Monday, June 25, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Winner!

Because Diablo III costs over 60 bucks, I was reluctant to pick it up. Its two predecessors were pretty, with lush, lovely sounds and fun mini-quests, but it was easy to grow a little weary, as the gameplay relied little on tactics and roleplaying, instead consisting entirely of endless dungeon crawls, with little in the way of coherence, and irritatingly tedious return trips through complex mazes.

For a fan of Warcraft I and II - which rely principally upon tactics - this proved a tad annoying. Not enough to make me want to quit, but enough to dampen enthusiasm for the pretty graphics and what challenges the game did offer.

Diablo 3 is a completely different kind of game. Deeply atmospheric, the environments and character animations are all beautiful, complex and compelling, the environments constantly varied and interesting, and the storyline is much more cohesive. Ambient sounds are gorgeous and realistic, and character voices are powerful and charming, the dialogue witty. The settings and encounters are evocative, eliciting a complex and rich range of reactions from pathos to disgust to outright horror (a pale, moldy, bloated corpse explodes in a shower of wriggling, rotting maggot-like pale green creatures that wriggle and writhe toward you from a cringe-inducing pile).

Creative certainly didn't  skimp on the gore - you'll be wading through blood, rotting carcasses, dog-sized rats and buckets of severed heads. Definitely not for the squeamish.
As for the cinematics - well, "breathtaking" falls short of an accurate description. Blizzard obviously gathered the best in the industry to creative cutscenes on a par with Hollywood's big-budget FX films.

Hooo purty!  Heavily influenced by the Brothers Hildebrandt too - and that's a wonderful thing!

The tedium of having to retrace one's steps as in the previous game has also been eliminated. Characters are now able to teleport to and from their locations to homebase.

My character, a female demon hunter, is great fun to play, with appropriately fantastic archery skills and a voice that elicits goosebumps. In fact, voice acting is one aspect of the game which really stands out - the actors are superb, among the best I've ever heard in a video game. The templar sidekick appears to be voiced by the inimitable Malcolm McDowell, though I've been having too much fun so far to confirm this. The dialogue is also fun - the scoundrel's sleaziness and the templar's self-righteous enthusiasm for violence are quite entertaining.

Explosive bolo crossbow bolts and machine-gun firebolts. Screw concerns over anachronisms;
this is the most epic of badassery.
If there is one flaw to be found in the game, it's that character customization is a little limited, as most level advancements are selected for you. That said, three days in, I've hit level 16 and only just entered the second act. It's a truly addictive experience. The "Live auction" feature is what drew me in the first place, but alas, it appears my dreams of earning a living playing RPGs are not likely to come true - at least not with this title. While there are indeed people selling rare items for hundreds of dollars apiece, it appears the field is dominated by early adapters, and the economy is likely to very quickly flatten out. The amount of time one must invest is likely to far outweigh any such returns. Still, I intend to soldier on, as it were. Feel free to join in the fun. See you in Hell!

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