Friday, June 1, 2012

Diablo 3 Review: Part 2


Welcome to part 3 of the week-long tour through the world of Diablo 3. I have covered everything from character classes to a player’s firstplaythrough, and I’ve reviewed the game as a whole. Now I will take a look at the really fun stuff – the high level play that comes after beating the game and setting off to conquer the world of Sanctuary once again: Playing at levels 31-60, Multiplayer and PvP, the Auction Houses, and future patches and content addition. After having spent a health-destroying amount of hours playing in the higher levels, I have surfaced to give my opinion on what Diablo 3 looks like after you’ve hit level 30.
When you decide to go through the game again on any of the higher difficulties – Nightmare, Hell, or Inferno – be prepared to find yourself dying a lot more frequently. If you are playing solo, then there will be a lot of obstacles to overcome. When you play on any of the higher difficulties, everything is proportionally increased: the difficulty, damage, and health of the monsters, the amount of gold dropped and the chance for higher level loot. Literally everything is 10 or 20 times harder than when you first played through the game as a low level Wizard or Monk. However, I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. The first playthrough was a fun experience and is easy enough for newcomers to action-RPGs. But the excitement can be a little lacking when the game is too easy. Blizzard made these higher difficulties for the gamers who want to challenge themselves for the chance to find that legendary set of armor or obtain hundreds of thousands of gold.

Not only do the gold amounts get bigger and the monsters get harder, but your Artisans become more valuable. In your first playthrough, the Blacksmith and Jeweler can only be trained so far before you reach a roadblock in the form of jewel crafter and blacksmith pages. These pages are necessary in training the Artisans in really high level crafting and can only be found in the higher difficulties and are dropped just as randomly as any other loot would be. This adds one more incentive to play at the higher levels. Once you start finding recipes and sets for Legendary Armor and Weapons, you’ll need the Blacksmith to be at a high enough level to craft the items – and trust me, the Legendary Items are awesome enough to warrant the investment. Not only are the higher level items upgraded to apply much larger stat boosts, but they look truly amazing. And, as an added bonus you get the chance to show off to your friends how hardcore you are when you play the multiplayer side of Diablo 3.

The multiplayer aspect of Diablo 3 exists as co-op with three of your buddies. Together, you can decimate the evils of the world and gain a lot of rare loot along the way. While your friends are along to help you out, once again, the enemies become that much stronger. If you and your three friends are all level 50 or so and try to take on a scourge of demons, they will be proportionally just as hard to beat. Of course, that also means they will drop amazing loot and enormous amounts of gold as well. If you have a select group of friends that you play with, I would suggest every once and a while, help each other out. Have one or two of your friends play a low-level character (level 25-32) and the other two play characters around level 60. If you do, then your low-level characters will play against high-level enemies, getting more experience points, more gold, and rare items thanks to your high-level friends. Once you have high level legendary items, you can either sell them in the Auction House or use them in PvP once it gets introduced.

The Auction House in Diablo 3 is a really useful resource for high level players. As a pretext, I would suggest not even looking at the AH before you reach level 30. Even at level 14 or 15, it is possible to just buy some really overpowered armor and weapons through the AH and run through the game like it was nothing. I think that doing so would damage the experience of trying to find the right armor and weapons while dungeon-crawling and boss-fighting. However, once you make it through that first playthrough, all bets are off. The gold-based Auction House is useful and balanced in some ways, and looks ridiculously overpriced in others. Each player can only have up to ten items for sale or auction at any given time. You also have the option of having a buyout price for people who want the item immediately. However, when I looked at the prices for higher level gear, ranging from 10,000 to 500,000 gold, I was quite surprised to see how much the prices can vary. In Diablo 3, price range is all about perspective.  At level 30, an item worth 50,000 gold seems ridiculously expensive. Yet at level 50, where the gold amounts in general are much higher, it is cheap in comparison. The same applies to looking at a 130,000 gold weapon when you are at level 60. As far as the real-currency Auction House, it hasn’t been implemented yet so at the moment there is only speculation.

Both the real-currency Auction House and PvP multiplayer mode have yet to be implemented. While Blizzard promises they will be available soon, most people are waiting, somewhat impatiently, to see how these two new aspects of Diablo 3 will pan out. The real-currency Auction House is something that has stimulated some conversation, since it would be the first one of its kind to be implemented in this way. Other markets that sell in game items have been in-game currency only and Auction Houses have been annoying and frustrating in one way or another. The design Blizzard has implemented not only prevents shady off-the-record gold buying through paypal, but allows for an organized marketplace for players to list items to sell. I believe that the Auction Houses, both the real-currency one and the gold-based one, will be closely tied to PvP once it is released. If PvP becomes a reality, then there will be a precedent for what would become the best builds and best armor for battling against other players. While there’s always a chance for unbalanced shenanigans which will probably happen in the beginning, there is also a chance for people to actually profit off the high-level loot they find in-game by selling it for a buck or two in the AH. At the same time, I don’t think the real-currency AH will be successful, at least not at first. People won’t see the need to pay money for items when they can spend time with their friends to possibly find better loot and more gold. But after a while, gamers will see the ease-of-use in buying a few low level items to rush through the early levels with a new character, or just buying the best armor available instead of spending the time and effort needed in finding better items. Other games have similar in game stores selling various items that can empower you or just make you look unique, but Blizzard has created a new and unique situation by making clear that both Auction Houses will not have items that aren’t in the game. This means that there won’t be any special-amazing armor that Blizzard introduces that sells for hundreds of whatever. And every item up for sale is user generated through time and loot-grabbing. Either way these two portions of Diablo 3 will shake things up a bit once introduced to the public.

As far as what the future holds for Diablo 3, it’s a bit of a gamble. Expansion packs are almost inevitable considering how much Blizzard profited off the game, and patches to balance overpowered weapons or spells will be implemented as time goes on. However, I would hope that the development team working on this stuff would also have the ability to include more quests and missions that add a little variety to each class. Since most of the replay value comes from going through the same areas for random dungeons and loot, the replay value would be increased if some class-specific content was introduced, as it would give some incentive to play as other character classes and try new things. Whether or not any of this will happen is based a lot on how much people keep playing Diablo 3. Right now things are groovy since everyone is still playing and finding new loot to mess around with. I’m sure fans of the game will play the game over and over again until the next Diablo game or expansion pack, but support for the game could die out over time if the players have moved on to the next game.

Despite some shortcomings, Diablo 3 is an amazing game and Blizzard should be proud of what they have accomplished. The classes are fun and diverse with room for customization to fit any playstyle. The gameplay is still addictive and fun with a lot of loot to find. And the new features that are supposed to be implemented soon seem like an interesting addition to an already fantastic game. I know I’ll come back to the land of Sanctuary time and time again for a long while.

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