Why We’re Done with Diablo III (Roundtable)

The Stew Over crew is done playing Diablo III.  From this article forth we will never speak another word.

What did Blizzard get right?

Ed:  They improved on the classic Diablo hack and slash gameplay. With great spell detail and clever animations they took the traditional left click spamming style and made it more dynamic with improved hot bar usage and more customization. For the most part the game was very fun to play. Also the environments and level designs were well done and created a great atmosphere. I liked how when you cast a more powerful spell it often resulted in some large nearby structure to come tumbling down as a result. Dropping chandeliers and cauldrons of flaming oil on monsters was also a nice touch.

Ben:  The game feels like the spiritual successor to Diablo II from a couple hours of playing. It improves on the graphics from the original and the new skill system lets players explore new abilities to find what works best for their play style. The setup for the single vs. multiplayer game is nice as players in single player can easily invite their friends to their game and join them without getting everyone into a single lobby.

Kevin:  Agree with what Ben says. Good transition (gameplay anyway), better graphics, plenty of class options/customizability, and the hack, slash and loot system was still fun to play.

Chas:  Yes, the new combat system is clearly Diablo III‘s shining gem.  I never thought the combat in the previous Diablo games was particularly compelling.  The fact that I enjoyed slaying monsters In Diablo III was an unexpected delight.

Blizzard figured out how to make button mashing fun again

What did Blizzard get wrong?

Ed:  The game itself was way too short. A single play through may only take around 10 to 12 hours and your only reward was having to go through and do the same thing 3 more times. Blizzard created a very fast paced game and I wonder if that was part of the problem, since you were able to just pound through level after level while barely having to stop to catch your breath. The whole thing just went by way too fast. I know Chas will complain a bunch about the story, and while the story wasnot the main reason I played this game I did find it comical in parts. Although Blizzard always knows how to create killer cutscenes so at least we had those.’

Ben:  Oh boy, this could take a while. To start, I could not even play the first couple days after release with their always-online single or multiplayer experience. I suppose it keeps people from cheating, but really it seemed like it killed the game’s launch momentum. The level design is very linear, where in Diablo II there were big areas to explore to find the next story mission, Diablo III‘s areas all lead right to the next story area. To go directly against my earlier appreciation of the new skill system, it also doesn’t allow for unique builds. The game really grinds and it gets hard to get excited about playing through it multiple times. Blizzard also has a poor track record with patches, for instance increasing repair cost by 600% and then nerfing drops from pots, vases, and crates. Finally, my biggest complaint, for a game that is about the acquisition of new items, the auction house complete removes the necessity of playing the game to acquire new weapons and armor.

Kevin:  As Chas I’m sure will say – the story was awful. Had this been a first game in the series I would have said it was fine. But the fact is they had 10 years to do something mediocre and they barely wrote a mediocre story. Also, the entire game was too short. Yes, one play through is about 8-10 hours, which is good, but after that there’s really nothing to do. I played through the game twice with my main character and have zero interest playing any other class, which is upsetting. They should have created new starting areas for each class to make it less repetitive. They should have extended the game to include at least one more Act if not two. All of that would have helped. But as is the replayability is about a 2 out of 10. Lastly, the lack of balance with leveling. At level 50 something I should have been able to solo Diablo on Nightmare without much difficulty. Instead I tried it about 40 times over the course of several weeks before finally concluding that it would be impossible. Just like WOW it’s taken them way too long to balance out the abilities to match the difficulty of the baddies. Challenging, yes. Impossible, no.

Chas:  As has been established, this is a short game. Playing it multiple times would be a viable option if not for the fact that the game is extremely shallow:

1) the story is an absolute abomination.  The fact that Blizzard took 10 years to write this story and dialogue is more terrifying than all the Lords of Evil combined.  To start, when did this series become about angels vs. demons?  Sure Tyrael is a tremendous character but once we ended up in heaven running around with a bunch of ineffective angels I started longing for the simple catacombs of Diablo I.  If you were to write out Diablo III’s story into a screenplay

2) The voice acting is terrible.   Yet another inexplicable nightmare is the terrifying voice acting.  This isn’t 2001 anymore.  We’re living in a time where Star Wars: Old Republic can have tens of thousands of hours of quality voice acting across thousands of characters.  Diablo III has about 50 speaking characters and the voice actors may as well be pulled from local car dealership commercials.

The fact that they made a featurette on the voice acting just shows how deluded Blizzard is. Although the “monster” actors are pretty impressive:

Plus since you’re essentially forced to play the game four times you hear the same hackneyed lines and forced deliveries over and over again.  It reminds me of the time in Skyrim where I took an arrow in the knee.

3) The loot system is shallow.  In the current (post?) World of Warcraft RPG era, you can’t expect people to be content with having just a handful of legendary end game items.  Without a huge variety of loot with intriguing magical properties to experiment with, what is the incentive to keep grinding.  As is there is no reason to spend time grinding.  This problem is so egrigious it had to be officially acknowledged by Blizzard:

We recognize that the item hunt is just not enough for a long-term sustainable end-game. There are still tons of people playing every day and week, and playing a lot, but eventually they’re going to run out of stuff to do (if they haven’t already). Killing enemies and finding items is a lot of fun, and we think we have a lot of the systems surrounding that right, or at least on the right path with a few corrections and tweaks. But honestly Diablo III is not World of Warcraft. We aren’t going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months. There needs to be something else that keeps people engaged, and we know it’s not there right now. – Bashiok (Blizzard developer)

This problem is also compounded by the Auction House…more on that later.

4) Not enough enemy variety. Beyond the shallow loot system we have monsters that have approx 10 different special abilities. That’s it. Sometimes they have a few at the same time! Seriously, that’s the best we can do to create compelling enemies?  Yawn.

Why did you stop playing?

Ed:  One reason was when Blizzard increased repair costs to an astronomical amount in one of the recent patches . I was trying to tackle Act II inferno and was getting killed time and time again so I literally ran out of money. I wasn’t about to spend real money on gear upgrades and I got tired of going to my higher level character to farm up cash so it kind of killed it for me. Also, gear acquisition became the main reason to keep playing and it was so rare that you would get anything to drop that could be useful it just didn’t seem worth it. Due to repair costs I couldn’t afford to buy anything great off of the gold auction house so I kind of hit a wall.

Ben:  The grind got to be too much and the auction house took away any reason to keeping playing through it multiple times. I found more compelling games to play that are more fun as well (see my upcoming reviews for FTL and DayZ).

Kevin:  Boredom. I played through the entire game twice, and the first couple of acts probably 4-5 times. After that I knew exactly where I needed to go in just about every level. I didn’t feel like grinding out gold to buy a ton of stuff at the auction house either.

Chas:  As we have established and Blizzard has admitted, there’s no end game here.

Even babies are sick of Diablo III

Does the auction house (both gold and real money) have a positive or negative effect on the game?

Ed:  I went back and forth on this and in hindsight I don’t think incorporating the AH into this type of game was the right thing to do. The AH element added to most MMOs and RPGs works very well since the sense of community is enhanced by establishing an economy. However, Diablo III isn’t really a community based game, sure you can quest with random people or friends of yours but all in all you exist in your own version of the Diablo III universe. For that reason it seems too much like something that takes you out of the game, especially when you add the real money element in there.  Also, it seems as if they stacked to difficulty so the gear that you were getting in game was never the best gear for your level. After level 30 or so I don’t think I had any drops that ended up being an upgrade to what I was currently wearing. If you wanted anything decent you HAD to go to the auction house, which I think defeats the purpose some what.  The real money Auction House was something that I was very interested to see how it would work. I ended making about $5 off of one auction and then gave up after several weeks of not selling anything else. I guess there were just far too many people putting up auctions and not enough buyers. I think a real money AH would be really interesting to see if used in a free to play game. More people would justify buying auctions because they didn’t pay anything for the game, and it would entice more people to play that game for the shot at making real money off of it without having to pay anything up front.

Ben:  Both have been massively negative to the game. I played through the first 15 levels without using the auction house and I could play at a decent pace, but not run through a level without cation. After I visited the auction house and bought all new gear I was a wrecking ball, I never had to slow down, manage my health or fight any mobs strategically. From that point on, I don’t think I used another item drop and all of my gear was from the auction house. The game became farming for gold to buy more crap from the auction house instead of trying to find it myself. After a while I feel like I could have saved up 100k gold and just tried to arbitrage items from the auction house instead of playing the game, and that is when I logged out and never logged in again.

Kevin:  I didn’t have the experience others had with the auction house. For the first 1.5 times through the game I spent all my money on blacksmithing and jewelcrafting, thinking that would be the wisest long-term plan. Instead that put me in a financial hole that I couldn’t really dig out of, so I was stuck with mediocre gear. By the time I got to buying stuff it wasn’t worth the price of admission. Even with some good gear I still wasn’t spec’d properly to do crazy amounts of damage when going against 5-8 bad guys. I never bothered with the real money house. I figured I’d let Ed get rich off that.

Chas:  The fact that I could throw down an extra $50 of my money to get the best gear for my character is an infuriating, game-breaking reality. Even though I won’t ever pay for anything on the real money AH I don’t like the idea that I could grind for 400 hours to get that same gear I could buy for $50. Obviously the AH will have increased importance when PVP hits and every DPS point will matter.  When PVP comes out and I walk my 400 hour deep, geared up character into an arena and get my asskicked by some kid who played for 40 hours and put down $55 extra at the AH kind of makes me want to cry.

We hate you and we hate your stupid (inter)face

Are you planning on revisiting the game once player vs player functionality is added?

Ed:  I was never a huge fan of PVP in the first place with most games so most likely no. But, never say never I guess. Basically, I see these matches being mostly gear checks unless they come up with a matching system that address gear imbalances.

Ben:  Yes, I think eventually Blizzard is going to get the formula sorted out, which should have been done prior to launch, but it will hopefully make the game more fun to continue running through. Also from some of the earlier previews they had some interesting world events that don’t look like they made it into the final game, so hopefully they get added with later patches.

Kevin:  Nope. I’ll pick this up again once they release a 2nd or 3rd DLC for 50% off. Otherwise I’m moving on.

Chas: Not a chance in hell (har har).  I don’t think the isometric click fest is a particularly compelling PVP format. I’m also fearful that Blizzard will be buffing and nerfing characters on a weekly basis so I’ll never have a damn clue as to how best to fight with my character. Also, the reality of respeccing at anytime means there won’t be much variety.  Everyone’s going to Google the best PVP builds and then set there characters to those builds and ignore everything else.  That’s the price of creating an “RPG” with no concrete decisions.

BABY BEARvBABY BEAR > PvP

Was Diablo III worth the wait?

Ed:  No, but Blizzard really shot themselves in the foot by waiting so long before releasing this game. I feel like with the resources and money Blizzard has there is no reason why this game shouldn’t have come out 3 years ago. Its not a bad game, but considering the hype and the duration between the last installment they really needed to deliver something much more substantial.

Ben:  Nope, I think Torchlight 2 is going to end up being the better Diablo-clone than Diablo III itself. With a higher number and more interesting attributes on the weapons and armor, plus legendary items that actually feel like something unique. For instance there is the Sword of Adam which screams out “Wizards!” every time it is swung .

Back to D3, it wasn’t worth the wait or the $60 I spent on it.

Kevin:  Yes and no. For $60 bucks I got about 60-70 hours of gameplay when there was nothing else good to play. Despite the bad writing, the first time through was a lot of fun, and the first big group run was a lot of fun. So in that sense, sure it was worth the wait. Was it worth dropping a ton of money on a new gaming computer just to play this game? Nope!

Chas:  No. Not worth the wait. There is no excuse for a AAA studio like Blizzard taking this long to create such a mediocre game.  The fact that a substantially smaller studio like Runic Games can do what they’ve done with Torchlight and what they most probably will do with Torchlight II   goes to illustrate what a half ass effort this was from Diablo III.  Blizzard banked on the fact that Diablo is a beloved franchise and rode that train straight to Moneytown.

Blizzard’s favorite hangout

How do you think the game will be remembered?

Ed:   I think it will go the way of Starcraft II and largely be forgotten in a couple of months. It doesn’t seem to make much financial sense for Blizzard to put a lot of resources into developing more free content expansions even though they will probably feel obligated to do something. I think Blizzard needs to do themselves a favor and put more of their efforts into developing a brand new franchise. They clearly are losing their knack at creating sequels to existing games.

Ben: It will greatly depends on how Blizzard reacts now that most of the player base has left the game. The auction house really ruined the game for me and with little difference in run-throughs on the various difficulties, there isn’t much reason to keep playing it after beating it once or twice. If they do manage to add some new interesting content and get some balance issues sorted out the game could be pretty good. Right now though I think the game will be remembered poorly in its current state.

Kevin:  As a typical Blizzard release – server issues, balance issues, auction house issues, not living up to expectations, etc. WoW expansions and Startcraft II had the same problems. Was the game so bad that it deserves eternal damnation? No. But it wasn’t a game of the year contender either.

Chas:  No one will remember this game in two years. The magic is gone.  To echo Ed, I’m worried that Blizzard is losing its overall knack.  They’re not the top studio they used to be and that’s becoming increasingly evident as they release more games.  They’ve become a studio that plays it safe, so much so that they’re becoming a completely expected bore.  This may be for the best as it creates opportunities for smaller studios to step up to do something truly different.

Blizzard’s future is dark and full of terrors.

What’s your final consensus on the game?

Ed:  I had fun for about a month and then it was pretty much overnight where I decided I was done. I would give it an 8 out of 10 for gameplay, and 6 out of 10 for longevity and replayability. I might pick up the game again at some point when I am otherwise in between games much like I did several times with Diablo II. Maybe at that point there will be enough new perks to hold my interest for even longer. But until then I have moved on to greener pastures.

Ben:  Diablo III, it’s me, not you, but it just isn’t working out. The lack of replayability, combined with the adding of the auction house made the game not worth my rather worthless time.

Kevin:  The first playthrogh was a blast, but the replayability factor is the real problem here. So a good game, but not a great game. Disappointing since they had 10 years to make this and they could have done it in two.

Chas:  

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