It has been the most-anticipated game of 2012. It sold over 3.2-million copies in the first 24-hours of release. Diablo III is a religion for fans. It doesn’t outdo I and II, but it has a life of its own. For those new to the series, it’s a role-playing game in the styles of hack-and-slash and dungeon-crawl, and it’s incredibly epic.
Before we get cracking on gameplay and the other kinds of detail that will make your brain blitz, let’s go for the easy parts. Firstly is game-plot, which still takes place in the town of Tristram and its surrounds, in the fantasy world of Sanctuary (the domain of Diablo, Diablo II and now Diablo III).
Visually, this world looks a little like Mordor, or even Gondor, from Peter Jackson’s take on The Lord of The Rings, but that’s fine. The stories centre on the battles between angels and demons and the town’s people caught in-between. The first two games had a warrior hero, a broad-shouldered silent type, who came into town and tried to put an end to the evil of the game’s main antagonist, Diablo. That hero then became corrupted by Diablo in game II and became the Dark Wanderer. A band of adventurers then set out to find and destroy him. In game III our player character is a Nephalem, who comes to Tristram to investigate the falling to earth of what seems like an asteroid next to the town’s cathedral (a place of worship with a dark history). He finds that the object is in fact a being, a man who has lost his sword – a sword that becomes integral to the plans of a witch and other characters. I am not going to lie: first-time players will be bewildered by the game’s history and back-story. It may be wise to go online and do some reading before taking on Diablo III.
It’s worth it, however, because it is perhaps the most seriously intelligent videogame fantasy story of all time. What makes Diablo such an overwhelming franchise is its magic, the town of Tristram seems perfect enough, but then becomes almost simplistic until it fades in intensity the more we’re caught up in hell. But I digress. On to gameplay. Diablo III, like its predecessors, is a tactical action game (most know that, I’m saying it for the first timers). You’re meant to move the character through Sanctuary via mouse and keyboard movement. This game will take you months, believe me. We play as “softcore” characters, that can be resurrected, or “hardcore” characters, which means that when you die, it’s over. You can pick your class (unlike the previous two games where your character was fixed), you have five choices, and I chose a wizard, with power over fire and ice, lightning, time and teleportation. The game is broken up into Acts. The first is… limp. The second is a punch in the face. You must make sure to farm for gold throughout, to buy upgrades to help you fight – I learnt that the hard way. It is the casting of spells and use of power in Diablo III, however, that creates the visual orgasm.
It works on developer Blizzard’s in-house physics, with destructible environments and effects that make your eyes go all googly. Visual prowess is the measure of a videogame, and Diablo III sets all competition aflame. About “hardcore” mode… overseas critics keep saying that it’s where the realness
of the game is at now. It’s supposedly the way to play Diablo III, and I believe them, but I just want to finish this damned thing on softcore first, thanks, before being obliterated by the hordes of hell.
So, what do I think? It’s great, it’s not as novel at the first two, but it will still blow you away. I only wish that the series would do something completely different – by that I mean: change the industry, just like the first game did. For now, it’s the best Hell I’ve experienced this year. And believe me, I’ve experienced hell.
By Damon Boyd
Published in Playboy South Africa August 2012