The original Diablo did a lot to set exceedingly high benchmarks in the Action RPG space thanks to its easy learning curve and the addictive loop that encapsulated it’s fight, loot, fight mechanics. The sequel did even more and developed the kind of longevity rarely seen in PC games. To say it was a phenomenon is an understatement but one that I somehow let pass by.
Which comes to Diablo III. This game had its fair share of early stumbles such as the auction house but over the last six years (!) the team at Blizzard committed themselves to improving the core product until it was as shiny a jewel as it could ever be. Thankfully my own experience with the game begins after all the dramas when I picked up the “Ultimate Evil” edition a year ago. That it’s taken me this long to actually play the game is likely inconceivable to many but I’ve seen the light and jump into it recently. And I’ve got to say it’s a cracking game.
The player, after choosing a character class from either Barbarian, Crusader (Reaper of Souls DLC), Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer (Rise of the Necromancer DLC), Witch Doctor or Wizard, find themselves in the town of New Tristram after a falling star smashes into the original Tristram cathedral, trapping series stalwart Deckard Cain. And that just covers the initial act which takes you through to resolving the riddle of the falling star. But in the tradition of the series this is just the beginning and story quickly brings in both Heaven and Hell in a showdown that only your character can eventually overcome. There are five acts in total with the final one coming from Reaper of Souls.
Jumping into the game the thing that strikes you is just how easy the basic controls are – left stick moves, right dodges and the face buttons, triggers activate your chosen abilities. You start with only a couple of abilities but as you gain experience in the game you quickly unlock more and can soon be selective in what to assign to the buttons allowing you a lot of choice in how you want to play. Smart use of these by factoring in their cost and recharge rates can mean your character can be continuously on the offense which is key with the number of enemies that come your way.
And when those enemies come, they don’t do it by halves either. There are moments when it seems like you’re taking on a whole army by yourself but when you finally get through it and collect some sweet new gear in the process it’s a pretty good feeling and the game does well with the risk/reward factor. The higher the level I am the more I notice it becoming harder to find that perfect item to boost my character further but it’s still fun to tear through a bunch of enemies.
The game doesn’t end with the Campaign either with Adventure Mode unlocking after completion of the fifth act. This lets you revisit all of the areas from the five acts. By chasing bounties in those locations you can also access additional dungeons know as Nephalem Rifts. You won’t ever be short of a challenge and the adjustable difficulty (which opens up additional options as you progress) allows you to balance the experience to your preferred style of play.
And you can do all of this, including the campaign, with three other players too. Admittedly it can also be easy to take advantage of this and boost a character by joining a team with higher level players. it may not get you the great loot any faster but it can help you get through tough encounters. It also allowed me a change to see other maxed out character plying their own sweet moves which was hugely entertaining from a destruction point of view.
Blizzard’s visual design never ceases to be anything but absolutely amazing and Diablo III is a perfect example of that. Environments are atmospheric and characters are detailed and animate well. Backed up up with impressive cinematics, this could have been released in 2018 and still be considered state of the art. Running on my Xbox One X the game was smooth and without a fault at all.
If there was one thing that I wished were possible it was to be able to fiddle around with the camera at times. The isometric position chosen works well in a majority of cases but there are still times when you can be obscured by the environment and I’d wish I could rotate the view just a fraction to see what’s going on. That it rarely happens shows that the developers were very mindful of this when designing the levels but with so many games now using the right controller stick for changing the viewpoint it can still catch you out.
I’m certainly late to this particular party but am REALLY happy to now be a part of it. Tearing through enemies when you’ve reached maximum level and can cast down World War 3 on all around you does not get old. Diablo III shows that a good design and continued support can make a game stand the test of time and it remains one of the best example of the genre.
Diablo III is out now on PC, Xbox 360/One and 360, PlayStation 3/4. Reviewed on an Xbox One X.