Early Thoughts on Diablo III

I was lucky enough to get a Diablo III beta invite. Maybe it was because I have played every Blizzard game since WarCraft II, and have every game available on my Battle.net account. Or maybe it was just because they give them to everyone. I don’t know. Was I excited to get it? Sure. The chance to try out a game before it comes out, why not? Did I care that much? No, not really. To be honest I never thought Diablo III was that big of a deal. There are a lot of dungeon crawlers out there, it’s just that most people ignore them because they don’t have the name Diablo attached to them. Let me go over my history with the Diablo franchise, and then I will discuss the beta.

When Diablo came out in 1996 I was excited. I mean, I had played WarCraft II and there was a preview video for Diablo on the WarCraft II disc (a preview that basically had nothing to do with the game, there were other interesting previews on that disc as well). And I also saw advertisements in PC Gamer Magazine for it, my favorite advertisement being one with the tag, “Run like Hell, Diablo is loose.” I still remember playing the demo of the first Diablo game. It was shamelessly addicting. The demo let you explore two levels of the cathedral, and walk about Tristram. Since that time I’ve always had a fond memory of the people of Tristram. With a special fondness for the tavern owner, Ogden. I mean I just love when he says that “some of the townsfolk may yet survive” and yet, there he is, staying in that forsaken town. A truly brave man if I ever knew one. And of course, my favorite part of the game, is near the very end when Cain says, “My true name is Deckard… Cain the Elder.” And I was like, Big freakin’ deal. So you’re named after the main character of Blade Runner, what does that have to do with the fate of Tristram and Diablo? I mean seriously, his name is Deckard. So what? The humor I found in that aside, I loved Diablo.

A few years later Diablo II came out. I was 16 at the time, and I went to the store to buy it, and the guy at the register wouldn’t sell it to me because it was an M rated game, and I didn’t turn 17 for another three months. Yeah, I hate that guy. So I went home empty-handed, got my brother to go with me to the store, and grabbed a copy of the game. Well, it so happened that the guy that wouldn’t sell it to me only moments before was gone and the person at the register didn’t even seem to know that the store had a policy on not selling M rated games to people under 17, and so I didn’t even need my brother after all.

Diablo II featured a very ambiant lighting system, with dark shadows bouncy around pillars as the player ran around.

Naturally Diablo II blew my mind. One of the things I was most excited about was the fact that armor actually made a difference in what your character looked like (in Diablo your character only had three appearances based on armor), even your head looked different depending on if you had a helmet on or not. Of course it had other great features such as the fact that you could run, and move in more than eight directions. A lot of other things were really cool about Diablo II such as the lighting, and the outdoor environments and so forth.

In the end, I actually had a really bad experience with Diablo II. I played as a Paladin, and that was a big mistake. He isn’t very fun to play as, he’s weak, I must have died a thousand times when I got to Baal. And it is very difficult to deal with ranged monsters as a Paladin. I actually gave Diablo II a negative review on Amazon. I later replayed the game as a Sorceress, and it was a lot more fun that time around.

The rogue alone was enough to keep me playing Diablo.

What really interested me about Diablo though, was the lore. I have always loved tales of demons invading from Hell. I was first introduced to this theme in the game Doom and since then I have always been fascinated by the topic. Angels are equally interesting to me. I suppose, really, it’s a cheesy plotline, but it works in games. I mean, Diablo used the term, The Sin War. How freaking cool does that sound? Very freaking cool. I probably read the Diablo manual more than I played the game. There was this drawing of a rogue in it, and she looked so freaking hot… but I digress. The lore goes deep, and is very interesting. In-game much of the lore is spoken by that guy that did the voice of some of the Protoss in StarCraft and he sounds all reverent and intense, very awesome. I can still quote a lot of the manual, or as it is properly called the Librarius Ex Horadrim, “Seven is the number of of the powers of Hell, and Seven is the number of the Great Evils.” That sentence in particular is my favorite. Those familiar with Christian number symbolism know that seven is actually the number of perfection, and here Blizzard was, saying we don’t need to stick with any kind of traditional symbolism, we can create our own lore. After all, their main bad guy was Diablo, not Satan. I even had a friend that was convinced the game was pure evil because of the imagery of pentagrams. I told that friend he was an idiot. The game wasn’t pure evil it was pure fun.

So, now comes Diablo III and what do I have to say about it? Not much really. Before I even played the beta I had heard some PC Gamer editors say that the beta was little more than a demo to get people excited about the game. I can certainly say I agree that it’s a demo. As for getting people excited about the game, I don’t know. I’m really not that excited about the game based on the beta.

Diablo III looks flat an uninteresting. And how come there are no shadows dancing around these pillars?]

First of all, it was not nearly as graphically pleasing as I expected. One huge thing that seems to be lacking is the dynamic lighting that Diablo II had. One of my fond memories of the second game was running through the corridors of some underground catacomb, and watching the shadows dance around as I ran past pillars. Diablo III is lacking any such ambiance. It felt stale and lame. The ground looks like a flat texture. They should have done some kind of bump-mapping to make it look more interesting and 3D, they didn’t. The technology exists, and computers can certainly handle it, but Diablo III falls short. Overall the graphics look very flat. I wasn’t impressed.

To be honest that alone really turned me off to the game, and the graphics are the first thing you see. But I have argued that graphics aren’t everything. What really matters is if the game is fun or not.

I mentioned that I had a bad experience in Diablo II with the Paladin, so the last thing I wanted was to fight hand to hand again. So I picked the Wizard. That was a terrible experience. My character was weak, my spells were stupid. I didn’t have any fun. I gave up pretty quickly. I tried again as a Monk. This time I did have a good experience. It was quite fun to play as the Monk, and based on my experience so far this is probably what I’ll play as my first time going through the game. The Barbarian was equally fun. The Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter were alright, but not as fun as the Monk and Barbarian. From what Blizzard says, and from what the few that have played with higher level characters have said, the Wizard is much more powerful at higher levels, so I won’t discount it immediately, but as for immediate gratification, no such luck with that class.

My early thoughts are, that if the exact same game came out without the Diablo or Blizzard name attached to it, people wouldn’t be that excited about it. Torchlight was more fun than the Diablo III Beta by far. Will I bet getting Diablo III? Of course. Will I play through it? Yeah. Do I really think that people are overly excited for something that they could find more fun in another Diablo-style-game-but-doesn’t-have-the-Diablo-name-so-they’ll-never-even-try-it? Yes. The fact is that Diablo III will have one thing to offer that similar games don’t: Your friends will be playing it. So you won’t even have to try to convince them to get some game they never heard of that you know is cool, but they don’t. Keep in mind, it was the beta I played, so who knows how things will play out in the actual game. And I do know that being that there are so many Blizzard fan-boys out there, I will be criticized for having anything negative to say at all.