So, I figure I would hold off on this review till I had a decent amount of time into the game.
It has been a number of years since I have played any Diablo games. It has been so long since I clicked endlessly for hours, killing monsters and creatures of the forces of evil. I pre-ordered and pre-loaded the first day that Blizzard starting taking pre-orders. Was the wait worth it? After (and still) playing the game for quite a bit, I say yes, totally worth it. Blizzard, once again, does not disappoint.
One thing I remember back with the previous games was my lack of interest of playing through the game multiple times. I did not "get" the whole loot collecting aspect of the game, mostly because I played on my own, so I was never exposed to "better" items, and thus, never looked into how to get them. I do remember trying out a second play through in Diablo 2, but didn't like how everything was significantly harder. I was young, and did not truly appreciate it in that way. But thanks to games like Borderlands, I've gotten the loot bug. So that is why I've been lagging a bit on my blog and YouTube work.
The New Old Hotness
So basic gameplay remains the same, you still point and click to move and attack. Some new things were added, most of which are updates to the interface which help streamline useful things, like joining friends games and easier ways to show other people items you've found. A proper trading screen and auction house (although not fully functional yet) are nice additions.
Some gameplay changes were made, most of which are different enough from previous games to make people, like me, change the way they approach the game. You can no longer put stats to any category you want after each level up like before. To me, this puts more emphasis on the actual items you are using, which I guess is an acceptable change.
Skills have been totally revamped, and at first I was unsure if it was the right move or not. But after going through them a bit, I actually like the change. There's a lot of depth in this system, for example, changing one rune can change the skill completely and give it a totally different application within the game. So there's enough variety to help everyone's style. But it is still not as flexible as previous games with the skill tree and total freedom in the allocation of skill and stat points.
One thing I really like is how each character has a unique type of "energy" instead of a standardized mana pool. It further differentiates how each character plays and how using different skills effects this mechanic as well. So it does change a bit depending on the play style of the player. Some charge over time, some charge from doing regular attacks, and some passive abilities can switch it around.
They also moved to an MMO style action bar, so now you can have a few skills ready to go, instead of just the two you have in previous Diablo games. Note to everyone, if you haven't already, switch to elective mode, so then the game does not limit you to which skill can go in which slot, it'll help a lot in higher difficulties.
Playing through as a Barbarian
A few changes I didn't like, first, for the Barbarian at least, is the cooldown for the use of health potions. Waiting 30 seconds between potion uses seems to be quite backwards, but after looking up on some other skill combinations, and also accepting the reality that I will need to run away more often, has so far been the only way for me to work around this. Of course, this is somewhat fixed by the health globe mechanic which has been added, and makes us older players have to re-think things. Another thing about the Barbarian that disappointed me was the fact that I could no longer dual wield two-handed weapons.
The other characters are new enough that I don't really have much to compare to previous titles, plus I have yet to put in enough time in any of the other characters.
A lot of attention to detail has been made with the items. Now when you get higher level gear, it actually looks different from the lower level items, which is nice. I also like how the gear will look different depending on which character you are using.
Some argue that Blizzard did not bring enough to the table in terms of visuals. But I feel that it is good enough, considering its development cycle. Also one has to remember that Blizzard is always trying to make sure their games work on much older machines, so they can reach a much wider audience. But still, if you are paying attention to the backgrounds of each level, you can see a lot of stuff is going on in the background which adds to the feel of the game. I'm playing on a fairly high-end setup, and I have yet to try the game on lower display settings to see how they scale down on the effects. But so far, I like that the dungeons are crumbling around as you explore them. Could more have been done? Definitely, but I accept it because they were still able to maintain the somewhat random map layouts, and I can see how some sacrifices were made to keep that process seamless.
The only thing I don't like is the decision to force the player to always be connected to the internet. I understand its needed to maintain a certain level of security now that they have an auction house, and eventually a real money auction house, but having latency issues when I'm playing on my own is not acceptable. Hopefully this will improve over time as people slow down on playing.
Difficulties are difficult...
So, after playing through the first three difficulty levels. Some were played solo, mostly co-op, I eventually ended up hitting a harsh wall at the highest difficulty. For anyone still thinking about getting this game, I would say that you have to at least play through the second difficulty before can really judge the game. Normal mode was way too easy, but I assume that is attributed to Blizzard trying to open the game up to a wider audience. The jump to the next difficulty definitely changed things quite a bit.
My only complaint is the jump from the end of one difficulty and the beginning of the next has too big of a gap. One really has to go back and do a bit of level grinding and hopefully find good enough gear to help get you over this hump. This process is sped up if you have a group of people to play with, so you at least increase the odds of finding proper armor or weapons (as long as your friends are in a sharing mood).
A new section added to this game is a secure place to openly trade items for in-game gold, and eventually real money. So far, this has led to ridiculous values on ultra-rare high level items. I’ve had to dabble a bit in the auction house just to get a better weapon to give me a chance at the higher levels, but eventually you need millions in gold just for something significant. The items I bought were at lower levels, so they were somewhat affordable. The filter and search system could be a bit better but it does the job. Just put in the level you are at, and the max money you are willing to spend, and you’ll get a list of useful items that you can afford and use right away.
It will be interesting to see how the real money auction house goes, and how it’ll effect the in-game gold auction house prices.
Final Score.. 9/10
One playthrough goes by relatively quickly, but to truly experience the game, you must at least playthrough one more time on nightmare difficulty. Or even go as far as getting one character all the way to level 60. If you are not into RPGs, or don’t get some satisfaction from exploring to find better loot, then this game may not be for you. The story is ok, but short. You definitely feel the usual Blizzard polish in the game though. What stops it from being a 10? Could use an extra act, or some dungeons could use extra levels, and the constant online connection causing latency even when playing solo is really annoying. I’ll keep posting updates as I progress with my other characters, and as Blizzard keeps tweaking the game with patches.