Diablo II was one of my favorite games, and long after it came out, I was willing to come back and sink another couple hundred hours into playing through the various acts. I got even worse once I discovered character editors that would allow me to build the ultimate badass without having to grind for the right equipment.
But when Diablo III first came out, I downloaded the demo and walked away feeling dissatisfied with the changes made to it. When the game was released on PS4 under the extremely long title Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, several reviewers said that this was the version to get, with further claims that the game felt completely different from its initial release. I was tempted by the fact that the console version didn’t have to always be online, and I found it on sale on the PSN store for almost half off.
I initially planned to wait to review this until after I had tried all the modes and difficulties. But after completing the full five acts with two characters and making several more runs with the other classes, I’ve reached a point where I can’t make myself play it anymore. It’s not a bad game, I suppose, but to me, it’s boring even on higher difficulty settings.
I will say that the controls are pretty good. I would have liked to swap the stick functions, but this was only an issue while playing the demon hunter, so it’s not a minor gripe. The face and shoulder buttons can be swapped, so it’s possible to use two or more spells from the same subset. The dodge function is pretty handy, and about the only problem I had was using the auto-aim to try and hit the right monster at the right time.
The graphics are certainly nice, and on my big screen TV, they really look fantastic and crisp. The locations all have a lot of detail that makes them a joy to explore. I frequently told hubby, “Well the art department certainly earned their paycheck.”
The writing department, however, did not. I cannot be surprised, because even the demo made it clear this would be more of the same story from Diablo and Diablo II. If there is a fourth game, I won’t be surprised to find a complete lack of writing creativity. But that’s a damn shame, because a game that has great graphics and great music is hurt by having a paint-by-numbers script that’s both predictable and dull.
It was not the story that burned me out on the game, though. What did that was the gameplay for most character classes. Once a character has enough spells to unlock all the buttons, I usually ended up only using one, with an occasional move to another button while waiting for the other spell or skill to recharge. Early levels made for more exciting controls, requiring constant dodging and strategy to take limited resources and crap armor into account. But once these problems are eliminated, it’s possible to just stand still in a swarm and waste them all without being challenged or put at risk of dying. On all of my playthroughs, I needed healing potions only a handful of times, and I only died in the early acts because of a lack of decent equipment.
There is one exception to this problem, and that’s the witch doctor. She (well, she in my game, anyway) has a ton of great spells, and it’s fun to set up patterns of attacks that tear apart whole rooms of enemies. This is why the witch doctor was one of two classes I took all the way to the end of the game. The only other class that I got close to the end was the monk.
The rest of this review is nitpicky as hell, but considering how much time I played, I made a lot of observations, most of them not good. So if you love Diablo III and don’t want to see me picking it apart, now’s a good time to cut out.
So, first of all, higher difficulty levels might bring more gold per kill, but they do not bring better loot, a problem that becomes apparent with every single class of character not using magic as their main attack. It is possible to be stuck with a lower level weapon with no alternatives being found for upwards of ten to fifteen levels, and this means that fights with even minor enemies begin to drag on and on. Higher difficulty levels also increases the number of minions who have special abilities and a crap-ton of hit points, and they bestow these abilities and higher hit points on all minions of the same type. This means a single skirmish can last five minutes not because of dodging or tactics, but because I’m just standing there hitting the same guy over and over and over. It makes for a very tedious game, and it’s rarely fun.
Crafting weapons with the blacksmith doesn’t address this issue, because often, I found myself stuck ten to fifteen levels under the required amount to get the next level of weapon. And once I had it, I only got a slight improvement in my damage output for one or two levels before I was back to the dull grind. This is true of most loot, but it is possible to coast on older armor until something good comes along. The need for better weapons is a handicap to most classes. I find it sad how after my first playthrough, I dismantled most loot for scrap because it served no useful purpose.
Fighting bosses with underpowered weapons, though, is a huge pain in the ass. I might have 37,000 armor points but only 500 attack points. This means the boss isn’t a threat and doesn’t require any strategy to defeat. I can stand in one place and hold down one button for the entire fight. But that fight will take thirty to forty minutes. It’s mind numbing and tedious, words that I think apply to most of the game.
At the higher difficulties, those gifted minions may have five or more spells that cast elements on the floor or spill poison or cast warp portals, and with three or more minions all casting the same spells, the screen becomes a wash of visual vomit so dense, I have trouble even finding my character.
The level designs are nice, but some of them drag on and on forever, making all the repeated fetch quests boring to complete. There’s never been much variety to Diablo quests, but by the third iteration, I’d hoped there might be some new ideas brought to the series, and instead it’s all more of the same.
The one level I really enjoyed was finding the portal to Whimsydale. This is a rainbow-saturated world full of teddy bears, walking flowers, and unicorns that burst with gory explosions when defeated. It’s all got a “so wrong it’s right” kind of vibe to it. When I ran across a unicorn named Sparkle Twilight with the special ability Friendship is Magic, I had to pause and put down the controller to laugh. (I’ve got a stuffed Twilight Sparkle pony on my bookshelf, as she’s my favorite pony. (Not because of her character but because I’m also a Twilight fan, and the name makes me laugh.))
And I’d be hard pressed to say anything nice about the clothing of the women characters. It’s kind of sad how if I go with a dude and pick up a pair of armored pants, they’re pants. But if I get the same armor for a woman, they’re booty shorts. While playing the demon hunter, I remarked to hubby, “Well at least she’s wearing pants…and high heeled boots.” Then I sighed heavily.
While I would agree that the console version is vastly different than the original PC release, Diablo III lacks the same addictive qualities that made the previous game so satisfying to me. As I said at the start, it isn’t a bad game, but it’s not something I feel like going back to. Even when I was playing it, I often had to force myself to do it. So I’ll give Diablo III 3 stars. I’m sure it appeals to lots of folks, but I’d rather play something a little more engaging.