— I should probably tell you, I used your message on a wordpress blog I started. I would have asked to publish your words, only, as you sent the message via facebook, they own the rights now.
I feel your pain; I have the same cheated feel you have. We were about ten years old when we first got a look at a Diablo dungeon and heard the Butcher. Fifteen years have past and I think we were/are all hoping for the love affair to continue.
Sorry I didn’t reply, I am in the middle of exams at the moment. So yeah, Diablo III launched during exam time. Sort of fitting, as Diablo 2 was probably responsible for most of the poor marks I got in high school. Anyway, I played the beta a while back before a few gameplay changes were introduced. I had worries then already… Lord, I had no idea how bad things were. Before they made the changes (I played a demon hunter on early beta) as a seasoned game critic, I sensed the bullshit. Back then they still had a few familiar features which helped hide the fact that the games soul has been ripped out (things like potions, scrolls of tp and id, and skill points to spend). Originally the demon hunter shot things amazonian style; now she gets a machine gun skill at like lvl 4 or something. Anyway, my D3 had been on pre-order since Christmas – I felt like I had to get it even though I’ve long had suspicions it would bomb. My lack of faith comes from Blizzards post Warcraft 3 track record – I am not a WoW fan and Starcraft2 is a racket. Now I’ve got the game and I’ve been playing it for a few days (lvl 33 barbarian, act 1 nigthmare), and I think I can comment.
I’m not quite sure just how much Dabs you’ve played in your life, but for me it’s almost definitely more than I have spent on study-work, and probably will still be once I have done Honours next year. I’m pretty sure I’ve got an honorary Doctorate in Diablo. I’ve played and replayed every character, from both Diablo’s and their expansions. So I know from Dabs… And also I never once had crack-addict regrets playing so much D2 – I fucking loved it.
For me the cartoon graphics story was never a worry. I also enjoyed the gothic ambiance of Diablo II, but to be quite honest I would have played it in ascii. I actually recently played Dwarf Fortress (an ascii game) and it was one of the best games I’ve tried in a while. But ya, the graphics don’t worry me, although now as I’ve been playing D3 and you’ve made me take note, I am a little sickened with blue blood stains and pink shoulder armour. First thing I did when I found cheap dye for sale (in-game), is buy a naked dye, and then run around with my barb’s chest and stomach on show, in pink shoulder-caps, and a green skirt. Generally in games that try and encourage me to customize my looks, I make myself look as close to a fat, naked, black woman as possible (made her in her entirety in Saints Row). It’s sort of a quiet rebellion against metrosexuality and the invasion of its ethos into real male life.
The gameplay, for me, is all that matters. The videos are pretty awesome (I only watched pieces of them – I thought: “if the game is any good I’ll have plenty of opportunity to watch them”). I also think the big D is looking better than ever, resembling a Horned Reaper ala Dungeon Keeper, as opposed to the doglike devil from D2, and the slightly bigger Butcher from D1. Good points aside (and there are actually a few good points), the mechanics let D3 down.
The reason I refused to play WoW was the lack of imagination in the game mechanics, and now they are bringing it to Diablo. All the items that you get now just add hundreds of stats; if I took my new magical boots of +44 agil, +12 str, + 27 dex, back to D2 and put them on my level 91 paladin, I would get punkbusted as a hacker. Not to mention a blue spear I found recently with +98 str and 40 something vitality. Glay, my lvl 91 D2 pally, wears a nice fast pair of unique ‘magic find’ boots, which give zero stats. My new barbarian (OldyZOIZ – after Oldy2004 – after Oldy) uses items that give him: thousands more hp (from +vitality items), tons of armour (more from +dex items than from armour), points of life gain per hit (not a lovely % lifesteal), and extra bonus from health globe pickups. And yes those health globes are horrid. They are very necessary though, with the game virtually unplayable (melee at least) unless you are picking them up. As a barbarian, I have also been given at least three skills that have their own built-in life steal. The boringness of the items means that I often just have to go by the suggested retail price in order to determine whether an item deserves to be replaced or used.
The issue with the life probably bugs me the most. The developers seem to me to have stripped the life out of the game with just the removal of health potions. Health potions promoted/demanded visits to the shop. While there: why not check out the goods? Fill up these pesky tombs? Could probably use a quick repair, and gamble the change on an amulet. It was a really good feeling going out into the fog to find money to do it again. Bosses, including magical zombies and stuff, are relatively buff now. So while fighting, health recovery is vital. Potions are given a cooldown, so either you fight for a potion-length of time and leave for a while, or make another plan. My first instinct would be to get a lot of lifesteal and tank the creep, but I have only found one weak, magical lifesteal spear. Of course the gem system is up the creek, and I don’t see any skulls or other obviously lifestealing artefacts on the horizon. You get a little bit of ‘life gain per hit’, and ‘regen per second’, but when shit gets serious this does about nothing. Contrasted to those approaches to the lifegain dilemma, is the life-orb. It’s not to difficult to find a belt that will add a couple of hundred bonus hp to what must already be about 500 for collecting one of these balls; as well as items that give extra reach for collecting them. This leaves one (barbarian) with the options: fight-hope critters drop orbs-die-respawn with damaged armour-repeat, or fight-potion-fight-run away-potion-repeat. This makes it a choice between: easy with damaged armour costs, or difficult and tedious, with severely higher potions costs. You could probably re-setup the “build” for the occasion, but that would reset cooldown on all skills, and anyway you don’t want to be looking at those fucking panels that allow you to choose to run or jump away, and slam or slice an enemy.
In Diablo2, you got an idea of what a build is, which was then successfully transported to other games. A build is: the combination of skills, chosen from various alternatives, combined with items that give you something that your stats don’t, and a unique playing style for that character. It centers around specialization in a certain field/tactic; and it is based on character decisions which are final, and acquiring items with particular characteristics. Some of my favourite D2 builds include: hammerdin (hammer throwing paladin), lighting javazon (javelin-amazon), cold/lightning sorceress, healing only paladin, and summoning neci. They all require certain items to work properly; some like the healer need some advanced unique gear, but others just needed to focus on certain properties found in magical items (like faster run speed/mana regen/lifesteal). Items back in the day, btw, had properties that matched their rarity – rare properties on rares, unique ones on uniques… Now a rare has a rare amount of stats, and a legendary gives a legendary amount stats.
A build is not: a combination of skills chosen from a pool, combined with items that for the most part just add statistics to buff you, and a playing style that is already determined for you. After the first day grinding skeletons I was already losing focus on what my skills were actually supposed to be doing, and was just holding mouse-click and rolling 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. The sense of accomplishment you would get when you design and realize a working build is gone. Now you must make do with “setups”. The build of specifically chosen skills, is replaced with a setup of changeable skills for a specific occasion. The days of playing and re-playing and re-playing a character in order to best realize each possible Act V-Hell-finishing build, are over. Now if I get my barb to level 60, I can essentially set him up, give him the right items, and he will be the prototypical “setup” of a certain barb. Give him other items and he is another. There is no need to ever have more than one character of a class, you only have to keep the other setups items in your stash, and pop them on like Spiderman. It also seems like lvl 60 is the cap (for now at least) and it is reachable (some of my friends were there in 3 days). Returning to Glay, who is lvl 91, I never intended to even try for the lvl cap of 99. They have made a new WoW. Being at character level cap, and still grinding monsters for the items that will give you the edge is WoW. You can see it when you respawn so often your armour breaks. When durability is zero you stop getting the item bonuses, so a barb with 3000 life might respawn to find that without those items he’s only got 400. What they’ve done is made you – as reflected through your character – a clicking/walking item stand, for your items to battle monsters using your own personal choice of three main attacks. 3 choices for what my click does is just not acceptable.
The idea of skill modifying runes is not bad, but they needed to be found and used, not unlocked and enabled. Unlocked and selected is for Playstation, on a computer we collect and spend. It’s not that bloody complicated. You could find a rune, use it on a skill, and feel hella pimping. If I could find runes to use on skills that I chose and am mastering, I would be in-game, not typing this.
By having removed the choices (which a smart player would use to specialize, not diversify), and forcing a player to rely solely on items (which they present when they feel fit), they control the scale of difficulty completely. To gain the edge over the monsters (which is ultimately everyone’s goal) so that you can smash your way through critters without having to click twice, is near impossible. You could try farm some items for another character, but they would need level’s to use these items (not stats which you could stockpile in D2), and therefore they would quickly become obsolete anyway. Furthermore, every boss (and sub-boss) not only has a checkpoint outside his door, but a waypoint on the same mini-map screen (that will blink through the fog of war for those people that aren’t sure if they should find and activate them.) This is so that when you die, which you probably will, as the correct build to use against that particular boss isn’t one you regularly play, you can just pop right back into the action. The arena for the battle will also likely have an unexplained health well or two – makes me feel like: “if your gonna have to give me more life for this battle, couldn’t you rather have just have given this boss a little less?”
Nightmare difficulty did feel more Diablo-like, but it’s hard to at level 30 just forget all the problems with the game and act like it makes sense that I haven’t pumped skill points into a particular offensive/defensive skill. Ironically the henchmen, who auto levelled in D2 (and died – needing to be cared for, and revived when dead, if you wanted him to level – another place you used to be rewarded for being good at Diablo), is the only place you seem to be able to make decisions; choosing their skills. You do get to swap them out between three different kinds, but they share experience, so letting her/him/them tag along is no big deal, whether you choose to equip them or not.
There seems to be no sort of punishment for being shit at Diablo, which means that the seriousness of the game is lost, as well as the “scariness”. The lizards at Blizzard think that by making bosses tougher, and having them teleport away or make you fight their shadow, they have made a legit Diablo. No! Categorically, objectively, and downright bullshit. I have had the game a while now and have no Dabs pains, no need to see green and gold, no withdrawal symptoms from the grind. That is a bad sign Blizzard, especially as I am willing and able, and stand as part of what I am sure is a lot of original Diabloaholics who actively request you to enslave us. I will play the game, but that is no tribute to D3, but rather to my devotion to D2; D3 has been caught in the gravity of my love for D2. I haven’t however lost hope, the ratings must just dictate the next move. There are plenty of positive points to the game (mostly minor things, like speech continues through the load screens) and with the online game changes, there could be more in the future, they could even fix the childish mechanics. If I think of how quickly the D3beta turned into the completely different D3 we know today, as well as how much D2 changed on its way to version 1.11, I think there is still a chance we’ll feel the love again. Then again if the hordes who endlessly grind WoW for stats support it, it may be like this for good.