After a weekend of Diablo 3, 51 levels on my monk and a few on some others, I think I have a pretty solid view of the game as sent to the masses. In a sentence, it’s worth the buy.
Up: As with all Blizzard games, the game oozes style and presentation. All character models move well, the colors are perfect and on the whole, the entire process of zone distribution from Act 1 to 4 is solid. The cinematics are really well done too, which is expected.
Down: I’m bugged that the entire game is a complete zone rehash of Diablo 2. Fields -> Desert -> Castle/Ruins -> Heaven (or Hell in D2). There is one massive dead/boring spot in Act 2 as well, which is unfortunate. The story is pretty bad but is the typically Blizzard-power-corrupts trash. The voice acting is solid but the actual sound levels are all over the place. Sometimes my monk is screaming only to whisper on the next line. Bosses are incredibly disappointing in presentation after Act 1. The Skeleton King and Butcher are just crazy awesome fights. Belial is a avoid-the-massive-poison-puddles fight with no other mechanics. Azmodan you can stand head to head with and avoid the death zones. Diablo though, he’s a pile of problems on harder difficulties. He looks like a wimp though.
Up: The shining grace of it all is the tool set provided for combat. With 60 levels, you get a new skill (or 3) per level. Either this affects an existing skill or is a passive buff but you still get something for leveling, which is great. Being able to swap skill sets is awesome too, depending on the fight. I hated D2 because you had to make multiple characters depending on what you wanted to do (like a MF Sorc) but D3 gives you options, lots of options. Each character is pretty solid, stats are well distributed and each playstyle is quite different from another.
Down: The difficulty curve is ridiculous. Normal is a joke, Nightmare is almost easier since there are no extra enemy types. Hell changes the game a bit more with enemies taking twice as long to kill but still rather simple. Inferno though, that’s just crazy. As a monk, you need somewhere close to 35K hit points and massive defensive stats to have a chance. The illusion of choice is apparent here since it’s simply impossible to play in a different style. This part also highlights the class differences where some like the Demon Hunter and Barbarian are weak compared to the Monk and Witch Doctor.
Up: The Auction House is a nice addition, making trading a whole lot easier. It also makes the game a whole lot easier too. The loot/bag/crafting mechanics are interesting and positive changes – but already done in Torchlight. Achievements are cool in that they make you try content again with an added twist, perchance to see things you didn’t know was there. The ability to quickly jump into a friend’s game is awesome. This is the way multiplayer games should work.
Down: The online-only aspect is annoying when the internet or Blizzard decides they don’t want you to play – which is a few times per play session. The auction house interface is pretty slow and difficult to properly navigate. The chat system is atrocious. The systems while playing (friends list for example) are completely separate from the ones out of game. I wish I could access the Auction House from inside the game, repair items from there or just view the stats on my gear when I’m shopping. There is a distinct lack of polish when it comes to game systems and their integration.
Even with all the hiccups, Diablo 3 is still worth the pickup. I can see myself playing coop games with friends for a long while, maybe going on some loot runs on my own. I don’t see it having the staying power of Diablo 2 though or of people making any real money on the auction house (which is still delayed). Diablo 2 (like WoW) came in at a perfect time but in today’s market, there are literally dozens of places I can spend my time for the same cost and provide a similar or even better experience. I put in well over 150 hours in Skyrim, time will tell if that number is the same in D3.