Join Date: Jun 2009
Diablo 3 review as it happens
A mere 12 years after the last game, Diablo 3 is here. We're aiming to get our review up at the start of next week, and until then we'll be writing our impressions up here.
2 hours in
I'm playing Wizard, and I've just finished the first big story quest, which was as far as the beta went. Before I delve into the unknown, here's what's struck me so far:
3 hours in
- Combat: still incredibly satisfying. Frost Beam! I get Frost Beam almost immediately! This was a high level skill in the beta, one I never earned, and it's as frosty and beamy as I could have hoped. With this, I will stop the world.
- The new skill system is bizarre. Even as someone who played the beta 10 times, I find the mess of different windows, menus and categories bewildering at times. They've tried to make it simpler for new players by telling you which slots you should put certain skills in, but they've done it in a way that makes it hard to get an overview of what you have access to. You can turn off this restriction, but it still presents your skills as if they're in these mutually exclusive categories.
- Case in point: how do I, er, attack with my weapon? I could do it at level 1, but now that both my slots have skills in them, I have no 'attack' ability to put anywhere. If you're using Magic Missile, it's not too much of a problem: that does 110% weapon damage and costs no energy. But if I'm using Charged Bolt and Frost Nova, neither of those skills can hit something far away. I have a bow in my hand and no way to fire it.
- Good news, I've found a way! Bad news: you have to turn of the skill category restrictions, then put a skill you already have equipped into the wrong category for it, and the old slot will default to 'attack'. But you can't use it yet, because skills have to cool down after you change them around. And now your other skill is in the wrong slot. Yaay!
- In practical terms, I realise I won't often need my weapon with all these powerful, no-cost skills to choose from. But it really does underline how much less interesting loot has become in Diablo 3. For my Wizard, weapons are literally just numbers. A battleaxe that does 12 damage is identical to a bow that does 12 damage. Later, the Wizard gets a skill called Magic Weapon ' maybe that'll help.
- The first runestone you get as a Wizard is the most unexciting runestone. It adds a percentage damage to Magic Missile, the skill that's already almost identical to firing a wand.
- The third runestone you get is phenomenally cool. It makes enemies killed with Charged Bolt explode with an electric blast, killing more enemies with charged bolt. This means chewing through a mob with it sometimes triggers this spectacular crackling chain-reaction that fries them all. I also love how slotting a runestone subtly changes the sound effect for the skill, so my charged bolt has this portentous little pre-crackle before it fires now.
- Whoa, actual difficulty! I whined a lot about how easy the beta was, even for an opening chapter. Final game has teeth. I ran into a boss mob of Wretched Mothers: a whole crowd of ultra-fast hags who vomit zombies onto the ground, spawning a horrific tide of undead it was genuinely tough to plough through. At this level none of my skills penetrate enemies, so it was like an advancing wall of dead flesh I had to smash through with my Frost Beam to get to the horrible things spawning it all.
- Charged Bolt stops working. Frost Nova stops working. The zombie I'm fighting keeps groaning and flailing his arms at me, but nothing happens. We're both impotent. I run around and nudge some other zombies, also moaning but also unable to strike. My first disconnect!
I alt+tab out to check my net connection, and it's working fine. When I get back in, the game's quit to the main menu with an error saying there's been an error ' it has a number but no specifics. When I try to get back in, it throws up another error that says to make sure all of my party is ready. I'm playing single player. In a few minutes I'm able to log back in and play again. I've lost all my progress through the current zone and the world has reset and repopulated with monsters, but my character, items and quest status are intact.
There's a lot to say about the fact that this can happen even in single player, but I'll keep it brief: this is utter bull****.
- God, it's nice to be in an area I haven't played through ten times already. As you stray further from Tristram, the environments get much prettier too: I'm in autumnal orange fields, mossy green temples and burning red villages now.
- The monsters are cooler here too: huge trees come to life and start punching me, huge four-legged beasts scrape the earth with their hooves before ramming me violently, and bleeting mobs of goatmen make meaty Frost Beam fodder. Yes, I'm still using Frost Beam.
- For the sake of experiment, I decide to do the thing I suspect will make the game less fun: go on the auction house, find the highest damage weapon I can use at my level, and buy it. As I suspected, the best weapon anyone has found for a character of my level does nearly twice the damage of the best thing I've found, and it's cheaply available. The buyout is 6,000 gold ' I've found 8,000 just lying on the ground, I haven't even sold anything yet. It's an axe, and it's called theā?¦ erā?¦ you know, I'm just going to take a screenshot of what it's called.
I don't think that means what they think it means.
- My new, um, gash, makes a big difference in combat, but since I've just entered a tougher area, it doesn't render the game trivially easy. But it does do what I feared: it renders all other items irrelevant. An hour after buying it, nothing I've found even comes close in damage ' nor does anything the Blacksmith can craft for me. Buying from the auction house basically bypasses the game's loot system. I don't recommend it.
- I'm not generally playing a Diablo game for the plot, but it's worth noting that it's hilarious this time. Sample exposition: 'Of course! Just as the dead rose around the [X], the [Y] drove the goat men to madness!' That explains it!
Their endless attempts to justify why you need the umpteenth McGuffin rely on such obtuse logic that the only storytelling device they can think of is to have Deckard Cain say, 'I believe ARBITRARY ITEM will MAGICALLY SOLVE our CURRENT PREDICAMENT. I will not state why! Expect the process to consist of a small swirl of yellow light and me saying 'Of course!' or 'It is as I suspected!' a lot.'
- I have found some Knuckles of the Angels. That doesn't really give me a lot of faith in their suitability for punching people in the face.
More soon. In the meantime, thanks to everyone already sharing their experiences in the comments ' keep them coming. Particularly interested in whether you're hitting any lag or connection issues, since that may be different for each of us.