Sunday, June 3, 2012


As I expected, Diablo 3 has been as addictive as I thought it would, taking up the vast majority of my free time these days. Like Skyrim before it, it is one of those games that put me in these strange situations where I realise I have forgotten to eat both breakfast and lunch and it is currently 3pm. On weekends anyway. When at uni, I spend the few bits of downtime I get to theory craft, thinking of new builds and gear setups to both maximize my damage output and survivability. My colleagues probably look at me in bewilderment as I scribble down SCRAM calculations in meetings, instead of taking notes. Either that, or think I am taking notes on the discussion topic and pretend to write some notes too. Ah, peer pressure ...

Anyways, I was thinking of how I could write a post about Diablo 3 that wouldn't be the same as usual and was considering approaching it from a narrated, first person perspective. Something about a barbarian (me) buying a ring from a merchant in game and confusing him/her with gamer lingo. I may still do this if I get extremely bored in the future (unlikely). Not to mention that this individual already performed something like it anyway, and it is probably more entertaining than anything I could conjure. So, I will simply turn this post into a discussion on four topics: what is happening right now, what I don't like, what I don't mind and what I do like. Because I feel the topics under 'What I don't like' are actually game design flaws, I will explain them in more detail than the other sections.

What is happening right now in Diablo 3:
As of writing this post, only just a couple of days ago I hit 60 on my barbarian. For any hardcore gamer this would be described as an incredibly slow leveling rate. For most people I know this would be described as incredibly fast leveling rate. For me, it is about 50:50. I spent a lot of time trying to help people to get to my level and even got a witch doctor alt to 50 in the process. Perhaps I have played it quite a fair bit, but honestly it doesn't feel like it. I think my disregard for the story probably assisted in my ability to level two characters so 'quickly'. However, like every other barbarian in the world, I have hit a brick wall, but I will talk about that later on. During my leveling process on my barbarian I ran an incredibly bursty dps spec, running a 2-handed build that relied on building fury (barbarian resource) quickly and spending it quickly too. Running with ever increasing critical hit chance, the result was the ability to cleave through hordes of minions with relative ease, but lacking on single target dps (i.e. bosses). It worked pretty much all the way up to the end of hell, though I am slowly transitioning to a more tanky build.

My witch doctor is really just there as a character I play when I am bored or am waiting for other people to come online/catch up (i.e. singleplayer). It's primary purpose is to farm gold for the gold eating machine that is soon to become my barbarian, as well as providing the damage I need to progress through Inferno, whenever a friend and I get to clearing that.

Too sexy for my ... shield?
What I don't like:
- Normal mode was ridiculously easy. While the first act should have been easy, it unfortunately continued all the way to Diablo in the final act. You could quite literally put any spell on your toolbar, roll your face across your keyboard and end up getting to and killing Diablo (somehow). Even for casuals, the difficulty in normal was far too simplistic, especially for a game that traditionally got harder over time. Many people I know have expressed their disdain for the lack of difficulty in the default difficulty and some, I fear, were turned off by it. Although the later difficulties do propose a more suited challenge, the damage may already be done for a large amount of the casual fan base.

- A minor complaint, but bosses in later difficulties do not drop rares. They only drop rares the first time you kill them in normal mode. They are also incredibly easy, outside the latter half of Hell's bosses. This is quite a shame as boss fights should be both difficult and rewarding. Although getting 5 stacks of the Nephalem buff after hitting 60 fixes this, it does make the leveling process a little more silly.

- In my opinion, the playthrough content is rather short, both per difficulty and in total (i.e. to 60). I remember it taking ages to hit level 30 on my characters in Diablo 2. Although there is the entirety of Inferno to clear, the idea of facing the same environments again for the 4th time is a little discouraging.

- Inferno is apparently a bitch for melee. For Monks and especially Barbarians, unless you stack tank gear through the roof you will die instantly in almost any elite encounter. I managed to kill 3 elite packs in Inferno so far with no resistances but literally hit a brick wall on the 4th pack. Buying resist gear will fix the problem, but the gear is not cheap. What is annoying is that the other 3 classes don't have to spend anywhere near the amount of gold to become eligible for Inferno. While I could view this as being unfair and imbalanced, I prefer to think of it more as a challenge. Clearing Inferno as melee is a greater achievement than doing it as ranged.

- Your character is basically just his/her gear. There is absolutely no reason to make another of the same class type, unless you want a sex change for some reason. While I actually like the versatility in build changing, it does destroy some of the uniqueness your character can be. If you throw on your friends gear who happens to be the same class as you, now you become them with their exact dps and survivability (assuming the same skills). It's not so much a complaint, more a ... unusual occurrence in a genre of game that traditionally offers so much character choice.

- The music. Usually I wouldn't complain about music in a game, but the music here just doesn't fit right in certain places. The main theme, for example, is nothing like it should be. Instead of a gritty, demon-inspiring orchestral score, we are treated to an over zealous, victorious, anthem like hymn of tracks that makes the game feel more holy than it should.

- Gems and stats seem a little too simplistic for my liking. With only 4 gem types and no real reason to stack any stat other than your primary and vitality, gearing and gemming your character can seem both straightforward and frustrating at times. It is an unusual, unsettling combination. Getting an insanely good new pair of boots that has a large amount of strength and intelligence make the item both good and shit for both barbarians and wizards/witch doctors. There is no reason why the stats couldn't do more than their secondary bonus, even if it is class specific. For Barbarians, dexterity giving miniscule traces of crit and intelligence giving pathetic amounts of magic find would be interesting, for example

- Weapons. A wizard using a 2 handed axe for maximum damage is just weird. I think weapon damage scaling should work differently for all classes, but I am not even going to consider how one would go about implementing it

You were defeated because you were a girl with a bad hair cut
 (As I mentioned, I have paid more attention to the flaws of the game. However, this does not detract from the positives of the game which are described in less detail following)

What I don't mind:
- The visuals. They could be grittier, but overall they are fine.

- Story. I am actually ok with the story, mainly because I only half paid attention to it the first time through and find skipping it to be an art in consecutive times. I am not going to be one to rate a game on its singleplayer narrative when the game's primary focus is multiplayer game play.

- The randomness of gear. It's always been a part of Diablo and it's no different now. Sure, I don't like it when a piece of good gear has bad stats on it, but that's not the item's fault. Making different stats more useful for other classes is the key here I feel

- The 'grind' to 60. I don't see it as a grind in any shape or form. Grinding is boring. Diablo 3 is not.

- The auction house. 50:50 on this one. It is bad as it makes the game easier (farm gold->buy gear), which makes the casual appeal stronger. However I would not be running my crit build without it so I can't complain. Although, there do seem to be a large number of idiotic people making stupid buyout prices on their items.

... right
What I do like:
- It is actually quite fun to play (at least as a barb), especially in multiplayer

- There is potential for skill and strategy in harder difficulties

- Variation in builds and gear make for interesting play styles and choices

- Coop game play is a breeze. Don't need to be on same quest or act, can join friends anywhere in the world. Difficulty increases with players but so do the rewards. Encourages working together and sharing loot. This is honestly the best part of the game and it is a big factor towards enjoying it.

When it comes down to it though, most of my Diablo 3 experience has been playing coop with at least one friend. Basically I wouldn't be playing the game unless I had at least one other person to share the experience with. Singleplayer can be fun at times, but it is a little too easy for my liking (outside Inferno). Throw in 3 more players and all of a sudden the game becomes fantastic in that chaotic, fun-even-if-you-die sort of way. Would I recommend Diablo 3 to others? If you have friends to play the game with, most definetly. If you don't, give it a miss.

Now I go to farm demons in a distant land, to steal their clothes and riches and to sell and buy from other, demon-thieving lunatics. TIME TO DIE!!!

Below: My Barbarian farming Hell for gear, gold and fun