D3 Reviews...wake up call for Blizzard?Or us?

Story Forum
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Note: Yes, this is WoW-related. No, I don't have to be directed to the Diablo story forum--I've posted on there lots today. This rant is for WoW people.

There are no Diablo III spoilers in this thread, aside from things that are backstory(and therefore not plot twists of any kind).

The general consensus I'm seeing from Diablo III reviews is that the gameplay is amazing, but the story....not so much. The kindest of reviewers I'm seeing claims the story is "not the focus anyways".

To quote IGN's review:

Some people love Diablo III for its story, and the third’s narrative is stronger than its predecessor, but still filled with clichés and predictable twists. But that doesn’t really matter all that much, because the story merely serves as a way to tie together the various dungeons and quests in your hunt for gear. Quality voice acting and some truly incredible cut-scenes between Acts help flesh out the universe, but past the first playthrough it’s not really anything worth paying attention to.



Does this sound familiar to anyone? It does to me. Aside from the fact that this is how you can summarize WoW, it's similar to what I heard during reviews of Starcraft II. Only there I heard reviewers essentially saying, "The story is pretty cheesy, but the production values are very high". Sadly, as anyone who has played Diablo III can attest, outside of the cinematics the production values are only high in regards to voice acting.

This trend of reviewers dismissing Blizzard's stories of course is also a stigma WoW possesses. As any Blizzard fan here may admit, WoW is probably the worst game Blizzard has ever done in regards to story because the production values for voice acting and cut scenes have just never been there. We didn't get in-game cut scenes until Cataclysm and they were, at best, amateurish.

But there's other things as well. Let's go over them.

1) Repeating themes.

This is my big complaint about Blizzard over the past few years. I first noticed it in Warcraft III, when Arthas's story of a good person going bad drew many parallels to Kerrigan's in the original Starcraft. And by extension, we could also say that Sylvanas is now a more direct parallel to Kerrigan. Queen of Blades, Queen of the Forsaken...you get it.

But it goes deeper than that. The Titan Pantheon, those who "created" the races of Warcraft. Next to them stands the Xel'Naga, the alien race that created the Protoss and the Zerg. And in Diablo you have the Angiris Council, which is a group of Arch-Angels that didn't create humans(although humans in Diablo are the result of a demon/angel union), but do consider themselves above them in the same manner the Titans and Xel'Naga do.

It goes further. The Xel'Naga in Starcraft II's story aren't necessarily our friends. In Warcraft, the Titans aren't necessarily our friends either: They would just as soon have us wiped out to eliminate corruption as they would help us. And in Diablo III the Angiris Council once voted on whether or not to obliterate humans as well(this is backstory--so not a spoiler)--only the vote didn't pass.

It goes further, especially in Diablo III, but I promised not to say anything plot specific so I'll end the examples here.

Why is it that themes like this get repeated though? Are they just tools that help Chris Metzen get into the proper mind set for writing? Does he need these kinds of set ups to function as a writer?

Good story telling doesn't mean finding something that "wows" the audience, and then using it multiple times in different ways. We kind of see it coming after awhile.

2) Gameplay Over Presentation.

If you haven't played Diablo III yet, one thing you'll notice as soon as you get into it is that the story seldom halts the gameplay. You can exit through all character dialogue in town, and a lot of the story is told as you're playing the game. Characters just passively talk to each other as you run around...a lot like in the Star Fox games.

I actually applaud Blizzard for this. And I wish they took this approach with WoW's questing(because quest text boxes are BORING and most people don't read them--even those interested in lore).

But I also recognize that this mentality came at a cost. Why is it that of the three companion NPCs you get in Diablo III, I can only remember the name of one of them? For some reason the game refers to them as what the are: Scoundrel, Enchantress and Templar, even though they have full on names and character stories.

I would love for WoW to have a companion system similar to what Diablo III had. It would be fantastic. But who would join my party? "Archer"? "Footman"? "Vindicator"?

Furthermore, and while I would never expect(or ask) Blizzard to imitate other developers--how come there were no choices at all in Diablo III's narrative? Was it so important to keep the plot linear for some kind of gameplay reason that we could never take the reigns and make a choice of any kind?

3) Comic-book Worship

I kind of let the comic book inspirations slide in Warcraft because, really, it does go well with the franchise. But then I started seeing Jim Raynor and his absolutely inhuman arms in Starcraft II(What kind of space steroids does one have to take for those biceps?). And then again in Diablo III, a franchise that is essentially Dark Fantasy to Warcraft's High Fantasy, the art style is again imitating comic book styles and focusing more on the sensationalism of characters and their super hero personas rather than telling the story(Though I will give Blizzard this: The Act I finale cinematic was amazing).

Comic books have become a big thing again in recent years because of hollywood's attempts to make movies out of every major comic book franchise out there. I've also enjoyed many of them over the past few years.

But at this point I don't care.

I'm sorry but, being a nerd doesn't mean you have to like comic books or their styles. I'm the kind of person who thinks its really dumb that they're rebooting the Spiderman movie franchise already. I think a lot of the highly-acclaimed Marvel super hero movies of the last few years are largely over-rated.

I'm just not that kind of geek.

So what do I like? Game of Thrones. Dune. Political stories. Stories that delve into realms of morality and philosophy. And you know what? There's a lot of people like me out there, and they are playing Blizzard's games.

But who deserves the wake up call, here? Blizzard, for not catering to people who like stories that aren't just about super heroes? Or us, for hoping Blizzard would ever actually take the stories in their games serious enough to say something bold?
Starcraft 2 spoilers ahead

I noticed something like this when playing SC2. The zerg being controlled by some evil guys that want to wipe out pretty much all life? So the zerg are the old Horde and the mysterious voice guy is Sargeras or Kil'jaeden leading the Burning Legion?

Heck, we can look at WoW itself. How many times has the corruption theme been used now?
Starcraft 2 spoilers ahead

I noticed something like this when playing SC2. The zerg being controlled by some evil guys that want to wipe out pretty much all life? So the zerg are the old Horde and the mysterious voice guy is Sargeras or Kil'jaeden leading the Burning Legion?

Heck, we can look at WoW itself. How many times has the corruption theme been used now?


The Zerg are actually parallel to the Scourge, not the Horde. The Old Horde wanted to conquer worlds, not destroy them. They could have been as bad as the Scourge, but they did have some free will where as both the Scourge and the Swarm operate as hive minds where telepathy is used to issue orders to the various units(and to dominate their free will).

Likewise, anyone who doesn't notice the similarities between the Protoss and the Draenei isn't looking very hard. Hooves, similar architecture, a love for crystals, are very spiritual....I think Draenei males hand-to-hand animations are even the same as a Zealot's.
I think you have to take into account not everyone is going to like what you like Drailen. I LOVE DIII but not everyone does. I can't comment on the story but so far it's been interesting. I don't care for the Marvel Universe but the Avengers movie was pretty good.

I think Blizzard should take it's lore seriously and not be like "Lol this will be good." No, that's not how lore is written. It should be taken seriously. I don't mind pop culture references and things like that but constant mocking of your creations is not needed and should stop.

Such as the "Space Goat" "No such thing as Male Blood Elves"

As for NPCS talking to each other about the current lore, I think that's good. I'm sure it doesn't take too much to do.

I know Blizzard can make the lore MUCH MUCH better in terms of what you see.
05/23/2012 09:10 PMPosted by Lothor
I think you have to take into account not everyone is going to like what you like Drailen. I LOVE DIII but not everyone does.


The thing is though Diablo III and WoW are pretty darn similar.

A lot of the abilities and gameplay systems from WoW started out as abilities in Diablo II. I even remember when WoW first came out, my room mate and others had this mentality: "Don't bother with WoW, it's like paying monthly for Diablo".

Sure, the pace and the gameplay differ, as does the setting--but the similarities that are there are hard to deny. Especially that Mists of Pandaria is coming out now and there are a lot of changes Blizzard is putting in place with the way class design works and the UI that are very similar(and in some cases, downright the same) as Diablo III.

So it's hard not to compare the two. A lot of WoW fans are probably going to play D3 and think, "Wouldn't it be great if we had companions like this? Or if quests were handled through voice acting rather than boxes of text?".

I think Blizzard kind of shot themselves in the foot on that one. Fans are probably going to be asking for those kinds of things now.
I haven't gotten a chance to really thoroughly go through thread. But I'd like to just add YES! See, my biggest problem with Starcraft, is that Arthas' story is effectively just repeated through Sarah Kerrigan. I absolutely loathe her, because she's so poorly written. But I agree with what I've read so far and I'll add some actual input when I finish it. Because it's long. Lol. Nice post though.
05/23/2012 09:19 PMPosted by Drailen
I think you have to take into account not everyone is going to like what you like Drailen. I LOVE DIII but not everyone does.


The thing is though Diablo III and WoW are pretty darn similar.

A lot of the abilities and gameplay systems from WoW started out as abilities in Diablo II. I even remember when WoW first came out, my room mate and others had this mentality: "Don't bother with WoW, it's like paying monthly for Diablo".

Sure, the pace and the gameplay differ, as does the setting--but the similarities that are there are hard to deny. Especially that Mists of Pandaria is coming out now and there are a lot of changes Blizzard is putting in place with the way class design works and the UI that are very similar(and in some cases, downright the same) as Diablo III.

So it's hard not to compare the two. A lot of WoW fans are probably going to play D3 and think, "Wouldn't it be great if we had companions like this? Or if quests were handled through voice acting rather than boxes of text?".

I think Blizzard kind of shot themselves in the foot on that one. Fans are probably going to be asking for those kinds of things now.


Yeah but there are so many quests, it would be...difficult, but not impossible. Oh and note SWTOR did voice acting so that isn't a good point comparing WoW to DIII.
05/23/2012 09:19 PMPosted by Drailen
I think Blizzard kind of shot themselves in the foot on that one. Fans are probably going to be asking for those kinds of things now.


TBH I was actually thinking the same thing when I went through Act I of the game. There was so much voice acting that I thought "Why doesn't WoW have ANY of this?" but sometimes I feel the difference of settings could be why. Voice acting in WoW as of late has been downright atrocious, and a lot of characters who used to have really great voices in WC3 have not aged well to reprise them in WoW. (Tyrande sounding like a troll, and Arthas sounding like a complete cartoon villain for references.)
Okay. Now that I've thoroughly processed the whole thing. Let's start from the top.

The storytelling in WoW is only as strong as it is, because of the universe laid out in Warcraft RTS games. Which was pretty good, albeit predictable. However, if you look deeply, there are large parallels between all three Blizzard Triumvarate games, as I like to call them. The Protoss and the Draenei are mirrors of each other, seriously. The only thing the Draenei didn't have, are a large almost hive mind like attitude (The Khalai, if you play Starcraft) that their splinter group(Nazeriem=Broken) was opposed to. Their splinter group DID find a way of doing the same thing, with new powers (The Void=Shamanism). It's really clear, especially between those two games.

Now, I haven't beaten D3, I've been slow to, and here's why. The story is painfully predictable. I don't care much about my Barbarian. He has some clever lines, (I'm pretty sure it's Richard Epcar the dude who does the Zealot/Captain Taylor in Vashjir) but otherwise, he's got no personality, outside of his massive sense of honor and duty. Which is cool, but we know how he'll react to every situation thrown at him. If I had a little semblance of choice, I'd have him protect Leah out of romance, because I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. It's hinted at, a little bit, but never explored. As a player, I'm not allowed to say my character the Barbarian (Tomaj is his name :D) doesn't fight for only the glory of his ancestors, or to save the world. He fights to protect the woman he loves, which is super cliche in it's own right, but it's a choice I got to make. Instead, it's pretty much a monorail, where Blizz says "The Barbarian fights for x, y, and z." Which doesn't make him your character at all. You might as well be reading a book. A comic book, even.

Now, I'm not a fan of super branching narratives, a-la Mass Effect, because to me, they can cheapen the over all story if not done well. And it wouldn't fit in WoW. But we have no dynamic characters anymore. And when we get them, they get tossed aside. Garrosh Hellscream, is my prime example. He was PERFECT for reigniting Doomhammer's Horde. Which, is what you need, if you want to have an "Alliance versus Horde" war, that's not started by some contrivance that makes the players look like bad guys, like the Forsaken. Instead of "I hate the Horde because they throw rocks at us." We Alliance should say "I hate the Horde, because they took our land. And we want it back. They are a blight upon Azeroth, and we need to fight them back, like our forefathers."

Likewise, the Horde should be saying "Azeroth is ours! We will take what we need to live, because we are the Horde. We will conquer this land, and if you try to stop us, we'll crush you." That is, if you want the Alliance and Horde to be enemies, which, Blizzard keeps trying to push as a theme.

I want to see how Varian plans to win this war. I want to see Tyrande sending Sentinels to the front, giving speeches about protecting the forest. I want to see Malfurion blowing the Horn of Cenarius again, rousing the Druids, leading them into the forefront. I want to see Velen most of all, take that staff and use it to protect and heal his allies, the Alliance, with his fellows. I don't want this "hero factory" where everybody else is used as a stepping stone for one major expansion character. This isn't a comic book, it's a game. I personally do not like super "deus ex machina" like the Dragon Soul and Thrall's jump to Super Saiyan 6.

Now, to switch gears a little, I enjoy game of Thrones, and political intrigue and the like. But I also know that you have to be careful with it. Game of Thrones can pull it off, because everybody is out for their own, in that series. The more honorable you try to act, the less you end up accomplishing, at least so far. In WoW honor is king, so the same sort of duplicity and backstabbing among the major players, doesn't always look right. I think what they did with Velen was a good step. They showed us that he's falible. He can make mistakes. He doesn't always know what to do. And it created dessent, which was good. I'd like to see Vol'jin own up to his mistakes. Yeah sure, Garrosh isn't a nice guy. But disagreeing with your leader in the middle of a war? That sort of thing only works in Gundam, without reprocussions. And even sometimes them (Cough SEED Cough).

So all in all, I agree. I don't think it has anything to do with "You like this" or whatever. There is such a thing as objective storytelling technique, and it's clear Metzen loves his fallen hero-redemption scenerio. But let's move away from that. Let's move away from using character foils to develop one guy, and start really lifting all of our major players into the foreground.
1) Repeating themes.

I completely agree with you on this. Blizz tends to repeat the same material in its stories to the point where within a few moments one can tell exactly where the story will go. Speaking only for myself there has never been a situation in WoW where I was surprised by the direction of a story. Just once I'd like to see a character act in a manner that could not be guessed from five minutes of meeting them. A good example from out of WoW would be in Avatar the Last Airbender season 2 finale, not to spoil to much but several characters make decisions that are a surprise and it made both the finale and the next season that much more interesting.

2) Gameplay Over Presentation

For a video game it can be accepted that gameplay should come before presentation, in my opinion. Story is there to advance the gameplay and not the other way around. It is prefered that a game have good and engaging story but if the gameplay suffers for the story then only a handful of people will ever play the game.

3) Comic-book Worship

I also enjoyed Dune (never read nor watched Game of Thrones) and I agree that political stories can be interesting. West Wing and Babylon 5 are two of my favorite tv series. But I also acknowledge that my tastes are not for everyone as for what I've read you do as well.
D3 isnt about story, that is just an added extra. D3 is about maxing out your toon with the best gear, the best spec, and the best group of friends to beat the hardest level. after that you should be makeing money based on the RMOH.

they tell the story the first time through, after that you just repeat with better gear and spells. after that they just go with "my guy is better than your guy".
D3 isnt about story, that is just an added extra. D3 is about maxing out your toon with the best gear, the best spec, and the best group of friends to beat the hardest level.


Sounds a lot like another game I play...
05/24/2012 12:13 AMPosted by Donahue
Sounds a lot like another game I play...


Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon?
05/24/2012 12:13 AMPosted by Donahue
D3 isnt about story, that is just an added extra. D3 is about maxing out your toon with the best gear, the best spec, and the best group of friends to beat the hardest level.


Sounds a lot like another game I play...


only the game we play has a progressive story rather than a repeated story... between normal and nightmare there is no story deviation.
05/24/2012 12:31 AMPosted by Juibloc
only the game we play has a progressive story rather than a repeated story... between normal and nightmare there is no story deviation.


The story remains relatively the same in concept though. Good vs. Evil, Big Bad trying to destroy the world and whatnot...

They don't really deviate much from that, except for smaller occasion.
only the game we play has a progressive story rather than a repeated story... between normal and nightmare there is no story deviation.


No, the game we play has the illusion of progression.

Arthas is the big bad, rawr!
~New Lich King.
~Scourge is still pretty much the same. Kelmer Thudd is still out and about

Deathwing is dead! Age of Mortals!
~Except for that army of immortal ancients we just brough back to life in Hyjal! The ones said to be as strong as the Aspects in their own ways in Wota!
~Also WC3. The Mortals have stepped forward and guardians are no longer needed.

Disposing a tyrant from the Throne of the Horde who has gone mad with power!
~HAHAHA, FOOLS! Me, the totally hot cleavage lady in SW keep is the real power in Stormwind! Mwahaha. Ohh. Ohh wait. No. No, I want to stay in power thanks. Don't taze me, bro.
~ Also Deathwings bit.

Forsaken
~We can't reproduce!
~ HAHA we can raise undead in small numbers.
~ haha. Now we can do more raising. Still can't reproduce.
~ Sylvanas is hot. And evil. But not really. Also demon betrayels to make people distrust the same faction they always distrusted.

Night Elves
~Ohh.. This is what its like to be mortal. I..am just going to ignore the fact that I would have always died from a giant wave of pointy rock lava majiggers. Gonna just.. say it. Give a false sense of drama.
~ Ohh... Woe is me. We are still mortal.
~ OHH, IMMORTALITY AGAIN.. Wait? No? Malfurion was a jerk again? Huh... Guess Ima go find an Orc and get stabbed. Lament about how getting stabbed kills me now. Cuz it totally did 10 years ago as well, but I'm a whiny hipster.
~Wait.. wait? no.. no. Still mortal. And apparently aging super fast. Doesn't really make sense. Been immortal since I was borne. Huh.. Well, I guess while we are on this subject.. ALL HAIL THE AGE of MAN! Also, to encourage this god free environment, we are totally going to go all goo goo over a scion of a wolf god.

Gnomes
~ Lets take back gnomer.
~we failed.
~Lets take back gnomer.
~failed again.
~gnomer?
~damn... guys.. We kinda suck. It's true. Short people really dont have a reason to live.

Dwarves
~ GRRR my daughter is a disgrace to dwaves and causes all types of political problems that don't go anywhere.
~ Grrr, the daughter is still causing disgrace to dwarves and causes all types of political problems that don't go anywhere.

Humans
~ Light
~Haha we got owned.
~LIGHT!!!!
~yeah, owned again.
~Defias!..
~Ohh yeah. Rock on. We totally..well, alright kinda failed but stopped things from getting worse.
~Defias!
~Well guys, we just got schooled by a farm raised teenager. I mean, yeah. She had a nice rack, and that voice? Man, like melted buttery velvet. Ohh. Man. The things.. Gotta wait a few years.. Also, think we fail worse than gnomes now.

Orcs
~WARRIORS
~SHAMAN
~WARRIORS
~SHAMAN

Trolls
~haha. Yeah.. we keep getting killed. We sure do breed a bunch./
D3 isnt about story, that is just an added extra. D3 is about maxing out your toon with the best gear, the best spec, and the best group of friends to beat the hardest level. after that you should be makeing money based on the RMOH.

they tell the story the first time through, after that you just repeat with better gear and spells. after that they just go with "my guy is better than your guy".


A few problems with this. First off, Call of Duty, Modern Warfare isn't about story. You can tell they probably spent the least amount of time on the campaign. Diablo 3? Not so much, there is much more storytelling, even if it's not spectacular. I mean, lets be real, 9/10 people do NOT care about "Being the Very Best, Like No One Ever Was" just like in WoW, not that many people care. People want to enjoy the game. Sometimes that means min-maxing, othertimes it means listening to a fun narrative. In this case, the narrative is lacking, in both D3 and in WoW, and just because you can Min-max shouldn't be a reason the story should suffer. If you want to get by with a bad story, make a MMS FPS.
Perhaps it's because Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft are all written by the exact same people.
D3 isnt about story, that is just an added extra. D3 is about maxing out your toon with the best gear, the best spec, and the best group of friends to beat the hardest level. after that you should be makeing money based on the RMOH.

they tell the story the first time through, after that you just repeat with better gear and spells. after that they just go with "my guy is better than your guy".


This.

I have a large love for story development in video games, but there's a time and a place for it. Extremely gameplay-centered titles, like Diablo, are neither. You need some story for context, which is there, and background lore to make things interesting, which is there if you wish to seek it out, but that's it. Diablo isn't the place to tell a gripping, emotional journey. Those highs and lows don't mesh well with the primal violence fantasy that comprises the entirety of the game. If you're playing through Diablo for the story, you're going to be disappointed. And you're being a little silly.

*Spoilers past this point*

That said, the characters actually have some depth in D3 and the game does a fantastic job of showing you situations rather than telling (in fact, the visual presentation is phenomenal. D3 may be a poor book, but it's a fantastic painting). Fighting through Bastion's Keep and watching the endless demon horde rage in the background does far more than a touching monologue by Tyreal ever could.

As for similarities, much of what people are calling out just boil down to some common tropes that you can see everywhere, not just Blizzard games. The style is certainly similar, which is to be expected when the same handful of people do the story for everything, but there's enough plot differences that I wouldn't call foul. Personally I like that Blizzard games all feel like Blizzard games through and through, despite the varying genres and game types.

At the very least I wasn't exactly expecting them to actually give Diablo a pair of t!ts.
05/23/2012 10:59 PMPosted by Virsago
Which is cool, but we know how he'll react to every situation thrown at him. If I had a little semblance of choice, I'd have him protect Leah out of romance, because I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. It's hinted at, a little bit, but never explored. As a player, I'm not allowed to say my character the Barbarian (Tomaj is his name :D) doesn't fight for only the glory of his ancestors, or to save the world. He fights to protect the woman he loves, which is super cliche in it's own right, but it's a choice I got to make. Instead, it's pretty much a monorail, where Blizz says "The Barbarian fights for x, y, and z." Which doesn't make him your character at all. You might as well be reading a book. A comic book, even.


That's one thing that annoyed me. Despite how varied the various classes are in lore and character, they all have to say basically the same thing because ALL NPCs in the game have to be able to respond with the same dialogue.

I could totally picture someone like the Witch Doctor being odd and throwing everyone off, but that can't be the case because all the NPCs have to respond to his dialogue the same way they would respond to the Demon Hunter or Mage.

Now, I'm not a fan of super branching narratives, a-la Mass Effect, because to me, they can cheapen the over all story if not done well. And it wouldn't fit in WoW. But we have no dynamic characters anymore. And when we get them, they get tossed aside. Garrosh Hellscream, is my prime example. He was PERFECT for reigniting Doomhammer's Horde. Which, is what you need, if you want to have an "Alliance versus Horde" war, that's not started by some contrivance that makes the players look like bad guys, like the Forsaken. Instead of "I hate the Horde because they throw rocks at us." We Alliance should say "I hate the Horde, because they took our land. And we want it back. They are a blight upon Azeroth, and we need to fight them back, like our forefathers."

Likewise, the Horde should be saying "Azeroth is ours! We will take what we need to live, because we are the Horde. We will conquer this land, and if you try to stop us, we'll crush you." That is, if you want the Alliance and Horde to be enemies, which, Blizzard keeps trying to push as a theme.


I agree with this. It's pretty much what they were(and are) doing though. Resources are the root cause of the entire war....it just isn't played up much in the story.



05/23/2012 10:59 PMPosted by Virsago
Now, to switch gears a little, I enjoy game of Thrones, and political intrigue and the like. But I also know that you have to be careful with it. Game of Thrones can pull it off, because everybody is out for their own, in that series. The more honorable you try to act, the less you end up accomplishing, at least so far. In WoW honor is king, so the same sort of duplicity and backstabbing among the major players, doesn't always look right.


I actually disagree with this though.

Since you mentioned Game of Thrones, let's use an example from there. "Honorable War" is what Rob Stark did. He cares about the soldiers and peoples lives, as well as justice. He doesn't really do anything dishonorable.

Dishonor in war would be things like poisoning the enemy's water supply or burning the enemy's farms. The Lannisters do that.

The Draenei engage in honorable war. Honor is important to them. Honor is important to the Orcs but they often forget it. But Goblins, Trolls, and Undead? They'll do what it takes to win. Every other race doesn't really lean one way or the other when it comes to honor, though the Horde tends to have more pragmatists.

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