Saturday, May 26, 2012

Diablo 3 - A good game but not Diablo 3

Back in 1996 Blizzard gave birth to one of the most successful hack and slash, dungeon crawler franchises of games out there, Diablo one, Characterized by its dark and gloomy environment, bloody hallways filled with blood thirsty demons, Diablo one was an adult themed game for computers that struck deep within the gaming community.

With a top down view, you moved around the screen with your mouse clicks, attacking enemies with your equipped weapon, and trying to survive the adventure as you guzzled down health potions.

An stat system provided you with the option to choose whether you wanted to deal more damage at the expense of having low life, or have plenty of it at the expense of a lower output damage, and as you advanced in levels, you had the option to customize your character as you seem fit, buying and using better armors and weapons, that had their own stat requirements, which made you have to manage and keep tabs on what stats to invest in, you also had the option if infusing your character with magic spells or skills that your found on your adventures, in the way of skill books. These mechanics where a game on its own.

Fans asked for more, and Blizzard`s follow up was that of Diablo 2 in the year 2000, expanding on its
previous installment, the world of diablo grew by a ten fold by adding more maps to explore, moving from the old town dungeons to the desert sands a jungle and hell itself.

The look and feel of the game was preserved, while increasing the resolution and graphic quality overall, adding more gory and bloody detail to the monsters and landscapes, the core mechanics of the game where kept and improved upon, moving from 3 classes to 5 and 7 with the expansion, you could never run out of stuff to do in diablo two.

Each class has its own set of skill trees that you unlock as you progress, but your could never invest in
all of your skills, forcing players to take a choice on what skills to use, this made players test and restart many times a new character just to find out what skills they liked better, this made players restart many times their characters to try out new builds and skill combinations, which again on its own became a big part of the game and gave players hours to spend on.

Of course, some builds where better than others, and after many years, people came up with cookie cutter builds that let you breeze trough the game, but having the option to choose skills made you feel you could always be unique.

Gems where added, each one adding particular stat and or damage properties and effects to your socket`ed weapons and armor, as well as a rune word system, by adding rune stones to your armors and weapons, to make them have unique unique properties or effects, and these where never easy to come by, forcing you to hunt down bosses and packs of enemies, and combining low level runes or gems in the horadric cube to get better ones. Again, something that gave players even more hours to invest in.

Diablo two is perhaps the most recognized tittle of the series, gathering thousands of players on blizzards own service, letting players group up and fight the hordes of evil, the game is vast and long, inviting players to help each other advance or tackle some of the difficult bosses, or just look for better items, something that captivated players for hours, making them come back for more.

After the wake of diablo 1 and 2 many tried to cash in its success by creating similar themed games, or what most people call Diablo Clones, some of the most recent and popular ones include Dungeon Siege, Titans quest, NOX, Torchlight and path of exile to name a few, some of the diablo clones, try to keep close to the formula while others go off the path and give a different take on the genre, but as a diablo clone, its sort of a requirement to keep a grim obscure and gory feel to it,  phantasy horror and interesting story to go along.

Twelve years later, we have the release of Diablo 3, but fans have received it with mixed feelings, ranging from love to diss appointment, to sheer hate, and they all have valid arguments.

We know Blizzard would not dare release a bad game, and having people liking it, means that its a good game, so why are other fans of the series not liking it? Perhaps due to the overhaul and "evolution" that the game went trough in the latter years.

Here are some of the core aspect changes that have made me feel Diablo 3 went too far away from what it was expected to be....

Letting the users find the best combination of skills and stats that suited their taste, was something to
invest hours if not days in diablo 2, but in diablo 3, that is all gone, Stat points are now assigned to you depending on the character class you play, it is a good thing it pushes your character in the "right" direction, and avoids you creating an underpowered or "useless" build.

The same goes for the skills, we now have a stream lined system that unlocks skills as you level up trough the game, you don`t have to invest skill points, and you no longer will be able to make a bad compromise of skills because you get to try and use all of your skills and swap them on your 6 skill slots at any time you want.

The problem with these changes is that the uniqueness of your character comes from what 6 skills you choose to use from the 25 something you unlock, and each skill has a 5 rune modifier that alters the skills in subtle ways, but many dont provide a real advantage over others, so you end up using the better skills of the lot, falling once more to the cookie cutter builds in matter of days instead of months of trial and error.

This severely hurts the replay value of the game, since any class you choose to play as, can be reset and re-skilled at any moment, all players have the same starts at the same level, and the only way to truly make your character unique is to choose what gems or what stats you get from your equipped armor pieces and weapons.

Simplifying the stat/skill system has taken away hours for the players to invest on, and leaves only the need to hunt down items, which has also has been simplified with the introduction of the auction house. you just need to look for your desired item on the auction house and buy it off with in game gold or even Real money

Of course it all depends on what is for sale, and just after 4 days of opening , i always found better items on the auction house than what the game provided me with as i played, and i am sure i was not the only one buying better items all the time, the will be hunters and there will be buyers, and this brings us to the problem of Pay to win, since we can now, just shell out our money to get our dream gear and plow trough the game with no incentive to hunt items.

Having ditched away the "fun" of character customization might be a passable thing for many, but something that also comes up as a complaint is the look and feel of the game...

Graphically wise, the game most times looks dated and not close to what many expected to be, utilizing a bright shaded color palette trough the game, blurred and muddy textures, and character models that remind you of World of Warcraft, it looks good over all and get the job done, but the game even on max settings feels like what a current generation game would look at medium to high settings, long gone are "Very high" or "ULTRA" settings like those found in Starcraft 2

There is a reason for the above tough, The game applies a gaussian  blur filter to the image, that makes everything look that way, this is perhaps to Avoid jagged model edges, it works, but ends up blurring  high resolution textures (if they are there).

You can disable the Gauss filter with an external Modified DirectX dll file ( that takes away the effect, modifying the image at the video card level, just as how fraps adds the fps counter, but people are afraid of Blizzard tagging the file as a Client MOD and have their account suspended for hack, if only blizzard could give us the option to rid that damn gauss filter!

Despite the game`s cartoony look and blur at times, there is  a bigger problem as how in game cut scenes are presented...
The in game cut scenes are a joke, they come from the days of Warcraft 3 where zoomed in camera, low poly chars move their arms around as text and audio is played along their performances, you would think that key events in the game could be easily played out by a high resolution CGI animation.

CGI is used as means of ACT progression and story exposition,  and while still highly detailed and top notch, two of the important CGI movies have been already seen by many fans as trailers, and leave you expecting more, even Diablo 2 had more CGI cut scenes, and they had more detailed action and story development than those of diablo 3, where they are used only to fill in the gaps that the in game cutscenes or dialogs could not convey to the player.

Some of the animations look like story board style animation, which might be done in purpose for style.. but makes you wonder..if they where not finished on time.

Story wise, i was heavily diss appointed in the way plot twists and reveals are done, if you have been following the series story, you will be able to see most plot points and twists  coming from miles away, even my own character was not amused and saw trough a ruse as i did, which made me wonder if blizzard was just making fun of itself there.

Diablo 3 is an awesome NEW game - but not what most expected
Dont get me wrong, i like diablo 3, it has kept my interest and i intend to play until im tired of it, as many people will do,but a lot has changed and gone off the path, this game feels alot like a Diablo CLONE

Graphics aside, i still think that people will not want to invest hours on the game to find gear that can make a difference since you can just buy them off with gold or real cash, and with how the core stat skill system has been simplified, people  don`t have a lot to do once you reach the max level, all the skills and all the possible builds have been already tried.

Its strange to see Diablo clones out there, still keeping the core mechanics and still do well with sales and fan base followers, which proves that people still want to play something similar to that of diablo one and two.

This is a good game, a stream lined wow-isied diablo 2 clone for the new generations and masses of players that are too dumb to understand rune word systems, stat and skill synergy systems.

On a personal level i think Diablo series ended with Diablo 2, and now diablo 3 is a Spin off, a movie sequel, a good one!, but directed by someone else, enjoy if it you can and have fun!.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with this posts. I don't buy games for myself very often, but I couldn't resist this time:) The game is fun to play, thats for sure. My main problem with Diablo 3 is that I expected blood, gore, scary atmosphere etc. I also agree that simplicity ruined games for all people who like to experiment with different chracters/builds.