Epic Review: Diablo 3 – Return to Sanctuary

May 21, 2012


Geeks with Wives was at the launch party yesterday, May 15th, among the crazed fans awaiting a trip back to Tristram and the world of Sanctuary, over a decade past.

First, a little reflection. Diablo has been a staple among gaming conversation and may have been your first dungeon crawler that made your skin tingle with anticipation of unique items and the ancient evil lurking around the corner or deep under your feet as you approach the burning hells. Deckard Cain has remained a legend in all of our minds as being the wise man, offering your hero countless stories and tidbits of “worthless” information. As explained more in detail in the 2nd installment, Cain is the last member of a group of warrior priests called the “Horadrim”. This group is at it’s end and with Cain dies the secrets of their order and potentially the doom to humanity itself. In Diablo 3 during the first moments you are at it again, looking for Cain and the answer to impending danger. Deep within the earth the truth is revealed and let me just say, a mystery that shall remain shrouded until you find it for yourself.

The game world is beautiful and is part of my favorite aspect during my time playing this game. We all remember random dungeons and the textbook “tiled dungeon tools” used in their infamous map editors. In Diablo 3, the line between what we remember and what we see is all but gone. The dungeon design, the environment, even the buildings themselves are amazingly crafted, passing feeling and expression as you explore what is around you, telling you the story of your hero, the one your playing. What I mean is, the design is extremely intelligent and intuitive, offering meaning behind the madness; painting a world that is believable. The reason that is such an important factor, in my opinion, is because the genre is well developed, Diablo has always had high expectations and the last thing developers would want is stagnation at the root of their game.

I have always wondered what bosses would be like in Diablo 3 and I can’t even describe how good the encounters are. This is some of the best, most exciting boss fights I have seen in a game like this. Not only do you feel that you travel with purpose, you feel that your arrival and ultimate encounter with said evil is well seated in realistic fashion as music peaks and the environment allows you to participate on a whole new level with what it means to vanquish evil. The dialog during combat is also top notch and even in between, followers hold conversation with you and comment on your prowess. The nuances in Diablo 3 are almost as good or maybe even better given the circumstance, than the out lying, grandness that obviously lies before you.

Crafting is quiet and gives you a new reason to look for treasure. It’s fairly simple, breaking down items into components to craft new pieces of gear. This is done by a vendor, but must be unlocked early in the game before this becomes available. It’s a unique, fun way to make your character more customized and add more worthwhile gameplay. I also have equipped some of my best items through crafting. You progress by “paying” for training and that gives your vendor more items to make. You don’t actually get “experience” by crafting individual items, so don’t feel like you have to grind items and make the same thing over and over again, it’s not like that. Each time you train your vendor, he/she moves closer to expanding to a new level. When this happens, visually, their establishment changes and new, powerful items become available. The only thing so far that I would change is the types of items crafted. Essentially this gives friends or solo players a style of crafting catered to them. What this means is they can craft a particular set of items or could make some their friends can’t. As it sits now, as long as you spent the time and gold, everyone will have the same stuff.

Combat I have to mention, because it is brutal, impactful and well balanced. The difficulty is also appropriate and you do face danger with each enemy, new type of enemy, trap or special encounter. Using the environment to your advantage isn’t as fun so far as I had hoped, but in team play with larger encounters, these tools will be enhanced and have more meaning. You must be able to use your skills and allow time for cooldowns as you anticipate what will be the best expenditure of your resources. Combat isn’t as linear as the previous two games, the depth you can only feel by being in the middle of it. This game is all about the combat.

Which brings me to party play. This is awesome, extremely easy to initiate with a friend and offers satisfaction you can’t find in solo gameplay. Characters abilities fit well together and offer new ways to combat the endless hordes of demon spawn lumbering towards you.

Finally, how do you play the game? My opinion, play with a friend, jump right into combat and unleash everything you have. Make sure your volume is up on your headphones or speakers, there are nuanced background sounds that make the experience that much better. Turn the lights off. Stay engaged with the story elements, much is told about the story that began so long ago in Diablo 1, about the Cathedral, Deckard, Leoric and Lazarus just to name a few. What this does is fill in some blanks and helps to connect your gameplay experiences between games.

A few things I’d like to see changed:

Crafting: Unique Trees to specialize in

Attribute Allocation: Currently it is automatic, more depth and customization would offer more to hardcore players (option at character creation)

Closing the game was extraordinary and actually felt like the pinnacle of all things. I was so hyped up I couldn’t even watch the cut scene that followed, I wanted back into the world so bad. The events that unfold during the story, give the boss battles more meaning and really that experience holds alot of weight in telling the story and building a dependency on the characters. This is without a doubt the best game of it’s kind ever made and it will only get better as expansions come out and the items continue to roll into the coffers. Familiar faces, and townsfolk from Tristram make their way back into our hearts as we continue to press toward glory and ridding Sanctuary of Evil! This is a must own!

Value : Purchase @ $60