And here we are… the final installment of the ‘Diablo’ series of posts. When Diablo 3 was announced I was just as excited as everyone else, which is to say very, very excited. This ended up being a double edged sword for Blizzard, as following the powerhouse success of the Diablo 2 was near impossible. In the end, Diablo 3 was a very good game, but its faults ended up killing the replayability that made Diablo 1 and 2 such huge phenomena.
Released almost 12 years after the last installment, Blizzard had plenty of time to set the new direction of the series. Since Diablo and Diablo 2 had such different approaches, Diablo 3 aimed to take the best of both games and incorporate them. In an interview I read, Blizzard tried to take the dark and lore-filled style of the first game, and balanced it with the vibrant arcade gameplay of the second game. Though this might have spelled doom for that game, I personally think that this aspect of Diablo 3 worked out. The game leaned much more towards the brighter World of Warcraft art style, but I felt the game hit a compromise that felt both familiar and new.
The gameplay of Diablo 3 was always expected to be good, but the introduction of the new skill tree options seemed outright strange. Instead of locking into a set path of progression, the player could now unlock new spells and abilities, and switch back and forth between whichever abilities suited their play-style more. The new system was much more versatile, and allowed players to experiment and try new and unique ways of playing the game without getting locked into one decision or another. Though it took some getting used to, this too ended up being an interesting new change to the game. Of course, some definitely disagree with me on this, but I think it was a bold design choice that had its pros and cons.
So where did the game fault? Well I think the first thing that I noticed personally, was that the randomization that made the replay value so strong was given a lot less importance. The levels and enemies were still randomized, but the players could now count on set level pieces being included into their adventures occasionally. This was done a bit in the previous game, but Diablo 3 seemed to rely too heavily on this, and the levels seemed much more linear than its predecessors. Instead of exploring huge expanses where the next zone could be anywhere, Diablo 3 zones were smaller and you knew which way to go because the next set piece only spawned in one direction. I don’t think linear games are necessarily bad, but Diablo made its name on randomization and replay value that came with it.
The delicate progression of Diablo 2 was sped up, and the game felt a lot shorter because of it. Instead of spending a few weeks grinding up to level 20, I ended up beating the game in about the same amount of time. The progression of the actual game didn’t seem to match with the progression of the characters, and by the time I beat Diablo, I didn’t feel like I was very powerful at all. Of course, this all changed with the most egregious sin that Diablo 3 made, the infamous auction house.
Now, this has been fixed since released, but the auction house pretty much ruined Diablo 3 for me and many others. The auction house was originally designed to remove the black market that grew in Diablo 2 where people would pay real money for in-game items. Introducing the auction house allowed Blizzard to have players buy and sell items within the game itself, while taking a small profit from every transaction. This sounds good except for the massive oversight that came with it. The longevity of Diablo 2 was purely due to the item hunt. With the auction house in place, a player could now hit the level cap, and get access to the most insane weapons and gear you could find. Why play for hours and hours for that golden nugget of a weapon, when you could just as easily pay some gold in the over-saturated auction house within seconds.
Again, I should say that this has been fixed, and that the new expansion brought a great deal of changes that has apparently made the game better. Unfortunately for me, I already moved on by that point, opting instead for a huge variety of other games available. I could go back and try the new expansion, but why bother with so many other great games like Overwatch around the corner.