What Really Makes D3's Atmosphere Less Dark?

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The general consensus is, and I agree, that D3's atmosphere is not as dark as D2, which in turn was a little less dark than D1;

But what SPECIFICALLY makes this the case?

Here are my thoughts, briefly:


1. I'm older and am less easily impressed


I'm guessing so are most people who grew up with the series. However, I still get a really cool vibe from playing D1 and D2 that I don't get with D3.



2. Soundtrack


I think this is a BIG one. Some of the in-game soundtrack is quite good, especially in A4. However the quieter themes in D3 don't really stand out much at all. I challenge any of you to actually hum the quieter background themes. Yeah, not memorable compared to Matt Uelman's scores.

In SCII, the game immediately feels way better when you play it to the original SC soundtrack, and I have a feeling the same would be true of D3.


3. NPC Chatter


Ah yes, a pet peeve of mine. Somehow modern games and RPG's seem to think that to immerse you in a world, people need to constantly talk at you all the time. This especially gets on my nerves with the Merchants, since you visit them so often and they always say the same things over and over. Since there's such constant repetition in a game like this, game designers should be extra careful of what responses they program in.

In older games, such as Half Life 1, SC1, D1 and D2, etc, your character gets talked to very little -- and this enhanced the experience because you felt ALONE. Half life 2 was also great because you were alone for most of the game. However, the Half Life Episodes got annoying because Alyx was following you around everywhere talking at you and it didn't feel as scary anymore.

4. TMI -- TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

If you give too much away about the story, it becomes less interesting. The greatest instrument in storytelling is the audience's own imagination, and their own willingness to fill in the blanks. I call this the "mitichlorion trap". The Force was much cooler as a mind-over matter concept before it got explained away as some idiotic biological mutation in the prequels. It seriously damaged the idea that the Force was based on insight and practice, as opposed to simple genetic lottery.

Similarly, the idea of angels, demons, the Burning Hells, the High Heavens, the Light, and all the rest was much cooler in D2 because so little of what those concepts actually were was revealed. Tyrael only appeared very occasionally, and when he did, you knew something epic was in store. His conversations in Act 4 of D2 were very sparse and gave away little actual information about who he was, or what the Heavens were. The High Heavens were treated as an unfathomable place where no mortals had ever gone, and the Archangels were portrayed as beings with motivations that were mysterious and incomprehensible.


5. Character Overexposure


This is similar to the above. Characters maintain a cool factor the less you see of them, in general. As I mentioned, in D2 you see Tyrael very little. In D3, all of a sudden not only is he no longer an angel, but he's a major NPC and also apparently the game's narrator.

Don't get me wrong, he's voice-acted well, and the dialogue is good. However, the fact that he's ever-present reduces the impact of his character. The same went for Raynor in Starcraft II -- every time you're on the Hyperion in between missions you're following Raynor's !@# around all over the ship. Sometimes I wondered if the camera would follow him into the toilet when he had to take a dump. Sorry Blizzard, but just because we like a certain character doesn't mean we have to see them EVERYWHERE doing EVERYTHING and hear from them ALL THE TIME.

The same is also true of the villains. While it's interesting to learn a little bit more about the Lords of Hell, the dialogue with Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo actually makes them LESS frightening because it brings them down to earth and in some cases even makes them seem petty and ridiculous (especially Belial). They are supposed to be DEMONS from another world, not humans in scary costumes.

6. Moving from R to PG-13 to appeal to a large audience.

If Diablo I, II, Starcraft I, and Half Life were movies, they would be R rated. Their sequels would be PG-13, if not simply PG. There was cursing (e.g. Marine: how do I get out of this chicken s*** outfit?!, or the soldiers in Half-life saying s*** when you threw grenades at them), limb dismembering, blood, gore, on-screen violent death, characters getting gibbed in game and in cutscenes, and major characters died (and STAYED DEAD). There was also a real sense of adventure, fear, and mystery.

Ahhhh, for the days of yore when things were not sissified to make sure angry parents wouldn't stop their kids from playing. When did game developers become so limp? When did games have to be so kid-friendly? Far from being too violent, I honestly think games today are too soft.

Sure, Leah dies (maybe) and is possessed by Diablo. However, just compare her transformation into Diablo in the cutscene in D3 with the D2 cutscene where the Wanderer transforms into Diablo. One is bloody, horrific and scary, and the other one isn't.

Yes, there are corpses all over the place in D3 -- but the impact is not quite the same when the Scoundrel makes "comical quips" about them, or the Enchantress starts giggling.

Yes, Act 1 dungeons are full of torture equipment. But then you have the mini-quest where you rescue a guy from an iron maiden and he sounds really chipper and not scared out of his mind. Then compare that to the dialogue with Farnham in D1 when he relates the story of his encounter with The Butcher -- it's spooky because you realize he was driven insane by the terror.
Lords from Hell that are more stupid than most villains on cartoon channels for children. The enemy also show human characteristics.
It's completely the storytelling and the characters.

I look around and think this atmostphere is actaully pretty dark as I look at dead bodies around me.

Then the butterfly queen shows up...
TheRaven - Thank you for this post! It says everything i wanted to share with community by my self. From me i can add this:

ENDING:

Diablo 2 - bad ending
Diablo 2 LOD - mysterious ending
Diablo 3 - Happy ending

In simple words ^ you know what thats means. PG 7 :P
Just as a rebuttal to my own post, I don't by any means think D3 is all bad, or that it completely fails to achieve any atmosphere. My critique was about the story only, not about the gameplay, which I actually enjoy more than D1 or D2 -- it's pretty clear to me that the gameplay is where most of the effort went into on D3, and it paid off. Gameplay in the end is more important than story for, you know, a GAME, and that's why we all still play D3.

Much of the dialogue is quite good. The story is predictable, but solid. However Blizzard would do well to try to preserve some sense of mystery for future games and to keep the franchise fresh.

Essentially I'd say of D3 what Mr. Plinkett said of the 4th Indiana Jones movie here:

http://redlettermedia.com/mr-plinetts-indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull-review/

It looks sorta like a Diablo game, and it sounds sorta like a Diablo game, and it plays even better than a Diablo game, but it's missing the teeth.
I think you can see too much of the dungeon, not dark enough, big gear buff in d2 LOD was light radius,
What makes D3 "less dark" is the omission of "Light Radius".

You know, the stat that was pretty much worthless in D2? The area around your character was dark. When you equiped items that increased your light radius, you could see with more clarity around your character, while the rest of the screen stayed at the same brightness.

It was just a gamma/brightness trick.
the bitmap sprite sheet renderinsg in D2 had black shadows and plenty of grit/noise
the 3D fidelity doesn't

howeverD3 had more gore than I ever was imagining after playing through the first time - I was half disgusted when I watched a bola crit jib the 2nd cultist pack guarding the templars items. smear of blood and parts I noticed for the first time
very gory

act 3 flayer demons lurking in giant metal SnM chains

the guards being slaughtered below stonefort

I think if anything you are all too old and use to seeing LoTR battles by now
one of the first complaints besides graphic style was how blurry the game is..
7. Light Radius. Both D1 and D2 had this. D2 also had real day/night cycles in which it has been stated that D3 the day and night is based on story progression not "time" (which imo sucks). Light Radius made the game a lot more creepy in that you don't see enemies until they are actually moving towards you (unless you had a lot of + light radius). This made the game visibly darker and also allowed for more surprises and ambushes.

8. Less "Evil". Act 1 Halls of Pain and Act 2 Alcarnus are the most gory parts of the game but I was still disappointed overall. What do you think demons or the undead would do with people? Just whack them over the head and leave their intact body? No. I was expecting far more bloody remains that are both messy and already pillaged of their loot. Loot should have only come from hidden stashes, enemies, chests or places which it would make sense that people would still have their gear (like the undead would leave their gear because they don't have any need for it, also the bodies wouldn't be consumed as much where the goatmen you'd find guts everywhere and bones lol.

Visually Diablo 3, a place where demons and being of pure evil were running around, simply isn't foreboding enough. Where are the bloody messages scrawled on walls of impending doom? Pitch black rooms full of who knows what lurking inside? Ambushes and traps that have hordes of enemies coming at you from all directions (rather then just 3 lol...)?

Diablo 1 and 2 both had their "scary"/"creepy" elements and Diablo 3 should have taken what made them scary or creepy and make the game hellish and full of horrors that one would expect from demons and evil creatures destroying everything in their path.
the bitmap sprite sheet renderinsg in D2 had black shadows and plenty of grit/noise
the 3D fidelity doesn't

howeverD3 had more gore than I ever was imagining after playing through the first time - I was half disgusted when I watched a bola crit jib the 2nd cultist pack guarding the templars items. smear of blood and parts I noticed for the first time
very gory

act 3 flayer demons lurking in giant metal SnM chains

the guards being slaughtered below stonefort

I think if anything you are all too old and use to seeing LoTR battles by now


I never said the game completely fails at all. There is violence and grit in the game. I was simply trying to point out numerous examples of when that atmosphere is broken by other things. Atmosphere is a very fragile element in a game -- even one thing that's tonally out of place can ruin it.

It is sort of the equivalent of watching a really scary movie in the theater and then someone farts or their cellphone goes off. That's all it can take to ruin the mood.

As for being old, I'll just respond that "old is a state of mind." And LoTR battles are great, FYI...
The overall color palette seems extremely washed down, imho. That and the exclusion of light radius make it look very cartoony. I don't necessarily dislike the general aesthetics in the game, but i don't believe this style suits a game like Diablo.

From a character perspective, i really, really REAAAAAALLY dislike how bosses tell you every sinlge part of their malevolent (lame) plans all the time. Seriously, these guys are such a bunch of obnoxious attention!@#$%s, specially Diablo. He's no longer that badass, scary demon who released his 2 brothers in A2-A3 and took hell back in D2, but a childish and annoying attention-starved idiot.

The music is ok, but I liked a lot more the mood created by the D1 soundtrack, though. D3's seems quite overproduced, and lacks that eerie feeling D1 successfully delivered. I still remember that original cathedral music, with babies crying in the back, and that everlasting beep that drilled into your head as you slowly explored everything. This may be hard to reproduce now because the game has a crapload more action than the original, but it's alright. The original Tristram theme is still unparalleled.
Hey OP, great read, just wanted to mention that Diablo 3's rating is 17+... but you're right it doesn't feel R-rated like the other games you mentioned.
It's completely the storytelling and the characters.

I look around and think this atmostphere is actaully pretty dark as I look at dead bodies around me.

Then the butterfly queen shows up...

absolutely.

The enemies in D1 and D2 have been a lot better then this butterfly queen which feelt so out of place ... its not funny anymore. Not only does she always talk (like the other vilains ...) but she is rather pathetic then "dark" as character at least.

Cant say I really like the whole story of D3 that much. It feels simply to ... epic to say that. Diablo 2 was never much about story and dialogues anyway. But the characters feelt still nice, be it Cain, Wariv or Charsy. They talked less compared to the characters in D3, but exactly that was the reason why they feelt better. More quality.
Interesting.
12/30/2012 02:26 PMPosted by Onetwo
Hey OP, great read, just wanted to mention that Diablo 3's rating is 17+... but you're right it doesn't feel R-rated like the other games you mentioned.


Thanks!

Would like to point out that the game being 17+ means Blizz has even less of an excuse to have the game be as kid friendly as it is. But of course, everyone knows that game ratings are pretty much a joke and no one pays attention to them anyway.

When I was a kid, I remember Starcraft being advertised in my elementary school's book catalogue, even though it was rated "M"... And then I watched a guy's head explode in the opening cutscene when I was like 12 and my reaction was, "HOLY CRAP! THAT'S AWESOME!"
The thing is, while overall playability goes like D3 > D2 > D1, atmosphere is getting worse with each game.

1) Background music, more precisely: lack of one. This is what makes or destroys amosphere in movies and games. And in D3, music.... is very rare. I remember act 4 soundtrack, those from main menu (which are top notch, all of them!), that spider queen one and one in catacombs which is actually rather annoying.

1b) SOUNDS. Remember succubus dying in D1? Or death knight? They were screaming in pain. I miss that...

2) Colours. Everything is bright. Dungeons have no walls, instead are built in some weirdly back-lit caverns. I want to be afraid of shadows! I want light radius management back!

3) Something which was in D1 and got lost as early as in D2: sense of danger. What kills in D2? Instagibs caused by gloams, these suicidal lightning-fast explosive skeletons, nithlathalthalhaltalthalak's corpse explosion, THAT CURSE and so on. What killed in D1? Stunlocks. One monster? Okay. Two? Okay, Three? Uh, getting stuck. Five? Damn, fighting for life! One potion, second, damn, please let go for a moment, just a moment, yeeeeessss survived. Now where to run... The difference is that danger cannot build up properly in both D2 and D3 because when you see it it is already too late, and in D1 dying is actually a process which takes time and which is... scary. Even now!

4) Enemies talking to me. Seriously, if I wanted to kill someone, I would not talk to him. Waste of time. Sure, there are some talkative types who just have to tell you that you are going to die. But all of them? And who gave them my number so they can call me freely any time they want?

5) The Butcher from D3 vs The Butcher from D1. D3 one is better fight by any means, but the monster is slow, easy to dodge, gives you warnings and in general feels like David vs Goliath battle. Fun, but not scary. D1 Butcher is simple. All he does is follow you and when in range, attack which will most likely cause a stunlock, which in turn will cause death. He is much like Terminator: Very simple, very straightforward, very effective... and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. This is what makes him scary.

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