Diablo III – Stay A While And Loot Things!

Welcome back to Upon Completion everyone, this is the Masked Gentleman. First let me apologise for the long hiatus, a lot of things have been getting in the way of me writing recently but hopefully this marks a turning point. With apologies out the way let’s move on to the game I’ll be looking at today. The Diablo series is one that I put a lot of time into when younger, especially Diablo II, however when Diablo III was released I was unable to pick it up on PC as my current laptop would have exploded dramatically whilst trying to load the game. I was therefore intrigued when it was announced for home consoles and picked up  a copy as soon as I possibly could. I was initially worried that the game would be plagued by similar issues to its PC release or would feel ill suited to the console transition. Thankfully this was not the case and I feel it fills a gap which is gradually widening within the current gaming environment. A slowly growing abyss known as games with good 4 player local co-op. I’ll cover this in more depth below to begin with lets look at the game on its most basic level.

Taking a trip to hell and back

The game takes place in the same world as Diablo II with certain characters and locations returning, such as Deckard Cain, the elder of Tristram . The plot sees yourself, as a Nephalim, as well as other Nephalim and adventurers embarking on  a quest to push back the forces of hell and kill the Lesser Evils, such as Asmodan and Belial before eventually squaring off against the Prime-Evil himself, Diablo. The game cutscenes are glorious with large pitched battles between the forces of heaven and hell and the in-game graphics are also not to be sniffed at. The game takes place on an isomorphic angle with a wide range of environments including everything from deserts to the depths of hell itself. The game also handles having a large amount of enemies on screen at the same time surprisingly well with little to no frame-rate issues, even when playing with other people. The soundtrack has little to write home about and is barely audible over the dying screams of hordes of demons.

This is an example of the cutscene graphics showing off Imperius an Angel in all his glorious detail

This is an example of the cutscene graphics showing off Imperius, an Angel, in all his glorious detail

 

The gameplay is incredibly fast with the ability to map attacks and special abilities to the face and trigger buttons on the controller. An addition to the game from the PC version is the evade function which is allows the player to dodge roll away from attacks using the right analog stick. This is incredibly useful when surrounded by large groups of enemies as well as for getting away from some of the more devastating attacks. The games difficulty is based on three factors. The first is the amount of people playing with enemies getting stronger but with an increased rate of dropping better equipment. The other two things that increase the difficulty are menu based. The first is the playthrough type which starts at Normal for the first playthrough and increases through Hard, Hell and finishes on the hardest difficulty Nightmare. On each of these playthroughs the amount of boss enemies will increase and these enemies will gain new abilities some of which can be devastating. The final thing that effects difficulty is a menu option that starts off at Easy and goes up to Master V difficulty. The one feature that is worth mentioning in more detail is the class system.

This is an example of some gameplay in Diablo III showing what an average combat looks like with two people playing at the same time.

This is an example of some gameplay in Diablo III showing what an average combat looks like with two people playing at the same time.

A Short Class on Classes

When you start Diablo III you have the option to begin as one of 5 classes, each with their own special abilities, strengths and weaknesses. The main class I played was the Monk. The Monk’s main strengths are dexterity and healing, they can move incredibly quickly  around the battlefield and have abilities that rely on their focus, which is a meter that slowly raises as you punch enemies. Their main weapons are fist weapons and quarterstaffs and they can gain special bonuses when using these weapons. I quite enjoyed playing as this class and the ability to heal yourself and allies in the thick of battle proved to be vital.

An example of a monk using the two weapons he's best with, his staff and his epic beard.

An example of a monk using the two weapons he’s best with, his staff and his epic beard.

 

The next class I played was the Barbarian, like the Monk they have a meter that slowly raises as you attack enemies but unlike the Monk their Rage meter slowly depletes. Their main strength is high damage output and high defence which can be used to decimate enemies, and they specialise in using larger bladed weapons such as axes and two handed swords. Their abilities can summon spectral allies, turn them into a spinning whirlwind of death or cause them to leap across the battlefield majestically. The other three classes are all ranged.

An example of a typical barbarian carrying two large weapons and with a helmet that is mostly decorative horns.

An example of a typical barbarian carrying two large weapons and with a helmet that is mostly decorative horns.

The first of these is the Demon Hunter. This character is dexterity based and uses a combination of traps and bow weapons and fills in for the ranger type of character. This character has two meters the first is called Anger and the second called Discipline. Anger quickly recharges and is used for primarily offensive abilities whilst Discipline regenerates at a much slower rate and is used for supportive abilities such as evasion and trap making. Anger can be used to fire the crossbow like a machine gun filling the screen with pointy death whilst Discipline is used for defensive abilities like evading enemy attacks or creating caltrops that slow enemies.

The Demon hunter, complete with two crossbows using them to take out those demons she pledged to hunt down.

The Demon hunter, complete with two crossbows using them to take out those demons she pledged to hunt down.

The first magic user is the wizard. The wizard uses arcane power channeled through wands and staves in order to attack enemies. Their meter is called Mana which quickly refills and can be used for a range of offensive and defensive abilities from Ice rays to an aura that slows down time. The main downside to the wizard is that they are incredibly weak to physical damage but this is overshadowed by their ability to deal extreme amounts of damage from long distances.

Diablo 3

The Wizard in the middle of firing her death ray, the battlefield attire is probably the reason she’s fragile to physical combat.

The final character class is the witch doctor who uses a range of summoning magic to create an army of followers which both protect the witch doctor and attack enemies including zombie dogs, firebats, poisonous toads and a hulking undead monstrosity called the goliath. Like the wizard the witch doctor is weak when cornered but the ability to summon a disposable army is incredibly useful and can help occupy enemies from attacking other members of the party. As mentioned above all of these classes have their own strengths and weaknesses but are roughly balanced regarding overall power and usability, so the class you pick is utterly dependent on your favoured playstyle rather than with other games where the class choice can completely effect the game. As well as the classes the other things that affect the game are your weapons and abilities.

The final character, the Witch Doctor, complete with large mask and various implements for controlling the beast that they summon.

The final character, the Witch Doctor, complete with large mask and various implements for controlling the beasts that they summon.

 

Spells and Shiny objects

As with all dungeon-crawling adventures one of the most crucial things to the character are their spells, abilities and weapons. The spells and abilities you have are based on which class you choose with you gradually unlocking new skills by levelling up. Each of these abilities belongs to a different school and each school has several different spells. Each school initially is linked to one of the face buttons or bumpers gradually making the game more complex as you progress. It should also be noted that you can map two abilities from the same school to different face buttons at the expense of one of the other schools which is actually recommended at certain points of the game and helps you create a character you enjoy playing. These abilities are further improved by runes as you level up strengthening the ability and modifying it’s effects. This continues to make levelling up a rewarding experience even in the late game with 2-3 new runes being unlocked each level. These runes get progressively stronger as your levels increase but which runes you choose will be largely based on your playstyle.

The other aspect that affects combat are your weapons and armour, with  a huge amount of variety based on your class. Early game you will be equipping mostly common items with little effect on your character but as the game progresses you will start to equip rarer weapons with more abilities such as the ability to steal health from your opponents or increase your damage. The weapons can either be dropped by enemies or made at the blacksmith with these weapons becomingly incredibly useful towards the late game. The weapons and armour can be further improved by inserting gems into slots with each gem affecting it’s own stat. The final type of special weapon is the legendary weapon which drops with  a shining orange pillar that is easily identifiable amongst the chaos going on. These weapons have special abilities and are also named, with certain weapons summoning spectral allies to help you, whilst others shoot out a rain of knives whenever you take damage. These weapons are amongst the strongest in the game but can become eclipsed by normal rare weapons as you progress through multiple playthroughs. This brings me onto my major gripe with the game.

The menu's on Diablo III feel crisp, and easy to use with the Left analogue stick being used to select different abilities and weapons.

The menu’s on Diablo III feel crisp, and easy to use with the Left analog stick being used to select different abilities and weapons.

Nose to the grindstone

My  major problem with Diablo III is the prevalence of grinding. Each playthrough is mostly the same with the only difference being a greater number of special enemies. This lack of variety in gameplay can become boring especially when you are completing the game for the fifth or sixth time. Once you hit max level this gets worse with the only major post-game content being the collection of better weapons and the addition of paragon levels which do not add more abilities but do raise stats. This monotony led to me becoming unenamoured with the game when playing by myself but I feel that this is not how the game is meant to be played and its greatest strength is its local multiplayer

The Couch Co-op King

Diablo III becomes more enjoyable whilst playing with friends and unlike a lot of recently produced games it allows four players to play at the same time on one console rather than over the internet. This is an increasingly worrying trend, with certain games ditching local multiplayer all together in favour of online matchmaking and the cacophony of problems that this comes with (I’m looking at you Dragonball Z- Battle of Gods). Anyway, back to the couch multiplayer aspect. I played with two other friends and our party consisted of Nerista the female witch doctor, Fredley the Barbarian and Rah-Rah-Rasputin the monk. This party turned out to be quite balanced and we had no problems dealing with the monsters that spawned before us. Playing in the same room also led to  a variety of injokes and stories being formed which is something I feel happens much more rarely in online multiplayer with most games feeling clinical and devoid of humour. The natural disposition that classes have towards weapon types helped reduce disputes over loot and we actively worked together to ensure the party was well equipped sharing resources when needed. The local multiplayer is not perfect however with the menus for equipping items only allowing one player at a time to change. This combined with the large amount of items dropped and abilities unlocked, especially in playthrough one, meant that up to 20 minutes of time could be wasted in the inevitable item change when travelling back to the hub city. Despite this I feel that Diablo III local multiplayer is it’s strongest feature and for gamers looking to experience a high octane game with friends I could not more highly recommend it.

Diablo III is a fun game to play with friends, catering to a wide variety of playstyles and with  a wide range of difficulties to suit all levels of player. This makes it increasingly different to other games on the market with the inclusion of four player co-op back into console gaming is something that I would personally like to see. Despite this the game does have some issues with the repetitive playstyle making the single player campaign unnecessarily monotonous. Hopefully this has changed with the Reaper of Souls expansion which I will hopefully get round to playing. Until then thank you all for reading this review of Diablo III and I hope to see you again next time.

 Images belong to their respective owners

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