same. Playing the game itself will take the avid gamer roughly fifty hours, but most characters will take at least twice as much time to reach the highest levels.
One interesting system that is new to Diablo III is the auction house which allows players to bid on in game items and equipment with the in game currency, gold, or even real money. Players who find equipment in the game have the opportunity to sell it via the auction system. Blizzard will take a cut of all auctions; both real money and gold based ones. The real money auctions have yet to begin as Blizzard is holding off to see how the gold based auctions fare.
The Diablo series is one of the finest of the recent video game era, but despite the wait, Diablo III isn’t as perfect as it could be.