Diablo 3 review: The grind

July 5th, 2012 | by Chan Chi-Loong
Diablo 3 review: The grind

It is impossible to review a game like Diablo 3 without talking about what a huge money-raking monster it is.

Diablo 3 was “the most anticipated game of the decade” according to even the venerable Forbes. (And we’re only in 2012, people)

It is the fastest-selling PC game of all time, and makes a crazy amount of money for Blizzard. Practically every review site praised it to the high heavens when it was released one and a half months ago.

However, there is a marked contrast between official game reviews and the user reviews on Metacritic, where detractors outnumbered fans.

So who is right — the fans or the critics?

Bouquets and (more) brickbats

My take: I am more in the critical camp. Diablo 3 was a pretty meh experience for me.

Some context and background – I’ve played both D1 and D2, and pre-ordered Diablo 3. I’ve played and enjoyed games in the genre that Diablo spawned, like Titan Quest, Dungeon Siege, Torchlight and Bastion.

First, the good parts about the game. Like in my Diablo 3 beta review, I really enjoyed the multi-player aspect of the game.

Kudos also to the brilliant polish when it came to gameplay mechanics, balance and patching.

But for the cost of S$70, I had higher expectations content-wise for Diablo 3 than what I got out of it.

After completing the game on normal and nightmare – with a Wizard and a Barbarian over 40+ hours — I stopped because I got bored and couldn’t be bothered to run Hell or Inferno.

Perhaps it is the process of getting old, and grindy games no longer appeal to me. And Diablo 3 is a huge grindfest. Especially once you reach 60, it is all about gearing.

Either you spend tons of hours to farm more in-game gold, or you fork out real-money to buy gear to go through the same old content again. Sure, that sort of gameplay might appeal to some, but it doesn’t for me.

And that content? Seriously folks it’s worse than any MMORPG (which typically are the grindiest of games). At least in MMORPGs you can typically do more stuff besides grinding for loot.

Every single playthrough you see the entire same acts and bosses, save for a few tweaks, again and again. And the storyline so full of plot holes and trashy dialogue that it was painful to go through.

A special kind of Hell: The story

I especially hated Acts 3 and 4, where basically all the scenes would play out like a horribly-written cheesy B-flick movie script. “Mua ha ha, you’ll never break the siege of Bastion’s keep,” trash talks the supposedly brilliant demon tactician Asmodean.

Of course you, as the intrepid hero, breaks the siege. “You’re doomed because my demons are swarming the keep’s catacombs through a secret passage,” rants Asmodean.

So you, as the hero, fends off the hordes and shuts the secret passage down. “It doesn’t matter, because my siege weapons will finish you off,” cackles Asmodean. And so you merrily go out and break all his toys.

And this kind of dialogue goes on ad infinitum for the entire Act.

Who wrote this thing? What happened to Diablo’s dark, gothic feel? Granted, Diablo 1 and 2 was never strong on story-telling, but it was dripping with menace and atmosphere. Diablo was a dangerous and malevolent prime evil that corrupted and destroyed everybody who opposed him.

In Diablo 3, our vaunted prime evil has as much personality as a pesky toy poodle who taunts you time and time again without any bite. This, coupled with the predictable and hackneyed story, and the ton of plot loopholes, made Diablo 3’s story a car wreck.

Diablo 3’s story is simply inept. And before you come and tell me games in this genre aren’t played for story, let me quote a counterexample.

Bastion was a far smaller indie-game (and five times cheaper!) in the same genre with more personality and soul, with four endings that make you think about the choices you made.

The Blizzard sweatshop

The “always on” component of Diablo 3 has been a point of contention for some, as the game cannot be played offline at all (even if you only want to play single player).

However, even the biggest draw of the game, multi-player, might be under threat, if there is no new content for people to want to continue playing.

When the game first launched, there were hundreds of players playing each chapter in the Acts and forming a pick-up group was painless and easy. One and a half months later, the number of players has dwindled by a lot.

I’m also not really sold on the Real Money Auction House. Call me cynical, but as it is, the fees seem a little excessive — it is a tawdry way for Blizzard to make money from players, and not from selling actual content.

For all of my complaints, Blizzard’s Diablo 3 is exceedingly polished and I had fun with it for a few days, at least till I completed the game on normal.

But more than the cost and grindy gameplay, I realized what I didn’t like about the game only a few weeks after I quit.

It lacked soul. Even though I tried my best to like it, I didn’t find it fun. And unlike my experience with Starcraft 2, Diablo 3 didn’t really scratch that nostalgic itch.


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