I have been in two minds about writing this letter/response for a while now and it has taken a week away from Diablo III to give me clarity and objectivity. I feel that I must respond.
Diablo 3 was announced in 2008 and the hearts of millions of fans around the world stopped. We were getting a sequel, how was this possible, rumours of possible storylines were flying around. Diablo was dead, what were they going to do? Did the destruction of the soulstones merely banish the lords of hell and did the corruption of the worldstone simply mean they were about to march on the world? Had Tyreal secretly been working for the lords of hell all this time, driven mad by the constant wars of heaven and hell as well as mankind and did he want an end to it all? Endless posibilities shaped by a brilliant game that literally shaped my future, I did very poorly in a few of my mid year exams because I was battling the prime evils instead of studying. Over the years since I had renewed interest in Diablo 2, my best friend and I constantly dreaming up new combinations of characters to battle against the burning hells, my inevitable frustration as his arctic blast druid did nothing on the higher difficulty levels and I had to do all the work, yet my friend maintaining that he was having an effect because he was slowing the monsters down. The fear of Diablo with all characters except the paladin who despite having poor resistances always managed to do well against the Lord of Terror. Or walking into Duriels lair with a Bowazon or a Summoning druid and watching Duriel shatter your pets and Mercenaries before moving onto you, kiting was not an option as Holy Freeze would get you eventually. The Game was magnificent.
But please let me begin properly. Diablo was released in 1996, I was 10 at the time, but only played the game 2 years later. I am from a relatively conservative Christian background, and I was terrified, upside down burning crosses, pentagrams, Demons, that Diabolical laugh that comes up as you insert the Diablo CD, all these things scared the crap out of me. I made my first Warrior and battled down the Monastery, I uninstalled the game once I faced the Butcher as I was too scared that the demonic content of the game might corrupt my PC, this happened another 2 times before I plucked up the courage to venture further down the dungeon. It wasn't all the imagery that got me, it was the atmosphere that was presented. The fact that the Archbishop lazarus represented something real. With the game drawing on Catholic symbols it scared me, but the atmosphere was so tense, you couldn't see what was around the corner, and as you got deeper into the dungeon, things just got worse, as if the dead were not enough. Off screeen you would hear the hulking, charging beasts roar just before they would hit you. These can give you big fright if you are not expecting it, or the hidden, who phase in right next to you. And this is before you even enter hell, where things become truly scary, Lachdanans men who folowed him down there have been corrupted and now you are not just fighting nightmarish creatures, but men who have been twisted, men who were once honour bound heroes like yourself. More importantly, there is a sense of urgency, you arrive to a town that is depressed, and scared. The NPC's do an excellent job of creating the atmosphere, and no one knows what has happened to Leoric's son Albrecht, you feel like you must continue down, as a service to the people of Tristram, helping them out where you can with various quests here and there. The quests are well constructed and offer insight into who the NPC's are, aswell as adding content and showing the affects of the demons on the landscape and people. Many of the quests gave you items or a means of improving your character incase fate was unkind to you and you did not have the gear to face the lower levels. The game was not long and could be completed in a day if one were dedicated to the destruction of Diablo. The gear was interesting and the monsters where fun to fight. The story was simple and interesting. The game offered enough background story in the form of tomes located throughout the dungeon to keep you guessing and wondering what those events must have been like. Although short, Diablo kept it's players captivated and we completed the game multiple times with the three playable classes. The loot was interesting and one was never sure what they might find on their way down into the depths. The quests were randomised and one would always have different quests each game, saving the town from a poisoned water supply, creating Grizwold's Edge, or even finding Arkaines valour.
Next we got Diablo II. The game that surpassed all expectations and was a masterpiece of it's time. It expanded on an already exciting universe in ways that followed perfectly with the origianl Diablo. A dark wanderer corrupted by Diablo seeks out his brothers who are trapped as he was. Setting his brothers free and then posing a real threat to the entire world. You were no longer just battling your way through a monastery, but battling accross a continent chasing down evil itself. Diablo summons through lesser evils to kill any who dare follow him. Each Prime Evil has an aspect of evil. The lore is amazing, for the first time, we see a representative of the high heavens who has been ordered not to interfere, but because of his love for man, he is compelled to act. The story actually gets better and the universe is expanded upon. Each new act comes with a brillianlty realised city. The corruption of the prime Evils is evident all over the world.
The skills are interesting and allows for many ways to build your character. Each class is entirely unique and takes the classes of the origianal and enhances them. The Expansion adds two new classes and they too are unique combining aspects of the other classes. Each class is fun to play and with the 30 skills for each class there are many combinations to try out and fail, but do not worry, youc an remake them and try some other skill. My first paladin was using a bit of everything. I still play both Diablo I and II, as I will occasionally make a new hero and try something new. The game took itself seriously, with it's Gothic look and horror genre it kept me busy for days and weeks.I have probably finsihed the origianl more than 10 times and Diablo II and it's expansion anywhere between 100-200 times on all three difficulties. I played Diablo II online for a few years, Single Player and Co-op lan. I have tried and experiemented with almost every skill. The game is amazing. I think they took a step in the wrong direction with the advent of the Runeword items. The originals were great, but the over powered enigmas etc took the game in a new direction. The Synergy also limited the way in which you could build your character, forcing you to choose 1 skill to make Godlike.But this did not stop me from playing. My heart will always belong to patch 1.09D but I spent years playing the rest. The classes fit the game perfectly, The barbarian a brutish warrior, with unbridled power, able to wield two handed weapons in each hand, the absolute strength of this character is mind blowing. He is a simple fighter though and capable of being a strong leader, and his skill reflect this. The characters skill represent the class in a unique, visceral way that goes beyond anything Diablo ever could have done. I could describe each class, but I do not think it is required, we just need to think of the legions of minions the Necromancer had at his command, The conduit of raw power the Sorcerress was and then the other classes, who offer us alternatives, the Druid, A fighting summoner, who can shape-shift, An assassin, a fighter mage. All the classes have real world roots and can be related too, whether it be in what the class represents or the subtle arwork which suggest their roots in our world, Sanctuary was a world where you could become a hero despite all odds. The game is like watchinga masterwork unfold before you as your character goes from a pathetic worm and grows into a beautiful butterfly. This journey being what defined the game. Some us dreaming of that elusive level 99 character(someting i never achieved), others dreaming of the absolute power that the Unique items offered, or just the chance to slay the minions of Hell. As chuck Palahniuk wrote, we are the middle children of nowhere, this is our war and we live vicariously through our characters and it is this experience which keeps bringing us back, again and again.
I am not even sure where to begin? I think a good place to begin would be when you guys showed the first art from the game and there was an outcry from desperate fans, to give us our Diablo. http://www.petitiononline.com/petitions/d3art/signatures This has over 60 000 signatures. We were told to have faith, of course the begining of the game wouldn't be dark, there has been 20 years of peace. The game will get darker as it progresses. I for one trusted that the art direction would be corrected and that the development team would make adjustments accordingly. I was mistaken. The first act is by far the most sinister, with King Leoric being perhaps the most reminicent of the the Diablo Franchise that I grew up with. Upon seeing the Beta I was relatively impressed, thinking that the game would continue this darkish feel and perhaps get darker in theme. While dealing with Darkness, the exclusion of a light radius was a giant mistake. Humans are afraid of the dark,one of those last vestiges of our primal ancestors. I can see for miles. A zombie, is only threatening if it gets up to you, if you can choose to engage zombies on your own terms, they are not threatening. The light radius is what made small low hp monsters, or slow tougher monster threatening in Diablo and Diablo II. All of a sudden a Carver or a Fallen, would be right next to you, or even the hard hitting monsters like Dark Elder could shuffle up to you and you might not notice until you were within arms reach.
This is the nature of the game. Diablo is the Lord of Terror, or did you guys forget that?
Instead of the game continuing on a darker course, we encounter the coven, a bunch of poorly organised fools, who are prone to giving away their plans at the slightest provocation. Mahgda is a terrible Bad guy, They are dressed in Bright Yellow, just incase you missed them. If you are going to make cultists, make them dark and use magic, Summoning a little crab dog does not count. The emperor from Starwars was an old man with a dark robe and he inspired Fear. Your poorly dressed polygons just made me angry. Regardless, let me move on before I get bogged down with describing how terrible your beastiary is. Act 1 can be understood, it is dreary and sets the tone of the game, Act 1 is the best act in terms of feel. Act 2 is a poor attempt at recreating Lut Gulein, and to be honest I am disappointed that the developers could not think of something else. Caldeum is a poorly designed area with uninteresting NPC's, although calling them uninteresting would suggest that interesting NPC's could be found in the game, and that is simply not true. The coven was a giant mistake on Blizzards part here. They are not sinister enough and their leader is pathetic and really just seems to be belials !@#$%, The lesser evils in Diablo 2 had proper motivations for joining the three.Belial was terrible, the boss fight was rediculous, I wasn't sure If i was playing Wow or D3. I think this is perhaps the biggest problem with the new Diablo title. Blizzard has changed hands and the talent which gave us the old great titles is simply not there anymore. The music of Matt Uelman which was possibly the Diablo franchises greatest strength is no longer with the series, nor are the actually makers of the old game. The fact that this title was made without their input is a disgrace and reflects in this poor product. Things do pick up in Act 3, I think that Bastions keep is great and is possibly my favourite part of the game to play, although I beleive act 1 is more in line with what Diablo should feel like. I am however very dissapointed that the Barbarians do not feature, some silly tomes on their history by Cain is not enough. Arreat was destroyed, the Worldstone is gone, there is now possibly a gateway to hell open and the barbarians just turn emo and start running around the hill killing everything? How about once the dust settled and the armies of Baal lay in ruin, the barbarians united the tribes and marched on the gate, with the elders and the children staying to rebuilt their civilization. And then saying that only in recent months have a few been seen. They are barbarians and would have taken up a new duty to make sure not one god damned demon made it into this world. Come on guys, that's just off the top of my head. I thought that the keep was great, but should have represented only a small fraction of the act, much like the other acts, I feel this is too short, the ramparts, the beacons and the catapults are great, then the breach is awesome, although I think the fat beast is very childish and caters to small children, "look mommy, he farted" I mean seriously guys this is Diablo, Genre=Horror, Realm = Gothic Fantasy. The outside of the keep is rather small and does not represent much of a battlefield. Look at the two areas in Diablo 2 where we see a pitched battle, with catapults firing on Harrogath, we see overseers lashing troops into frenzy, fighting through trenches etc. You offer one or two pathetic trenches and an ice cave, with a bridge to hell, is this really all you could come up with? Where is the epic content? The fragments of the corrupted worldstone which are being used as demonic portals? I think my next question is did anyone actually play Diablo 2 when these things were considered? I like the entrance to hell, although I think the gate that only Tyreal could open is rediculous. Azmodan is sending armies forth, would there really be a closed gate? Also, was that siegebreaker a runt? I like the initial entrance to hell, although the Zerglings and the creep was a bit rediculous. Stick to what you have, Gothic architecture with dark basalt and obsidian. The towers I thought were excellent, covered in Zerg creep, but great, Shelob was a little lacking in inspiration. I also need to know did one of the story board guys recently read lord of the Rings? One soulstone to rule them all? Guys, if I were Tolkein and alive I would sue. Wait, almost forgot the best part, so Zoltan Kulle, the only character in the game with a little style and you know possiblly more than half a brain cell tells the hero that he is being played and you make us kill him? The plot is so thin that we all know Adria is going to betray us and that Leah has something dark inside her, wait could it be that she is the spawn of Diablo? I also think that the high heavens was incredibly lazy, please do not use the same artists for Space games and for Demon games. The High heavens is not the Templar Archives, I kept on expecting to battle Zeratul somewhere, actually that might have been pretty cool.
Speaking of cool. I know that many of you are probably a similar age to what I am (I am 25) I watched a lot DragonBall Z growing up and some Avatar in recent years. I thought these were very cool. Putting Goku as a Barbarian skill is a terrible Idea, the barbarian can not shape change. And Avatar was very cool, but the monk is no Aang. I feel like the game tried to be "cool" and this negatively affects the atmosphere of the game as Diablo has always been cool for being Diablo, it didn't try to be anything else. I think your art department needs to take a long hard look at what the major themes of the previous titles were. That said, the Demon Hunter was exquisite, one can immediately tell that a lot of love went into creating her(the male no so much). I am trying to address the atmosphere of the game here, which I think is tied into the art and the story of the game. It is very hard to separate what little good there is from the overwhelming amounts of crap.
Something I will say though is that the Gameplay is amazing. I think the classes are not all in touch with what Diablo should be. The Wizard and the Witch doctor particularly so. I find the game fun to play and in particular the tombs in act two where you battle hordes of undead are particularly fun. That said this does not save this title at all. In fact it only makes it's other failures more apparent. it is like going to a restaurant and the service is great, but the food is rotting and covered in maggots, no matter how good the service it, you just can't stomach that rotting carcass. And I feel that this sums up Diablo 3 perfectly, Blizzard lacked the talent to properly revive the series, but needed a new Cash Cow while it works on it's new MMORPG and keeps feeding us Wow Expansions that are dull. Diablo should have stayed dead until someone with talent, or the original makers could come back and breath life into this once wonderful series.
I feel that I need to comment on the storyline. I personally do not wish to say anything, because I feel this is the games biggest falure and it angers me to think of it. Tyreal being thrown out of heaven,and then actually causing the apocolypse is pathetic. Making Tyreal mortal just left an exceptionally aweful taste in my mouth. As previoulsy stated, I do not believe the coven are particularly good at anything and do not pose a real threat. I would have liked to have seen the effects of Belial on a grander scale, he should have been an entity on his own, whispering in the ear of the emperor. And belial is weak, he should have run off with the emperor as his hostage once he was revealed. Zoltan Kulle I thought was a nice addition. A man twisted by the things he hunts, but the game does a very poor imitation of being philisophical and instead reminds of the kids in class who just couldn't grasp the deeper meaning of these arguments. I do not mind the Black soul stone, although I think that the game could have done a lot more with this. By destroying the soulstones, the demons hold on our world was broken and they should have been banished to hell. The destruction of the worldstone should have given the demons a new way back into sanctuary and so this is where I would have expected the threat to come from. This would also have allowed Angels into Sanctuary and this opens another door. Making the hero a Nephalem is a rather silly idea the team had. All humans are technically Nephalem although their powers are watered down. I think it's rediculous the way the word gets thrown around. Zoltan Kulle is one aswell? what? Why not make cain one? and since when can Cain do magic and reforge a sword? Like I said earlier, I believe that the game suffers from young designers who believed that making the game "cool' would make it awesome, all this did was move it away from its roots.
Now to address the true evils of Diablo 3. The fact that this game is online only is so against the spirit of the game that it beggars belief. What were they thinking? So I can join a public game by finding people who are on the same quest as me? Well done blizzard, just like their dungeon finder in Wow, I now get to do dungeons with people I have never met before. I can no longer just take my Pc to a mates place and then the two of us go and fight the lords of hell. I play from South Africa and so the best I can get is 200ms as the servers are never faster than that. In a game where split second timing is everything, I generally tend to wake up dead after slamming the potion key and then re engaging monsters. Timing my skills perfectly is also not an option as the cool down indicator is in real time and the actual cool down is something that the server decides. Nothing like thinking you have Serenity and then engaging molten fire chains. I feel the game was released in an unfinished state and Blizzard never delivered on any of the promises it made. The game was said to be unbeatable. it took 3 days. They promised epic items, the rares are much better. The story is bland and predictable, the graphics are terrible and dated. The game looks like it could be from 2004 . The classes and skill systems are lazily put together which do not allow for any investment from the player. The game is meant to played as Blizzard wants and there is no room for you to make a unique build or try things other players have not as at anytime you can just switch skills to better suit the situation. The challenge of Diablo has always been overcoming the obstacles set before you with what you had chosen, it was your build. the game feels like it was made for children and can not compare to the M rating the original received.
I read a very revealing comment on a forum regarding this game. The game was not made for people like me and there are million of people who are indeed enjoying it. I have come to terms with this and accepted this to be true. Diablo 3 was not made for the fans. And this is why abominations like the Auction house are prevalent and blizzard is taking it's money from you. I saw items up there for 200 euros, 4 times the asking price of the game. Blizzard has deliberatly made in game items worth nothing so forcing you to use the auction house to make gold and remain competitive on the higher difficulties. I will not comment on inferno other than saying the game in it's original format with 3 difficulties is pathetically easy and inferno is not what Diablo is about. It is with a heavy heart that I accept that Blizzard is no longer the company I once held dear to my heart. We now need to look to other companies such as Runic games who are the original Diablo creators.
Diablo III is not the spiritual successor to the Diablo franchise and I will not believe that there is a sequel until those who were Blizzard North make it.
I thought about returning my copy of Diablo III but ultimately decided that I would keep it as a reminder to myself why not to supprt Blizzard any longer, and so it sits directly above my desk reminding me on a daily basis of my disappointment. http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/diablo-iii This shows a score of 88 by reviewers who pander to large companies, the real score is to the right in red, 4/10 is what the users game this based on5489 rating, I think this says it all.
I believe Blizzard owes it's fans an apology and they should make this the Beta and re-release the game in a finished state that is closer to what should be expected from Blizzard.
Sorry for the lengthy post friends.