To start, from reading these forums I get the impression since Diablo 2 came out so long ago, a lot of the younger gamers never played it and don't know what Diablo games are all about. So within my review I’m going to explain the Diablo series a bit and do a lot of comparing to Diablo 2.
The world of Diablo (Sanctuary) is in the middle of being taken over by the forces of Hell. You'll encounter zombies, skeletons, demons, beasts, and other disturbing creatures like flesh beasts that puke up maggots. This is what Diablo’s setting has been since the beginning and they’ve stuck with it in Diablo 3. Awesome.
The game is played from an isometric perspective with click to move and attack. Again, this is how it’s been since Diablo 1 and they’ve dared not mess with perfection. I approve.
There are 5 classes (Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, Monk, and Wizard) each with a male and female option. While there is zero initial character customization (this isn’t an MMO) there are literally hundreds of different armors you’ll find to customize your look. I’ve read there’s dye for gear too to change its color. Diablo 2 also released with 5 classes (adding 2 more with the expansion) so I do not feel five is too little. I’m sure Diablo 3’s expansions will add more.
Personally, I love that they added the gender choice, Diablo 2 had gender locked classes and I’ve come to despise gender locking. Also, every class and gender has its own voice over and personality during the story, giving you ten slightly different story experiences if you cared to play them all. I really appreciate that Blizzard did this and it makes the story SO much more immersive.
This is where the biggest difference between Diablo 2 and 3 comes in. Diablo 2 had both stat points and skill points. Every level you were given points to distribute to whichever stats you liked as well as a skill point to be used in one of three skill trees. Each skill in the skill tree could have up to 20 points put into it which increased the rank of the skill. This allowed limitless customization and completely different gameplay experiences from even characters of the same class (Fire focus Sorceresses got completely different skills than Ice focus Sorceresses). It sounds awesome and it was.
Now, in Diablo 3, they threw away all of that. There are no stat points or skill points or skill trees. Stat points are distributed for you each level. Skills are done completely differently. In Diablo 2, you had left click and right click, thats it. In Diablo 3, you now also have 4 active skills (like an MMO) and 3 passives in addition to left and right click. As you level up you unlock options for each ‘slot’ (left click, right click, active 1, 2, 3, and 4, and passive 1, 2, 3). Each slot I believe ends up with 3-5 options but I don’t remember off the top of my head. In addition to the slot skill options, each skill also has rune upgrades that you unlock as you level. Each rune changes the skill slightly such as adding fire damage or a knockback and things like that. The animation to the skill usually also changes depending on which rune you have selected for it.
So, in Diablo 2, two Necromancers would end up having drastically different stats and skills depending on what the player choose. In Diablo 3, all Witch Doctors will have the same base stats and end up having access to the same skills, but which ones they choose to set to each slot, and which upgrade they choose to have applied to that skill, will be different. There is still customization, just a different type. Maybe not as much, but I do understand why they made this change. Distributing stat points was stressful since you could horribly gimp yourself. Furthermore, items had stat requirements to equip them, so for example Sorceresses who put no points into Strength could never wear the most powerful armor without wasting points in Strength. Diablo 3 also abolishes the stat requirement to wear items, only having a level requirement. As for skills, you could also gimp yourself in this regard. I made a Paladin in Diablo 2 with all my points into Healing Aura thinking if I constantly regenerated health I could never die. Let’s just say I was wrong and ended up having to remake my Paladin. Diablo 3’s system assures that you can beat the game no matter what options you choose.
Combat in Diablo 3 is almost exactly like Diablo 2. You left or right click on a monster and attack with that skill. Diablo 3 also adds the active skills so hitting 1-4 gives you more variety. Even though the systems are the same, Diablo 3’s is much more enjoyable. This is because of the skill animations and effects. When my Monk whirlwind kicks in a firey blaze and sends a dozen skeletons flying backwards, that’s freaking awesome. When you strike a monster it ‘feels’ like you hit them, and that is something a lot of games have trouble pulling off. Diablo 3 successfully makes combat fun, fast paced, and exciting to watch, a great deal more so than Diablo 2.
Diablo 3 also added a neat little bonus to massacring hoards of enemies. The more enemies you defeat or destructible objects you break within a short period of time increases a counter. You get a bonus amount of experience depending on your killing or breaking spree or if you get a multikill. It’s a nice bit of appreciation for being awesome.
Diablo games are all about the loot grind. The constant quest to gain better and better gear has become the basis to this genre of game, and Diablo 3 continues it in full force. Just like other Diablo games, all gear has random stats and comes in different rarities (Grey/Trash, White/Common, Blue/Uncommon, Yellow/Rare, Orange/Legendary, Green/Set). I’ve read that Diablo 3 has even more items than Diablo 2, and that boggles my mind. The quest for epic loot shall be endless once again.
This is something completely new in Diablo 3. From a blacksmith, you have the option to break down any Blue/Common or rarer items into materials. The blacksmith can then craft the items into new items with random stats. This seems to be a more expansive version of the gambler in Diablo 2, who you would buy an unidentified item from and hope you got something good. You can spend money to upgrade the blacksmith and unlock more items he can craft for you. The blacksmith’s upgrade level is shared between all characters on the account.
While this system is pretty simple, I really like that they added it. The gambler in Diablo 2 was basically all you had to spend money on and I constantly used it to try and get a new better item when there was one piece of gear I couldn’t find an upgrade for. It’s also really nice that its shared between characters so I can jump in and get new characters outfitted in some Blues right away.
There is also a jeweler in Diablo 3 that will add sockets to your items and combine gems for you. Sockets and gems was also a feature in Diablo 2 that allowed some customization to be added to your items. The jeweler makes it much easier to do this in Diablo 3 and just like the blacksmith, can be upgraded.
In Diablo 2, socketed items were of a separate type than others and therefore it made it very hard to make a socketed item better than a Legendary. You only had one opportunity to add sockets to an item throughout the game and that usually only added one socket and didn’t end up making a big difference. I’m very happy to see they saw this system’s flaws and made it more available. Adding gems to gear to make them more powerful is now something you’ll easily be able to do to all your items.
Diablo 2 had three difficulties, Normal, Nightmare and Hell. Every character would begin in Normal, after beating Normal you would be able to play the game on Nightmare and after beating Nightmare you’d be able to play on Hell difficulty. Diablo 3 keeps this system and also adds a fourth difficulty: Inferno. Diablo 3 has been designed so that you reach level cap (60) in Hell. Inferno then pits you against increasingly stronger monsters (level 61+) where the only way you can get stronger is through items. I’m really excited about this and I think it’s great they offered the hardcore players an ultimate challenge (if Hardcore mode wasn’t enough).
Diablo 3 makes it insanely easy to play with your friends. Add them to your friend list and you can join each others’ game with the click of a button. Up to four people can play together at a time and everyone receives their own loot, so you don’t have to worry about item stealing. Whenever a player joins your game, their banner will be placed in town so you can teleport right to their location whenever you want (Hint: Your banner can be completely customized from the character select screen. There’s tons of options!).
Everything you do in the game gets you achievements. If you’re a perfectionist, this game will have you set for a long time trying to unlock them all. Furthermore, from character select you can view your account’s profile where it’ll display how far you’ve gotten with each of the classes, your total amount of kills, and tons of other neat information. This gives you tons of motivation to try and do everything.
Anyone who says Diablo 3 doesn’t ‘bring anything new’ to the Diablo franchise is both wrong and right. The basics of the game are exactly the same, but you know what, I’m glad. It wouldn’t be a Diablo game otherwise. They took all of the features of Diablo and did make it better though. The combat is better, the graphics are better, no gender locked classes, achievements and there’s even some new features. Plus, the story continues and the presentation is more engaging than ever with full voice acting and lore books you find all the time. If you loved Diablo 2, you will love Diablo 3. If you’re expecting a game that brings tons of innovation to the table, you won’t find it here, but in this case, that’s appreciated. I can foresee myself going back to play this game every few months or years, just like Diablo 2. Awesome job, Blizzard.