Since the first game launched in 1996, Blizzard’s premier demon-slaying series, Diablo, always resulted in satisfying addictions to the world of Sanctuary and its hellishly heroic endeavors. In fact, when one thinks of playing, they probably tell themselves they'll need a new mouse before the day ends. As for Diablo III, the next chapter in the series, we find there are thankfully more reasons to continue the addiction as opposed to leaving in disgust -- even if we can't always log in.
Taking place two decades after the last title, Diablo III answers questions prompted at the end of Diablo II, and reintroduces fans to the likes of Deckard Cain and his (apparent) niece Leah. At the very beginning of the game, you're guided to New Tristram in the name of prophecy, revenge, general curiosity, or whatever else your character decides based on your class choice. From this point on, it's revealed why a meteor fell from the sky and why threatening demons exist once again, even though there hasn’t been a prime evil appearance in well over 20 years. After all, they're kind of dead.
Before we continue with the mechanics, let’s discuss “Error 37” and other catastrophic game-killing moments. There’s a good chance you heard about Blizzard's Diablo III launch troubles and the fury (or claims of justification from highly loyal Blizz fans) felt by many players. Though most of us are now constantly enjoying our demon destroying conquests, there are still unfortunate error spurts thanks to the “always online” DRM implementations. For instance, a more recent and highly unfriendly “Error 3007” will disconnect players from an active game without any warning, and may constantly repeat for some time.
Once any access problems are solved, you'll discover how impressive Diablo III is. Sure, the overall presentation releases a mild World of Warcraft vibe (most likely an attempt to rake in some hardcore WoW raiders), but the satisfying overlay of woodland scenery and a nostalgic soundtrack will remind fans where they really are. The stunning reimagining of the Tristram cathedral only improves the experience, while boldly displaying the golden future of the franchise.
Many diehard Diablo fans may think character forming is a little too easy. In a daring move, Blizzard decided to discard skill trees and manually assigned stat points, technically making Diablo III the most strategically simple when compared to its predecessors. But overall, the developers made it work. There’s still a variety of fighting combinations for players to utilize, and without the overabundance of completely useless skill options found on the Diablo II skill trees. There were plenty of amazing skills in the previous titles, but let’s face it -- most of us worked our way up to a single end-all ability (Blessed Hammer, Whirlwind, Blizzard, etc.) and never stopped using it with other key defensive skills (auras, shouts, and so-on).
Exploring player classes is even more entertaining than it was 12 years ago. If you're looking for an improvement on familiar classes from the previous game, it's great to start with the barbarian or wizard. The most unique character in the game is definitely the demon hunter, presenting some amazing new twists to the bow-wielding rogues and amazons of yesteryear. The only unfortunate drawback, however, is how demon hunters may feel underpowered during the first portions of the game.
No matter which hero class you play with, executing a combat ability is extraordinary. If you thought slaying multiple creatures was amazing in the last two games, imagine how spectacular it is with 3D attack effects, vivid demon explosions (yes, explosions), and a celebratory counter telling you how many monsters you just eliminated in an entire run or single blow. And between tossing jars of spiders at enemies on your witch doctor, or simply vaporizing them with an energy beam on your wizard, each new skill is more satisfying than the last.
Boss battles have also evolved since the last two games. Rather than a 20-minute point-and-click standoff between you and your enemy, many final encounters now require timed maneuvers and planning. Though some fights are more disappointing than others, the overall experience presents the best boss lineup in the franchise.
As you repeat the game after normal mode, Diablo III may -- just like its predecessors -- consist of the same familiar routine, but it does a much better job of continuing the post-game item grind than the last two ever did. For starters, leveling characters and catching up to friends will actually take some effort. Instead of discovering the greatest experience exploits and harvesting the crap out of them (The Secret Cow Level and "Baal runs" from Diablo II), you actually retread through each act while discovering new items. And thankfully, leveling your character never feels too tiring. The only area more casual players may be scared away from is inferno, which is actually perfect since it was tailored for the hardcore Diablo player.
One of the great staples in the world of Diablo is, and always has been, item gathering. And aside from constantly hoping your enemies drop what you need, the auction house assures you'll find what you're looking for (so long as you can afford it). Custom item crafting is also useful during the beginning of the game, but eventually becomes a tedious and overpriced process. You'll find more often than not, it's better to sell items for the raw gold and search the auction house for deals.
With outstanding visuals, nostalgic audio, and addicting combat mechanics similar to its predecessors, Diablo III is essential for both returning fans and curious newcomers alike. The only unfortunate drawback is how such a good game is littered with so many minor connection issues that, at times, completely hinder the experience. After all, what good is a game you can't play?
Regardless of these minor shortcomings, Diablo III is worth the purchase for both casual players and hardcore Diablo fans prepared for intense inferno item grinds.
And one last friendly reminder -- there is no cow level.
Four.Five out of Five Hadokens