Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Diablo III: Some Thoughts

Okay, so I resisted buying Diablo III for quite a long time.  I loved the first two Diablos and played them to death--and was afraid that if I bought III then I would again spend huge amounts of time playing it.  About 15 years ago I used to play computer games a lot, particularly ones from Blizzard.  But I began to realize that I was spending far too much time on them.  (I was also spending too much time painting miniatures, but that's another story.)  So I cut way back on PC gaming and gave up on miniatures.  And I found that it led to a huge improvement in my lifestyle.

But I loved the first two Diablo games so much that I finally caved in and decided to give it a try, trusting that I had mastered my semi-addiction.  Well, I've played up to level 30 with the wizard/sorceress (my favorite class) and thought I'd share some of my impressions.

- 3D: This is a "modern" 3D game, no 2D sprites here.  It doesn't do much for the characters or monsters, because the game still uses the classic fixed, zoomed-out isometric view.  Since you can't zoom in, rotate, or change the viewpoint in any way the 3D is sort of wasted.  But it hugely improves the environments.  They have a lot more atmosphere now.

- Monsters: Well, as I just mentioned, making them 3D didn't add much since they are still tiny little things on the fixed-view screen.  But they do still have the classic Diablo feel that I always enjoyed.  Likewise for the player-characters, NPCs, and spell effects.

- Challenge: I started on the normal setting and it was very, very easy.  I moved it up to Hard and it's more challenging, but still pretty easy.  Also, treasure drops are insanely over the top.  In the earlier editions you were lucky to get one or two epic type items--ever.  In this game I've already found about half a dozen and I've only played to level 30 with one character.  And most of the loot is tailored for your character, which also makes it less of a challenge.  You absolutely don't need to work for loot--it's really handed to you on a silver platter.  Even rings and trinkets are easily bought from one of the vendors in town as you go along.  Very disappointing.

- Skills: One of the fun things with any RPG is crafting/building your character over time.  In Diablo II each class had three skill trees, allowing you to specialize in one or spread your points around.  And the skill trees were laid out on the screen with detailed tooltips so you could look and plan ahead.  Blizzard later used that triple-tree system for their World of Warcraft game.  But in Diablo III, there is no tree to look and plan ahead on.  And the skills don't give you much information on what happens if you take a particular skill or add a rune to one.  With the sorceress I have four left-mouse attacks--but there's no information on the skill screen to tell me which one does more damage.  So, I don't like the new skill system at all.

- Crafting: there is apparently a more complex crafting system in this game but I have no idea what it is.  Mind you, I hate games where you have to go out and do extensive research elsewhere to figure out what the heck is going on in-game.  so I have loads of gems and materials filling up my stash chest but no idea what to do with them.  Rather obnoxious.

- Health Orbs: when you kill a monster a red health orb may drop which heals you if you run into it.  I don't really enjoy having these because the rest of the game has a serious look to it--but then suddenly there are these glowing red balloons floating around.  In the last game you always had to use and manage your potions bar for health and mana, but they've thrown that out.  Now there are health potions, but no mana potions.  Mana now comes back faster and health potions have a significant cool-down.  I suppose the orbs are part of this redesign, but I just don't like them.  But I am glad they got rid of what was basically the Big Belt o' Potions Mini-Game where you needed to constantly stock and re-arrange the four columns of potions in your belt for rapid quaffing.

- Classes: First off I'm glad that all the classes are now available in male and female versions.  I like having the extra options with characters.  You can't customize the characters beyond that, but since they are tiny figures in the center of the screen in-game it doesn't much.  But now, when you log in and out there is an up-close, rotatable view of your character with current equipment on.  I'm glad they added that new view.

- Story: So far it's not very inspiring, but then I'm still in the first Act.  It's a total railroad but this isn't a tabletop RPG, it's a tactical combat RPG.

- Overall: Slightly disappointed, but still hopeful.

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