Once upon a time, the Diablo series defined the hack-and-slash action role-playing game, setting the standard by which all games in the genre were measured. Now, Diablo III feels more familiar than genre-defining, relying on refining the same hooks that have always made this series so compelling. But what a refinement it is. The controls are responsive and pleasurable; the diversity of character classes and skill customization options is impressive; and the constant stream of gold and treasure you earn is irresistible. Blizzard has the recipe for crafting a habit-forming loot-driven action RPG down to a science, and in Diablo III, the results of that recipe are more exciting and more addictive than they've ever been.
6376827Your adventure begins at a nice, leisurely pace, but things ramp up pretty quickly.None
You begin your quest just after what appears to be a flaming star falls from the heavens and crashes into the cathedral in Tristram, the doomed town where the events of took place. This cosmic occurrence has the unfortunate side effect of reanimating the dead, and the people of New Tristram find themselves besieged by corpses long ago put to rest. Diablo III's story is unremarkable, but it weaves in plenty of references to and appearances by characters from earlier games and enriches the established lore of the series. Fans of Diablo and will immediately feel drawn into this world.
You certainly don't need any familiarity with the series to jump right into Diablo III, however. If you've played earlier games, you'll likely get even more out of Diablo III--the music that plays in the New Tristram area may send nostalgic shivers down your spine--but the gameplay is welcoming and easy to grasp for vets and newcomers alike. You choose one of five character classes, and though they become quite distinct at later levels, they all start with nothing but basic offensive skills that are performed with clicks of the mouse.
Let no barrel survive!
That may sound dull, but in fact the rate at which you acquire new skills is part of what makes Diablo III so hard to pull yourself away from. You very quickly open up slots for new types of abilities; if you're playing as a demon hunter, for instance, you begin with a basic archery attack, but you can soon supplement this with resource-draining skills like a rapid fire ability, enemy-slowing caltrops, acrobatic somersaults that can get you away from enemies, and other techniques.
These skills are divided into distinct categories--primary, secondary, defensive, and so on--and by default, you can have only one skill from each category equipped at a time. This is a sensible restriction if you're a novice player, because it helps ensure that your character is well rounded, with a complementary assortment of abilities. However, if you prefer a greater level of character customization, you can turn on what's called elective mode. With this on, you can opt to equip whichever skills you want in your available slots, rather than being limited to choosing one from each category. But if you do this, be mindful of your character's resource pool. If you select two monk skills that cost spirit (the monk's resource) and no skills that generate spirit, you're going to have some trouble slaughtering the legions of hell spawn you encounter.
Maybe his life would have turned out differently if his parents hadn't named him Tyrant.
Choosing one skill always means not choosing another, since your number of available key bindings is always equal to the number of active skill categories you've unlocked. (Once you've unlocked all six skill categories for your class, for instance, you have just six bindings to which you can link skills.) But you can change your selected skills at any time, giving you free rein to tinker with your abilities until you find a combination you're happy with.
You never sink points into skills to make them more effective, so you never have to worry that you're not making the best choices. Rather, as you level up, you unlock both new skills and new runes you can apply to existing skills. From level 13 on, for instance, witch doctors can apply the numbing dart rune to their poison dart attack, which adds a slowing effect to this offensive ability. You can eventually unlock a total of six runes for each active ability, though you can have only one rune at a time activated on any ability. This system prevents you from squandering your character's growth by sinking points into skills that leave you ill-equipped for challenges to come, and lets you customize your abilities on the fly to better tackle the challenges you're currently facing.
It's not all about unlocking skills, however. It's about employing those skills to slaughter the monsters you encounter as you travel the world, and collecting the loot the fiends drop. This is where Diablo III's habit-forming pleasures lie. The randomly generated environments encourage exploration; you never know what treasure (or what powerful foe) you might find down each cathedral hallway or desert trail. Enticing art design draws you into these realms. In and around New Tristram, a foreboding mist hangs in the air, and ancient ruins crumble as you visit places long undisturbed. In the lands around the elegant city of Caldeum, you traverse stark landscapes of cracked earth and bone.
6377679Boss fights often call for caution, but if you're leveled up high enough, you can take a more direct approach.None
You explore ornate, musty manors and spider-infested caves. You make your way through rat-infested sewers and emerge into a dusky, teeming oasis. And though the inspiration it draws from The Lord of the Rings is a bit obvious, a setting in the game's fourth act effectively makes you feel like part of a desperate, large-scale war between humanity and the forces of hell. Just when you've had your fill of one region, it's time to move on to another, and each location is so different from the one that preceded it that you feel as if your quest to rid the land of evil is taking you across a vast and varied land.
As diverse as these locations are, they all have one thing in common: they're crawling with monsters. In the early stages of your quest, most monsters fall to your attacks without putting up much of a fight, though if you get swarmed, you might still need to keep an eye on your health. (Unlike in Diablo II, you can't spam health potions to immediately counter any damage you suffer; potions have a cooldown timer, requiring you to play a bit more cautiously.) Your attacks look mighty and effective, which makes the simple act of unleashing them feel empowering. The demon hunter's huge chakrams weave through the air, blades spinning; the barbarian's hard-hitting attacks can send foes flying.
After your time in gloomy New Tristram, the city of Caldeum is bright and inviting.