Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What I'm Playing: Diablo III

Wow, get with the times, right? Diablo III came out back in 2012 and I'm only now getting around to it?

Well, not quite. JV picked it up for PS3 last year, so I'm not quite as pokey as it sounds. But considering that the PS3 version came out in 2013, and that JV waited until 1) Reaper of Souls was out and 2) the price dropped, I'll admit that we were hardly bleeding edge users.

Like every other PC gamer who grew up in the 90s and early naughties, I played the hell (hah, hah) out of the first two Diablo games, especially Diablo II. I didn't truck with (our dial-up connection was so far from any trunk that on a good day our connection was 32 kbps; most days it was around 26 or 28.8) but I loved laying waste to fantasy creatures in ever-powerful ways and scoring phat loot. After the announcement (on my birthday!!!) in 2008, the release of Diablo III was a thing just constantly in the back of my mind, though by the time it came out, my Linux machine was too old to be able to handle running the game in WINE or PlayOnLinux (RIP Priscilla). I could have hit up a PC bang—the odd moment when I had to stop in and use one for whatever reason, I definitely saw my fair share of gamers fighting evil in Sanctuary—but the idea of sequestering myself in the fluorescent light and cigarette smoke of your typical South Korean PC bang for hours at a go was not my idea of a good time. So I waited.

Now we've had Diablo III for a while and I've played through the game multiple times. A while ago, actually. But a couple days ago I finally got the platinum in Ni No Kuni and wanted something else to fill my time (since I'm a little burned out on Fallout Lou Bega). I've also been carrying around some kind of low-level depression and inner heaviness at the state of the world: the inevitability of a Trump presidency, rising Nazi rhetoric in Europe*, our collective failure to recognize history repeating itself and refusal to Do The Right Thing...all of that despair and frustration needs to vent somewhere. It might as well be crushing demons with a warhammer! So after a long dry spell, I've picked the game back up.

Gamer attitudes surrounding Diablo III confuse me. It has pretty good reviews everywhere, and I'm definitely enjoying it. But so many people I talk to seem to consider it clearly inferior to its predecessors. These same people also seem upset that Deckard Cain (in their words) "gets killed by a butterfly." Um, Maghda isn't a fucking butterfly? She's a witch? Also Deckard Cain has to be in his 90s by now? It sucks that Blizzard killed off a beloved NPC, but it's a fantasy world. They can always bring him back as a ghost or an angel or something.

My one and only gripe with Diablo III, at least compared to Diablo II, is that the settings feel less varied. Let's compare the two:

Diablo II
Diablo IIII
Act I: Medieval fantasy temperate forest   Act I: Medieval fantasy temperate forest
Act II: Middle East-ish desertAct II: Middle East-ish desert city
Act III: JungleAct III: Medieval fantasy wintery fortress
Act IV: HellAct IV: Demon-corrupted Heaven
Act V: Wintery mountainAct V: Medieval fantasy town

Why did they get rid of the jungle? The little blow dart guys were annoying as fuck, but the setting was cool and different! Plus, the Witch Doctor character seems to be a nod to that setting. Also (and I didn't realize it until I sat down to write that table) the settings in Diablo III are more enclosed. You spend a lot of time wandering the desert in Diablo II's Act II; in Diablo III the major plot points and events happen right in the city. And while you roam an entire jungle in Act III in Diablo II, in Diablo III you're stuck in one (huge, granted) fortress the whole time.

So Diablo III is a bit more repetitive than Diablo II ever got for me. Act IV in Diablo III is a really cool concept and I like it a lot, but even there the visuals of Heaven feel really similar to the visuals of Caldeum (if Caldeum had been overrun by demons).

But killing stuff is killing stuff, and few games have mastered the art of the killing spree the way that Blizzard has. Warner Bros. Entertainment came pretty close with Lord of the Rings: War in the North, but not quite. Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls games are also solid dungeon crawlers, but if you try to just mindlessly hack and slash you will die. (I can't believe I haven't written about Demon's Souls yet. I love that game!) I've heard really good things about Torchlight but haven't gotten around to playing either of them yet (though now both have Linux ports so maybe...!). I also played a little Sacred 2 but couldn't really get into it in the same way. The controls and the interface are just not as intuitive and seamless as in Diablo, or maybe I'm just picky. I also admit to having a hard time actually tracking my character on screen in Sacred. So many times I thought JV's character was my own. This doesn't happen when we co-op in Diablo III so I have no idea what my problem is. Maybe the camera angles are slightly different?

Diablo II set a gold standard, and the only subsequent game to meet that standard is...Diablo III.

Stay a while, and kill things.

*Almost overnight we've seen honest-to-God neo-Nazi stickers and posters materialize in our neighborhood. "The Zionist conspiracy to rule the world! Mass immigration is a ticking time bomb!" etc. But the good news is that they have a maximum lifespan of 24 hours before someone either rips them down (difficult; Nazi glue game is on point) or defaces them. And that someone isn't even always us! Look for the helpers.


  1. Man, I played the SHIT out of Diablo III when it came out. Are you playing the seasons stuff as well? I should really pick it up again, but by the time all that stuff started I had moved on to other games, y'know? I played Torchlight II (yay Steam sales) and enjoyed that a lot. I like that the classes were a bit more unique compared to other games I've played (Engineer was my fav, a bit overpowered tho) but as for detail Diablo still wins. Diablo obviously has a much darker feel to it as well, so I guess it just comes down to what kind of setting you enjoy more.

    Also totally agree about the Deckard Cain thing. Homie's old as shit, and people expect him to be around forever? And Maghda's a fucking badass. Let her do her thing! Like you said, if Blizzard decides they need him again they'll just bring him back. NO BIG DEAL.

    1. Like you literally resurrect a renegade Horadrim as part of the plot in Diablo III; anything is possible in this universe. People get so pressed...!

      I haven't done any of the seasonal stuff or even much of the rifts. I am literally just happy to keep grinding through the story to get those paragon levels. I definitely go through phases with Diablo II(I) so I'll binge for like a month or two and then take a long break, so it never feels TOO repetitive.

      So the Torchlight Linux port isn't on Steam, but the Torchlight 2 one is. What???

    2. Just get Torchlight 2! You don't need 1 hahah. Also 1 is only single-player :(