Diablo III

Diablo III
Diablo III Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX
Genre Long awaited hack and slash
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

The original Diablo was introduced to me by a friend probably no more than 3 years after its release, before my highschool years. Diablo would eventually see some of the most unforgettable and impactful gaming moments of our childhoods, and those of our closest friendslargely due to how much it scared the crap out of us. The first time I laid eyes on The Butcher and heard that deep, grating voice"Ah... Fresh meat"I slammed the door to his lair in his face and ran all the way out of the dungeon (a little excessive since enemies can't use doors). I can distictly recall at least two other moments that caused me to toss my mouse or phone (I was talking to said friend while playing once) in suprise and fear. Ah, the good old days.

Diablo II and its expansion would demand exponentially larger amounts of our attention due to its improved graphics, presentation, story, and gameplay (both online and off). It was a staple in our gaming repertoires, and inspired many discussions and stories of our own. I spent a good deal of my time every night reading through Brady Games' strategy guide.

When all was said and done, standing in the wake of the Worldstone's destruction, Diablo fans were sure we would someday see a sequel. It was just a question of when. The answer came at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris on June 28, 2008, though it would be many years more before an official release date was announced. On March 15, 2012, Blizzard finally announced that the release date was only two short months away.

And now, 11 years in the making, Diablo III couldn't have come at a more awkward time for me... I'm currently in the middle of two jobs, one of which takes up the entirety of my weekends. Throw in a small spat of the flu and new member of the family (a stray cat my girlfriend decided to bring home one night), and I'm left which much less time to play, let alone write, as I would've liked...but I finally found the time, and you didn't come hear to read my whining, so let's jump into the first hour of Diablo III.

Minute by Minute

01 - Act I.

The opening cinematic briefly explains the Barbarian's motivations. In the decades following the destruction of Mount Arreat, the Barbarian tribes, bereft of their sacred vigil to protect the now-destroyed Worldstone, have fallen into decline. One Barbarian (me) travels south to Khanduras seeking purpose. 6 days ago, a star fell upon the ruins of Old Tristram, and there are reports of the dead rising. The Barbarian journeys towards the region in hopes of finding a new cause.

A classic Diablo melody begins playing, sparking a big smile on my face, as I'm given control. Moving around feels as it should. Down the road I encounter my first enemy, a zombie, and easily dispatch it with my Bash skill. Bash is one such skill that generates Fury, a resource used to execute powerful Barbarian skills. I rekill half a dozen more as I make my way down the road.

02 - I encounter a group of NPCs fighting off a drove of zombies at the entrance to a town.

After dealing with the threat, my hero explains that he is seeking the fallen star. The captain of the guard, Rumford, explains that the star fell on the Old Tristram cathedral, and that there is only one surviving witness...

After a surprise zombie attack, he explains that I can find her at the town's inn.

03 - Welcome to New Tristram. I pass some chattering townsfolk on my way to the inn, encountering a miner with gear for sale. I'll pass for now.

I enter the inn and find Leah near the front desk.

Diablo 3 Female Barbarian Gore

04 - Leah's uncle, Deckard, fell into the depths of the cathedral when the star struck. As she explains this, some wounded patrons turn into snarling zombies. I level-up after killing them and set a secondary skill called Hammer of the Ancients; a Fury spender.

The voice acting is fairly overdone at times.

The search for Deckard can't begin until New Tristram is ridden of the undead plaguing the town. I'm to deal with the threat, of course.

05 - I head back to the captain as per Leah's instructions to get directions. Yet another surprise zombie attack breaks down a barricade which just happened to be blocking the way I need to go. They are led by a new zombie called a Wretched Mother, who attacks with projectile vomit and pukes out new zombies. Charming.

06 - The captain asks me to kill three more of these things on my way to Old Tristram, if I can. I'm to kill their queen to put an end to the undead onslaught.

07 - I encounter a new enemy called a Quill Fiend; a porcupine-like monster that shoots quills at you.

09 - After some more zombie smashing, I decide to finally check out the goodies I've found so far. I equip armour and a sword.

The inventory UI is great. When you highlight a carried piece of equipment, a pop-up window compares it to your currently equipped one, showing what stats improve or worsen; something the other games sorely lacked.

11 - I kill my third Wretched Mother, completing the Bonus Quest, and head down into a well. I find a bunch of gold, a new axe, and continue on.

Diablo 3 Male Barbarian Stairs

12 - I come across a house with a cellar full of zombies and evict them.

13 - I giggle as Hammer of the Ancients sends a zombie flying upon its destruction. Really loving the physics. It's fun seeing bodies and debris fly about as you dispatch enemies and smash objects. Ah, the simple pleasures...

14 - I found some gold and boots in a tree stump. Right...

16 - I'm continuously coming across journals that detail things about the region, etc.. You click a 'New Lore' button at the bottom-right corner of the screen to hear someone talk about whatever the journal concerns. This button also appears whenever a new enemy is killed. Most are only mildly interesting, and were it not for the fact that they can be read to you as you explore, most players are likely to skip them. However, for those interested in the extended lore of the Diablo universe, or for those who missed out on the first two games, some journals explain the back story of some of the more important locations, enemies, etc.

17 - I kill the Wretched Mother Queen and complete my quest.

19 - After fully exploring the ruins, I head back to New Tristram via a Waypoint, and tell the captain of my success.

Diablo 3 Character Select Witch Doctor

21 - Leah has decided to join me. We head back to Old Tristram looking for Adria's (Leah's mother) hut, where we should find a key to open the gates to the old cathedral where we can begin our search for Deckard, which Leah believes still lives.

The gates were locked by the former captain, Daltyn, and his men as they fled after investigating the fallen star site, believing they could contain the dead. Rumford, the only survivor, said they fought their way to Adria's hut where they were surrounded.

We find the hut and descend into a hidden cellar.

22 - We find the zombified Captain Daltyn, dispatch him, and I level-up and learn the Ground Stomp skill, which stuns enemies.

25 - After finding the key, I head to the cathedral (alone) and enter.

26 - I click on a chain which causes a chandelier to fall on a small group of zombies, killing them.

28 - Loving all of the destructible objects and set pieces, some of which can cause damage to enemies they hit.

29 - I encounter a new enemy called a Carrion Bat, that seems to have an electrified bite.

Diablo 3 Cathedral Scene

33 - I'm forced to use a health potion for the first time while fighting a strong group of enemies. I level-up after killing them and learn Rend.

36 - Find some more health potions off of some dead bodies, which I find a little ironic. Health is in no short supply.

41 - More explorin' and monster slayin' before coming upon Leoric's Passage. Oh, look! There's Deckard.

42 - A small in-game cinematic plays and I'm to rescue Deckard from a group of skeletons chasing him, risen by no other than the spirit of Leoric, the Skeleton King, himself. That's not good.

43 - After saving his wrinkly, old ass, Deckard opens a secret passage that leads to the cathedral grounds and another Waypoint. I follow him after equipping some sweet new gear I found, including a "Vampiric Hand-Axe of Starlight".

The structure from which you emerge is the same one used in the first game, suggesting it's the same shortcut. Pretty funny reference.

44 - Been using a shield in my off-hand the whole time, I think I'll try duel-wielding.

Diablo 3 Tristram Cathedral

45 - A short cinematic plays after returning to town, acting like a conclusion to this first "chapter" of the Act.

47 - I sell off some junk before talking to Deckard, who explains Leoric's story (as if I didn't already know).

48 - I listen to more of Deckard's ramblings before deciding to move on. I'm to find the town's blacksmith.

49 - I explore the town and find the blacksmith. Apparently his grandfather was a chancellor to King Leoric and had his crown buried with him when the Skeleton King was slain, so he would never rise again. I'll need the crown to open Leoric's Passage in the cathedral to confront him (in physical form).

50 - Ah, but the blacksmith's not giving up the location of his grandfather's grave without a small favour first. I'm to help him put an end to a number of villagers who were locked in a cellar after being bitten by zombies. His wife is among them.

51 - We descend into the cellar and confront villagers who just happened to turn right as we arrive. The wife turns when we approach her.

Diablo 3 Monk Lashing Tail

52 - For helping to make him a single man again, he tells me of the crown's whereabouts. He also asks me to search for his apprentice on the way.

I kill some enemies at the north entrance of the town and level-up, unlocking my first Rune. It allows Bash to stun enemies instead of knocking them back.

54 - I find a new enemy called a Scavenger, fast little guys that like to hit and run.

55 - I find some champion Scavengers and put an end to them. They were pretty nasty.

56 - I find a nice big hammer and decide to try two-handed fighting for a while. Have to get used to the slower swing speed.

57 - I find the blacksmith's apprentice, or what's left of him.

60 - I find a unique Scavenger called Gnash the Fiend. He's tough, but I manage to take him and his minions down as the first hour comes to a close.

Diablo 3 Barbarian Cultists

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 2

What I liked: Well, right away the game looks and feels very Diablovery creepy and darkwhich is good. The graphics are gorgeous; not the best, but they do the job and work well at this perspective. I encountered absolutely no lag during play, which I'm really happy about. I thought I'd need to turn things way down to prevent my machine from catching fire. I also really like the streamlined look and functionality of the UI and menus.

So far the gameplay seems pretty solid. I hope it remains as tactical as it feels throughout the adventure, requiring you to fall back now and again to avoid really nasty attacks, or using skills, for example, like the Barbarian's Ground Stomp to stun enemies to avoid damage or drop defenses. I don't recall a lot of that in the first two games, which just felt like slug fests; not that that was a bad thing, but I doubt it would hold the same appeal today.

Really digging the physics too. Ripping enemies and objects to shreds and watching the pieces fly about is low-brow fun.

Music and sound effects are great. Voice acting is hit and miss so far. Some of the lines are read really poorly, though the story seems okay so far.

What I disliked: To be honest, nothing stood out as problematic during my time with Diablo III.

Would I Keep Playing? You bet. I'm already hooked; a full-blown EXP junkie. Give me more!

I look forward to experimenting with all of the new classes, both online and off, and playing through the game multiple times on varrying difficultly levels. And you can look forward to a review once I do. Don't hold your breath though; this is going to be a long one.

Words from Beyond the First Hour

Okay, I admit it. Another reason it took so long to write the review is because I've been too busy playing the game at any opporunity I've had. Since the first hour, my Barbarian has gone on to complete the game on Normal difficultly and is quickly progressing through Nightmare. I've also had the opportunity to play as the Monk for a bit and even try co-op play very briefly.

I'll have much more to say come my full review once I've given everything Diablo III has to offer a once-over, but for now I'll mention that the only thing I've found particularly disappointing is the story. I guess that isn't the worst thing considering most will only pay attention to it on their first trip through the game (out of dozens, and often more plays). The "treasure hunting" aspect of the game is as addictive as ever, as is climbing up the experience ladder to unlock skills and runes (which I think is a great system, by the way), yet it never gets dull or frustrating as each encounter feels like a new challenge; a small puzzle in which you try to use your resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to defeat the group of monsters while taking minimal damage. The spectacular effects also help to keep you entertained through every fight.

Diablo III is great fun, and definitely a new favorite of mine, but isn't without its flaws, some glaring. More to come in a future review.