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Diablo 3 Review – Also some nostalgia

It’s been awhile since my last review, which is mostly because I haven’t been gaming as much as I usually do — trying to keep up with all the book stuff and get to work on the next book —  but when I got the opportunity to try Diablo 3 I went at it with a fervor.  I’m about as big a Diablo fan as one can get, I think.  I played the first game when it first came out.  My dad had picked it up super cheap at Scratch and Dent Liquidators, which is a store where you can buy new products that have been damaged for whatever reason.  We found it at the store and all that seemed to be wrong was that the box was a bit torn, but the disk was fine and all of the Blizzard paraphernalia was still inside.  I can remember scouring the awesome manual that came with it for every scrap of lore it offered.  Why doesn’t Blizzard do that anymore?  The first character I ever finished the game with was the Sorcerer and, yes, I used the duplicate exploit after awhile.  Especially for the Spectral Elixir.

I also kind of had a fit (in a good way) when I’d been talking to my Dad about Diablo 2 and he picked it up, saying I’d “Pay him back for it.”  He wanted to play it as much as I did; it was one of the only things we ever bonded over.  (Well, that and Doom.  We had a weird relationship.) My first play through on Diablo 2 was a magic user again, this time the (drool) Necromancer.  I loved that guy, especially after I learned that just like the Sorcerer, no matter how much I wanted him to be, he was not a Spellsword.  When finally I let my willing army of fallen soldiers reap their vengeance upon the hordes of the burning hells, I truly knew satisfaction.

But you came to hear about Diablo 3 and that’s what I said I was going to be talking about instead of waxing nostalgic about a game that is literally almost  twenty years old. (Let that sink in a bit, Diablo fans.)  Anyway, I’m gonna do this in two parts, what was good and what was not so good, as there was a fair bit of both.  I’ll do what was good first.

My first play through of Diablo 3 was with the Wizard and I absolutely loved the gameplay.  I feel like it is the most innovative interface for this kind of top down action/RPG game.  You no longer have to play the long con of sticking to a specific set of abilities so that at some point in the future, when you’ve finally reached the crazy max level, you can beat Diablo without dying fifteen times.  All of your abilities come to you at a specific level and, unlike before, leveling up is a lot easier.  There is also the from start difficulty setting for all of you masochists who enjoy torturing yourselves.  The cool thing is that the Normal difficulty is kind of easy and the Hard difficulty is a lot like Normal on the previous two games, so after my initial play through, I started a barbarian on Hard.

Charsi the Barbarian. She's going to kick your ass.

Charsi the Barbarian. She’s going to kick your ass.

Which brings me to one of the coolest aspects of the game as far as I’m concerned – gender options for ALL classes!  While some of the starting attire for the lady characters is a bit annoying, you get to play as a GIRL BARBARIAN!!!!  RRRRAAAAAAGGHHH!!!  Her name is Charsi and YES she is named after her mother and takes after her father and YES I like to RP my Diablo characters and I’m proud of it!  I’ve gotten her some better armor at this point and she just kicks all of the ass.  All of the time.  Sometimes I just hit escape and bask in her warrior aura of badassness.  She can summon the Ancients from Diablo 2 to aid her in battle.  I get chills.  I’m currently using the Scoundrel with her for the ranged benefit, but I think my favorite hireling is the Templar.  Which brings me to the fact that I LOVE that the hirelings are actual characters now, with backstories and minds of their own.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love Flavie, but she was REALLY quiet.

This gets me onto the subject of backstories and lore, which is going to lead me into the “Not so good” of Diablo 3, but like I said, we start with what’s good first.  I REALLY like that the world of Sanctuary is more fleshed out now and even seems to have grown.  One of the big lore changes, or rather reveals I guess would be better to say, is that the hero from the first game was Leoric’s son, Aiden.  I liked this addition, as it made the character of the Warrior a more tragic and inspiring figure.  He wasn’t just some hero looking for glory and honor, he was the first born son of a house in madness and he had returned to set things right.  Only to have to make yet another sacrifice in vain.  So sad.  I also love all of the little lore updates and journal entries and such.  I also loved that they kept them recorded in a central location so that you could go back and listen to Cain……

Which brings me to the “not so good” part of this review.  Cain.  I am never going to forgive you for that Blizzard.  NEVER!  What, were you guys doing a Joss Whedon marathon while writing all of this or something?!  NEVER FORGIVE!  Ahem…

The lore of Diablo has kind of deviated DRASTICALLY from where it had been going in the first place.  This is similar to the right angle turn I saw when I played World of Warcraft (WoW) for the first time after finishing Warcraft 3.  There’s a LOT that is different, but that doesn’t always mean bad and I am trying  not to be a grumpy old man about it, even though I kind of am.  The game’s own story was a little bit off, especially by the third act.  I still have NO idea what possessed my band of compatriots to take the object of Azmodan’s desire TO HIM.  Also, why did the fact that the emperor in act 2 was actually Belial have to be so tongue-in-cheek and heavy-handed?  It also seemed like the entire story was a rehash of both of the previous games and not a true successor at all.  You start in the woodsy, green, and mountainous Westmarch (Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, Act 1), then you go to the desert city where the leader of said city is hiding something sinister (Diablo2, Act 2), then we skip the Jungle of Diablo 2, Act 3 and jump straight to the Barbarian lands of Act 5.  Oh, and then we go to Hell at the end, because we forgot about Act 4.  (Also, that tower level went on WAY too long).

At any rate, the story and lore were all out of whack for me, but the thing that really kind of bugged me through the entire game was that it wasn’t even a little bit scary.  Diablo 1 was a frightening game and between the ambient sound, music, and almost total silence of my foes, I had to regularly turn the game off and turn all of my lights on.  Now, the demons of hell stop to offer witty repartee, before decapitating the innocent.  They kept the gore, but left the fear behind.  There was no substance.  The most the Skeleton King had ever said in previous games was about a sentence.  Now he’s monologing and taunting me like some Saturday morning cartoon villain.  Oh, and the Butcher was JUST a travesty.  Having the Butcher in Diablo 3 the way he appeared was akin to having Greedo show up in Return of the Jedi and go “Haha!  I’M GREEDO!!!!!!”  and then get shot by Han again.  It was random, it was unnecessary, and it made no fucking sense.  None.  If you want to do a reference, guys, do it like you did with the Warlord of Blood:  Have a random unique monster at the END of the game called the butcher, who has a cleaver.  All of your die hard fans would have been like, “Awww, cool!” and everyone else would have ignored it and it would have been fine.  Instead, your fans are annoyed and your new players are confused.  I guess it’s ok, though, because we’re all gonna buy the expansion.

Oh yeah, the expansion came out Tuesday.  That is completely unrelated to me doing this review, I just happened to get Diablo 3 recently when my wife saw it at game stop at a discount and got it for me.

Let me just say that all of my fuddy-dudding about lore and story aside, I REALLY enjoyed playing the game, like, a lot.  I played it for a bit with a friend (which is like the main reason I got it) and when I wasn’t bitching about how different the story was from what I knew, we had a great time!  I mean, I started like 3 more toons after my first play through, so I’m invested.  Also, Demon Hunter class = awesome character, lore wise.

In the end I highly recommend Diablo 3 to just about everyone.  I’d heard that it wasn’t so good before a recent patch…….which means I did the right thing in waiting and so did you!

What in Hell do YOU think?

Think of anything I missed?  Think I am wrong about all of my lore Old Man-ness and want to debate about it?  Want to while away the hours discussing the virtues of Bash or Disintegrate?  Liked Diablo 2 more?  Tell me all about it in the comments!  Thanks for listening and as always, have a wonderful day!

P.S.  Blizzard?  Since you just released an x-pac with what is essentially a Paladin,can you please bring the Necromancer back, I miss him and want to make him a girl.  That’s weird, I know, but I want to do it.  CHEERS!

P.P.S.  LOL!  I went and started playing it again almost immediately after writing this review and realized that I totally forgot one of the really great things about this game.  Covetous Shen is my hands-down, favorite character in Diablo 3.  The perfect example of the benevolent Trickster, he never ceased to make me smile, or tear up a bit.