- Five character classes
- Hack-and-Slash RPG
- Single-player and multi-player modes
- Price as reviewed: £49.99
There's no getting away from it. The launch of Diablo 3 was a bit of a nightmare for developer and publisher Activision Blizzard. Overloaded servers and the need to be always online in order to play led to many frustrated fans taking to Twitter and Youtube to vent their frustration.
But that is a separate issue and this is a review, so I will be leaving the inability to log in and the reasons behind the need to be constantly connected to the Battle.net behind, and focusing on the story, gameplay and graphics instead.
First of all, before we go any further, I have a confession to make. This is the first Diablo game I have played and so I come to it as something of a novice, unsure what to expect.
Diablo 3: Story
Diablo 3 is an isometric hack-and-slash game based in the fantasy world of Sanctuary. It offers players the chance to play a single player mode, but of more interest to most Diablo fans will be the multi-player and collaborative modes.
Once you launch the game, you need to first choose which type of character you want to play. There are five classes of character to choose from: Witch Doctor, Monk, Barbarian, Wizard and Demon Hunter.
Depending on which character you choose the game you play will be very different. The initial selection doesn't allow for much customisation of your character beyond choosing the sex and customising your banner.
Once you choose and name your character you are greeted with a cut scene giving you some background to the plot.
The game takes place in Sanctuary, the dark fantasy world of the Diablo series, twenty years after the events of Diablo II. A mysterious object falls from the sky onto Tristram Cathedral where Deckard Cain is in investigating ancient texts regarding an ominous prophecy.
Cain disappears as the fallen star crashes into the cathedral, right in front of his nephew Leah. This is where you come in, arriving in New Tristram to help fight off a mob of undead creatures of various types.
Once you have managed to fight off a few of them you reach the sanctuary (pardon the pun) of the town centre and there your adventure begins with Leah and some of the guards charged with protecting the town.
Diablo 3: Gameplay
The point-and-click nature of these types of games means that if you have played any game like it, then you'll have a pretty decent understanding of how the control system works.
For those completely new to the genre, Blizzard has included a short but very informative tutorial as part of the introduction, telling you how everything works, such as how your attacks, skills and inventory can be utilised and changed.
Blizzard has used a custom in-house physics engine for Diablo 3 rather than using Havok's physics engine as it did in the previous title in the series.
The graphics, while nothing ground-breaking, are excellent, with the characters and their surroundings very detailed and excellently rendered. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into each of the five classes of character and as you customise your armour as you progress through the game, the characters' look changes too.
Unlike previous iterations of Diablo gold can now be collected by simply running over it, which is much better than having to pick up each piece individually. Defeated enemies also release health orbs, which are obviously useful, but considering you are usually collecting them when a battle has finished, are not as useful as they might be.
Adding to the overall feel of the game is the atmospheric music playing throughout. While this may sound like it could get annoying, the volume is lowered and raised depending on the situation and it not repetitious enough for it to have us reaching for the remote quickly.
The plot of Diablo 3 is rich and complex but to get the full background detail on all the characters and lore of Sanctuary doesn't require you to do a lot of reading. As you collect new pieces of information, such as logs, diarys and scrolls, the characters read out any new details uncovered, meaning you can concentrate on killing those zombies.
Diablo 3: Combat system
Fighting in Diablo 3 is not really that complicated. Rather than the turn-based combat system you get in some RPGs, such as the Final Fantasy series, the combat system in Diablo 3 sees you take on multiple enemies at the same time in what at times can seem like a chaotic mess.
The left and right mouse buttons are assigned as your primary attacks with buttons 1-4 assigned to different magic and skills.
The click-based combat, while maybe not as refined as some systems, is entirely satisfying and Blizzard has done a great job with the visuals and audio to make you feel the impact of every swing of a broadsword and every bolt of lightning.
Roaming the open maps of Sanctuary, you randomly encounter a huge range of monsters, zombies and the undead. Jumping into a group of a dozen monsters gives you a sense of glee and anticipation which you just don't get with other combat systems.
Depending on which character you use, you will be able to wield a range of weaponry including bows, axes, swords and daggers. These are all customisable and inflict different types of damage on different enemies.
As your character levels up different types of skills become unlocked, ranging from being able to heal yourself or blinding all enemies to throwing jars of spiders (but only if you're playing as the Witch Doctor).
The amount of customisation is pretty large once your character levels up a significant amount and each skill you use can be combined with one of five Rune stones which alter the effect the spells and skills have on those you are fighting.
The varying fighting styles of the different classes means that Diablo 3 really is a different game each time you play it with a new character. This certainly gives the game more longevity and will keep you coming back again and again.
However one aspect of the new game which we found to be a bit of a kop out was the Town Portal spell. With this, your character can cast a spell (if he/she has a spare five seconds) and be back in the warm embrace of New Tristram and away from whatever enemy was trying to kill you.
It takes a lot of the tension out of the game and means that if you are being overwhelmed you can quickly and easily escape to safety and recharge you health before going back for another go.
Diablo 3: Hardcore and Co-operative modes
As in Diablo 2, you get the chance to create what are called hardcore characters in Diablo 3 once their regular characters reach level 10, which doesn't take that much effort. Hardcore characters cannot be resurrected; instead they become permanently unplayable if they are killed. They also do not have access to the Auction House, where you can buy and sell game items for real money - another reason why Blizzard wanted always online DRM for Diablo 3.
Hardcore mode is designed to attract more experienced gamers who want the thrill of playing on the edge, but we found that having got to level 10 anyway, we had a fair idea about our characters limitations and powers, which meant we knew when to fight and when to flee.
Diablo 3 was never designed to be played on your own. The game is designed with co-operative online play in mind. It is only when you embrace the social aspect of the game that you really see the scope of the world Blizzard has created.
You can simply drop in and out of sessions or team up with friends to take on the common enemy. Groups of four will be pitted against vast swathes of monsters and the visceral enjoyment of seeing so much happening on-screen at once is addictive.
Diablo 3: Verdict
Diablo 3 may have been beset with a troubled beginning but there is no doubt that Blizzard has created an atmospheric and spine-tingling world for your character to wander, discover, fight and ultimately win.
The single player game is slightly repetitive and, hardcore mode aside, is not too taxing, which is a pity as we would have loved if the game had held our attention longer.
However, all is redeemed when you leave single player mode and enter the multi-player world of Sanctuary, where the possibilities are endless and your character can truly come alive.
- Overall: 8/10