The Diablo series defined the hack-and-slash role-playing genre with its large assortment of creatures, dungeons, and items. It offered a dark, compelling fantasy world filled with an assortment of demonic entities. Diablo III continues the lore of the first two games by opening the story with a catastrophe that impacts New Tristram.
A star falls from the heavens and hits Tristram Cathedral, burying itself deep inside the building’s foundation. Decker Cain and his niece Leah were inside the cathedral researching an old prophecy when the star struck the building. Leah happens to escape with her life, but Decker Cain vanishes. You are asked to search for Decker Cain and return him to his niece, Leah.
As the story unfolds, you discover the falling star is actually a mysterious man suffering from amnesia. To restore the stranger’s memory, you must recover his sword that shattered into three pieces when he struck the cathedral. By yourself or with friends, you venture into the world of Sanctuary to retrieve the sword pieces and to seek answers to the recent undead plague infecting the land.
Like its predecessors, Diablo III offers different classes during the character creation process. The player can choose to be a Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor or Wizard. The character process is simple; you are only required to choose the character’s gender and input a name.
Each class has traits that can be beneficial to other players while grouping, but they are capable of sustaining themselves during a single-player campaign. For Diablo veterans, a Hardcore Hero feature is available that offers a higher risk reward. Once your hero dies in this mode, however, he/she cannot be revived and the game will end.
Once you have completed the character creation process, you are sent to the town of New Tristram to begin your journey and to investigate the Fallen Star. As you approach New Tristram, you discover that it’s crawling with the flesh-eating undead. Captain Runford and his soldiers stand guard outside the town’s gate, preventing the evil plague from penetrating the safety inside its walls. After assisting the captain and his soldiers during an undead ambush, you are given access to the city to meet Leah, the niece to the missing Decker Cane.
The game is divided into five chapters; the first chapter takes place in New Tristram. Like all towns in Diablo III, there are a number of merchants where you can buy and sell items and repair your armor. There is an Artisan NPC in town that can teach you blacksmithing or jewel crafting. This will grant you the skill to craft armor and weapons, but the quality of these items will vary based on your crafting level.
Also in town is a stash box (or storage container) that is used for storing items. Since your character’s inventory tends to clutter up quickly (thanks to the numerous weapon drops that consume two inventory slots), you will find yourself making numerous trips to town to unload valuable gear. The stash box starts you off with 14 slots, but additional ones can be purchased later for 10,000g (or 100,000g after purchasing four slots).
Gameplay includes a number of enhancements that were not available in the last two games. For starters, gold can be collected by just touching it. In previous games, the player had to click on every item that dropped, including gold. This speeds up the game considerably. A random level generator and random encounter generator has been added to increase the variety of some dungeons.
During combat, creatures will drop Health Orbs to replenish your character’s health. Certain armor drops offer bonuses that can increase the amount of health these orbs administer. The skill bar offers far more flexibility. The player can assign hotkeys for skills and spells, making combat more convenient. However, these slots only unlock when your character levels.
Blizzard has done away with the socket rune system from Diablo II and replaced it with skill runes. Skill runes are not items; they are skill modifiers that unlock as you level. When a skill rune unlocks, it can be applied to a combat skill to affect its damage output or power cost. This adds a new dimension to the gameplay.
The point-and-click interface responds flawlessly during combat. Diablo veterans will feel right at home as they massacre Dark Cultists, Highland Walkers, and other demonic entities. Creatures explode as you hack them to pieces; decapitated heads roll away after being severed from their bodies; and explosions send body parts flying in all directions. The combat experience is not only engaging, but exhilarating. There’s plenty of creatures to kill in the world of Sanctuary.
Since launch, Blizzard has implemented a general chat feature so gamers can communicate while playing the game. Since Diablo III requires a constant connection to Battle.net (even for single-player campaigns), adding a chat channel eliminates the isolation players felt during launch. It also makes it easier to find groups when your friends are not online. Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends.
Before launch, Blizzard announced that Diablo III would incorporate two different auction house systems. The first auction house is similar to the one seen in World of Warcraft. The player adds his/her items to the auction house, then decides on a price, and then players bid on the item until the auction ends. The second auction house system has been the subject of ridicule. Known simply as the ‘money’ auction house, this system gives players the freedom to sell in-game gear for real money. Unfortunately, this feature has been delayed and a date has not been given.
Diablo III exceeds all expectations. It blends solid hack-and-slash gameplay with intuitive role-playing features. Fans have been waiting a long time for this day and it was worth the wait. If you don’t already own Diablo III, you should. It’s one of the best role-playing games available on Mac/PC today.
Platform: Mac (Multi-lingual DVD supports PC/MAC)
ESRB: M (Mature)
|Diablo III's graphics are mesmerizing.|
|Classic tracks from previous Diablo games make their return.|
|There are numerous enhancements that set Diablo III apart from its processors.|
|Diablo III is Game of the Year, plain and simple.|