Friday, June 29, 2012

100th post? About fucking time...

No seriously, this is my 100th post.  And you want to know what the best part of it is?  I haven't posted since JANUARY!  Christ it seems like forever since you all heard about my precious little life (bonus points if you got that) so what better way to celebrate 100 TILT posts by boring you with a quick update on what's going on.

So where to start.  I'm single.  So there's that.  Umm...I've discovered I kind of like seltzer since we last you know...that's cool too...

Ok you know what? FUCK IT

I know what you all came here to see, so I'm setting aside my journalistic integrity and hopping on this Diablo 3 bandwagon.  Lets get going.

I'm going to preface this by saying I've only played about 20 hours of the campaign so far (and have since developed an irrational fear of the number 37.  No seriously, I got tingles up and down my spine just typing it there).  I have not beaten the game nor have I advanced to significantly higher difficulty levels  But I did get a feel for the game in the few hours I ground through last night.  And while this is only a preview of sorts (rather than a review, learn the damn difference), there are a few things that are making me...well...uneasy.

So for those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, the Diablo series has always been about dungeon delving, killing monsters and grabbing loot.  In the first game, you, a wandering, nameless adventurer of either fighter, rogue or mage persuasion, plumbed the depths of a church in the balmy, sunny, and CERTAINLY NOT DEMON INFESTED town of Tristram.  Little did you know the epic fucking shitstorm of hellions and ghouls that awaited you below.  Diablo 2 continues along much the same vein, except this time, you are chasing down the Dark Wanderer (read as dude from the first game cleverly retconned to ignore the fact that there were TWO ENTIRE OTHER CLASSES) as he attempts to free Diablo and his two demonic brothers, Mephisto and Baal.  You (this time playing as an adventurer of one of between 5 and 7 classes depending on whether or not you're a cheap bastard) follow the dark wanderer across many lands, cleaning up his messes and generally un-fucking people's shit up.

First off, the game feels streamlined.  Now you can take that as you wish.  Some of my friends have interpreted it as "no longer having to do annoying shit like clicking on gold to pick it up" or "managing a tome of Town portals".  Others have opted to interpret it as "dumbing the game down so stupid people can play too".  However you choose to interpret this point, veterans of the series will all likely feel the same way, that you're ultimately doing less clicking and pixel hunting than before.  That said though, there is still QUITE a lot of clicking to be done.

Gone too is the idea of a basic attack.  This concept took me, a D2 veteran, QUITE a while to adjust to.  Your left and right mouse buttons both almost immediately map to abilities that you accrue as you gain level.  Both of these abilities either add to or drain a reservoir of some sort (hatred for Demon Hunters, Mana for Mages etc, Focus for Monks etc.)  This ensures that each character has a unique feel without significantly altering gameplay between classes.  What this also means is that your shiny, badass weapon that you just pulled from the corpse of some grotesque hellspawn ultimately serves as little more than a fancy looking stat buff.  Yes yes yes there are differences between say a light crossbow and dual hand crossbows for the Demon hunter, but ultimately, the ability is going to look and sound almost identical.

Beyond your two main attack damage skills, you also have four active abilities (which range from utility spells like snares to damage dealing spells) that also add to or draw on whatever your class' assigned resource is.  You also have the option (read as requirement) to tweak all of the above skills with the inclusion of various runes that impart different unique abilities to each of your spells.  Also included in this package is a handful of passive abilities that you can pick and choose from, each altering a certain aspect of your character's play.

Graphically speaking, this game is fucking beautiful.  And I do mean fucking beautiful.  Granted my gaming supercomputer allows me to max out all the settings and runs everything perfectly without a single glitch, but even older computers who have to run the game on medium settings will still be able to enjoy the use of color and details that went into the design of each world.  With prior Diablo games (2 specifically), each new area of the world had its own feel, its own color palette and its own vibe.  The exemplary level design of Diablo 3 is no different.  (Despite the fact that the region progression feels fairly carbon copied from Diablo 2...Still I'm glad they didn't venture into the swamp/jungle level like D2 did, fuck that level...

One thing that bothers me the most right now is the inventory system.  All "large" items (weapons and armor) take up two inventory slots, all "small" items (gems, rings, etc.) take up one.  This is what many in the industry (or perhaps just me) call the Resident Evil 5 Inventory Syndrome.  You remember that game?  Where a massive RPG took up the same amount of room in your inventory as a tiny green herb?  Yeah...that's what the inventory system is like.  Sorry but to me, it feels like some of the "realism" (for as applicable as that term is for this particular game) is lost.  I'm sorry but there's no reason that a helmet should take up as much room in my inventory as an entire fucking halberd...(I mean I've got a big head...but it's not THAT big...)

All in all, this is a very good game that provides an easy entry point for people unfamiliar with the series.  The upgrades to from the prior iteration are noticeable (as one would expect for a goddamn 12 year development period...) and the entire game has been streamlined.  Everything has been overhauled and it's clear by the aggressive patching cycle that they are working very hard to ensure the game balance is optimized.  The story (from what I've seen) is fairly deep and the graphics are very good.  However, those of us who enjoy spending our time waxing poetic about the glory days (read as: Me), will likely find the game somewhat unsettling.  The game simply seems...too easy...The addition of automatic gold pick up, health orbs, automatic town portals and item identification...Sure it cuts out on a lot of extra bullshit, but at the same time, it was that bullshit that made the game more difficult.  Once all the "excess" has been cut out, I can't help but feel that what we're left with is little more than "baby's first Diablo".  Sure once you reach higher difficulty levels, the game gets ass-rapingly difficult, but I still can't help but feel as though there's quite a lot missing.

Have you ever watched one of those TV shows where a couple of the main actors/actresses aren't signed for another season, but the characters are still integral to the plot so they sign a couple new actors to play those same characters?  And then everyone else in that universe is forced to continue on as if NOTHING happened, despite the fact that the quiet, blonde housewife has suddenly turned into a sassy, jive-talking black woman?  Yeah...that's kinda what Diablo 3 feels me anyways...