The third installment of Blizzard’s “Diablo” series arrives after 12 years of development, promising an intense and unforgiving dark fantasy adventure and delivering a single- and multiplayer experience whose chaotic combat is second to none.
Players find themselves thrust into the world of Sanctuary as one of five highly differentiated classes: the archetypal Barbarian and the Wizard as well as the ranged vigilante Demon Hunter, the voodoo practicing Witch Doctor and the holy Monk. Sanctuary has the misfortune of finding itself right in the middle of an eons-long war between angels and demons. The Diablo universe is rich with lore, and players find snippets seamlessly integrated with exploration and conversation. The game’s plot unfolds at a reasonable pace and overcomes some grossly subpar writing with world-class voice acting, including voices from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Kung Fu Panda”
With 12 years of development, the team at Blizzard had more than enough time to create a game that looks and feels alluring. With an incredibly intuitive user interface, menu navigation is logical and character customization options are literally in the trillions. The graphics are stellar, the cutscenes absolutely gorgeous, the heads-up display isn’t too overbearing and there are multitudes of options to customize the viewing experience.
As far as the players are concerned, characters unlock new abilities and secondary abilities as they level up, having simultaneous access to six primary abilities and three passive abilities — allowing each character to be played with different focuses or situations in mind. Swapping out skills and items takes a minimal amount of effort, and a character can completely change his loadout in no time before engaging the next swarm of demons. This allows for innovative and complex play both in the solo and multiplayer campaign, and the absence of retraining costs compensates for the unforgiving difficulty of higher levels.
Gameplay is, in a word, chaotic. Dozens of monsters swarm the screen at any given moment, with the character having to react to multiple hazards ranging from wasps that shoot more wasps to pink lasers known to wipe out entire groups of heroes. As the player progresses from Normal difficulty onto Nightmare, Hell and eventually Inferno, difficulty ramps up exponentially, with run-of-the-mill enemies gradually becoming fire-spewing, semi-invulnerable beacons of frustration.
“Diablo III” is an absolutely insane hack-and-slash game with a learning curve just slight enough to make players try for an eighth, ninth or tenth time before finally crushing their way through a specific area. It looks sweet and plays better, and will only improve with time as more and more people settle in to its specific brand of balls-to-the-wall insanity.