For those of you unaware, the date where Diablo III will be gracing us is just around the corner. For those of you like me who are sitting in their rooms rocking back and forth in anticipation, well, Diablo II released nearly 12 years ago, surely the next 30 days won’t kill us… right?
In all sincerity, I’m still unsure whether or not Diablo III will live up to my expectations that have been built over the last decade or so. I have very fond memories of coming home from school, booting up my now-decrepit IBM computer and jumping onto my Sorceress on Battle.NET. I’ve spent hundreds of hours levelling Hardcore-laddered characters just to be wiped by the next patch. So for all my dedication and commitment to the previous game – and the series as a whole – why am I uncertain about Diablo 3?
Firstly, it would be because they’re doing things quite differently to what fans of the series are used to. Diablo and Diablo 2 are quite dark games; this is due to the demonic atmosphere and environments the games are set. Maybe after 2 (3 if you count the expansion pack) games Blizzard just became tired of the same dark, depressing setting that they felt the game needed a facelift.
After 12 years of absence and technological advancement, Diablo III easily has the ability to be a pretty game; crisp, clear and defined in an age of 1080p explosions and scenery. Blizzard, however, felt this meant the game should be “lighter”, going against the settings and medium they have carefully set up in the previous games. Of course, in today’s Internet Age this is an outrage and, as such, there were online petitions, a bit of kicking and a decent amount of screaming that did oh-so-much to get Blizzard to change their minds and make the world of Sanctuary a darker place.
Personally, I have no problem with Blizzard’s decision to make the game less morbid and depressing than the first two. The world of Diablo has the opportunity to be a rather beautiful place, one where you can just stop and stare at the environment. That wasn’t particularly feasible in the previous games; in-between the unlit cathedral of the first Diablo and the ancient desert of the second game filled with skeletons, zombies and other, undead-related paraphernalia, it was a bit difficult to fully appreciate the world Blizzard had crafted.
More recently than their intentions for the game setting, however, is the decision to postpone Player VS Player combat just to make their release date. I’ve spent hours going into a random game, demolishing some poor, unsuspecting and under-levelled chap whom I had promised some good, free gold and a decent item. As far as I know, that’s removed from Diablo 3 and is replaced with the trusty Arena-style combat, pitting team against team in a fight to the death.
Being an avid fan of “PVP” in most games, I’m quite OK with this decision – the segregation of in-game PVP into a gladiatorial arena allows for the game to develop its own meta-game and sense of depth about itself. It’s quite a unique thing you really only see in competitive games – the development of a game within the original constraints the developers designed, and it realistically adds a new level of vitality and enjoyment to the players.
However, why have they removed it? Blizzard are quite known to delay a game for months at a time – indeed, Diablo 2 was delayed for quite a long while – so I’m really unsure as to why they wouldn’t just push the game back a few months. Sure, people would be disappointed they can’t get their hands on it when they expected to, but they wouldn’t be surprised at the decision. Really, I’m apprehensive because Blizzard is making a few risky, uncharacteristic decisions that I’m not sure I agree with. It’s not that I disagree and am against what they choose to do to their game – just that I’m not sure it’s right. Take, for instance, the brand-new Auction House.
Maybe I’m out of touch with Blizzard as a company. I’ve kind-of skipped the whole World of Warcraft scene, barely kept in touch with the StarCraft 2 developments, so I’m not sure what Blizzard do as a standard do nowadays. But having a real-money Auction House inside their game? Granted, real-money transactions were quite a big thing in Diablo 2; perhaps this is Blizzard’s attempt at scoring a profit and a bit of control on the industry? I don’t really know. Originally I feared imbalance – as I’ve hinted at before, I’m a huge fan of the Hardcore mode, where if you die, your character is permanently dead – so why would I bother levelling a character dozens of levels, risking death, just to be killed by a 10 year-old with Daddy’s credit-card?
It turns out the Auction house is unavailable for Hardcore mode, but still, I’m really curious as to Blizzard’s true intentions behind the house. It could be to add a new casual level to the game; the games are quite grind-y and require a certain level of dedication for decent gear, so perhaps it’s for accessibility’s sake.
While I’ve highlighted my concerns, do not misunderstand me – I’m quite excited for Diablo III. I’ve been waiting many, many years to give myself a new level of Carpal tunnel, and I’m not going to let a few unknown decisions get in my way. I look forward to playing a Witch Doctor, perhaps with all of you. I sincerely hope that Blizzard’s latest title will live up to my expectations, even through uncertainty.
By Tom Robinson - Tweet @i4mt0m