If you’ve been paying at least a little bit of attention to gaming news these days, you know that said news are full of articles about the latest installment in Blizzard’s hackey-slashey-clickey action RPG franchise. You might know where this is going – if not, continue on and I’ll tell you. 12 years have passed since the second installment, so clearly people were… hyped about the game, to say the least. Hell, if you’re not the RTSing type and 2010′s Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty did not satisfy your Blizzard-related needs, or if you’re simply a burned out WoW veteran looking for something new to kill and loot, Diablo 3 was definitely the title to look forward to this year. Things are, however, looking less than optimal, at least that’s what one would conclude based on fan feedback and the amount of rotten tomatoes thrown Blizzard’s way. Always-online DRM, no PvP at launch, performance issues, the game brings nothing new to the genre – it’s all been said before, so I thought I’d take the time to very quickly share my own views and experiences on the subject. Warning, personal opinion ahead! It might be something you won’t agree with, but please bear with me for now, and do read on if you’re interested.
So let us quickly address the elephant in the room. There’s that pesky requirement to be constantly online while playing the game. Much like Ubisoft’s much-hated DRM, this one’s getting a decent amount of flak as well – Diablo 3 is, after all, a single player game. If the servers go down, you can’t play, not to mention the possibility of lag in a single player game that most likely requires focus and precise timing on higher difficulties. On the other hand, since certain parts of the game are actually on Blizzard’s servers (so it basically functions as an MMO), piracy is more or less eliminated. Yeah, I know, private servers and all that jazz, but let’s be honest – most people will just go and play on Blizzard’s servers, because 1) it’s more convenient with better service and 2) not illegal.
The dreaded “Error 37″ and the fact that countless people were unable to play the game on launch day because the servers were crapping themselves is frustrating as hell for those affected. I managed to play the game on May 15, but yes, it did take me a while to log in. However, to me it seems like the people crying for Blizzard’s blood are blowing things a teeny bit out of proportion here. Let’s face it – things don’t always work as planned, and this is Diablo 3 we’re talking about, one of the most anticipated games of the year, and one that gamers have wanted for more than a decade now. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be dissatisfied by such a turn of events, but at the same time, it’s not utterly surprising that there would be certain hiccups on the launch day of a monumental title like Diablo 3. There are issues, but they can be addressed, and I’d like to think Blizzard is capable enough to do so. Maybe I’m the naive one here, but as I grow older I find it harder to hop onto the rage-train and see signs of the end of the world in everything.
What I’m trying to say is – yes, server issues suck big time, but at the time of writing this, it hasn’t even been a week since Diablo 3 was released. Although, I can understand if there are people out there who don’t find the game tempting enough to be able to put up with such things, especially when they’ve paid full retail price for their copies. It’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong in certain issues. For the moment, though, I think we should try to put down the torches and pitchforks and view this whole DRM issue as a dark, but brief chapter in the game’s life that can easily be left behind.
To say that the game had a rocky start would be quite the understatement. Aside from this whole DRM business, there are complaints about its ending and predictable twists, as well as claims that the game is not especially special in any way and that it essentially fails to deliver the rocketsauce that was expected by fans. However, my personal take on this is that maybe people are only this mad because the game in question is Diablo 3. The one and only, made by the gods of Blizzard on top of a holy mountain somewhere in California. So far I’ve played the game up to the middle of Act II and am having an absolute blast with it, especially when I can team up with a friend to bash skulls and drink the blood of demons together. I wanted simple hack and slash fun times, and that’s basically what I got – in all honesty, I never expected Diablo 3 to reinvent the wheel. Maybe that’s how I differ from other, more vocal fans.
As for the whole “not bringing anything new to the table” thing – this makes me scratch my head, reminiscent of the times when I witnessed people being negative about Starcraft 2 for being “just another RTS” with nothing new in it aside from better graphics. Well, we’d be in trouble if SC2 had evolved into a first person shooter, but kidding aside, I think it’s not that difficult to see how different it is from the first Starcraft in terms of mechanics, units, strategy and so on, making it both a refinement of SC1 as well as an evolution of it.
Diablo 3 is a similar case. It can be viewed as nothing more than a facelifted version of Diablo 2 that brought noting new to the table aside from its always-online DRM. I don’t think we should be so hasty with our judgement, though. What I feel is important is rather the fact that while Diablo 3, at its core, remains a game where you traverse a variety of landscapes and click your way to victory, leaving a trail of corpses in your wake, it takes the old formula, refines it, perfects it and generally spices things up enough for us to be able to have a great time playing it and not feel like we’ve done all this a million times before. Actually, I’ll go one step further and say that these changes are more important than you might think – they might be subtle, but have significant impact. For example, if you think about it, your inability to spam healing potions (they have cooldowns now, so in most cases you can only use one/battle) forces you to not take tougher fights lightly. Since you can only collect healing orbs from defeated enemies and potions only act as a sort of “last resort”, you’ll think twice before mindlessly charging into an army of elite/rare monsters. Similarly, boss monsters have their own patterns and fighting styles, and they actually feel like genuine bossfights. And the crafting system itself lets you salvage all the unneeded junk in your inventory and use the received materials to craft equipment that you actually need, which works out nicely in the end. While some frown upon the new skill system, to me it is actually everything but restrictive. Instead of having to plan ahead and commit yourself to one build, you can respec to your heart’s content, giving you freedom to choose what you want to use and when.
These are just my feelings on the issue, though. The point I’m trying to make is that “old” does not necessarily equal “bad”. Just because Diablo 3 uses the same old formula, and just because Diablo 2 has already done the same things, we mustn’t forget all the new bits that were added: the game is a crystallization of years of development that aimed to create a highly refined gaming experience using the basic core you know and love. To me, Diablo 3 is not the same old thing, reused and reheated, but rather a welcome evolution of its predecessor.