Sorry for this post taking a while folks! This game took a while to play through in its entirety, and I wanted to make sure I thoroughly suckled every last drop (pun!) from Blizzard's epic dungeon crawler. With four full Acts, four difficulty levels, and a ton of content, this game is a definite masterstroke from Blizzard, as you could tell that they wanted to make this entrant into the franchise, after 10 years of absence, a the jewel of the three pronged crown.


It is an action RPG, with the player assuming the role of one of five different classes, each a lot more striking and varied than the previous games: a Witch Doctor, a Barbarian, a Demon Hunter, a Monk, and perhaps the most blase, a plain old Wizard. With these characters, the player traverses across the world of Sanctuary, ridding the land of demons one bashed-in skull and charred demon husk at a time. Each class is given a unique back-story, which provides a neat perspective for each characters' quest. For example, I chose a Monk, who is tasked to destroy demons by the Gods, while the Demon Hunter is driven by revenge, and the Barbarian is simply looking for his greatest fight yet. Of course, from a gameplay standpoint, each of the characters fights/play differently from one another. Thus the experience, in every facet, is marginally different depending on which class you select.


The entirety of the game is driven by clicks of the mouse, from moving, to attacking, to arranging your skills and inventory (in their review of the game, 1up made the point clear by forcing the reader to unlock every sentence by clicking it with their mouse). It works well with the game, allowing the player to focus on which skills he is using in battle, used via the number pad, and really only becoming a pain, I noticed, when there were either so many enemies or the enemy was so large that it became hard for the player to click to move his character away from the fray of battle.


The game, in format, is an exemplary example of the loot driven dungeon crawler/action RPG. The player pushes his character through a variety of different caves, ruins, literal dungeons, fighting his way through literal hordes of demons, spiders, and skeletons, leveling up to unlock more skills, and fighting champion or "named" enemies in order to find the rarer (and often better) equipment via "loot" from their corpses. Most enemies, including the eponymous Diablo, literally explode into treasure and armor when defeated, adding an injection of satisfaction when you finally topple a tough enemy and get to search through his eviscerated corpse for gold and treasure. In fact, the whole "Diablo" experience, doesn't end with the completion of the story mode (out of a maximum of 60 levels, after completing the game on normal, my monk was only at level 32), just stretches into three more difficulty levels: Nightmare, Hell, and the notorious Inferno where the weakest enemy can kill you in 4-5 hits. While this might sound repetitive, the experience does change as you shift your way up to the next difficulty. On normal, my monk, regardless of which skills I had selected, could kill up to 20 demons with a few hits, and only when he was truly overwhelmed could he face the possibility of death. On the higher difficulties, the skills and the "builds" you choose for your characters become more important, as your ability to kill enemies quickly, mitigate the damage received, and be able to evade or "kite" your enemies around a room become a lot more important. The Champion enemies as well, on Hell and Inferno, will now have not the usual one, but several special abilities to attack you with, such as having a Health Boost, Plagued, Vortex, and Waller (meaning they have extra health, leave pools of poison around them, have the ability to draw you in close to them, and can also limit your escape by putting up a wall behind you). The more daring players, as well, can play the game on "Hardcore" mode, where even one death is a permanent one, and your character will be forever locked from play afterwards. Thus far, from what I have heard, only two people have been able to beat the game on Inferno difficulty with Hardcore mode enabled.


This format, in my opinion, is masterfully engineered. It allows for players who rarely replay a game after beating it (myself included) to really dig in and experience the game over and over again. I want my little monk to be the best damn little monk on the battlefield, and will get him the best equipment (and the best looking equipment) possible. I also want to dig in to the other classes (can't wait to play with the Witch Doctor) and see how my experience as a player will change. Never mind how much I want to just customize and tinker around with my character's skills, as I could elaborate on it forever and till the end of time. It also helps that the game enables a random map generator, so no matter how many times you plunge into the Arreat Crater at the end of Act III, the map for that dungeon and each of its parts will be completely different, with different enemy swarms, named enemies, and treasure drops of each creature. It makes for a wholly different experience each and every time you play!


To help distract from the inherent redundancy of the game (a trait that is the fault of most every dungeon crawler or RPG), Blizzard put a lot of tender love and care into the aesthetic design and the ambience of the game. The score, for one, is epic while maintaining that gothic horror quality to it (the game is about Demons and witchcraft after all), and fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly. The levels and the dungeons themselves are wonderfully alive and always teeming with danger (you never feel safe unless you are back in your hub town, and sometimes not even there); one of the outdoor areas in Act 1, Fields of the Dead, has trees that, while looking like normal background video game trees, will suddenly come alive and attack you, while Goat Men will spring up from murder holes in the ground to surround you. Many dungeons, as well, are designed to not feel like dungeons. One dungeon map takes place on the ramparts of a besieged castle, while another is a city that is being sacked by a demonic horde that ends with your character charging into an Imperial palace to tackle a Demon Lord who is posing as a child emperor. These places, in essence, are still just dungeon maps, but they are given such an active "life" to them that they make you feel like you are actually part of the action taking place instead of just going through the normal, "Enter Cave, Kill, Loot, Repeat" cycle.


The enemies, too, are wonderfully varied and conceived, with each area sporting at least 5-6 different enemies to plague you. Each of this enemies has their own specific attacks, strategies, and are animated with great detail; nothing is more satisfying in this game then cutting through a horde of Demonic Goat Men and Colossal Golgors, as seeing each goatmen being punched into pieces, their almost pitiful death shrieks, and the titanic Golgors getting knocked to the ground with their flesh melting away. It adds a wonderful quality to the otherwise tedium of just click, click, clicking your way through dungeons. As noted in an IGN article, these are the wonderful details that help this game transcend its normally repetitive genre into a truly fun experience for the gamer.




The one example that stuck out to me is when I picked up my first piece of "Legendary" equipment off the corpse of a Champion Demonic Raider. I picked it up, it was a helmet, and I quickly identified it to find out its value. The helmet ended up being "Leoric's Crown" which belonged to the first boss of the game, the Skeleton King. I was so excited to be taking a piece of the game's lore and equipping it to my character that I fully realized how much this games world was pulling me into it. It was akin to killing Illidan in World of Warcraft and getting to loot his iconic Glaives. Blizzard does a wonderful job of world building, making the lore and the story of the world just as important to the actual gameplay experience, and while the world of Sanctuary might not be as iconic or as memorable as Warcraft's Azeroth, is actually quite deep (the depth goes as far as the player chooses to delve in this case, via talking to NPCS, exploring every inch of every map, and unlocking Lore Scrolls).


So is this game a work of art? Certifiably yes! The game marries the technical with the artistic masterfully. It's format and gameplay runs like the inside of a fine pocket watch, providing a fun, addictive, and rarely repetitive experience for the player. To help hide this redundancy is a beautifully constructed world with fantastic depth, interesting if not slightly stereotypical characters and plot lines (oh the characters you love to love, the demonic villains you love to hate, and the normal twists and turns to plot; I mean the games called "Diablo," Diablo had to show up somewhere right?). Everything, from the tiniest amulet to the hulking Flay Demons that reside in the environment of Azmodan's Towers of Sin are perfectly realized. This game is what a video game should be: a union of function and aesthetic glamour that provides both an entertaining and rewarding gameplay experience. It may not have the artistic depth of say a game like "Braid" or the thought provoking implications of the Indoctrination theory with the "Mass Effect" series, but really, when you bought your copy of Diablo III, were you expecting more than a Hell of a good time (yuk yuk).


Well folks, that's it for this game, and it was a doozy. I will be playing a more retro game next, so the post should be coming a bit quicker. Till next time!