20 May 2012

Diablo 3 - Act 2 - Spoiler free review

Hey, the Diablo 3 servers are still down. So why not write a review of Act 2?

Playing through the game seems to be taking me a lot longer than the average player. Even though I'm an experienced D1/D2 player I do things that no experienced Diablo-player would do: I pick up EVERY item, no matter the color or bonuses (See? I'm not an item-racist!). It's normal to do it when you start a fresh, unequipped character that doesn't take any outside help, but once you get into Act 2 it's pretty pointless. I continue to do it because it adds to the satisfaction of completing as many aspects of the game as possible on my first playthrough. It's just like trying to get as many achievements as possible, or trying to discover every pixel of a map. While it took me 9 hours to complete Act 1 it took me another 8,5 hours to complete Act 2. That makes 17,5 hours. That's more time than the average (experienced Diablo-)player needs for the whole game, and I'm only around 60% done (I heard Act 4 is pretty small, just like in Diablo 2).

I downloaded a graphics mod from www.darkd3.com when I heard Blizzard wouldn't ban people who use it. It allows you to make the game darker but the best thing about it is that it makes the textures look sharper. I chose the "Lesser Darkness" effect because I don't believe that making the game very dark is helping it a lot. It just doesn't fit the actual art-style. Nontheless the ingame-graphics do look more pleasing to the eyes. The textures are sharper and the characters and environment look more realistic. It's a good looking game now. Shame on Blizzard that they didn't add anything like that in the beginning.

The game almost never recycles any environment. The further you are in the game the more variation you will see. Only from time to time the game tries too fool the player into thinking it is a new setting when in reality only changing a bit of the color palette. Act 2 is really clean and bright in some places. Especially the Palace. But it also has dark and stinky sewers, as well as rocky canyons and dry steppes. Although the latter look a bit like last minute drawings.

I read somewhere that Act 2 is where the story actually picks up and gets really interesting but in my opinion it's worse than in Act 1. The actual plot is OK, as you learn more about each character and you feel more smypathy for your own hero, but it lacks the nostalgia that Act 1 had. Like when you where in Tristram and met even more of the old heroes and villains. I can't see too much here in fear of spoiling it for anyone.

Level Design
If you thought Act 1 had small zones then wait until you get to Act 2. The Oasis and the Dry Steppes are probably even larger than some areas in Diablo 2. I also like that they put more traps in the environment, some of which you can use against your opponent, and others work against your hero.

In Act 2 the game adds dungeons that you have to complete in a limited amount of time. Also you have to navigate townsfolk away from bombardment. Those are nice additions but it is clear that combat is still hwere the actual meat is.

Character Build
At around level 16-25 the game has still plenty new skills and runes to try out. At the end of Act 2 I was comfortable with jumping around my enemies, laying traps and  calling companions like a raven or a spider. The game also adds gems.

The fun in combat is really measured by the might of the hero. The faster your hero kills the more fun you have in combat. A combination of electric multishot and slingshots along with the occasional Slow-traps not only kills dozens of enemies but also prepares you for single, larger ones. It's also good to have bonuses from health globes that add to the resources Hate and Discipline that the Demon Hunter has. ALthough I must admit that managing your Life and two different resource system can sometimes be a little unnerving. Blizzard really outdid themselves with the boss fights. Finally it's actually fun to kick boss-butt. The epicness of those fights sometimes reminded me of God of War.

Sometimes I feel that adding new runes or skills isn't enough. The game lacks a couple of extra features that will probably come with an expansion pack. Now I can't even level my artisans anymore. I heard I have to get to Nightmare mode to be able to do so.

I was asked to add a summary to each review :-)

If Diablo 3 were a girl...

Just found this while on an "Error 33" break (the cute little sister of "Error 37").

17 May 2012

Diablo 3 - Act 1 - Spoiler free review

So, I just completed the first act in Diablo 3. Noone who reads this here is going to buy or let go of the game just because of what I am going to write. Regardless, I enjoy reading other people's reviews so maybe others will enjoy my review as well. It also gives me a chance to practice my english writing skills again.

I did not play the Diablo 3 Beta on purpose so I would have a pure game experience when first playing the full game.

I installed the game at about on Monday, at 11 p.m., watched the very good intro cinematic and tried to log into the servers from 0 a.m. to 1:15 a.m., unsuccessfully. Dissapointed I went to bed. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to make this an online-only game? And then why reduce the amount of players per game and make a crappy chat system?Way to go, Blizzard!

 On Tuesday I was finally able to log into the game at about 4 p.m. I hadn't decided on a class until the very moment I was about to pick one. I chose the Demon Hunter. This decision was mainly influenced by playing the Warrior in Diablo 1 and the Druid in Diablo 2, only a couple of days ago. Both are melee classes (unless you play the Elemental Druid) so I thought it would be best to pick a ranged class.

The good thing is that the art-style in itself is well made. Eery trees in the night and a high amount of gore show an effort to make it a creepy game. But, it's just not like older Diablo-games. It's way too colorful to make one actually uncomfortable exploring the environment. Also, while the animations and effects are good as well, they just seem too big and too loud to be actually taken seriously.

Sometimes the skeletons or other monsters do a groan that doesn't fit them (again too comical). Other than that everything's fine. You can recognize many actions just by listening to them. Sound design and music have a nice (re)mix of old themes and new themes.

The story itself hasn't been epic but I admire all the little things Blizzard has done do improve it, compared to Diablo 1 and 2. Besided the high quality rendered cutscenes there are additional rendered cutscenes that look like paper drawings. I also appreciate the ingame cutscenes. Instead of listening to few, but endless monologues by the NPCs, the main protagonist now involves himself in conversations (even though at first, I didn't recognize where that additional voice came from). I also like that that are a lot of NPCs that talk to each other when you walk past them. The Followers that accompany you have some of my favorite dialogues, but it sucks that they repeat themselves too often. It's also very nice that you can find many lore books that are read out lout by different characters, without you needing to stop the action.

Level Design
At first it seems strange that all the roads are very narrow and often don't leave any room for exploration, but after a while you get to wider spaces. The segments aren't as big as in Diablo 2 but I actually think this is a good thing. In Diablo 2 I rarely wanted to explore any of it because it all looked so boring and generic. In Diablo 3 there is always something interesting to look at. Personally it motivated me a lot to explore every inch of every corner, and if I hadn't done that I would have missed many Lore Books and Events.

Quest Design
The quests go hand in hand with the storyline and the level design. Sometimes long term and short term goals are mixed but it is always clear why you do what you do. Sometimes there are random(?) Events you can participate in. You have to escort an NPC, do typical kill or collect quests, or defend specific points. It's much better than in Diablo 2 where you had a handful of main quests and not much variation inbetween them.

Character Build
Yes, I do miss the customization from Diablo 2 a little, but ONLY for customization's sake. There was something satisfactory about spending points in attributes or skills. But overall the system in Diablo 3 is a lot better. Now I don't have to worry about spending points the wrong way and I don't have to look up any guides. I can try out any sort of skill combination which makes the gameplay much better.

The Demon Hunter is very cool to play with. It's a good mix between dealing as much damage as possible while trying not to get hit at all. My favorite playstyle so far was to jump into the middle of the action, plant a couple of traps, jump out again and mow the shit out of the enemies. The rare and unique monsters are so much more fun to fight than in Diablo 2, mainly because it's so well balanced. Yes, it's a bit easy, but hey, I died two times in Act 1. It can only get harder from now on. The boss fights are really well made. Every boss has it's own bunch of skills and often the environment plays a role. having health globes to pick up instead of hoarding masses of potions is also a good idea.

The game feels a bit dumped down, especially when you think of the lack of scrolls to teleport and to identify. But then again, these features are still in the game. You just don't have to worry about it anymore. It wasn't fun anyway to forget to bring a TP with you. I played around with the artisans a bit. It's fun, but too early to say whether anything useful can come out of it.

It took me 9 hours to finish Act 1. I'm happy with the playtime and I'm looing forward to the rest of the game. Especially after beating the actboss and watching the second high quality cinematic.

15 May 2012

Currently playing Diablo 3...

I've installed and started Diablo 3. Great game so far, except that I can't beat that Act 0 boss, the Login Screen. Any help?