Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diablo III: First impressions

Jesus its been awhile! Fucking Mass Effect 3 got me so depressed I couldn't even gather the energy to tear it apart with my highly trained dagger esque critiquing, let alone take on any other topics. However, after some soul searching, punch dancing and drinking dark manly beers I am back and ready to start talking about important things again. The topic today? The long awaited Diablo installment and what i've noticed thus far.

Shit That sucks but I wont talk about:

If you have been paying attention to what the internet is saying about this game, the launch problems and the DRM bullshit keep cropping up as big problems. They are indeed problems but having a single player heavy game that requires connection to a server and having massive server issues (so bad that customers have completely nuked its metascore on many a review site) are no duh problems. It doesn't take a lazer guided razor brain like my own to pick on that. So I am going to talk about two problems that are really hurting what is overall a potentially awesome experience

Problem #1: Difficulty and Hand Holding:
So I have gotten almost all the way through Act 1 twice with a Monk and a Witch Doctor and something odd, at least according to my seasoned Diablo veteran mind, has happened; I have not died once. Not once! Not ever fucking close in fact. My monk got half his health knocked down once and my Witch Doctor has gone through with basically no damage. I have never had to use a health potion! Christ, remember the first mini boss in Diablo 2? You know, this bitch?

God Damn Blood Raven...
How many health potions did you have to down to get by her the first time? How ingrained was the lesson to always open a town portal outside a boss area so you could get back to your body when you inevitably got owned? I'll tell you the answers to both those, a fuck ton and so ingrained that it became as subconscious as blinking. So what the hell is happening in Diablo 3? Well first, you are over powered from the beginning. Every character has AOE attacks and all the characters thus far regen their mana so fast you can basically spam your most powerful spells. Gone is just the basic "hit with weapon" attack, you just constantly use spells so you just walk through enemies with no worries. This is compounded by constant health drops from enemies and the ultimate bit of handholding, extremely limited control of how your character develops. You can't really fuck up your character like you could back in the day, their stats are auto assigned each level and so far what skills your choose to run at a given time dont really change how effective your character is and even if it did you can change them whenever. Now im not against the latter bit perse, in fact I certainly prefer it to making a whole new character when I want to try something new, but not letting us control the stats? In an RPG? 

The reasons for these changes and this utter lack of challenge could only be the flawed logic that the game needs to be easy to be accessible to the widest market, saving the true challenge (I fucking hope at least) for nightmare/inferno mode. This is wrong because first, human brains like challenge and get bored with ease. Without challenge things get monotonous. Second, geting your shit owned makes completing tasks way more rewarding and way more fun. Most people dont just stop because they get beat once by a boss, the keep playing, and when they beat the boss they feel accomplished and want to keep going to the more difficult challenges ahead. Shit, I got one shot by Duriel in D2 for about 2 hours the first time I was trying to get past him, and when I eventually did I ripped my shirt off, flexed my 13 year old muscles and felt like an invincible beast god who could punch Odin himself in the face and live to tell the tale. I'll amend this if the difficulty gets harder post Act 1, maybe Act 1 is just a long tutorial, but if it keeps this pace, and if the difficulty doesn't go WAY the fuck up in nightmare mode, I will be upset. 

Problem #2: Aesthetics:
First things first, this is a totally subjective opinion. Never ever stay away from an experience simply because someone else doesn't like the way it is presented. Note the following;

This game, on the aesthetics front, is appalling. The graphics are terrible, the animations are glitchy, the heath/armor/weapon drops look like they are from about 1995 and the dialogue is so god awful its laughable. Regardless, its one of the most intensely enjoyable experiences I have ever come across in a video game, and if I judged it purely on aesthetics, as I am sure many have, I would have never played it and been a lesser person for it. However, I have a strong dislike for the Aesthetics in Diablo 3, and its not because of just one thing. So here comes a LIST!

1) Color Scheme: 
The colors in this game are just off for someone who is a veteran of Diablo. Everything is bright, sharp and generally the pallet, instead of being dark red/black/dead grey, is more blue, bright red and purple. As a result it makes it hard to feel oppressed and unnerved by your environment and its even more difficult to take your enemies seriously.

2) Silly enemies and Cartoony Graphics:
Look at these things

First of all, I couldn't find a good in game shot of these guys so this picture makes them look way cooler than they look in game. In game they look like Oogie Boogy from Nightmare Before Christmas is running up to give you a big hug. Then there are the Imps, hands above heads, mouths open, flopping around like a cartoon monster. Silly, silly silly in a game that silly shouldn't ever cross your mind. Part of the reason is that this game looks way closer to a cell shaded cartoon than it does to what many people, myself obviously included, think a Diablo game should look like. To sum up, when your taking part in the final battle between heaven and hell, it shouldn't look like a silly children's cartoon, and unfortunately it kind of does. Blame WoW and the drive for mass appeal.

3) Voices:
There were voices in D2 of course, but they were very sparse. Now everyone fucking talks and a lot of that dialogue really takes you out of the game. I suppose its supposed to make the game feel more real, people in town chatting etc, but it actually makes it feel way more fake and forced. The world benefited by leaving itself more of a blank slate to be filled by the players imagination, and sadly thats lost so far. 

4) Characters explode with all the colors! 
Everything your character does is bright, shiny and flamboyant. Not necessary at all and it would help the game to have that kind of stuff toned down.

5) Outlined targets:
When you hover over an enemy, they get a giant red ring around, making them even MORE cartoony and even MORE difficult to take seriously.

Overall the aesthetics are not appalling and I do enjoy a lot of the details, there just feels like a lot of missteps. Let me take off the targeting highlight at least. Im 24 years old, I know how to click on the shit I want to kill.

Good News!
This game isn't bad, im actually having a lot of fun with it and it shows promise. I like a lot of the new touches like how loot is divided in multiplayer and the skills show promise for complex gameplay. The things I have complained about could be changed later in the game or are not enough to make me regret my purchase. I am excited enough about the story to want to see what happens next and I can barely advance because I want to see how the other classes handel. So fuck it, play the game! The servers will be fixed and you will have fun. Do you want to join me in an adventure? My battletag is DeathBurger#1631!