Developer: Blizzard Entertainment | Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment | Platform Reviewed On: PCDiablo 3 is a tired, tawdry, trite and disrespectful experience ó although it is perhaps one of the most addicting games of its kind. I should preface this review by saying that I did not altogether hate my time with Diablo 3, but I do hate the game; I hate it with a passion. Also, this review will not cover much of the story or narrative elements of Diablo 3 (which I am certain are awful) because I skipped every second of dialogue and cutscene that I could.
So, Diablo 3.
Imagine a world where every couch cushion is home to a random number of quarters. Now imagine that every bookshelf likewise houses an unknown number of quarters ó or maybe a dollar bill! Now imagine that every dog, kitten, frog, tree, hedge, dirt clump, pipe, and stack of anything also carries with it several (or few) quarters. If I lived in such a world, Iíd be checking every nook and cranny like a bloodhound. Sadly, this world only exists in Diablo 3.
There, you may splinter tree stumps by hitting them, blow up crates and barrels, and even fumble with rotting carrion to find gold. Itís everywhere! On top of that, armor and weapons are spat out of every crevice as well. This means that you receive a constant influx of new items with which to fill your bags. Often you will sell these items for more gold! Gold!
So Iím dancing around the point, which is: Diablo 3 sits on your shoulders and waves gold in your face like a carrot on a stick. Youíre always, always in search of gold, so that you can improve your armor or buy new weapons. And all the game wants you to do is play it incessantly, searching for gold forever. Incidentally, this isn't fun.
In fact, every element of Diablo 3ís design is geared toward dangling enticing rewards in front of you: there is a level system, spells are unlocked the more you play, items require certain levels to be used, there is a narrative to see through, your character looks cooler the more you level up, there are unlockable difficulties for the game. The list could go on and on, and you would only be scratching the surface of what makes Diablo 3 so insidious: it is designed for the player to scavenge like a bloodthirsty vulture, and designed to trick you into thinking youíre having fun. Youíre often searching for gold and new items so frequently that you forget that the gameplay is actually quite dull.
This may seem like a minor quibble, but it is a large issue and one which permeates not just Diablo 3 but games like it. Unsurprisingly, Blizzardís World of Warcraft operates similarly, coaxing players into drudging through the game endlessly. Guild Wars, Final Fantasy XI, Torchlight, and many other games follow similar reward systems: rewarding the player constantly (with gold and items) for their drudgery. This kind of hollow reward system (rewarding for accomplishing nothing) conditions a player to more frequently perform the behavior which led them to a reward. Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner come to mind.
Itís an easy trap to fall into, so your safest bet is to simply be aware that you are trapped, and to understand how exactly you are trapped; then delete Diablo 3. Your time is better served finger-painting pretty birds than scrounging like an addict for gold. You could even pick up Invisible Cities, Neverwhere, Watchmen, Infinite Jest, or any other novel you like, because any activity (besides another addiction) is more productive and conducive to a healthy life than Diablo 3.
But letís ignore the snide reward system of Diablo 3. Weíll turn our focus toward how the game disguises itself; by disguise, I mean how it dresses (story, visuals, things like that).
Diablo 3 is about a bad guy named Diablo. Heís essentially the devil and heís taking over a fictitious world that you donít really care about. Heís killing people that you donít love and wreaking havoc everywhere. Your job is simply to stop him; because heís just that bad.
Turns out, Diablo is a pretty simple guy to man-handle. In fact, his whole army is simple to man-handle. I bought a couple items on the auction house and was able to blow through every enemy like I was sleeping. And no matter how effortlessly I creamed on the face of Hell, Diabloís pawns would berate me incessantly with such (paraphrased) phrases like, ďYou killed a useless tool, but youíll never defeat me!Ē And then when I did defeat him, he would scream in surprise of his failure ó which was clearly inevitable. Itís like Hell didn't even acknowledge the wrecking ball that was swinging its way. Which provides a sharp dissonance for the narrative: Iím so powerful that I can tap-dance my way through Hell, and not a single enemy will acknowledge it. They just continue to pretend that they have some trump card which will defeat me, when clearly they do not. This inevitably trivialized anything the game had to say to me.
Among this poor disguising and awkward dissonance comes the coop experience: itís very well done! Except every time someone joins your game the ďminions of hell grow stronger,Ē which means that every time someone leaves, ďthe minions of hell grow weaker.Ē Really? It works like that?
The scourge of Hell offer me a courtesy every time Iím alone. What a kindness! Unfortunately for them, Iím a bulldozer of a killer and Iím slicing through demons easier than I could carve a cake. But I understand the change from powerful demons to weaker demons ó it certainly makes sense from a play perspective; it just doesn't make sense from a narrative perspective. Am I honestly to believe that the strength of Hellís minions is in constant flux, dictated by whether there are one, two, three, or four heroes fighting against them? Silliness.
Also silly is the fact that when I do enter hell, there are these special vents which have gold in them. Awesome! Hell offers me kindness even when Iím eviscerating it from the inside out. The demons of Hell also, miraculously, carry gold. Too, there are special shrines set up for me which increase my experience and power that rest conveniently inside Hell! Wow!
This all probably seems petty, but how can I honestly take a story seriously when all of these issues pull me from the experience?
I will conclude by saying I was addicted to Diablo 3, and I played it quite a lot. I might have even said the game was fun if I didn't know better. But the only thing you need to know about Diablo 3 is that no matter how much you love it, no matter how much you play it or waste your life on it, it still hates you. It hates you so very much.