There are three primary sources of red eyes in the world: onion, Gentoo, and Diablo II. Nerds from all over the globe put their best hopes on Diablo III as one more red eye inducer and rubbed their hands in anticipation of the great moment when they would finally return to Tristram to resume butchering hordes of abominable demons in the city catacombs. Now, as the game has been finally released after a long 12-year wait, many of them let out a sigh of a deep disappointment: 'Another one bites the dust.' Casualization, which killed so many great video game franchises, has come to Diablo.
The first harbinger of the coming disaster was the game visual style we saw in the first Diablo III videos in 2008. Instead of the sullen, Gothic atmosphere of Sanctuarium as we had it in the first two series titles, we got a full-fledged WoW-ish world, full of bright colors and cartoon-like characters. The apparent reason for making Diablo III brighter is to appeal to the World of Warcraft generation, which is used to that visual style and has heard about Diablo II only in the elders' tales. However, this style change frustrated and enraged many long-time avid Diablo-fans, including me.
There are still ways to sugar the bitter design pill if you're one of us oldies. A community of enthusiasts has developed a special Dark Diablo III Direct3D filter that makes the game look less saturated and life-asserting. Although the resulting Diablo III look is still cartoon-like, it feels really much better than what you originally get: without the filter you're playing My Little Pony the whole time.
Another fatal blow is delivered to the game in the oldie's eyes as soon as his or her character reaches level 2. You reach the new level and crack your knuckles, anticipating long, detailed studying of the skill trees and stats distribution... only to find there are no tree skills and no stats points that you have to assign. The system has been made fully automatic. Now, the stats point are assigned depending on the character class you're playing for. The 100% American 'think for yourself' system from Diablo II got substituted with a rigid Hindu caste approach: if you're born a Barbarian, you'll always be like the other Barbarians and there's no way you can change it.
The skill trees have undergone drastic changes as well: they've disappeared. Instead, the players have got a skill pool. Roughly speaking, that's a system of skills to select from as you level up. However, unlike in Diablo II, they are not tied up to transitional skills you have to give a point to in order to reach more powerful abilities. Each skill can be modified with one of the runes that get opened with new levels, allowing you to inflict additional damage or increase your hit radius.
As a result, as one of my colleagues sadly stated, the Diablo III skill system has become similar to that of Call of Duty: 'So, you've chosen a machine gun. You can enhance it either with a flashlight or with a grenade launcher. If you don't like the machine gun with the grenade launcher, you can always tear it off and fix a flashlight onto the barrel.' Very easy, much fun, diversifies the game experience... but Call of Duty is no RPG. I mean, that's a great game and you can spend days playing it, but seriously, it's no RPG. And neither is Diablo III. It's a hack'n'slash action game with (rudimentary) RPG elements, tons of (cartoon-like) gore, an (over)elaborate plot and thousands of great (no additional epithets attached) items.
Diablo III is addictive, it makes you stay up till morning, depriving yourself of your night sleep and your dearest and nearest of your presence near them; it's an awesome game, honestly. But taken in the Diablo franchise context, it doesn't feel like a continuation of the good old series traditions, as a logical development of the ideas found in the first two games. The new concepts constitute rather a dramatic turn to the action elements, appealing to the mass and/or WoW-playing and/or younger audience. Not everything has been simplified or casualized: there are two more armor parts (hear, Bethesda? more armor parts!), there are far more perfection grades of the jewels, there are no class-specific items. However, the
To sum it all up, Diablo III is awesome, but don't play it if you've already tried out the previous games in the series. Most likely, yo
Picture Credit: Blizzard Entertainment; Homicide