Diablo 3 Review- One Month In

It’s been approximately one month since Blizzard unleashed Diablo 3 onto the world, and if you’re staying off of the official forums and playing the game less than 12 hours a day, you’re probably having a good time. If you’ve been on the official Blizzard forums you likely think the game is an unmitigated disaster, but I’d urge you not to read the official forums as just like any other game, they are total trash, full of racism, immaturity, and a sense of entitlement that all the iPhone 5’s in the world wouldn’t be able to sate. A lot of this stems from the initial release of Blizzard’s first “online only/always even for single player” game and the massive crush to get on the servers at launch. A lot of people were locked out at the very beginning- I couldn’t play until nearly 90 minutes after the servers first opened, for example- and this got the game off to sort of a rocky start, despite the fact that the game has largely been up since launch, with an expected rough patch at the beginning. To listen to some of the whiners talk, the fact that the game hasn’t had 100% uptime since the first minute is enough of a reason to write the game off as an utter and total failure.

I’d like to say a word here about the always-online nature of D3. Gamers…we did this to ourselves. I had a Kazaa phase in the early 2000’s where I simply “acquired” every single game that came out and if you say you’ve never played a game you didn’t pay anything for, I’d be inclined to call you a liar. Blizzard wants to be paid (rightfully) for their game and as such, the persistent Internet connection you need is for two reasons, as I see it- one, to combat the rampant piracy of Diablo 2- did anyone actually pay for that game? Two, the Auction House. I’ll cover that a little more in detail later in the post but the nature of the Auction House- especially the much lauded AND maligned Real Money Auction House- means that Blizzard can’t trust users with client-side data, otherwise, D3 will devolve into the same dupe-and-hack-fest that Diablo 2 was. There’s no way to make a game like Diablo III- by which, I mean, a game where the Auction House is a fundamental part of the design and experience- into an offline game. This has pissed off a lot of people with say, crappy or metered internet, and in particular, quite a few servicemen have chimed in that D2 was the game they played when deployed on a submarine or overseas, and now they are totally unable to play as they obviously can’t get an Internet connection. I mean, that’s a tough one…but there are tons of other games out there that don’t require a persistent connection. I’m just saying.

My main character is a female wizard named Teevo, here’s what she looks like and her stats and skill buildout:

I’ve also been running a Witch Doctor that’s up to about level 34 and a Monk that’s hit level 14. I run all these toons because I have at least 3 or 4 different groups that I play with, so I like to have toons at a lot of different levels. I eventually plan to have a 60 of all 5 classes- Monk, Barbarian, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter– so that I can fill any role that may come up. I’ve also been playing a Hardcore Wizard but she’s only at level 7 or 8- the current lag and lag spike situation has made Hardcore- where if you die once, that’s it, your character and gear are toast- a proposition for masochists only. There was a lag spike last Sunday night, in fact, that caused my ping to go over 1500 ms:

-and I live about 9 miles from Blizzard’s servers. I rubberbanded around for about 30 seconds and luckily was in a safe spot but I can only imagine how many Hardcore players lost their hours of work. Grr, frustrating. I ran through Normal difficulty solo and it was a serious cakewalk- I think I died maybe 2 times, due to being interrupted or not paying attention. In Normal, your build doesn’t matter, your gear doesn’t matter, you don’t even have to pay attention. Since skipping it isn’t an option, use your Normal playthrough to check out the *teehee* “story” and awesomely done cutscenes- you can skip them on your subsequent Nightmare, Hell and Inferno difficulty-level playthroughs by hammering the Esc key. And you will- because the plot is ridiculous and the voice acting is laboured, but I seriously hope that’s not what you bought or might be buying D3 for. D3 is about clicking on stuff until it dies, and complaining about the “plot” is ridiculous. As I mentioned, though, the CGI cutscenes are top notch, which we’ve come to expect in Blizzard games.

The game really starts to pick up in difficulty after 2 playthroughs, one on Normal and one on Nightmare. When you get to Hell difficulty the game really ramps things up- you were probably able to get by without the auction house until now and you were probably able to solo up until now as well. However, with the steep ramp up in difficulty between Nightmare and Hell- you’re going to be spending some money on gear at the Auction House, or hitting up your friends for their old weapons. Otherwise, you are looking at a very serious grind- anecdotally, I’ve only had useful items drop maybe every 3 Acts, meaning that I potentially might not see a drop I can use in all of Nightmare. However, the AH has lots of great gear, and for cheap- just set a max buyout of 10 or 20k and you’d be surprised how much of an upgrade you’ll be able to get. When I went from Nightmare to Hell mode I dropped 40k on a weapon that effectively doubled my Wizard’s DPS, and that was maybe 12% of my total gold stash. By the way…spend your gold. What are you saving it for? The Auction House can be as interesting as the game to play- I have already flipped a knife that I found for 750 gold for 110k gold. I find myself logging in at weird times, before work, before dinner, before bed, etc. just to see if I can spot an undervalued auction to buy and flip.

Oh, and get an authenticator. It’s either free if you have a smartphone or like $6 if you don’t, and even if you don’t plan to use the RMAH, do you really want to log in and find 120 hours of your game time negated by someone with a keylogger? GET. AN. AUTHENTICATOR. There is literally no reason not to have one. Here are links to download the apps:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blizzard.bma&hl=en (Android)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/battle.net-mobile-authenticator/id306862897?mt=8 (iPhone)

The game is definitely a lot more fun with friends, it just feels like loot is better, even if it isn’t. It’s also nice to have someone there to rez you if you die- however, if you haven’t played the game once, I recommend soloing Normal just so you can see the plot and flavor dialogue, as subsequent playthroughs will largely be everyone in the party mashing the button to skip the conversation or Esc to skip the cutscene and get back to the demon smashing. Beware that 4 people in a party will cause A LOT of enemies to be on the screen at once, my 550ti has choked a little bit in places when the game essentially turns into a bullet storm/bullet hell type of screen for a few moments (I love it when the game goes that way, personally). It’s easy to jump in and out of friends’ games, but beware- if you take a character into a friend’s (or public, for that matter) game, you will lose any checkpoint progress you’ve made in “your” game and will have to restart at the beginning of whatever chapter you were on last. If you’re playing Hardcore or Inferno, you might want to disable the option for friends to quick join your games- you don’t want to face down mobs geared for 2 players while the late joiner repairs gear or buys potions.

Hopefully, you didn’t buy Diablo 3 for the crafting aspects, which right now are pretty crappy. You can break down items you find in the world for materials and then craft items with random magic properties; these items could be great and sell for millions on the Auction House, or they could be horrible Wizard-only weapons with +STR stats. You’re literally rolling the dice, and it’s expensive and time consuming to gather the drops and the gold to level your Jeweler and Blacksmith to the max level (10). At the time of writing this, my artisans are at level 6 and are likely going to stay at level 6 until I have 5 fully geared level 60 characters and I’m looking for a money sink.

I don’t know if Diablo is going to stand up to the thousands of hours that people played Diablo 2, especially if they don’t add a PvP aspect to the game so that people have an arena in which to flaunt their e-peens, but it’s off to a good start, in my opinion. The RMAH went live yesterday and that should lead to some interesting shennanigans, as well.

Play with me, won’t you? I’m SonOfADiddly#1736 on Battle.net. I’ll see you in Inferno!

 

Fran’s friends say:

“It’s definitely great, mindless fun. And has sucked away even more of the SWTOR subscriber base. ” -Scott

“Needs more polish, Blizzard needs to stop paying mediocre, lazy programmers minimum wage and start paying skilled programmers decent pay; otherwise, it’s an enjoyable time passer until Guild Wars 2. Also, the crafting system is supposed to mirror the gambling system from D2, if you think about it that way, the implementation makes sense.” -Nik

 “There are a lot of good and bad things to Diablo 3 (D3). A good start is comparing it to Diablo 2 (D2).  Whereas D2 required you to group and compete for single drops, D3 gives everyone their own loot. This is both good and bad. Good in that I don’t have to worry about getting drops. Bad in that there’s no sense of competition. 

Crafting is crap. You’re basically forced to gamble. What’s so ‘crafty’ about that? At least in D2 you could manipulate gambling. In D3 you’re at the mercy of your 100th+ INT items as a Barbarian. Oh, look at that, I’m going back to the auction house now. In D2 gold was worthless. D3? It’s more valuable (arguably) to gold farm and hit the AH for what you need. As a result, there’s less of a sense of accomplishment (but perhaps more of a sense of moving forward?). It still feels very awkward. Oh, yeah, the AH interface sucks balls. Terrible. Absolutely terrible. The search sucks. The sorting sucks. The layout sucks. The number of active auctions you can have sucks. But, at least it works (well, most of the time). Still, it’s a great idea. Let’s just make it useful?

D2 had game names. D3? Nope. You browse by quest you’re on. This removes the sense that there are ‘other’ games out there besides the people on your battle.net friends list or when you open a game to the public. I used to love game hopping in D2 from game to game on Baal runs. No more of that! Your Nephalem buff keeps you in one game re-running the same quests and storyline in long format.

The game is just very… a lot like WoW to be honest. The combat with procs and cooldowns–this is not uncommon to the Diablo franchise, but if you’ve played both D3 and WoW, you see it -everywhere-. But they didn’t go all the way. It’s like they got lazy. But, still, the crucial things are there: you click a lot and kill a lot of demons. There’s magic. Check.

In the end, you still zone out and have fun, but as soon as you wake up, you start to see some of the imperfections.” – Gary (wow, thanks Gary!)

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