Diablo 3 Review: First Impressions

Clash of Heroes

The launch of Diablo 3, as you probably already know, went poorly. Not from a financial point of view – everything is fine for Blizzard here – but just a few hours after the release, the Battle.net servers became impenetrable for gamers. The Asian platform for the game was partially paralyzed – the part responsible for supporting digital copy buyers refused to respond to the requests of the invited guests, and the European server constantly struggled until Blizzard performed a couple of refreshing operations on it.

I can’t say anything about the American server, it hadn’t been launched yet at 2 a.m. Moscow time on May 15th, but oh well, even without it, I had already spent a couple of hours banging my head against a virtual wall. For the first hundred minutes, the European Battle.net servers offered to play not Diablo 3, but a slot machine, where the prize was entry into Sanctuary for an indefinite amount of time until it kicked you out. You had to hit three checkboxes: get onto the server, successfully log into your profile, and manage to load your statistics. And from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., every die-hard Diablo fan with a pre-order in hand (or until sleep knocked them out) pulled the lever – “no servers, busy,” “servers are there, no profile, busy,” “servers are there, profile is there, statistics busy, try again!” and so on in a circle, like a real slot machine.

Once, I managed to sit under the right moonlight and zodiac signs, Battle.net went through all the login stages, let me read the License Agreement™, agree to its terms, and then crashed. This miracle prompted me to obediently sit in front of the monitor until the very happy moment of the second server reboot and a somewhat reasonable passage to the arena. To this day, the European servers are (knock on wood) stable, and all those addicted to the “login-password” keyboard exercises are waiting for June 7th.

Unleash Your Powers

Don’t ask me what’s going on here – I just came out of a portal.

Together with me at four in the morning, Diablo 3 let in a bunch of people, including several friends from Starcraft 2. Without really thinking about how the local group play system works, I clicked on Quick Join and within a few seconds found myself in perpetually besieged Tristram (in my humble opinion, it’s long overdue to burn down all the architecture for several hectares around). Now joining a company of acquaintances has become really simple – you are spared from any possible hassle; it may seem like a small thing, but in reality, the beauty of Blizzard products lies in these little details in addition to the excellent gameplay. Well, and in purple-orange gear, of course.

The town is also furnished in the most ergonomic way possible. In the center, there is a teleporter for different zones, and around the teleporter, there are banners of fellow party members. You click on a banner and teleport right next to your ally, joining in the fun.

With skills, however, things are not so rosy at first. Our four precious spell slots (not counting the right and left mouse buttons) are somehow divided into categories, and by default, for example, you can’t assign a skill for “2” to “4”. This layout starts to annoy immediately after learning the second spell from the first group. I have free slots, why can’t I put an additional fireball there?

What’s good is that at least you can disable the not-so-smart skill distribution system: Blizzard wisely inserted an option that removes the “group” restriction. They did bury it deep though: the first time I searched through the settings for something similar, couldn’t find it, sighed, and tuned into a positive mindset of “Deal with it”. Only later did my party member show me exactly where to click to make everything work as it should. Note for beginner demon slayers: Options > Gameplay > Elective Mode is your path to salvation. It may become inconvenient to switch skills in the game, but at least you can put anything anywhere.

Demon-Slaying Action

Sorry for jumping straight from portals to magic, but in Diablo 3 it happens right away, especially in cooperative mode. You come out of the portal – and off you go, just throwing poisonous toads around. You only have time to look around after. Already having scattered all the undead crawling on the screen, you notice that the game has amazing animation. The drawn-modeled surroundings-characters-monsters also please, but – how everything here jumps, casts spells, and flies! While everyone drools over the latest Unreal Engine demo, connoisseurs enjoy the beauty of combat in Diablo 3. The Barbarian is particularly impressive; for months I thought my favorite character would be the Wizard, but my confidence diminished as soon as I gave the Barbarian a couple of first hits on the zombies. You can only play as the gray-haired hero for the sake of spectacular fights. Remember bug with giants in Skyrim, sending an unshaken hero to the stars? Here, our barbarian has such a catapulting technique – it is part of the program of practically any attack with all the consequences.

I would like to say a few more words about the graphic style in general. I remember there was an outcry on the internet that Diablo is now a cartoon, that the local star fell not on the cathedral but on a paint factory, that there is no dark atmosphere, and so on. As someone who played Diablo 2, I declare: all this is nonsense and speculation. The atmosphere is there, the return to the world of Diablo is there (we are even taken to many old, instantly recognizable places), demons and darkness are also present. For the sake of experiment, you can even launch that very second Diablo after Diablo 3 and compare the impressions. Mine – after Diablo 3, the second part is visually the same, only more faded and without animation, and those who advocate for the preservation of the true color palette are looking for good from good.

We need to understand the combat system, you know. Stay tuned for updates!

Combat system

Actually, 99% of the time spent in Diablo is annihilating everything that can be annihilated. There are no temptations of partners, “difficult moral choices,” or a “rich deep world” in the game, but there are natural hordes of the undead and twenty ways to destroy them for each class.

At first, everything around is quite easy (assuming you didn’t rush in with a hardcore character) – there are few skills, both for heroes and their enemies, the game doesn’t overdo it with challenging dungeons, and nowadays portals home open with little effort, without any special conditions or sacrifices, except for summoning gates in a peaceful environment.

By default, Diablo 3, as mentioned in the first part of the review, does not allow you to assign spells and abilities from the same “magazine” to different hotkeys. Perhaps for the first five hours, it’s for the best, especially for those who have never played Diablo before. Firstly, there is no need to worry about immediately spreading half of the available spells across the screen: without any preparation, such tricks will only work successfully for regular players of various MMORPGs. Secondly, slot modification is not so much about increasing combat power as it is about the style of play, which is not yet clear to the gamer in the first few hours of the new Diablo.

Battle-Tested Heroes

Once you start to have even a vague understanding of what and how things work in the game (and also level up to at least level thirty to unlock most, if not all, of the hero’s abilities), you can confidently enable the Elective Mode in the settings and choose your preferred magic. Honestly, before starting D3, I thought that different classes would play more or less the same regardless of gear and abilities, but this short-sighted view of the local heroes was shattered by my warlock’s first encounter with a familiar warlock. While I preferred to immobilize/intimidate monsters, make them fight each other, summon zombies for support, and the only ability that dealt powerful direct damage was an acid rain, the other warlock simply engulfed the entire screen in fire and poison, threw bombs left and right, and didn’t even think about any “supportive” abilities.

However, his health wasn’t much better than mine, and he also had to retreat from battle in a Monty Python-style periodically.

What’s pleasing is that you can play the “support group” even without a team of live partners with healthy two-handed axes. In the (relatively) solo campaign, you can clear dungeons together with one of the computer companions. As far as I understand, there are three characters to choose from – a warrior, an archer, and a sorceress. I suppose the companion should compensate for your weaknesses, i.e., “tank” if your hero is weak in durability, shoot arrows/magic rain if you’re constantly in the vanguard. In practice, however, anyone will work well with anyone, the main thing is the right choice of tactics.

But it’s definitely more fun to play in a company. As usual, the more people in the team, the more monsters, tougher bosses, and better loot. If you don’t have friends playing Diablo, you can search for open cooperative campaigns, but still, without close company and conversations over Skype (or something similar), it’s not the same pleasure.

Fiery Demon Confrontation

At high graphics settings, colorful explosions can be completely disorienting. You will have to distribute fireballs, drink health potions, and escape from artillery bombardment “by instruments” and through experience, which still needs to be gained. This is more of a nitpick for those who prefer a maximally informative picture (à la competitive Quake) rather than a casual gamer, and yet, after a certain number of hours of gameplay, you may want to reduce the intensity of the chaos reigning on the screen.

After all, it is very likely that you will not be playing alone, but rather in a company. Accordingly, multiply the degree of magical frenzy by the number of fellow players.

Overall, slaying the undead in Diablo 3 is a lot of fun. Hours fly by during dynamic battles, and in particularly engrossing cases, whole days. And once you get used to the local combat and understand which spell works well with what, the fun will double. Randomly generated dungeon mazes prevent you from simply rushing through locations with automatic targeting on a cool chest/evil boss, and the new levels of difficulty that open up as you progress through the game will significantly change the dynamics on the battlefield. Diablo 3 on Normal is noticeably different from Diablo 3 on Inferno, and both are hardly similar to what a gamer will encounter while playing on Hell.

Legends and Heroes

Having cooled down my initial enthusiasm, I realized an unpleasant fact for myself – it was absolutely not worth starting the game immediately in the company for any kind of perception of the Diablo 3 story. The team was rushing forward, there was absolutely no time for reading dialogues and various diaries-notes-books scattered throughout Sanctuary. Even if I had tried to watch the local luxurious videos and at least slightly understand what was going on (well, besides the fact that we again had to defeat Diablo, comrades), the companions would not have understood.

Therefore, I do not recommend following my example and starting abruptly in a large group. The first time it is worth taking down the sprawling demonic army alone. Although the world of Diablo was the most “cardboard” of all Blizzard products (including Rock’n’Roll Racing, Black Throne, and The Lost Vikings), there is something to see in the third installment of the saga about the endless struggle of shopaholics kleptomaniacs with demons.

The best of all, of course, are the three-dimensional story videos created by the developers. No one, including Hollywood, does better three-dimensional animation than Blizzard. Of course, Blizzard has a healthy advantage here: a few minutes of excellent clips are not the same as an hour and a half of a full-length film, but still. Although in essence, something really happens only in one out of five videos, all the prepared videos by the developers look stunning as usual – the details, facial expressions, style, everything is at the same unparalleled level.As you probably already know, two spiritual brothers – Belial and Azmodan – have broken into the human world. The local angels have decided not to intervene, and the only dissatisfied one has been dismissed. The impending hell on earth doesn’t really bother the people either – the only ones guarding are the old acquaintance Deckard Cain and a few adventurers from different parts of Sanctuary.

As usual, the demon strategists first try to capture three critical points – the swamp, the desert, and the North Pole. We will run through them, almost unchanged since the second part, meeting new friends along the way and shedding liters of various kinds of blood.

Blizzard has already told us about the friends long before the game was released – on one hand, three “combat” companions (a paladin, a rogue, and a mage) will support us with kind words and fireballs, and on the other hand, a couple of craftsmen will forge equipment and chat about various things.

Naturally, each of the companions has their own story, and extracting various passions from computer companions is another voluntary-obligatory achievement. Listening to the thrilling stories of comrades-in-arms is relatively interesting: unlike the evil monsters that constantly roam the barren uninhabited territories, the companions actually grew up near cities and villages, which we might catch a glimpse of on the screen.

It turns out that besides the endless tundra, there is much more to conquer in Sanctuary: diverse secondary content, such as the backstory of the same warlock or the tales of the rogue companion, is narrated in the rich world of Diablo, which is not drawn or modeled. Let’s hope that at least in a future expansion – and there will be one, there is no doubt about it when it comes to Blizzard games – we will see something more exciting than deserts.

Not that the decorations in Diablo 3 are monotonous: the game has different basements-attics, torture-prisons, forests-oases, churches-castles, even heaven and hell, and they all look wonderfully well thanks to the excellent work of the artists. It’s just strange that all the way we are told how huge the Sanctuary is, how many wonders it contains, and yet we are led through the locations of the first and second parts. At the same time, they convince us that if Azmodan and his comrades capture this church and that fortress, then that’s it, the local humanity is done for a bright future. And what about the other cities, kingdoms, and lands? Won’t they even put up a fight? In “Risk,” some people hold onto Australia for hours, and here, you know, they surrender a couple of buildings near the devil’s horns, and that’s it.

Adventure Awaits

They try to explain to us that it’s like Frodo, Mordor, and the ring – no matter how much Aragorns fight, if they don’t destroy the ring, it’s all in vain. In other words, if we and our friends don’t personally defeat Diablo, no one will. And that’s even logical, but still – why doesn’t this Diablo go beyond Tristram?

The developers, of course, found themselves hostages to the situation. The previous games in the series didn’t delve too deep into the plot, but in 2012, you can’t leave everything at the same level. And so the writers fertilize the ground for future products as best they can, painting an invisible world, and they write well enough that the gamer wants to go there, not for the third time along the old route.

This inconsistency leaves a dual impression of the Diablo 3 plot. Yes, we have a pompous, not the most original, simple but understandable story, which is what you expect from Diablo. It’s not necessary to closely follow it; it won’t be harder to defeat Azmodan just because you don’t know exactly what he wants. It’s not Mass Effect. Everything seems to be in its place, but the scattered mythological artifacts throughout Sanctuary constantly transparently hint to you that you may be a great warrior, and Diablo is universal evil, but you both play in a sandbox and don’t see any white light in fact.

So it turns out that the third Diablo stepped on its own tail. But again, we don’t play for the sake of an epic story, but to level up and get hardcore gear. Read more about the latter in the next parts of our review!

Reaper of Souls

I quit Diablo 3 for good after completing the “normal” campaign with a barbarian. The debut witch doctor turned out to be completely different from what I expected – instead of a necromancer with an African accent, I got some kind of grenadier. I decided to give up and return to my usual role as a tank-destroyer, but strangely enough, the barbarian didn’t fit the role very well. He had a funny harpoon, and overall he seemed to behave correctly, but something just didn’t work with him.

Plus, in the few dozen hours that I managed to spend in D3, I only got two – two! – legendary items. And that was after a patch that increased the chances for interesting loot for everyone. It was impossible to play like that. Well, at least not for a long time.

But replaying the story and completing the new act in Reaper of Souls – that’s easy, why not.

Unearth Secrets

And suddenly it turned out that in this very RoS, these two main problems are solved.

The in-game auction of Diablo 3 items. Turned out to be too cool for Blizzard. With initiative. The idea was good: if the Chinese will still be relatively successful in selling the Great Belts of Mighty Gods for currency, why not “legalize” it and remove bonuses for this gesture of goodwill? But… suddenly it turned out that the people who made Starcraft with Warcraft (as well as “Diablo” itself) could not resist the temptation of typical free-to-play projects and twisted the settings of the one-armed bandit to insane levels.

As a result, good items dropped critically little. It was tolerable in “Epic Fantasy Online”, but not in Diablo. You can’t buy boosters here for grinding, even if you are morally ready and really want to.

As a result: did you defeat Diablo for the first time? Well done, you completed the game, everything is great. Get useless trinkets that you don’t even want to try out, envying the orange items that someone managed to drop and now sells for a hundred thousand in-game gold or 10 real dollars.

You could play, but it was not very interesting. That’s how Blizzard shot “Diablo” in the knee at the time. But, as we all know, the auction house is now closed! What does this mean? It means that Megaberserker’s Bracers will now drop for everyone, and cubic meters of slain demons are now being accumulated for a reason! In our special gamer’s slot machine, the winnings have finally returned, hooray!

My fresh crusader was equipped with legendary trinkets in about a third of the slots by level twenty, and after slaying Diablo, he was already halfway covered in them. For the first time in my personal history of Diablo 3, after the first finish, I had the thought that I needed to keep going. The incentive to dominate returned, and that’s great.

Epic Journey

Moreover, fans of straightforward domination can finally breathe the air of a game to the fullest. The Crusader is exactly what fans of fantasy bulldozers needed: he is thick, powerful, and straightforward like a battering ram. He can swing a two-handed axe with one hand and scatter enemies with a healthy shield in the other. Oh, and if desired, you can fit the two-handed weapon into one slot. Isn’t this our common blue dream?

The constant advantage of heroes like the current Crusader is that, despite their lack of complexity and cardboard-like nature, our new warrior is perfect for antisocial scoundrels like me who don’t want any group online contacts. With the Crusader, it’s fun and easy to lay demons to rest alone, without any artillery support from demon hunters.

As a bonus, you can charge into a crowd of imps on a magical horse. Not exploding frogs, of course, but still not bad. In short, the character turned out great.

Heroic Battles

Just as the new act of the local campaign was successful.

Now we have Nightmarish City and Reapers. The first one is, as you can easily guess, a new area for clearing, brightly contrasting with the deserts and fields of the “vanilla” Diablo III. The second one is a new type of monsters, if you will, a crowd of various deaths-with-a-scythe. The guys fight more or less the same way as the rest of the zoo, but they maintain a general gloomy medieval tone.

In terms of mechanics, we mainly have Nephalem Rifts. Some additional icons were added here and there, and a fountain was added to the game, which gives a bonus to earned experience.

In general, the spoonful of tar in Reaper of Souls is not about the quality of the expansion itself, it’s about why couldn’t they have done it like this from the beginning, so that everything was as it should be? We, in a way, just paid the price of an add-on to the developers for the fact that some basic (basic!) elements of the game were not well thought out, but since we still love Diablo, we are ready to invest in a serious patch.

The feeling of an unfair deal is even stronger the more you try not to think about this white elephant. It seems like everything is fine. Even the inexplicable frame rate jumps disappeared without my intervention – the computer is the same up to the last wire, the drivers haven’t been updated – now I can finally fully enjoy the pompous explosions and magical shows, after installing RoS everything is displayed quickly and smoothly. I should be happy. But where was all this before? I I checked a year ago., the cart and after the patches was in its original place.

Reaper of Souls Screenshot

Well, you can rejoice, Diablo 3 has been fixed and they even added a couple of extras on top. And considering the latest news, for example, about World of Tanks, the price doesn’t seem so scary. If you generally liked the original Diablo 3, but found the long gameplay to be joyless, it’s worth trying again.

Diablo 3
PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
RPG, Co-op, Multiplayer
Blizzard Entertainment, Square Enix
Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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