[Strongly Jaded Gamer] Diablo 3, A Second Look
Some of you might remember that I did a post a couple weeks back about how I wasn’t impressed with Diablo 3. A few said I was rushing to judge a game based on the Beta. So I took a second look at the game.
Taking a look at the game after its launch, I’ll admit a few of my nit-picks were the Beta’s fault and they seem to have been addressed, but my chief problems are still present. See, my issue with Diablo 3 isn’t the casual difficulty or the art direction. I understand Blizzard isn’t an underground success story any more, they are compelled by their recent track record to take the mainstream into account. So I’m fine with the game being pants on head easy and overly hand holdy at the start, really I am. I don’t mind that the game feels like a 3/4 WoW in terms of graphics. I mean, realistically, artistic representations are easier to render and less strain on systems than faux realism. It’s lost a little of the Dark Fantasy feeling, but that happens when a franchise stops living in the shadows.
Now, why I’m still not impressed. My problems with the UI and the MMO focus on the End Game Content remain–the second of which will probably never change. Granted, I’ve seen some pretty cool dungeons while watching some people stream but, to me at least, the way that the game progresses makes the journey to Act III seem like any other typical MMO and less like the dungeon crawler I fell in love with. Part of that is the aforementioned hand holding, but much of it is how D3 does skills. If every Monk gets the same skills at the same points, there doesn’t seem–to me at least–to be much of an encouragement to play two Monks.
Perhaps I should explain where I’m coming from and maybe my angst over this point will make more sense. If I’m honest, I hardly ever get to the end of a dungeon crawler more than once, much less an MMO, unless I’m playing with a party. After the first campaign, I usually just boot it up and play through the first act or so until the itch has been scratched. Sometimes I get super far, even to the end, other times I don’t even finish Act 2. This applies to PSO, Ragnarok, or even Secret of Mana just a much as Diablo 2. Playing this way has two advantages. First, I never get to the point where the game starts to be a chore, its always fun. Second, I know what build I want to play going in. I don’t need to think about skill choices or stat allocations. I’m just mowing things down and enjoying myself.
And maybe this just my arcade roots showing, but the start of a game is, to me, one of the most exciting parts of a dungeon crawler or RPG. When you first start out its full of surprises, full of new things, full of apprehension and tension. You aren’t the unkillable badass you’ll be in twenty levels. And when you play again later, on another character just starting out, you really feel how much you’ve improved as a player at the game, you’re confident, a veteran, but you still know the game is dangerous. It’s a different quality of confidence than end game, the kind that lets you try doing dangerous things, that lets you really adventure.
Which is why I’m personally at odds with the way D3 is handling skills. On a second character I can’t do what I want, I still have to follow the rails and I don’t feel like I’m adventuring. Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that I can’t start a new Mage and just go Warmth and Frozen Armor until Frost Nova, bothers me. I do not like that have to pick up every skill between. Yes, I suppose I don’t need to use them, but that’s just the thing. Instead of getting to decide to pick up the next rune for Frozen Armor, I get handed a spell I won’t use. Instead of being able to go right into Shiver Armor at level 12, I have to wait until I hit the level that game unlocks it at.
Again, at the far end of the game, it’s not a big deal–but that’s only enforcing the point I’m making. The game feels like it doesn’t care about the levels up to 30 or even 20, its doesn’t feel like it wants you to go back and play the first act with another of the same character–it wants you to get to Act 3 and all the juicy end game content. Maybe that’s why its so hand holdy, so that someone who plays like me can drop back into Act 3 after not playing for a week and forgetting everything that was going on.
The other thing that bothers me about skills is the UI for setting them. In a game like Diablo, you need to be flexible because who knows what’s around the next corner. So when I have to stop interacting with the game and fiddle with a menu to swap my skills, it’s a deal breaker for me. Again, this might just be a problem that’s limited to be and how I play. I’m fairly certain not many swapped their skills as often as I did in Diablo 2, and maybe much of that was just having two skill slots and now with the seven that might be less of an issue, it still doesn’t excuse a menu that breaks immersion. Everything else for D3 is on a half screen menu, so why did skills have to be a box in the middle of my screen?
I guess ultimately my issues with Diablo 3 are just mine and they might as well come down to “It isn’t Diablo 2.” Likely I’ll give the game a solid session at some point and maybe I’ll like it more. Not sure right now.