Real Talk By: The Wizard

Fans of earlier Diablo games, or fans of Gauntlet style games should feel right at home in the most recent installment of the Diablo franchise. Arguably in development for over a decade the Hack n’ Slash action RPG finally returns. The story takes place about twenty years after Diablo II and basically follows the same story as before. Hack, slash, and Bast your way through evil demonic hordes until you get really bad ass for the final battle against The Devil himself. Throughout your journey you collect weapons, armor, potions, gold, jewels, and occasionally crafting plans you can either keep or sell at the local auction house for some fast gold. You can go solo, join an online game, or open your game to players so they can join you and help defeat the stages together. The game is broken into three acts, and every act has multiple stages in it. As you play through the acts the story unfolds and at the end of every act you get a really impressive cut-scene. There is also a hidden pony stage where you can add a little happiness to the dreary depths of hell if you get depressed from all the killing you’re going to be doing. All in all the story is pretty good but it could be much better.

The controls in the game are pretty solid. You basically click your left mouse button to move, or hold and drag it. You hold Shift and left mouse to attack, your secondary attack is reserved for the right mouse button. You use potions with the Q key and cast magic and abilities with the respective numbers on the keyboard. This works really well as you can hold Shift with your left thumb and use potions, or magic and abilities with your fingers. This makes using spells and moving/attacking easy on your hands. The only gripe I have noticed is that there is no headset option. Pressing the enter button during a battle and typing something is annoying because you either get attacked, or get left. However, when you are in need of health your character automatically talks so everyone can hear. Other than that little gripe the controls are solid and make sense.

The graphics are not terribly impressive, but this is understandable considering the amount of stuff on the screen at one time. Being PC and MAC exclusive, I would rather have lower system requirements to make sure I can actually play the game without buying a $1000 computer or having lots of slowdown. The cut scenes in between acts are top notch and a great addition to the game.

You start the game with your choice of five classes. You have your Barbarian who can be your tank or damage dealer. The Wizard which is your token weenie with lots of destruction spells. The Demon Hunter who can duel wield crossbows and uses shadow magic. The monk who relies on speed and dexterity to avoid being hit, and deals loads of damage. And my personal favorite the Witch Doctor, who is a hybrid of a magic and ranged class with good area of effect spells. Throughout the game you unlock skills at certain levels, and in between skill unlocks you also unlock specific runes to tweak your skills to your liking. In addition you get up to three passive skills to choose from at respective levels which require no key pressing and are always active. For example I have a passive Witch Doctor skill that increases all my damage 20% but my magic spells costs 30% more mana to cast. Then I equipped the Spirit Run ability and set a rune for spirit run so when I am in spirit run I gain mana. Which in turn helps compensate for the extra spell costs. In addition all the weapons and armor have stats to boost health, strength, attack speed, intelligence, percent for mobs to drop magic items, and a multitude of other things. Also equipment can have sockets which you can insert gems in to, to boost these stats even further.  That being said the character customization is very intricate and there are many different paths you can go.

The music is also OK. I like the acoustic guitar. It kind of sounds like mexican guitar in a way. I don’t know how to explain it but it sounds like a wild west/mexican theme, in a game revolving around demon killing. However after you finally start the game you’re not going to hear any music, as the sound effects are very loud. For the pregame lobby and wandering around the towns though the music works.

Seeing as how the game will most likely be played with other people, and since there’s an online auction house, you have to talk about the online for a minute. I feel like the online play is well done. You can play by yourself, set your game to open so others can join, or join other games in progress in the exact same act you’re on. The thing I really like is that you can join people no matter where they are in the act when you join. You will start in the main town in the act they are on but they will have banners for instant teleportation to them. This is also handy when you need to leave and vendor sell items real fast and get back in the action, as you can always teleport back to homebase to repair, stock up on potions, and sell all your crap. The one downfall to the online though is the auction house. It is painful to find out what items are worth selling. When I ask others online how they determine what is vendor trash and what to sell in auction I normally get a response like “that’s a good question.” It seriously needs to be fixed. Another problem is that you can only sell 10 items at once, and after 5 minutes they sit there for 2 days and you can’t remove them! This is incredibly annoying. Also the real money auction house still isn’t up! The auction house needs some serious reworking in terms of navigation.

Solid gameplay, good controls, great online co-op, and massive customization options make this a solid installment in the Diablo series. The only real issues are the auction house and lack of good story, and lack of headsets. I don’t want to have to be in a nerdy clan with Ventrilo or Team Speak just to talk to people. I would recommend this to any fan of online action RPG’s. The game is very fun but doesn’t come off as highly addicting. Hopefully they will get the real money auction house up soon because i’m curious if I can quit my real job and sell Legendary items for cash to pay my rent!

  The Wizard gives Diablo III

4-5mf

 Out of five

Eva’s opinion:

After eleven years, the long anticipated third installment of Blizzard’s demon-slaying saga is finally upon us. Deckard Cain, last of the Horadrim, dusts himself off to tutor a new generation of adventurers in the fine art of dungeon crawling, this time accompanied by willful niece Lya, who assumes the role of ‘spunky girl-sidekick’. The cast of playable heroes includes an old friend, the Barbarian, along with four newcomers: the Monk, The Wizard, the Demon Hunter and the Witch Doctor, each with a unique battery of skills to unleash against the hell-spawn.

    But it’s not just new faces and Great Evils shaking things up in the world of Diablo 3; the mechanics of the game have also undergone a bit of an overhaul, most notably in the department of skill trees and character customization. No longer is there a layout of three trees, filled with levelable skills and passive modifiers. Gone are the days of pouring 20 points into Wake of Fire, and right-clicking your way to victory. To be certain, Diablo 3’s leveling system looks almost scarce compared to its predecessors, with six skill categories that can only hold one learned ability at a time: a primary and a secondary attack skill, and four action bar skills which fall into different “schools” of battle. However, the minimalist appearance is deceiving, as each attack can be further modified with skill runes, which become available as you level, and allow for customization with a Swiss-Army-array of specializations. With the right runes, your “Hungering Arrow” attack can acquire pierce damage, a burning tip, or even the ability to split apart and ricochet through lines of enemies.


The simplistic layout, and the limited skill bar might initially seem a detriment to the “spice” of battle, but they do a great deal in making the combat mechanics seem fast and streamlined. With the primary and secondary attack skills bound to the left and right mouse, your four action-bar skills are easily managed. Once you settle upon a strategy or a combination of abilities, simple yet delightfully machiavellian strategies come together almost intuitively.

When facing down a howling mass of foes, my Demon Hunter, Ladypants, first lays down a perimeter of caltrops, specially runed with immobilizing spikes. As the legions become entangled, I manage her “Hatred” levels by mixing in primary attacks with more deadly barrages from the action-bar. When the surviving enemies have soldiered past my caltrops and crossbow bolts, I plant an explosive mine at my feet, before using the last of my “Discipline” to vault twenty feet into the air–hurtling backwards to safety. The beleaguered hellspawn surge forward, only to blunder directly onto my mine. Game: Ladypants.

Simple strategies like this are a joy pull off, and become second nature in their execution as you get to know your skills–and if you ever tire of a particular angle, or find yourself in situation needing a different sort of finesse, you can simply pop open your skill sheet and trade out abilities and runes.

Of course, even with variation in one’s method of dispatch, all the endless slaughter can grow a bit wearisome. The Diablo franchise has never been one for mixing in more puzzling elements, and even the most sprawling of its dungeons can hardly be called a maze. As ever, the action of the game is a singular climb over bigger and nastier baddies. Aesthetics, like destroyable environments and collectible snippets of lore, do a great deal in keeping things fresh, but it’s the multi-player route that is truly vital in providing a unique experience each time.

There is now a cap of four players in a cooperative game, with each additional player causing enemy health to increase by a percentage. The process of joining a group is quite easy, and usually instantaneous–provided that Battlenet is having a good day–and a Friend’s List makes an appearance as well. Loot is individual to each person in a group, so as to avoid “ninja theft”, but the fact that you can’t even see what your companions are collecting makes the experience seem a great deal less shared, and you’re left to wonder what everyone has found, as their characters twitch about the screen after a fight, gathering invisible swag. The ramped up enemy health can make for quite the challenging experience on Nightmare difficulty (achieved after one play-through of the game on ‘normal’), and as ever, “Hard Core” mode lends some adrenaline to a fight, with its promise of permanent death. Just like the main action of the game, Diablo 3’s multi-player seems a bit more streamlined–with a lot of the clunkier “fat” trimmed out, though little things, like the entirely  individualized loot, can make the experience seem a bit more solitary than its predecessor.

In summation, is Diablo 3 a worthy installment of the franchise? Certainly. It delivers all the non-stop slaughter and inventive demonic lore we’d expect from the series, and smooths out a few of the wrinkles from the previous games. Was it worth an eleven year wait? Perhaps that’s only for the most ardent of Diablo fans to say. Blizzard has not reinvented the wheel with Diablo 3, merely offered up a tried but true recipe with a makeover. But hey, if it ain’t broke… And i if an old flavor with a steep price tag comes as a disappointment, there’s always Torchlight 2 to look forward to.

Eva gives Diablo III

4mf

Out of five

What’s legit?

+Solid fun gameplay and controls

+Highly customizable characters

+Good online co-op

+Killing hordes of stuff is fun!

What’s Perpetrating?

-Auction house needs a major reconstruction

-Story could be a bit better.

-Headsets?

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