The plight of a lonely hero

General Discussion
Finally getting the game on an auction house for 250 USD was a glorious moment. I finally had a copy of Diablo 3, the collectors edition even. When it finally arrived, almost two weeks after launch, my hands were shaking. It was great. The moments of enjoying the loot in the form of Diablos skull and the lovely artbook. Somehow, I never got that feeling in-game.

Choosing the first hero was very simple, Witch Doctor was an obvious candidate. I always enjoyed casters, but never the basic elementalist/arcanist types.

“Exploring the world for the first time, oh what glory.”

If there wouldn’t be so much fog in certain places, I would even say that the atmosphere rivals the first Diablo. If I didn’t have a dart spell as my primary I could probably even see destruction in my wake.

“But each Witch Doctor knows that a dart is a delicate and methodical weapon and there is no need to leave ashes and rubble in my wake. That would only attract attention.”

“Going through the world for the first time, exploring every dungeon, every piece of information that can be collected. Wondering why the heroes before me failed. Were they too weak to confront the demons?”

While wandering the world of Diablo I certainly expected a more challenging environment. Yes I did die a few times, but mostly because I encountered something that I have not encountered before, or something that my chosen skills simply couldn’t handle. This ties to the absolute randomness of the loot. I can easily imagine that there is a person that had very hard time finishing Diablo on Normal, simply because all the loot that dropped was completely useless.

Going back to Diablo 1, I certainly miss the impact of death (roll back to last save in single player and drop all gear in multi-player). In Diablo 3, the death almost feels a normal part of the play-through, something that is normal, and sometimes even encouraged.

“Escaping death should be a daily bread for each hero. Confronting death is the ultimate challenge.“

Death in Diablo 3 feels strange. When it happens, it feels inescapable. Be it due to lag, due to encountering something new and unexpected, or simply dying to masses of small mobs with a single target build. The game doesn’t feel like walking on the edge of a precipice, where one needs to tread carefully. It feels like a maze filled with deadly traps, that can be discovered only by dying.

“The wrath of the horadrim cannot be matched by any evil.”

The bosses in Diablo 3 are a strange bunch. Mechanically, the top three fights for me were Butcher > Azmodan > Diablo. The lesser bosses are very uninspired and the unique monsters were an absolute disaster. Elites seem to fulfill the ultimate foe role quite well, but due to their random nature, some combinations of mobs and affixes are just way too easy, while some are completely insane. Going back to Diablo 1, one could say that all mobs were elites, because almost all mobs had some sort of resistance/immunity. Unique mobs were actually interesting, since they had a small part of a story attached to them.

“Only those who persevere, can defeat the ultimate evil.”

Higher difficulties is something that Diablo 3 doesn’t seem to do properly. Leaving Normal, players will end up with an explored story line. The progression therefore switches from exploring to leveling and gearing up. Nightmare and Hell still contain exploring moments, when encountering some new event or random area, but most of the story was told. And that brings up the biggest problem I have with this game.

“Those who can’t keep up shall perish.”

The game pace. When players switch from Normal to a higher difficulty their gaming pace will change. There are many factors contributing to this.

  • familiar environment
    • the game pace changes by simply knowing where to go, who to talk to
  • explored story
    • the story was already explored, while there certainly is more to explore, most dialogues can be skipped without losing anything
  • working build
    • on the end of Normal, players will most likely have a semi-working build, so there is no longer the need for checking every acquired skill and rune

These factors, together with others contribute to an increased gaming pace, the problem is that the pace of the game itself doesn’t change. Encountering a story element therefore feels like slamming into a solid wall (still wondering why players wanted an auto-skip option for cinematics?).

“Where there are many, a single individual is insignificant.”

While this certainly won’t be experienced by all players, I must point out, that the game pace and the game story suffers tremendously when playing alts. The story elements are bound to each character individually, so while it makes sense, it ends up forcing players to ignore all lore. When I can’t distinguish if the lore book that just dropped is something that I have already heard 2 times, or something new I will simply end up ignoring it. The simplicity of the lore UI just enhances this problem.

“The skillful ones will persist.”

Speaking of alts, I must say that that the characters feel very unique and just right. Maybe with the exception of the fact, that the Witch Doctor feels a bit too funky, while the rest of the classes just aren’t funky enough.

The skill system is gold. I always felt the need for an additional skill slot, which forced me to make very hard choices. Through my play through I haven’t encountered any ultimate builds, that would just dominate the game (making them the obvious choice), which is really saying something.

“Oh, shiny.”

I think that the gear and drop issues were already explored in depth by many others. The gear is uninspired and overly random. There is no guaranteed gear (from quests or special mobs) that would shift base of gear quality. The dispersion ends up being so huge, that those who get lucky can just immediately solo inferno, while others can’t even finish ACT 1.

I definitely wouldn’t consider the Auction House to be the source of the gear issues. On the other hand it does amplify the problems significantly, because it enforces the notion that the time you put into getting your gear was complete waste.

“Death by a thousand cuts.”

It is a real shame. There are real gems in the game. The lore and the story presentation is incredible. The skill system is just awesome. The environment is art. But there are so many little things. The overall technical quality (especially outside of US), the UI (AH, Lore, Trading), the gear and even the mobs. I think that we can eventually end up with a good game with the first expansion, but until then, the game is just drowned in the little issues and conflicting design decisions.

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