Listening to the soundtrack of Diablo 1 (such as this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHOy0QOdHOg), I can't help but think how little gloom there is in Diablo 3.
Yes, the corpses and the gore are both in there. It's not a child-friendly game by any means. But I think it lacks all of that distinctly 'evil' atmosphere which was so prevalent in both Diablo 1 and 2.
The stuff that made you feel frightened, depressed, and completely hopeless. There was no joy in the world, only misery. All you could do was stay alive against the legions of Hell as their endless numbers swarmed out of the ground.
So how do you feel about this? Should Diablo 3 have more of that characteristically dark, gloomy, and evil atmosphere that Diablo 2 and even more so Diablo 1 had?
I think it'd be better if it had:
- Light Radius
- A more noticeable and sinister soundtrack
- A slightly altered colour palette
- More 'Gothic' architecture in the expansions
- Solo content, like an endless dungeon (perhaps HC only?)
To be honest, I don't know why anyone clumps D2 into Diablo's territory. D2 was significantly less gloomy and dark than its predecessor. The franchise has long since moved away from the horror that once defined it. D3 is the least melancholy of the three, but it isn't as bright as some people criticize it for. It definitely has more blood and gore than its predecessor without a doubt, but it holds very little else. The alpha version of D3 was pretty gloomy though, the tileset of the Cathedral was also akin to Leoric's crypts, it used more cool colors over the warmer colors it currently uses.
Moreover, anyone remember the whole Thousand Pounder ritual? There were three female sacrifices (probably virgins/you know demonic cult and all), where did that level of grit go? Instead we getting overly talkative Azmodan who makes himself sound pathetic and Diablo who has even less reason to talk. Then the whole random Izual appearance made no sense, it was like he was just thrown in to give Act IV another boss. It isn't that hard to actually tone down D3's atmosphere, I've mulled over what set Diablo apart from everything that followed several times already. A great deal of it has to do with the cliche taunting from bosses. The less they speak, the more mysterious they are meaning they are harder to personify.
For demons particularly the Lords of Hell, the less they speak, the less human they feel. Demons are inhuman and otherworldly creatures of pure evil, a person can't reasonably expect to understand that and retain their sanity. In fact, according to Diablo lore, the D2 heroes went mad from their experiences, yet we really don't get that vibe much in D3. Historically Diablo has had very little to say until D3, the only one I can think of is his one liner from the battle with him in D2, I don't think he said anything in Diablo. Moreover, the atmosphere and his actions alone tell the story without him having to utter a word.
Same thing applies to D3, if they simply cut off all but a few words for the Diamond Gates cinematic and when you reach him at the Crystal Arch, the visuals alone give you a good enough sense of what is happening. Alongside the imagery in the cinematic and what the Angiris Council has to say along the way, that is sufficient, his talking just kind of kills the inhuman aspect. The dialogue during the phases of the battle are also lackluster and are better off not being said especially given this running joke: "TERROAR!"
A few other things are just changing the color palettes or tweaking them a little. I believe Wyatt actually replied to this in an interview. To help kill the monotony of seeing the exact same thing over and over, (Example: Cathedral) they are thinking about small ways to change up the experience or at least make it less predictable. So parts of the Cathedral might have that desaturated look of Leoric's Crypts mixed in randomly, or each time you enter the Cathedral, it has a different tileset active.
It wasn't exactly clear, but you get the idea. Not only does this improve the game by making it less predictable and boring, but it also means a more desaturated look can make its way into the game or return to certain areas of the game. They've also acknowledged how these random events are insignificant particularly with the monster density changes, so there seems to be a lot more emphasis and providing more randomization, thankfully. A return of some Diablo tracks would also be nice, the Wagnerian style music really only fits small portions of the game like parts of Act III. I think the music needs to return to its roots, and bring back Tristram's theme, FFS, you can just play it at Tristram's ruins if you don't want to get rid of New Tristram's boring theme.
Some steps to improve D3's atmosphere aren't hard whatsoever while others need considerable work. Act II frankly is the most badly damaged of the lot. Belial couldn't deceive anyone over the age of 6. Moreover, his whole impersonation of Hakkan could have been used for a far more interesting turn of events and added grit which Diablo is known for. There was also heavy neglect of the political turmoil in Caldeum. Belial should have been manipulative, deceiving, and overall the whole Act was far too straightforward rather than utilizing much plot devices.
Frankly, I find Belial and Act II the biggest missed opportunity in the game. It would require significant reworking to fix this Act's atmosphere, but I'd settle for any atmosphere improvements. Though I don't think the light radius has anything to do with it so much as the art department wanting their work acknowledge so badly that they sacrificed the atmosphere to get some of their flavor in. For instance, actual dungeon zones like the Keep Depths often have far too many torches very close to one another, and some skill animations are too bright that it feels like a real immersion breaker. Sadly, Blizzard is trying to hit on the comfortable way to play D3, Diablo was never comfortable to play through, not much anyway, you could die pretty easily and you could be surprised at any moment.
The writing in Blizzard titles has declined significantly over the years. Some themes and plot elements are still fairly decent or good, but the execution is quite off. I think the whole sacrificing Leah to resurrect Diablo could have very well been impactful, but it really felt cliche how they handled it especially with regards to the dialogue. When she is demonically possessed, Leah's voice should have been distorted heavily, and she shouldn't have talked very long, the whole "Prime Evil" thing felt really forced to hear her voice actress say. The voice talent in the game is decent, but I'd question how they chose to use certain characters and whom voiced them.
There is very little gothic in D3, the barest scraps of its are in Act I in the Cathedral, and even then I'd hardly call that gothic influenced. The opening cinematic has a gothic vibe, but the in-game Cathedral loses all of that pretty swiftly. Tis a shame really, hope they try better in the future. Ureh is ideal for a more horror aspect; however, lets hope they don't wreck it the way they've done the current game.