Hands-On: Diablo III
As the title of this particular piece of literature might suggest this is a hands on preview for Diablo 3. Since this is possibly one of the most anticipated games… ever, it is indeed a heavy burden to bare, to be tasked with the important responsibility of conveying every fact and intricate detail of what I experienced while playing the Diablo 3 beta.
I myself consider Diablo 2 to be the best RPG I’ve ever played to this day. My love for Diablo 2 started many years ago when I was in high school at the age of 16. We played through normal all the way to the end of Act 4 at an overnight LAN at my house. My first character, the necromancer, will always be one of my favourites. There were many more Diablo 2 LANs that followed that one. Finally at the age of 23 while trying to do a MSc at UCT I became heavily addicted to Diablo 2. I played for practically 4 months straight (12pm-3am everyday) on the local Twilight Server. Accomplishing many level 90+ chars and even doing Uber Tristram with Chris (Machine) and Richard (DeMoNiK) in hardcore mode. I Hope this Diablo 2 resume helps qualify me for the task I’m about to undertake.
There have been many nay sayers over the past few months regarding Diablo 3. One can merely look at the string of news articles sitting on eGamer that point to trouble brewing in the future of the world of Sanctuary. But it’s Blizzard right? They make the best games of all time. Everything they’ve ever made has been a success (barring Star Craft Ghost). They’re too big to fail. The exact same words used to describe companies at the center of the 2008 economic recession. Many people were cynical regarding Diablo 3 in conversations to me but I remained the ever blind optimist.
Oh the joy I experienced when Dean hit me up with a beta key a few weeks ago. It’s as if I had just woken up unexpectedly on my birthday. I hurriedly began the installation process and went on my merry way to work, bragging to everyone on Facebook and everyone else I met face to face that I had been privileged enough to receive a Diablo 3 beta key. I even took the next day off work to take the time to enjoy the game once the install had completed. I logged in and began my day as a Barbarian. I thought I’d feel most at home with a character class that had come along for the ride from the previous game.
To my utter despair I experienced not a millisecond under 800ms of latency according to the little latency indicator in the right hand side of the HUD. The game was unplayable. Visual jerks and stutters in the movement and attacks of my character made the experience almost unbearable (This would definitely be unplayable to a hardcore player). At first I thought maybe my computer was getting too old for this sort of thing, but alas no matter what the graphics were set to I experienced what could typically be described the worst network latency and jerkiness one could ever expect. This was an absolute shock to my core. Not a week earlier, I had been playing Path of Exile (also on a European server) with not even a single noticeable disturbance due to network latency. Playability was extremely poor when encountering a group of monsters greater than about 10 and even worse was trying to cast an AOE spell on these monsters. I swear I could have counted to three while waiting for my barbarians ground-slam to progress to the next frame.
To rub salt into my already fresh wounds of network latency. I discovered that my characters stats were auto assigned upon level up. Not only that, but my skills were unlocked in a completely linear fashion. There were no skill points to spend, no character choices to be made. Everything just… unlocks? And from these unlocked skills I can’t even choose which skills I want to use in combination with each other. There are essentially just 6 lists of skills and I have to choose one skill from each of the unlocked skills in these lists to have active at this time on hotkeys 1 2 3 and 4 and mouse left and right. So not only can I not choose skills, but I can’t even choose which skills can be used together, that’s been done for me too. This is an absolute insult. I feel as though I’m being treated like a down syndrome child that can’t be trusted with making a permanent choice with regards to how I build my character. My maxed out character is essentially no different to anyone else’s except for the gear that I wear. WHERE IS THE R IN RPG? It’s honestly a spit in the face to anyone who ever enjoyed Diablo 2 for what it was.
It doesn’t end there though. Not only have I been robbed of any character building opportunity. I’ve also been subjected to cartoony look and feel graphics (World of Warcraft basically). Now I’m not too concerned about this because I’ve always maintained that graphics do not make a game, but I do think it is a departure from the gritty non-cartoonlike feel that Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 had going for them.
Now if you could completely overlook my last three paragraphs, the remaining aspects of the game are everything you could ever hope for in Diablo 3. The game is incredibly polished for a beta. There is a rich environment created in New Tristram with a level of interactivity that didn’t exist in back in the days of Diablo 2. You can drop chandeliers on monster’s heads, you can shoot out the beams supporting a rickety old wall, you can smash up lamp posts and tables. The game is really well done in this respect. Our good old friend Deckard Caine and his hot niece make an appearance in the beta with what seems to be the start of a promising plot with an engaging voice acted narrative. Tomes with more voice narrative are found throughout the game providing even more enrichment to the story and lore of the monsters.
The five characters presented seem really cool and fresh. All the skills themselves seem great with all the potential in the world for making a great RPG. The attack animations and spells seem all well polished and a lot of thought has gone into it as a whole. So maybe it won’t be that bad? Maybe the game has been delayed because Diablo 2 fans were as outraged as I was to find out about the lack of character building opportunities and the retard treatment that permeates the beta and as a result of this Blizzard has gone into a major redevelopment cycle to fix this Kony like atrocity. And of course maybe the game will be playable once real servers are dedicated to hosting the game with less bandwidth contention. It surely can’t have such horrible inefficiencies in it’s network programming?
Depression and Acceptance
At the end of the day we’ll never know until release day. We can’t bargain with death and we certainly can’t bargain with Blizzard. If these major issues are ever resolved Diablo 3 just might live up to it’s predecessors. If not, I think it will go down as mediocre success to the retarded masses, but the real Diablo fans will weep for the greatest sequel of a sequel that never was.
The sad reality is that I’ve cancelled my Diablo 3 Collectors Edition pre-order from Kalahari.com because I feel so strongly about how betraying Diablo 3 is to the real Diablo fan. I hope to receive my R740 back from Kalahari.com in the next day or so and then I will take a wait and see approach as to whether Blizzard continues on its collision course of being another sellout developer with regards to game-play quality in order to appease the dumber generation or whether they rise to the real challenge and create another great game that is playable for years to come as Diablo 2 was.