Having a ton of games to play is certainly a boon, but it usually means that I’m late to the party on the newest gaming hotness (unless that hotness is an Elder Scrolls game). In the case of Diablo 3, I’m actually kind of glad that I missed the boat on launch and waited until the Reaper of Souls expansion release, because I skipped past the whole loot and RMT Auction House and kerfuffles and am now enjoying a super polished and fun Blizzard game.
If you’re like me and new to Diablo 3, check out Suzie’s Reaper of Souls review, which is pretty spot on. The expansion fixes a number of hot-button issues that have plagued Blizzard’s lootfest since its launch, while adding the Crusader class, ten new levels, Act V, Adventure Mode, and a whole lot more. Now, I obviously can’t say that I have first-hand experience with the issues that set the D3 forums a-storm pre-Reaper of Souls, but it’s nice to see that Blizzard has been listening to its player base and willing to make sweeping changes for the better.
As a longtime player of lootfest-style games but new to Diablo 3, there are a few gameplay features that stand out to me as being either innovative or excellent refinements of existing mechanics. The first of these features is the skill system and how it allows for diverse and flexible character progression. I like that as I level my characters, I unlock skills that are easily interchangeable and enhanced by the corresponding rune system. Furthermore, there’s no penalty for changing skills and runes on the fly, which encourages experimentation with different builds. The obvious comparison is Torchlight 2’s series of skill trees, which limits the respeccing of your character’s abilities to only the previous three choices you’ve made. Torchlight 2’s type of system tends to pigeon-hole your character build into a path set by choices you’ve made early in the game, and doesn’t encourage the kind of tinkering that is championed by Diablo 3’s skill progression.
The second mechanic introduced by Diablo 3 that impressed me is the handling of Town Portal and Identify Scrolls, or rather, the lack thereof. In most action RPGs of D3’s ilk, you’re required to schlepp around bundles of scrolls to port yourself back to town and identify pieces of equipment. In some games, the purchasing of such scrolls ties in with the in-game economy, but their mechanical requirement is fairly tedious. Diablo 3’s omission of scrolls and replacement of them with simple button presses is a welcome addition. It’s a quite tiny feature, to be sure, and Diablo 3 is not the first game to go this route, but its exclusion of scrolls does signify a willingness on Blizzard’s part to go against the grain in a genre filled with conventional mechanics.
Third, I like that Diablo 3 takes a nod from many modern MMORPGs in its events and timed dungeons. I like cruising on autopilot and going from one map to the next like any other dungeon runner, but the events that pop up now and then and the timed dungeons that I come across break up the relative monotony of the core game experience. They’re a natural addition to a genre built upon progressively generated maps, and are a great counterpart to Diablo 3’s solid quest system and story.
The way that Blizzard has streamlined Diablo 3’s story bits and lore into easily accessed sound bites comprises a fourth category of things that I like about the game. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a sucker for lore and quest text, and I absolutely love the way that these items are handled in Diablo 3. The ability to playback voice-acted recordings of discovered lore while I’m adventuring gives the game a type of ambient storytelling that is sorely missed in other action RPGs.
Fifth, and perhaps most important, I’m really enjoying how my character plays and am excited to try the other classes. I don’t usually play glass cannon types in action RPGs or MMOs, but thought I’d try my hand at the Wizard, and am really glad that I’ve given it a chance. He’s got nukes, AOEs, retributive armor spells, turrets, and a host of other abilities that make him stand out as a ranged caster, like
Sith Chain Lightning. With Diablo 3’s progression system, I have a consistent sense of discovery every time I level up and check out my new skills and runes. I also feel that I have a plethora of different build options that I can try out at any time. My mate’s playing one of the newfangled Crusaders, and his character is, in a word, righteous. The Crusader seems to be quite an excellent throwback to Diablo 2’s Paladin, and I’m excited to trying out the newest member of the Diablo 3 class roster, along with the existing ones.
The game does have its issues, and if you’re interested in reading about them, again - check out Suzie’s review. As it stands, I’m really enjoying Diablo 3, particularly because of its clever innovations and/or refinements in response to conventional action RPG game mechanics. My glowiness about D3 is particular to its post-Loot 2.0 state, but I’m glad that I slept on it until after Blizzard sorted out the game’s issues. Diablo 3 and the Reaper of Souls expansion comprise the type of Blizzard action RPG sequel that I was expecting, and are worth a try - and certainly worth the wait.
Som Pourfarzaneh / Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.