By Andrew Epps
I find Diablo3 deeply troubling. On the one hand, it’s a blast to tear through the beautiful isometric environments and it feeds my nostalgia for Diablo2. On the other hand, it crushes any and all enjoyment under the weight of bad game design, poor story writing and a development team that apparently has zero interest in what their community likes and dislikes.
At first glance, Diablo3 looks and plays very much like its predecessors. So much so that I found myself drawing comparisons in innovation and development time to the likes of Duke Nukem Forever. But those brash first impressions would be wrong. Yes indeed, quite a lot of time and thought went into making Diablo3, or at least into making its real money auction house. You see the auction house is the root cause of most of Diablo3’s problems, from the server issues at launch and always on DRM to the anti-cheating measures that punish players more than cheaters. All are measures to safeguard Blizzard’s precious 15% cut off all real money auction house transactions.
You see, it’s no longer good enough for them to simply take your sixty dollars, or even to come right out and add a subscription fee. No, the sad fact is that Diablo3 is the face of a game designed for generating profits to the exclusion of all else, and it is an ugly face indeed. Bad design and broken mechanics litter the game to such an extent that a very large portion of end game content is simply not possible for whole sections of the community. Patch 1.0.3 is now the latest in Blizzard’s long string of mis-steps, not only continuing the mediocrity, but worsening it. This patch destroyed the value of hard earned items and now forces players to spend most of their in-game gold on nothing more than equipment maintenance.
Surprisingly, despite the design team’s best efforts to derail the game, the level designers and artists are clearly masters of their trade. Cut scenes and concept art are lovingly rendered with such gorgeous detail that it really is a treat to view them.
The level designers have mastered the isometric perspective both for game play and for story-telling, delivering rich environments with varied and interesting enemies for you to fight. Visually, Diablo3 is without a doubt the best in its class.
But the shining beacon of hope from the visuals is quickly tarnished by awful writing. From start to finish, you will see the game’s vain attempts at plot twists long before the characters do and the dialog is generally very bland and unimaginative. Overall, the “story” really does feel like a decade old game. We’ve been there and done that.
The final question when reviewing a game must always be “Is it fun”, and the answer is yes. For an old fan of Diablo2, it felt good to get back to my gaming roots for a while. But bad game design and broken mechanics make short work of the enjoyment, leaving a lingering bad taste that is exceedingly hard to shake. This goes to show that designing a game for nothing more than profit, with no interest in player feedback, will always be a sure way to doom a game.
Andrew Epps is an 18 year old life long homeschooler with a love of reading, writing, and video games.