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Diablo III Review

Okay, this is not a complete review because I haven't finished and won the game yet. That's not my style of play. I tend to noodle around each act for a long time playing it through in all the character types slowly. I move across the landscape slowly picking up everything including the junk. This drives other players crazy in multi-player games, but my relaxed pace is what I get into with it.

Diablo III is a masterwork.

There is a reason why it took ten years to write the sequel to Diablo II. I was still playing and enjoying Diablo II up to the minute I first loaded Diablo III and it's still my choice for what to relax with when I go offline due to power outage or loss of Internet connection. The only flaw in Diablo III is that you have to go online to play it.

I had to ignore a tiny chat screen down at the bottom left corner where other players are selling artifacts or trying to invite me to help with quests. I don't play socially, so it'd be nice to filter that to in-game characters only. For one thing, I am an old fashioned RPG player who likes to get into character and stay in character. That does not fit the mood of the chats.

However, if I wanted to play with friends who game the way I do, it's easy to set up an invite based social game provided everyone has good high speed access. I have Verizon Wireless 4G - it runs very well when the 4G service is up, when they switch to the 3G servers or get a bit overloaded there's lag. This can get frustrating but my access is good enough it hasn't happened much. Be sure you have good fast Internet service and enough bandwidth to play it for hours on end.

It won't cost as much bandwidth as streaming video but it's probably more than just reading articles and posting. I haven't been able to check those stats yet. Verizon's usage analysis service hasn't been working when I logged in. On the side where it's closer to "read and surf" usage though, I've been online with it for 48 hours and have not gotten the "Important Message from Verizon" yet telling me I used half my usage. Since I did watch a six hour painting class in streaming video, if it was running high I'd have got that message already.

There is a reason this game is a massive enduring hit in all three iterations. Three good reasons.

1) Good game design: the pace your character levels and gets new powers, the balance of effort and reward is optimum. It's perfectly balanced for endless play. There's enough new challenges, different side quests and dialogue to make it immersive for every repeat. They did this as far back as Diablo I, so at every stage they've kept this flagship game's playability and replayability maximized.

2) Good Story with an Immersive Setting, Sympathetic Characters, Good Dialogue and Masterful Twists. It's got all the literary hallmarks of a brilliant graphic novel series. If you have not played Diablo I and Diablo II, the story will stand alone and enough gets revealed about what happened to keep this one absorbing. It's richer if you have played the sequels, so I'd recommend buying the Diablo II Battle Chest that includes Diablo I as a free extra.

The first game is a bit crude because game technology has evolved since then, but it's still fun in its own way. The second is still playable to this day and will probably sit in my library something like the books I keep replacing till I get fed up and get the hardcover version. The third is just as good.

I'm only part of the way through it as I said, but the quality is so consistent I know it'll be maintained right through to a twist ending.

3) Incredible fine art. For the past few years I've been taking a lot of upper level art classes, since December 2010 I've been taking a master level landscape course given by Johannes Vloothuis, who was once named Mexico's best watercolor artist. So I understand a lot more of the underpinnings of great art than I did before when I just got absorbed in it and loved the art. Everyone loves the art.

Now I understand why the art grabs everyone that much. It's just that good on every principle of design and color and composition. You can use all the CGI and fancy tricks in the world to create illusion but if it has poor design it will be awkward, look unreal and drive you nuts without being able to put your finger on why.

The scenes are lighter and easier to navigate than Diablo II. Mist is used a lot to give distance and keep the screen a little lighter. Rather than hard-edged detailed realism, the scenery has a painterly loose depth to it that's completely immersive. Every artist's trick I just learned to make a flat piece of paper open up into an immense vista is applied all at once. Character design is good too. Styles are classic for the archetypes the characters represent.

I'm of two minds about the Witch Doctor though. He's cool, he's very African themed, he's clearly a jungle shaman. What I don't like is that his combat pose, crouched to fire poison darts in the jungle, makes the male Witch Doctor look like he's cringing and servile in any conversation. The other heroes stand tall and act with a balance of wisdom and youthful male arrogance. Witch Doctor has that too but his wisdom is a little different, he's had a harder life. I'd like to have seen them give him better posture and save the crouching for a combat pose, or even eliminate the crouch because it's just not there if you're shooting behind a tall bush. It's only there if the bush you use for cover is shorter than you are.

On the up side, all the white characters in the game treat him exactly like the other heroes. There's no sense of racism in their reactions and no one notices his bad posture or acts patronizing toward him. I'd just like to see him move and act more hunky because when I imagine myself as a black guy hero, I want to look like Wil Smith and really take charge of the combat. Maybe darker than Wil Smith and tribal dressed, yay and cool for that, but I keep feeling he should've had good posture and excellent dreadlocks. His dialogue and attitude are perfect for exactly what he is - a shaman, he's used to giving people advice, he's humble with the spirits and respectful of the spirit world but ferocious when it comes to evil spirits.

There's a reason the series endures and that we all had to wait so long for the third volume in the trilogy. Diablo III is the third in a series of classic interactive graphic novels. If you enjoy graphic novels you'll enjoy this game, even if you're not usually into computer games.

Oh, that's the other thing.

4) The mechanics are still brute easy. I don't have to memorize a lot of keyboard commands or get a game controller and train my hands to its buttons and commands. The learning curve to play the game at full speed is stupid easy. This is important. Ease of play gets you into the real pleasure of gaming a lot faster without the distraction of having to learn a lot of real-world skills at a real-world pace.

Playing well does not demand the fast reflexes of a physically healthy 12 year old either. My snail's pace is partly determined by my physiology. I don't react fast. I don't move quickly enough for half the games out there because I didn't train them into automatic reflexes. The dabbler gamer can get as much enjoyment out of Diablo III as the experienced gamer with a whole big bookshelf of colorful fantasy roleplaying games.

It's best of breed. It was worth the wait. There's even a convenience benefit to the new "must play online" system - the install CD is only one install CD instead of the five in the Diablo II Battle Chest, four of which needed to be loaded and swapped repeatedly to install before you get into just using the Expansion Play Disc. That's great now and it'll be great when I upgrade my laptop next year too.

I wasn't sure if it'd run on my current best laptop, an HP with 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core AMD processor. Sorry, don't have the specs at hand, but look close at the system requirements. Mine had enough RAM and processing speed and space on the hard drive, but I got a warning it might not play well on my video card - and this is a three year old "gaming machine desktop replacement" laptop with a 17" wide-screen monitor. Turns out speed of play depends a bit more on how smooth and fast your Internet access is, but don't spend the $60 if you don't meet the tech specs. Or get a friend to give you a free pass client to try it so you can find out if your system runs it.

I set it to the lowest resolution on this machine just to conserve bandwidth, but I'll turn it up to high once I get cable Internet and a newer laptop. I might follow up then just to see the art at its finest intensity. The box includes four free guest pass codes so you can let friends or family members enjoy the game, plus one free guest pass for World of Warcraft.

I've heard good things about that too and may give it a try. Blizzard games are definitely my flavor.

5) Did I mention the sound track is as good as the best movie soundtracks I've ever enjoyed? This is awesome. Sometimes I listen to the music just for writing music.
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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
You can do /leave to exit general chat; people on your friends list can whisper you still and people in your party can still use party chat. It doesnt stick yet so you have to do it every time you log in, however.

Given the "Fog of War" effects used (what you can see depends on how close you are to it, etc.) I dont think the resolution will affect bandwidth. That would not be true of WoW, which I don't think you'll be able to do pretty much at all with your network setup (since a major patch day could kill your bandwidth for the month).
Jun. 12th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the warning!
I'll save that WoW pass for when I get cable Internet, something that Diablo 3 is making a better idea. I miss having Netflix anyway and if I get Netflix I can get the huge TV out of that corner of my room and add a tall bookcase in its place. TV has lousy resolution anyway! lol

Thanks for explaining that. So I could try the higher resolution screens without increasing bandwidth too much? I might, it seems like it'd be cool.

You're helping a lot. Purr. Scritch all the cats and say hi to Nonny for me. Ari purrs and greets everyone too.
Jun. 12th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the warning!
Toss the WoW pass in the trash, IMO. They have a recruit a friend program, which gives perks to the inviter and invitee (including levels), so if you go into WoW, have elialshadowpine send you a RAF invite. Just makes more sense that way.

I used to use Amazon Unbox, Netflix, and Hulu (and the occasional torrent, for stuff like Canadian shows and whatnot) on my computer in the place of a TV. Then I had several teeth taken out and set up a TV in the bedroom for while I recuperated with a Roku device to stream from those services (which I helped do coding for). The surgery sent me into a major RA flare, however, so the TV has stayed. At this point, given how much TV I watch, we recently got cable TV set back up; a lot of the stuff I want to watch I don't want to keep, so buying it just doesn't make sense (and anything on Hulu is also available via broadcast or On Demand). And that way I can also check out new shows without having to pay to see if I like them. When I "cut the cord" I was saving about 50%, but my TV watching has increased a lot. The Cimzia I'm on is helping me get through the work days and letting me do a lot that I didn't used to be able to do anymore, but at the end of the day, TV is usually all I can handle, curled up on my side because my back hurts too much. Ditto for bad pain days.

I don't know if you have any kind of monitoring software where you can run some tests and see how the BW usage stacks up, but I think with D3 resolution shouldn't impact BW. I do think that grouping probably will, however (more with more group members, since it transmits telemetry data about all the PCs).

And will do, but with 6 cats it might take a bit to scritch them all ;) Especially with the kittens, who run if you get too close and you aren't Drake (aka The Animal Magnet).
Jun. 13th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Also keep in mind that D3 is different than D2 in that the "Normal" mode you start out on would better be termed "Easy" mode. The devs specifically said they wanted options for casual players that just want to see the story. Once you finish Normal mode, you continue on to Nightmare (... and then Hell and Inferno) mode. You also continue to get new spells through those levels so it's not like you're just doing the same stuff slightly harder. You get more options.

Also when you go into the Nightmare+ modes, you want to turn on "Elective Mode" in the options, which allows you to bypass the normal categorization for spells. This means that you can take a spell from a different category and put it in whatever slot you want, so say you have two awesome spells under "Defensive" -- you can use both of them if you want!

A friend of mine got the collector's edition and I'm going to be snagging the soundtrack from her; want me to send it along after?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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