ESRB rating: Mature
Review rating: 4.0 stars
Most people know of Blizzard Entertainment as the creators of "World of Warcraft," but in the gaming realm, they're known for much more! Not only have they crafted the incredibly popular "Starcraft" strategy series but their "Diablo" series also invented the hack-and-slash RPG genre. This series is so popular that gamers are still playing "Diablo 2" twelve years after its release. Now, "Diablo 3" has finally been unleashed upon the gaming masses, and despite the plethora of changes, the core game play remains intact.
The story of "Diablo 3" begins twenty years after the corrupted Worldstone was destroyed and all three prime evils were defeated at the conclusion of "Diablo 2." Not surprisingly, the peaceful world of Sanctuary is once again facing destruction after a mysterious object falls from the sky that unleashes Hell's army upon the hapless inhabitants of New Tristram! Various heroes seeking fame and fortune flock to the doomed town, and this is where the epic saga begins.
Unfortunately, a reliable high-speed Internet connection is required to play both the single player and co-op adventures. If one isn't available, then purchasing this game is a waste of money because it's literally unplayable. This alienates a large group of people and also severely limits where the game can be played on portable computers. On top of that, no one can play the game when patches are introduced or the servers go down, which is all too common.
However, playing "Diablo 3" is a very enjoyable experience when everything is working correctly. Just like past iterations, players begin their journey by choosing one of several classes, and then it's time to dive right into combat. One might think that killing demons and looting their carcasses over and over would eventually become tiresome, but the developers have created an elaborate and complex world that distracts players from this simplistic task.
Instead of offering an overabundance of skills and choices like what's found in "Diablo 2," the latest version drops skill points in favor of a non-permanent system. Now players are offered new skills with each new level they attain, and these skills can either be used right away or saved for later. With a limited number of slots in which skills can be placed, budding adventurers must choose which ones they prefer. When the ability to swap out skills between combat encounters is added to the mix, the result is more freedom to experiment and less dedication to pursuing particular builds.
Runes automatically unlock at certain levels, and they're used to modify skills with extremely powerful results. For starters, the Wizard's laser-like Disintegrate skill can be modified to simultaneously fire from both hands or to have smaller beams shoot out and attack enemies close to the caster. Another example is how the Barbarian's Bash skill can be altered to create a powerful knock-back, a handy stun or lash out at surrounding enemies with an area-of-attack effect.
Further character modification comes in the form of useful weapons and gear looted from slain enemies. Part of the fun of playing this series is the anticipation of finding one dagger or helmet that is more powerful and/or useful than what the player currently has. While this is still strong motivation to continue playing, the inclusion of an auction house where players can buy and sell gear negates the importance of finding loot. It's too easy to become reliant upon other people's finds, which in turn means that die-hard players will buy most of their gear and sell most of the loot they find.
There are still plenty of issues to be worked out, and PvP hasn't even been included yet, but patient PC gamers will surely be playing "Diablo 3" for years to come!