Diablo III

February 26, 2021 by Lucian Mogosanu

This third installment of the Diablo series is what remains when you strip the hack-and-slash genre to its bare essentials. If you're old enough, then you probably recall arcade hits such as Double Dragon or Final Fight, those kinda-isometric side-scrollers where all you did was smash some keys haphazardly hoping to score... and stay alive. Well, this one is essentially the same thing, a sort of nostalgic return to the glorious '80s, except with orders of magnitude more shiny. Otherwise -- precisely the same thing.

The story of Diablo begins, as most stories do, before "Diablo" was anything at all. Let us remember how 1995 and 1996 were the years of Warcraft: a top-down (again, sorta-isometric, except not really) strategy game where you controlled a bunch of "units" down the path of glory, having them maintain a small economy and wage some war and whatnot -- anyway, a fun little real-time point and click strategy inspired, no doubt, by Westwood's Dune II. It was around that same time when the dudes over at Blizzard North wondered if and how it would be possible to blend the qualities of roguelike games -- of NetHack, in one word -- with this "real-time" thing. I bet it mustn't have been easy at all, but they did it and it was immensely successful: over half a million pieces sold in 1997, circa ten times more than Fallout, although about half the sales of the first Grand Theft Auto in its first year. Come to think of it, 1997 was a pretty good year for computer games, wasn't it?

After the initial success, Blizzard put all those dollars to work and by mid-2000 they released a sequel which sold twice as much as the figure above in the first six months alone. There isn't much difference gameplay-wise between the first and the second Diablo: both are isometric point-and-click games where you need to gather various items and use them to kill critters and evolve your character. Diablo II, however, has a whole lot more critters, weapons, armors, skills and classes than its father, which results in a more finely complex, and as a result more enjoyable game, at least as far as 13-year old Lucian was concerned.

This Diablo universe never had much of a story, unfortunately. However, it does contain a detailed lore and a sort of mythology with demons and beasts and whatnot and while the first two games managed to maintain something which vaguely resembled coherence, there exists no such thing in Diablo III. Which brings us to Diablo III.

Diablo III inherits from its predecessors (their expansions too) all of these things, while at the same time none of them. It takes its let's-call-it-a-story down a path and towards an ending, except by the time we reach said ending, we might as well have been through entirely randomly-generated, infinite terrain. And so on with most other aspects: there's no more pointing and clicking, since it had to be made accessible to Nintendo users1; the music and the level design are a (sometimes literal) copy of Diablo II; and in a tragic twist of events, the characters even have mana that isn't really mana, not to mention those classes that aren't really the same as before, but slightly different in all the (non-)essential respects. In other words, Diablo III is a slightly less playable Diablo II with revamped graphics.

I won't deny that it's fun, though, at least not until it gets boring. Here's a fun little hack: if you want to beat the game with almost zero effort, just grab your woman/man/dog/whatever and play the game in two. Each such multiplayer co-op game begins with a warning that "the creatures around you are getting stronger", yet despite that, somehow it's much easier to level up and obtain rarities when pairing up than it is when you're playing alone. At least this was my experience: by Act II or III (depending on luck) I had obtained that legendary weapon which allowed me to finish Act IV in a couple of moves; then in Act V it didn't really matter anymore, with the notable exception of the final boss, who died in the third try. This game was way too easy on "normal", I guess then "hard" must be the new "normal", huh? I hear there's a fourth game in the works, perhaps they'll finally remove those confusing difficulty levels altogether, who knows...

Otherwise we mustn't overlook the fact that Blizzard has spoiled us with games that are at the very least decent from a technical point of view; and Diablo III makes no exception. The game simply works, it doesn't stutter and it doesn't go too fast; they could have done away with the long and useless blather, but anyway... Remember those times when you installed a game and went and played it the whole night straight? And you'd go to bed exhausted in the morning and wake up late in the day out of some dream related to the game, only to get ready for another round of graphic violence or whatever. Well I remember those days clearly and I can swiftly enumerate the games that'd be worth all that trouble. And Diablo III is definitely not one those. But it's something... I guess.

  1. Just in case you're wondering, I played it on a PlayStation 4.

    In case you're wondering why... I honestly don't know how to answer that. It's a game, who cares, get over it already. Besides, those plastic controllers give a stone and a beating to keyboards as far as some games are concerned. But let's not to abuse this very frail article with even more of my rambling. 

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