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 :-)


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