Diablo III Review: Slaying with Style

by Wes Mayer

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Diablo has officially made its transition from PC to consoles, and it has done so flawlessly.

For those who may have never had a chance to play a Diablo game before because they did not have a great gaming PC (like me), now is your chance. Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III is a ton of fun, it is a beautiful, massive game and it will keep you entertained for hours.

Diablo III is centered around combat, and the game does not take long to hurl you into it. After choosing your hero, a Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor or Wizard (I chose the Monk), you are off to investigate a mysterious star which fell from the sky and crashed into a cathedral in the town of Tristram (where the first Diablo game took place). You arrive to discover undead have risen from the ground and are swarming around the town.

A few hundred vanquished enemies later, you learn the war between Heaven and Hell is going poorly for the good guys, and the demon lords Belial (Lord of Lies) and Azmodan (Lord of Sin) are attempting to invade the mortal world of Sanctuary and bring hell to Earth. So naturally, it’s up to you, as Mr. or Ms. Hero, to smite them back to oblivion and save humanity.

Diablo III is all about killing hordes of enemies first and asking questions later. The story isn’t too deep or complicated, but that is in no way a bad thing. Diablo III is all about the mass destruction of demons, undead, monsters, beasts and anything else foolish enough to stand in your way.

Even more so, it is about looting the weapons, armor and gold that drop from your enemies’ bloodied remains, and finding the ultimate equipment. Equipment come in four different levels — normal, magic, rare and legendary. Legendary and rare equipment is the best, obviously, and finding high-leveled weapons and armor which give multiple boosts your character is your true never-ending quest in the game.

Being able to crush your enemies with stylish destruction is where Diablo III shines. Each hero has a number skills at your disposal to annihilate anything in your path, and the visuals from blasting your foes into bloody pieces are just, for lack of a better word, pretty. Skills explode with vibrant colors and your enemies burst into bloodied reds, greens and blues as they die, balancing against the bleak dungeons, dark ruins or vast empty wastes you explore.

Gameplay is smooth despite the chaos. The camera is fixed at an angled bird’s eye view above your hero. While you can argue this removes you from the action, it adds to your ability to see your enemies and swirling destruction around you. Plus the view maintains the game’s PC feel as you explore environments, slay enemies and level up your hero.

Leveling up gives the game its role-playing element. When your character levels up, you unlock new skills. You are only allowed to have one of each type of skill equipped at a time, but that is quite enough. For the Monk, these skills included a primary attack, a secondary attack, a defensive skill, a technique, type of focus and a mantra (a constant active skill). On top of this, you can have three passive skills going at a time, giving you even more choices to how you want to buff your character.

The skills are not locked into place once you choose them, though. Unlike other role-playing games where you build your character and are stuck with what you choose (sometimes you can pay to get unstuck), Diablo III allows you to swap skills at any time. So if one skill is just useless against a boss who keeps rolling over you, you are able to change at any time.

Every character is slightly different, but the Monk activates skills by using spirit, and kills enemies with his primary attack to generate spirit back. The Barbarian, for instance, works backwards. He must kill enemies with primary attacks to generate his Fury, which he can then use to unleash devastating skills.

You tend to fight enemies in large groups. Picking the right skills to protect yourself or kill everything around you before being overwhelmed is vital. For me, I chose a skill which pulled nearby enemies in close and exploded, great for crowd control. Any survivors I would finish off with a damaging whirlwind around my hero’s body or with my furious fists. If that didn’t work, I could unleash a blinding flash which confused and blinded enemies making them miss me and attack each other. If the enemy was particularly large, I could summon a giant spirit bell to come crashing down on them and cause massive amounts of damage.

And that was only a fraction of my options. It is all about exploring which combinations work best for you.

You also have a choice of three different followers you find throughout the story, the Templar, the Scoundrel or the Enchantress. You can only have one follower at a time, and while they aren’t particularly strong, they can help you out with their own skills and it is nice to have company when you’re wandering through a haunted crypt or a fiery cavern.

If you would like even more company, Diablo III supports online play. You can play with other players online at any time, but the more players, the tougher the enemies and the better the loot (but you have to fight over it).

When Diablo III’s story does step in, it does so gorgeously. In between the four acts of the game, Blizzard has created some amazing cut scenes. The actual gameplay visuals don’t compare, but they are still fantastic to look at nonetheless. The voice acting and music fits in well, and there weren’t any voice actors that tuned me out of the experience. Some characters, like the Scoundrel, are actually quite entertaining.

The story is fairly shallow, though. You always have one general direction to follow, and your path does not branch out very often - Diablo III does not overwhelm you with optional side quests. But that is actually great for the game because Diablo III gets better as you replay it.

After you beat the game on Normal difficulty, you unlock Nightmare difficulty and instantly start the game over. Beating it on Nightmare unlocks Hell, and beating it on Hell unlocks Inferno, which is apparently borderline impossible. It took me around 30 to 35 hours to beat the game on Normal, so you can get an idea of how many hours you can put into this game, especially if you play through with multiple characters.

In each higher level of difficulty, your enemies have more health and hit harder, but you are able to become stronger as well. The environments you explore are altered and the bosses you face gain more abilities, so you get a fresh experience each time around. It actually works out with the story so played down because it would get a little old after the third or fourth time.

This was my first Diablo game, but the story is not so complicated that you can’t figure out what is going on. It is an action-heavy, intense and gory game, and anyone who would enjoy feeling like a super-powered slaughterer of all things evil will have a blast with Diablo III. * * *

Key Points:

Story - A mysterious star falls from the sky and it is up to a powerful hero to investigate the anomaly, combat hordes of demons, undead, monsters and beasts, travel to distant lands and put the nefarious demon lords attempting to destroy humanity back in their place. In other words - kill lots of things.

Gameplay - Diablo III is a loot-based, hack and slash, dungeon crawling role-playing game. The battles are chaotic and beautiful as your enemies explode around you, and the loot you receive motivates you to keep on hacking away. The game performed smoothly for me and the fast load times are incredible.

Lasting Appeal - Being able to replay the game in increasing difficulties and with different characters is a huge plus. Action is constantly intense, victory is rewarding, locations are fun to explore and enemies do not get overly redundant. This, along with the actual size and length of the game will have you playing for more than 100 hours easily.

What You Need to Play This Game - An overwhelming apathy, strong dislike or maybe intense hatred for demons, monsters, undead and evil beasts. This game is not meant for those who may worship the devil or practice necromancy. This game is also not meant for anyone who faints at the sight of computer generated blood or gets nightmares from frightening images.

Played on Normal Difficulty on PS3. Diablo III is rated Mature.



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