The Dark Lord has returned in Blizzard’s most epic adventure to date in the Diablo series. Fires, demons, and insane difficulty levels headline the latest Diablo title for a journey unlike any other. The gameplay is more streamlined than ever before, whereas the combat itself has a range of elements that is intensifying as it is tantalizing. Diablo III delivers everything the fans of the series have long been awaiting through an action packed adventure through a story driven quest which leads to a path of sheer devastation. With incredible gameplay assets and one of the most powerful refined game mechanics of the franchise, Diablo III provides a parapsychological display into the next title of the franchise with perhaps more to come through various guaranteed expansions.
The storyline begins shortly after the events of Diablo II twenty years into the future. The Sanctuary is the ominous backdrop of a decadent night air that is terrifying. Deckard Cain along with his niece Leah are studying ancient texts in the sanctity of the Tristram Cathedral regarding an ominous prophecy. Suddenly, a mysterious star falling from the heavens collides into the Cathedral, creating a blue chasm crater into which Deckard Cain disappears. Soon, a Nephalem arrives to investigate the fallen star which is where the character development truly begins. Followers are also part of the journey, from Kormac the Templar to Lyndon the Scoundrel and Eirena the Enchantress. As the journey continues into an incredible plot twist, it is clear that Blizzard spent countless hours perfecting the storyline with not just the main quest element, but various random side-quests. The storytelling is narrated with a picture box and the stunning voice direction breathes life into the storyline narrative.
Diablo III’s primary gift comes in the form of character development statistics in the main gameplay. Diablo III has five classes: Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, and Demon Hunter. Within each class, there is a different source of power besides Health which is affected by primary statistics of Vitality, Dexterity, Strength, and Magic. Each class primarily uses its own action bar abilities (Defensive being the common one) and primary and secondary skills for the mouse. Passive skills are as the name indicates and provides a wide variety of gameplay type of character customizations and abilities by disabling recommended skills per set, therefore someone can have two defensive type skills under one action bar and so on. Every skill comes with Runestones, which is a Diablo II element which returns. Each skill rune gives carries a singular different effect per base skill. Skill runes increases the number of skill variations to 6 including the base skill and since each character class has 20 skills, the overall total of skill variations is equivalent to 120 total. Character unlocks for passive skills work at different levels (10, 20, 30) while actual action bar skills vary across every few levels. Follower abilities themselves come in pairs of two that are capable to be retrained at 5,10,15,20 with the Scoundrel and Templar, whereas the enchantress abilities are offset 15,20,25,30. In some cases, leveling for followers can lag behind leveling for actual characters or in other cases progress beyond the level of the main protagonist’s character. Leveling itself is progressively more difficult as the difficulty level goes from Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. Inferno is the newest mode in Diablo III where character levels are 61 and your own level is usually 60. As you level up, you level up through the mode. The leveling aspect of Diablo III is the primary gameplay mechanic which brings a host of new elements from item modifications to actual weapon rarities.
Items such as weapons come equipped with gem spaces that can add additional attributes that can range from Magic Find to Gold Find and Added experience points per monster kill per kill. The marketplace itself is straightforward with a lot of bidding and the real money auction house recently went live and is already seeing great gains in terms of item acquisition. Items introduce the aspect of not just item durability but also Artisans and general Crafting itself. Artisans are currently three: Blacksmith, Jeweler, and Magical. They can each be trained up to 10 levels per artisan with four levels of graphical upgrades. After level 5, pages of training are needed along with much gold per level to increase a progress bar to the next level. All of these artisans work together to make powerful weapons that have sockets and also utilize special gems/magical abilities. Some of the socketed rare weapons and armor can increase primary character attributes for a more powerful character, so players can make DPS versions of certain characters or hybrid combinations of characters depending on types of classes with a level of flexibility that is unheralded. Item quality ranges from magical, rare, and legendary items with color of blue, to yellow, and finally orange. These item color schemes are simple and yet very exciting for players when loot actually drops, creating a style similar to World of Warcraft fame in terms of loot colors and the Blizzard team that worked on Diablo III did a necromantic job in creating a level of item classification and modifications that are invigorating from the difficulty levels and variations per class (in terms of the best items in the game which can vary due to socketing ingenuity).
Diablo III’s cooperative mode is great but one thing that needs to be mentioned is the system of checkpoints. If a player’s checkpoint in his/her own game and joins another game to reach a checkpoint level at an earlier or later time, then he/she loses his own checkpoint when going back to singleplayer mode. While this makes sense, and even though the matchmaking system tries its best to group a player near your variables of the game’s save progress, it can sometimes offset gameplay experience by forcing someone to replay through their game. Regardless, this is not a glaringly terrible issue and the actual cooperative play of Diablo III with individual loot drops with no decreased rarity percentage is a stunning improvement similar to World of Warcraft’s drop system in terms of party members (minus the ninja steals).
With incredible game mechanics, and a satisfying campaign with a definitive ending and replayability for the true fans through the difficulty levels, Diablo III satisfies its name. Diablo III brings back the Dark Lord in a light that is as glaringly rubescent as the evil besetting his face for a generation to come.