To borrow a line from a song from bygone days, “everything old is new again.” It seems that retro gaming is alive and well…and its name is Diablo III. For those who remember Diablo II, well, D3 is the same game—sort of. Graphics have been updated, the story has some changes, but by and large, this is a point-and-click dungeon crawl. Twelve years ago, Diablo II was the benchmark of dungeon crawls and many games tried to emulate that formula—some with marginal success, and others – well, not so much. Blizzard did it the best and D3 is a prime example of continuing to hit that benchmark.
Now, you may be thinking "continuing to hit?" Why not exceeding it? Simply put, the old-school charm is quite fun, the hack'n slash can be entertaining, but the constant click, click, click for movement and targeting can get a tad wearing. Still, the game can't help but elicit smiles at the sheer destructive force that players can become as they carve their way through the mapboards.
A barbarian wanders through the wastes, the fog-of-war (that slightly irritating effect that stops players from seeing the whole mapboard until they have actually gone there) slowly lifts, but a variety of monsters (otherwise known as 'mobs') materialize and attempt to bring the quest to a crashing halt. The barbarian leaps into battle, his or her battleaxe blazing and separating flesh from bone as enemies rag doll (fling about limply) across the landscape with ribcages and other body parts spinning far from where the body lands. Blood splatters, some cheesy catchphrase follows, loot is collected and it is onto the next group of mobs, or into the dungeon where there is the quest item and more loot to gain.
Loot comes in a couple of flavors – there are the colored drops which delineate valuable items, and there are the gray drops, which are vendor trash. The colored drops can be transmuted by the blacksmith into resources for crafting, or stored in the player stash, or sold through the auction house.
What else is relatively new? Skill sets have been refined so players can fine-tune characters as they work up. Oh, and the game has to have an active online connection so you can find friends, join in other games, i.e. help players with dungeons, quests and boss mobs.
The graphics have been updated, though the point of view is the same as previous Diablo incarnations. Still, the look of the game is brooding, moody, and enjoyable. The character classes (there is now a barbarian, demon hunter, monk, witch doctor, and wizard) are diverse and rather fun to play. Nice to see old non-playable characters, like Deckard Cain, back in the game to guide players to quests.
This feels like a been-there, done-that rehash of Diablo 1 and D2. Character creation is weak and the player interface is all point and click, which is old school but not necessarily a fun school. Due to the volume of players on battle.net, lag seems to be an issue at times. The game also makes it clear—no cow level (though there has to be some sort of Easter egg tucked away in there).
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Hours upon hours upon hours were devoted to D2, but maybe not so many to D3. Why? It feels like an extension of the license and a bit of a rehash of previous games rather than treading new ground. Same general look, same user interface and mechanics, same hack 'n slash dungeon crawl. One would think that all of that adds up to a "pass" when it comes to D3, but not really. For those who have not experienced an old-school dungeon crawl, this should be quite entertaining; for those familiar with previous Diablo games, this feels like an old friend come to visit. Yes, it's fun, but maybe not quite the time sink the previous