So I got a free copy of Diablo III for promising not to quit WoW for a year or something (I don’t know, it was complicated, but it didn’t cost anything, and there were some vaguely non-trivial-looking benefits, so I clicked the buttons).
RL has been even more complex than usual and I haven’t been able to get into SL much, but I’ve had enough stolen moments in D3 that I’ve now beaten the game (the first time through, see below), and I can sincerely say that it was worth every penny. Haha, see what I did there? :)
Not that it was worthless, but on the other hand I can’t really see why it was such a big deal, or why it seems to actually have fans and forums and stuff. Unless there’s lots of new stuff in the harder modes that I haven’t tried yet, it seems about as worthy of having devoted fans or forums as, I don’t know, some minor Edward Bulwer-Lytton short story or something.
But anyway! Here is my first character, Cathcart the Monk, the one that I beat the game with on normal mode:
That’s a screenshot, shown actual pixels, of him at like level 34, from the “Select a Hero” screen. It’s also apparently the closest that it’s possible to ever see any character in the game (not counting the pre-rendered cutscenes, which of course don’t show your character).
Here is a shot from within the actual game, after pressing Z I think it is to zoom in to the tiny extent that one can zoom in:
Kind of small and far away, I thought. Want to see the actual expression on someone’s face? Well, too bad!
And, especially irritatingly, what minor zooming-in there is doesn’t understand about having to derender stuff that is in the way, so if you try to zoom in to take a screenshot of some noteworthy scene, your camera is likely to end up obstructed by a wall:
or buried in opaque tree leaves:
My first instinct in cases like that would be to spin the camera-view around, which leads to the next amusing feature of Diablo III: you can’t do that. There is exactly one possible viewpoint, looking down at your character from something like three meters in the air and five meters to the South.
I went to the D3 forums to see if this was really a limitation or if I’d just neglected to find the camera-movement keys, and was amused to see the True Blue D3 Fans forming roving gangs there and fending off anyone asking that question, saying things like:
I dont know man, that type of camera angle is one of the trademarks of the diablo series. Personally i like it as it is, it would not feel the same for me with a different one…
[T]he isometric camera is a staple of the true soul of the Diablo series.
The stationary camera is one of the pieces of nostalgia kept in place from Diablo 1 and 2 are very positive.
this isn’t wow
I knew the WoW kids would all flock to d3 with their complaints
and perhaps my favorite:
What legitimate gameplay reason is there to rotate the camera?
which invites two kinds of amusing questions in response: “Yeah, why would you ever want to look in anything but one fixed direction during a battle?”, and on the other hand “What legitimate gameplay reason is there for the characters to have noses?”.
Of course it’s only the WoW players who miss being able to look more freely around the world. Well, and the people from Second Life. And Skyrim. And Call of Duty. And pretty much any game made since 2005. And, well, DOOM. From 1993…
But anyway! :) The inability to see the character close up, or to have a first-person mouselook sort of view, or to look freely around the world, tended to keep me from feeling really immersed. Also the movement system is entirely click-to-move, which I find also detracts from immersion. Feels more like The Sims With Monsters in a way; more like playing with action figures, maybe, than like really being in an interesting world myself.
And it’s really short! As well as extremely linear. There are four “Acts”, each with various quests in them, and you’re taken from one quest to the next and one Act to the next with very little choice in the matter. There are a few side-quests, but rather than being things that you can run around doing at will, they are things that may or may not become available in any particular play through the game, more or less at random; that is, they are largely under control of the game rather than the player.
Once you finish the game once in normal mode (and it’s quite easy, all of the bosses are essentially “hit them until they die, being sure to walk into the health-globes that they spawn so you don’t die yourself”), you get to see the nice victory cut-scene, and then next time you enter the game you are without explanation back at the start, with all of your items and skill and level intact, but this time in Nightmare Mode. Which, as far as I can tell so far, means that the game is exactly the same, except that the monsters are all upgraded to about the same level that you are, so they are roughly just as hard to kill as they were the first time through.
So you get to play the same game over and over if you want (the modes are something like normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno), with the same character at successively higher levels, against successively tougher monsters (or they would be tougher except that you are higher level now too), with maybe a different random side-quest or two thrown in. Thrills?
(There is also an orthogonal Hardcore Mode, which you can choose when you create a character. Hardcore characters are different in that once one dies it stays dead, and you can’t play it anymore. I’d be curious to see a good Hardcore player deal with some of the encounters that seem specifically designed to require two or three deaths to get through, where more and more monsters just pile in. Maybe there’s an Aggro model that I just haven’t figured out, or something, but I’m not that interested.)
There’s a Stash that lets you store items that you find and share them among all of your (non-Hardcore) characters, and there’s an Auction House (not inside the world but just dialogs in the main game menu; another blow to immersion) where you can buy and sell things, and apparently there is or will be some way to buy gold and/or items with actual real-world money (which I have to admit baffles me somewhat; why would anyone care enough about this tiny game to want to spend real money to buy fancy equipment in it?).
I’m still paying Act I in Nightmare Mode with my Monk a bit, although it’s sort of dull. I’ve also created a second character, Eolfrida the Barbarian woman:
You will note I have to take a taller picture there, ’cause of she is Big. :)
Here she is running toward battle at like level 2:
and standing around looking blurry and undefined a few levels later:
Playing a Barbarian is slightly different from playing a Monk, more emphasis on smashing things, more use of healing potions and glomming onto healing drops ’cause of not having any healing magic (so far?), but basically still “click until you have enough magic whatsit saved up to right-click, and throw in a spell from the 1, 2, 3, or 4 buttons once you are high-enough level”.
The story is okay, sort of what you might find in a decent Conan-style pulp novella, with one loudly-foreshadowed plot twist just where you’d expect. There’s some amusing repartee with and between the NPCs, and there’s a little variety and thought involved in equipping the three follower NPCs and deciding which one to take along at any given time, although in fact they seem mostly interchangeable.
Probably worth more than the nothing that I paid for it. But if I’d paid the, what, sixty US$ that it costs retail? I do not think I would consider it a good investment…