Tag: Diablo 3

The Call of Diablo

Courtesy Blizzard

It’s been a week now, and so far I’ve resisted the call of Diablo.

Diablo III continues to make headlines, and not always in a positive way. I’ve been trying to curb my extraneous spending a bit since PAX, both to recover from that phenomenal trip and to save for the upcoming move. But I can’t deny I’ve noticed just how many people I know are playing the latest action-RPG from Blizzard and Activision. I can definitely understand why, as I’ve played more than my share of its predecessor and the expansion.

The gameplay is the right mix of mindless leveling-and-looting catharsis fresh from the most basic of D&D campaigns and interesting storytelling in a fascinating setting. Seriously, Diablo tends to nail the ‘dark gothic’ atmosphere other games strive for. The Witcher also does this well, while Dragon Age and Kingdoms of Amalur just feel like more regular fantasy settings with extra blood spattered on. It also helps that the story itself is rather nuanced, with interesting characters and prevailing themes of power, betrayal, deception, and the struggle against hopelessness. Diablo III looks to very much carry on all of these traditions.

So why aren’t I playing it?

The first indicator that something was off in Diablo III came from the character designs. For the most part, they’re fine, good examples of Blizzard’s art direction, but the Witch Doctor gave me pause. A character basing their attacks on hexes and summoning minions, not unlike Diablo II‘s Necromancer, and the best design Blizzard could come up with was a half-naked dark-skinned man with a bone in his nose? I’m sure they wanted to differentiate the class from the others in the game as well as the Necromancer, but there’s no law saying characters like this have to look a certain way. I mean, consider Dr. Facilier from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog:

Courtesy Disney

Back in Diablo II the character of color was the stalwart, righteous paladin, a role usually given to generically handsome white men. To do the stereotypical Witch Doctor thing felt like a step backwards, and gave me a measure of pause.

That said, I did try the beta for a few hours and found the gameplay to be just fine. I could see myself playing it for hours, to experience the story and collect loot, but my next problem came up in the form of the always-online aspect.

I know that Diablo has a very heavy and lively multiplayer scene. It makes sense that you’d want to have an Internet connection to be a part of it. Requiring said connection for single-player, however, puzzled me. While logging achievements and downloading patches are part and parcel of gaming these days, requiring a constant connection to a remote server to play a game by yourself that you’ve purchased strikes me as somewhat silly. This was confirmed for me on launch, when the Blizzard servers collapsed under the onslaught of people wanting to play their new game and kept everyone from playing it. People paid $60 US or more for the privilege of playing Diablo III, and the very developers of the game said “Nope, sorry, you can’t play it now, not even in single player, no matter how much money you’ve already paid us. We’ll fix it… eventually. But hey, you don’t have to worry about those nasty pirates right now!” Of course when people did manage to get connected, many found their accounts had already been phished, hacked, or otherwise compromised. This probably could have been at least somewhat mitigated if people could play single player without the constant connection.

Finally, there’s the real-money auction house. Now, I’m not above making more than one contribution to a game I enjoy playing. I’ve bought points for skins in League of Legends and gold for items in Tribes: Ascend. However, the monetization of an in-game auction house feels a bit sketchy to me. Asking people to perhaps invest in some cosmetic character changes or a hot new item by purchasing them directly from the developer is one thing. Taking a cut directly from the cash made by players as they exchange items is quite another. As far as I know, the RMAH isn’t active yet, and I know it’s an optional thing that I wouldn’t have to get involved with, but just knowing it’s there makes me uncomfortable.

Put it all together, and you have the reasons why I’ve resisted the call of Diablo. It’s a shame, because from the beta, I could see the potential for the game to be fun. I played a Monk for a few hours and punching minions so hard they explode was very satisfying. However, between the design decisions, the idiotic always-connected aspect, and the rather seedy RMAH, I can say I won’t be playing Diablo III.

General Post-Blizzcon Thoughts

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

BlizzCon has come and gone again. And again, I didn’t get to go. Sadface. But next year! Next year will be THE YEAR OF CONVENTIONS! I’m totally going to cons next year. It is a moral imperative.

Anyway, while I wasn’t present and couldn’t shell out for the live stream, I did keep an eye on my Twitter feed and a couple other news sources to piece together what the rather mad and admittedly skilled yacht-owning developers at Blizzard have in store for their fans. Let’s go IP by IP.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

“Isn’t it a little late for April Fool’s?” – Danielle

So, yeah. Pandaran.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the pandaran brewmasters. But to me they’ve always been on the fringe of Azerothian stories, kind of like the bounty hunters in Star Wars. Remember how LucasArts released a game all about one of those bounty hunters because they wanted to make him a “breakout hit” from Attack of the Lame Screenplay? The overall reaction was “meh.” That’s an appropriate reaction here, as well.

Now, taking the game in a PvP direction and away from the PvE content that has not really been up to snuff since Burning Crusade is probably a good thing, as Old Republic‘s voice-acted labyrinthine quest chains are probably going to blow WoW out of the water. And the environments and new character models look great. I just can’t shake this feeling that, like in previous expansions, the other character models will remain as dated as they have been for years. There’s also the fact that adding the Monk as a basic class, while good on paper, means that all of its abilities need to be scaled and balanced against the others. I don’t know if doing Monk as a Hero Class would have been more or less work. But the game already had balance issues, mostly pointed out by the PvPers, and with Mists being aimed for PvPers, you’d think some thought would have gone into making sure things are well balanced. The talent system is reportedly “overhauled and improved,” but I for one won’t be holding my breath. Between Skyrim and Guild Wars 2, I’ll get all the fantasy RPGing I can handle, and then some.

Diablo III

“…like giving crack to a heroin fiend…” – Ross Miller

I’m also somewhat lukewarm about Diablo 3. I enjoyed both Diablo 2 and its expansion, and I’m sure that the sequel will be enjoyable as well in the same “click your way into the dungeon, click your enemies to death, click your way back” fashion as its predecessor and Torchlight. My objections to the lack of character customization leading to the Witch Doctor being a walking stereotype aside, I’m sure the game’s engine is solid, the skills of the various classes fun to use and the story as dark as the previous iterations.

In this case, it’s more a matter of prioritization than anything. I want to play Skyrim and get into Guild Wars 2 far more than I want to play Diablo 3. I must admit, though, that pitching the WoW yearly pass to players by throwing them a gratis copy of this game is a stroke of genius. Well done, Blizzard, enjoy the new yachts!

Blizzard DOTA

“lolwut” – Me.

I love the tongue-in-cheek nature in which this was presented at BlizzCon. I’ve played a bit of League of Legends and I like the gameplay that feels like the handsome bastard rogue child of RTS and RPG. Doing so with known characters has a frankly shameful amount of appeal. I just love the notion of mincing in as Jim Raynor and blasting the snot out of Arthas over and over again. Or Illidan. Let me show you just how prepared I am, bitch.

Anyway, it could be fun. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

Speaking of Jimmy…

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

“ZOMG PROTOSS GOT SHAFTED, NERF TERRAN” – Every Protoss player ever.

Campaign looks interesting, wish Kerrigan’s skin was still as dark as it had been in the original game, blah blah blah.

I’ll talk more about the units and other initial changes in tomorrow’s post, but what struck me as the torrential amount of backlash from a lot of the StarCraft community. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, as many players have made it a point to constantly decry how one particular race is dominating the others or the ways individual units can or should be tweaked to defang a prevalent strategy. Personally I don’t put a lot of stock in public outcries in this matter, partially because I have no basis by which to gauge the power of units relative to skill as I don’t have much skill myself, and partially because I think that most of the forums on which I see this sort of caustic feedback are too loosely moderated to sort out the ruffians and bandwagon-jumpers from the people who have honest, well-reasoned opinions on the state of the game. I should really listen to the podcast of the same name more.

Thoughts on new multiplayer units and the changes I’m aware of tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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