It’s been twelve years since Diablo II was released and story of Diablo 3 picks up twenty years after the evil incarnate Diablo ravaged the town Tristram. Those who have played the predecessors will appreciate the familiar gameplay mechanics, characters, scenery and guitar strumming background music. The graphics have come a long way since the original was released in 1996.
The story begins with Deckard Cain and his niece Leah studying the prophecies in the chapel when a ball of fire from the sky lands there causing the dead to rise and quite frankly all hell breaks loose before their eyes. While Leah barely survives, her uncle is buried beneath the rubble.
The hero you play arrives at New Tristram after following the falling star. The town is in shambles and the soldiers are struggling to keep the undead out and many of the villagers are turning into zombies after being bitten by them. After speaking with Leah, you agree to help her find her uncle and she’ll even fight alongside you for a bit.
Leah is a ranged fighter and shoots down enemies with her bow and arrow. Along your journey you’ll befriend other AI fighters such as a templar (melee), enchantress (sorcerer), and a scoundrel (ranged). You cannot customize Leah’s equipment but you can with the others. Half of the fun in this game is finding and equipping better weapons and armor. The town’s blacksmith can help you forge weapons and armor with random magical properties. You can salvage weapons through him or sell them back to merchants or other players using the auction house for gold. You can buy in-game gold with real world currency through Blizzard if you wish.
The other half of the game revolves around exploring and slaying every hideous monster or boss that crosses your path. Each character class has special weapons, abilities, and fighting styles that are unique to them. I beat this game as a female Barbarian who is able to dual-wield swords, clubs, axes and spears. As she attacks, she builds up rage that can enable various powers like causing earthquakes or spinning around and attacking like Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. The Witch Doctor class uses mana and has summoning/necromancy powers that can call upon zombie dogs to fight alongside them. Their weapons and magic have tribal/voodoo elements to them. The demon hunter is a ranged fighter that focuses on bows and crossbows. They can dual-wield crossbows, throw bombs, and set traps to entangle their foes. The wizards use ranged elemental attacks that are powered by arcane magic that regenerates quickly. The monk class is very powerful and specializes in hand to hand combat. They’re handy to have in multiplayer skirmishes since they can heal others.
Joining your friend’s game is pretty seamless and easy to do. Diablo 3 requires an internet connection and a battle.net account to play. If the battle.net servers are down, you cannot play. (Many screamed and gnashed their teeth when this happened on launch day.) You can add and chat with your friends in game and joining their game is a click away. If someone joins a game, the AI followers are automatically sent back to town. Also, when a person joins or leaves your game, the monster difficulty is changed accordingly. You can only join games in areas that your character has been through. So in other words, if you’re still on the Normal difficulty campaign, you cannot join nightmare or hell difficulty games.
In order to unlock the harder difficulties you beat the game on the previous one. Not only is it more challenging, but the loot is better too. It took me about 24 hours (not consecutively!) to beat the game on Normal difficulty. You can have several heroes. Each of them has to earn their own progression, so if one character can access higher difficulties, you will have to earn it again with another one. On the other hand, you can join friends online who can take you to later chapters within the same difficulty level.
The character development in this game is done exceptionally well. Each hero has a male and female counterpart with unique (and great!) voice acting for each. The characters and artisans have interesting back stories and anecdotes if you’re willing to talk to them. Covetous Shen has the most memorable personality and the funniest stories but they are often riddled with sexual references. It took my female barbarian a while to adequately cover herself with armor. My female witch doctor is still lacking in that regard. I already mentioned before that the witch doctors use voodoo and summoning magic. Violence is gory and gruesome as you’ll encounter zombies that puke other zombies out and fat zombies that split open and have snakes or imps gush out of them. It reminded me of the Left 4 Dead games in that regard.
I was happy to see that the pentagrams have been removed for the most part. They make a small appearance as a banner sigil (There’s no option for a cross sigil). To keep the game religion neutral they also took the crosses out of the chapels too. Since the story revolves around spiritual warfare, there are several religious references in the back story. For example, there’s a physical heaven and hell and some of the demon names and tales of Nephalem may sound familiar.
So is Diablo 3 worth the wait? I think so. It’s fun, the controls are easy to use, and the graphics and story are captivating. Those old enough to be familiar with the originals will feel at home here. While it’s not a pentragram fest like the previous entries were, it’s a step in the right direction. Diablo 3 is still a very dark game; there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s violent and earns its mature rating with the violence and swearing alone. Fortunately the swearing is minor compared to other M games released recently. The spiritual elements should be noted and the player class you choose will greatly impact your game play in that regard. If you want more clothing, play as a male; if you don’t like magic, play as a barbarian. If the spiritual elements don’t bother you, you’ll enjoy your trip to New Tristram.