As someone who started gaming in the ’80s, I’ve lamented how many old-school genres have been dumped by the wayside as newer styles gained favor with today’s gamers. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing modern 3D adventure games as well as today’s first- and third-person shooters. But there’s still something to be said about a high-quality sidescroller or top-down action game. Which is why seeing Diablo III break PC sales records warms my heart. You say an isometric old-school action RPG can still sell this well in today’s day and age? It’s almost funny how a game about demons just restored my faith in gaming humanity.
Of course, the question now is — is Diablo III worthy of the hype? Despite some imperfections, I’d say the answer so far is, “yes.” Let’s run down the good, old gaming checklist, shall we? First off, as someone who installed the game on a laptop (this is a portable gaming site after all) that doesn’t exactly have a killer graphics chip, I’m glad to see that Blizzard continued its trend of releasing games that are accessible to folks who don’t have the latest and greatest gaming rig. Admittedly, I run the game at low settings. It still looks good, though, so I’m quite happy about that. Speaking of looks, the game has received a facelift since Diablo 2. Perspective and proportion look essentially the same but with a shiny new coat of paint for modern times.
At the core of every game, however, is, well, gameplay. Despite some changes, the game emulates the classic gameplay of Diablo — that is, a deceptively simple action RPG mechanic supported by the quest for loot, loot and even more loot. Depending on which of the five starting classes you roll, you can either get up close and personal (e.g. barbarian, monk), deal damage from a distance (wizard, demon hunter) or do a bit of both (witch doctor). Movement is done via mouse while attacks are mapped to the mouse and keyboard buttons (as someone who spent several levels kiting more than I wanted to with my wizard because I was using my laptop’s touchpad, I highly recommend using a USB mouse for more accuracy, especially at higher levels).
One big gameplay change is the dumping of manual stat and attribute allocation in favor of a customization system that relies more on mixing and matching skill and rune unlocks in conjunction with gear and gem combinations. Some runestones, for example, can significantly alter the skills they are applied to, adding variety to movesets (for gear, modifications are done via gems). Admittedly, hardcore stat and attribute micromanagers will likely be unhappy about the removal of manual point allocation. On the flip side, it takes away the grind from having to level skills while making it easier to respec characters and experiment with various moves.
Another change is the addition of a more robust smithing system — a welcome addition for a game that heavily revolves around gear and generously dispenses loot. If you find your inventory getting swamped with lower level magical gear, for example — which happens quite early — you can salvage those as materials that can be used to forge better stuff for your character. You can also level up your blacksmith via training in order to gain access to better crafting recipes.
Online play itself is set up quite well, allowing for easy drop-in and drop-out play and finding your buddies. If there is one major gripe I do have, it’s the need to be connected online even when playing solo. This especially limits playability for laptop gamers such as myself when, say, traveling and unable to access the Internet.
Despite its faults, Diablo III remains a great rendition of a classic video game genre. If you’re pining for a taste of the good old days in a world dominated by first-person shooters, I recommend giving the game a shot.
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- Platform: PC and Mac
- Cost: $60
- Final rating: 4.5 stars out of 5