As the angels of the High Heavens and the demons of the Burning Hells once again resume the Eternal Conflict with the long awaited release of “Diablo III.”
With development beginning in 2001 after the release of “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction,” fans of the franchise have waited almost 12 long years for the release of the third installment of the Diablo universe. Announced in 2008, and after four years of releases pushed back and continued testing and development, May 15 saw the game release with mass celebration and record breaking sales.
The Lord of Terror returns to sanctuary
The story of Diablo extends beyond what the games portray, as the High Heavens have been locked in an eternal struggle with the demons of the Burning Hells. After the creation of the mortal world, called Sanctuary, by renegade angels and demons, man rose to prominence over time, suffering through countless tests brought forth by both sides of the great Conflict.
The Prime Evils of Hell, Diablo and his brothers, Mephisto and Baal, were exiled by the Lesser Evils sometime long before “Diablo I.” A group of mortal men called the Horadrim, with aide from the Archangel Tyreal, trapped the three brothers in what are called Soulstones and guarded them for hundreds of years.
In the first game, Diablo has corrupted the town of Tristram and twisted its king to his will after trying to unsuccessfully possess him. Diablo does gain control over the king’s son and begins unleashing his terror upon the town and the countryside. A band of heroes arrive to rid the land of Diablo’s touch.
A warrior, now known to be named Aidan, destroyed Diablo. In an attempt to contain the Prime Evil’s spirit, Aidan plunged Terror’s Soulstone into his own head.
From here, “Diablo II” begins. Diablo overpowers Aidan’s soul and uses him as a vessel to travel the land of Sanctuary to free his two brothers in the East. A new group of heroes are hot on Diablo’s trail. While the Prime Evils are all freed and reunited, it is short lived, as all three are defeated by the heroes and have their Soulstones destroyed. Lord of Destruction, the expansion to Diablo II, saw Baal, last of the Prime Evils, be defeated after corrupting the ancient Worldstone. Tyreal continues to destroy the ancient wonder, not knowing the repercussions of his actions.
Diablo III begins 20 years after this event. The last Lords of Hell look to tip the scales of the Eternal Conflict. In doing so, Diablo returns and new heroes are out for the Lord of Terror. Many characters spanning all previous games make appearances and play major roles in the climatic third installment of the Diablo franchise.
New Features and Gameplay in ‘Diablo III’
After an excruciatingly long wait, “Diablo III” has finally arrived to give loot fiends their fix and generate an epidemic of “sick” days. With the coming of this much heralded game, comes an equally impressive number of questions to be answered. Does the game feel like Diablo? Has Blizzard managed to keep the spark of previous titles alive in this new installment? What new features have been included?
Rest assured, the game does feel like an old friend. Memories of old adventures in the previous games will come flooding back in a wave of nostalgia. From the characters, the haunting score and the twisted locales, “Diablo III” crafts an all too familiar atmosphere that millions have grown to love.
There was, however, a healthy amount of concern about the direction of the artstyle. Compared to its predecessors, “Diablo III” appeared much more cartoonish and in line with the visual style of “World of Warcraft.” While it may be too colorful at times for some, the overall look fits well enough and offers surprising diversity. Those eager for violence and brutality need not worry.
Character progression has undergone a multitude of changes as well as a significant streamlining. Traversing the blood-soaked road to level 60 will net the player a variety of skills and runes, but the choice of what is acquired when is gone. Even the stats of the player are automatically allocated upon eac
h level up.
Thankfully, the element of customization is still alive in the form of “Diablo III’s” revised skillbar. The player will collect many skills over the course of the game, but only six can be slotted into the skillbar for use in battle. Equipped skills can be changed any time the player is out of combat. By default, the skills able to be equipped to each slot are limited by their type, but this limitation can be removed in the options menu for full character build freedom.
To compound the customization options, Blizzard introduced the new rune system. Runes are no longer loot to be picked up, but skill mutators awarded at specific levels. Each skill has five rune-enhanced versions to experiment with. An ability that started out as a simple area of effect heal might be altered to include a burst of holy damage or an attack buff.
Fans of gear augmentation will not be disappointed either. The cast of support characters is as strong as ever. Players will have access to both a Jeweler and a Blacksmith with their own stories to tell. Gold can be invested into their shops to improve their functionality and item selection.
Hirelings also make a return as prominent sub-characters. Their skills and gear are selected by the player and they make a worthy companion to keep a solo company.
The campaign isn’t exceedingly long, it can be completed in a day or two and randomized sidequests offer incentive to revisit completed areas, but any fan of Diablo worth their salt knows that it’s all about multiple playthroughs and conquering the progressively challenging difficulty modes for impressive loot and bragging rights.
For those who enjoy bragging, “Diablo III” sports a very long list of achievements to quest after. Many of these achievements unlock customization options for the player’s banner, a purely cosmetic item that sits in town. Clicking a banner teleports the player directly to the banner’s owner. The game does require an Internet connection, even for those looking to play by themselves.
Another major feature coming to the game is that of Player-vs-Player, or PvP. Not available upon release, Blizzard has stated that PvP areas will be available for players after they are satisfied with the system. This PvP functionality should be available after the first or second patches.
This third installment introduces two auction houses into the game, supplementing player trading. One of these is a gold auction house, where players can list items for sale and receive in-game gold for the item. The second is the real-money auction house, where players can list items and sell them to others for real currency.
This idea stems from an issue in “Diablo II,” where players and businesses would sell weapons, items and full accounts for real-world currency. Blizzard added this option to stem those who may take advantage of the system. Players participating in the real-money auction house can sell items for up to $250; money that will be added to a secure PayPal account. For each item sold, Blizzard collects $1. When players decide to cash out, Blizzard will take 15 percent of what is earned as a sales-tax of sorts.
This real-money auction house will not go live for another week, but players will be able to make a partial living off the system.
Diablo III may not revolutionize the gaming world, but it’s a solid hack and slash packed full of eye candy and late night adventures with friends; a worthy addition to the series.
Records broken and servers crashed
On May 10, it was announced that “Diablo III” became the most pre-ordered PC game ever on Amazon.com, beating out previous title holders, as well as other Blizzard titles, “StarCraft II” and “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.” Blizzard also announced that the new installment has become their most preordered game in history. The total number of preorders is estimated to be more than two million.
In addition, over 8,000 launch events took place in celebration of the release. Blizzard Entertainment held a massive release party that streamed live over the Internet.
Fans have waited patiently for 12 years for the release of “Diablo III.” Servers went live at 3am EST on May 15. These fans may not have been patient enough to wait to play, as servers crashed due to heavy workloads. Players received the now infamous “Error 37” message, stating that servers are down and that the player should try logging on at another time.
Blizzard has had a history of underestimating server loads upon launch, but worked quickly to correct the error. Many players took to the Internet to stress their frustrations with the game and publisher. In retaliation, buyers of the game went on sites such as Metacritic and gave “Diablo III” a 0/10 rating.
Despite the launch day issues, “Diablo III” has been highly acclaimed due to its compelling stories, battle and game systems and its innovations to the franchise. With beautiful cinematics that continue to drive the story and multiplayer accessibility, the Diablo universe is as alive and thriving as it was 12 years ago.