Diablo III: empty and addicting
Like 6 million others i was ready to love this game. And i did play through it 4 times, working through al difficulties. The whole experience left me feeling empty and sad. Why play more than 100 hours? I wanted to like it, and it was addictive like hell. Around every corner lay the promise of feeling good. Playing Diablo is like asking yourself every minute: am i having fun yet?
Having high expectations is never a good idea. And they are especially silly if you're not an actual fan of any game of a certain developer. I've never liked a Blizzard game i've played... But Diablo 3 looked so damn good, had the right atmosphere, it seemed; and i love collecting loot, leveling and upgrading. What could go wrong?
Well, not the graphics. They are wonderful. There's an amazing number of tilesets and backgrounds (themes and wallpaper, really...) and they all look spectacular. Walking through a dark twisted forest full of anticipation of adventures to come felt really good. The whole gothic dark feel of act one is awesome. I'm not a fan of the whole desert/arabian theme of act 2, the castle of act 3, and heaven of act 4, but they are well done. I would've preferred to play act 1 over and over. And the weird thing is, in Diablo you can. It is expected. More on that later.
My first playthrough on normal difficulty was, again, full of anticipation. But besides the graphics, nothing much happened gameplay wise. You click on a monster, it explodes, you get the loot, and after doing that a 100 times, you check the loot. Click, click, click, click, click, click. Not much, if any, challenge. No deaths all the way up to act 3, and maybe 2 deaths after that.
After beating normal difficulty, you unlock the next, nightmare, and this goes on up to hell and inferno. You play through the same game, but everything scales, items, enemies, your hp and other stats. Also loot gets more complex, and your skills become more complex. But i dont mean actually complex, i just mean more complex than mind numbingly boring like in act one.
From Nightmare setting on, the game becomes harder, and the single thing that makes it so, are the tough special enemy groups. They have special skills, and each difficulty adds a skill to their repertoir. So in hell difficulty you can have an enemy group that can be 1 invulnerable, 2 able to lock you in one place, and 3 able to mortar you to death from a distance. Nothing can survive that.
It doesnt happen all the time, but impossible enemies are frequent. One can argue that your gear is obsolete, and sometimes this is fair. So how do you get better loot? Both options are insanely stupid. First option is to grind through levels you've allready played through, not once, but sometimes 10 times, on various difficulties. By then you will have turned of all storyline dialogue, but even after doing that it just not fun playing through the same levels again and again. So we move to option 2 to get better gear.
Enter the gold auction house. Here players can sell whatever loot they deem worthy of selling, and up until the last difficulty you can completely upgrade your character for a much much lower cost than anything you can craft ingame, making crafting completely useless. So basically, after act one (too easy), it gets harder, and you either grind through the same game 100 times, or buy your gear at the auction house. It's like going to work, and rewarding yourself with a shopping spree. Consumerism.
Just this week the real money auction house went live. So you can also bypass the grinding or playing for gold, and go straight to the endgame, or ruin any challenge the game harbours by buying great items for your low level character. And they costs dollars, not dimes, these items. Every transaction leaves 15% to Blizzard. If you're rich and/or stupid enough to spend your money here, they've rightly judged their users. And if a lot of people think Diablo is a game, a lot of people actually are stupid enough.
Diablo is hardly a game. It's a fruit machine. You spend time clicking, waiting for a reward. The story cannot disguise it, since it's players are so very unbelievable, like in a kids tv series; the gameplay cannot disguise it, since there is very little of it, other than the beforementioned clicking. You can choose your skills, sure, but their strengths all derive from your main weapon, which can be bought. And most are pretty effective all the time. I've hardly ever had to resort to anything like "a tactic". Diablo is a fruitmachine, and people playing it to their content are either 14, or addicted to little numbers on items.
Or worse. Addicted to colour. I've seen a discussion about how much loot needs to drop from a boss monster, and a player said "you don't need tons of yellows to feel good, a few or just one yellow will do". So, we play to see an item drop with a yellow name, indicating it is a rare. Yellow (rare) is feeling good, blue (magic) is feeling slightly less good, white (normal) is feeling dissatisfied.
Now enter Castlevania, a game from 1986, with a soundtrack i still listen to. It's gameplay of monster bashing is still that: a game which requires skill. With reflexes, timing, thinking. Totally lacking compelling loot, fine graphics, leveling, multiplayer. But it's a game i'll cherish forever. And there's been better games since, but amazingly Diablo 3 is not one of them. It's just a fruit machine from 1895 (no typo). Just better polish.
Give me Neverwinter Nights, give me Dark Souls, give me Castlevania, give me Ultima, any day over this sorry excuse for a rpg.
Now i could downgrade the game for all the outage, the crashing, freezing and error 37's i've had to endure due to the always being online feature, and the we-want-to-make-sure-our-games-are-perfect-when-we-releae-them-but-they-crash-like-&$#%#&@!-anyway company policy, but that's not fair, i'm sure they'll solve all that, in due time.
Saddest fact. I've not felt much emotions playing Diablo. No fear for monsters, no real happiness. Just a lot of frustration and occasional satisfaction from lootdrops. Although i remember my utter disgust about having to kill the wife of the Blacksmith who turns into a zombie. Which goes like: "hey, my wife will turn, let's go kill her". And the wife say's: "ooo blacksmith, i dont wanna die..." and pukes all over the floor. Then my barbarian goes like: kersplash, bash her head in. And the smith says: "thank you, i'll follow you forever now". Sick to my stomach. Who are these people writing this?