Edit: Interesting timing for this post. A few hours after I put it up, Blizzard announces Diablo III is coming to both the PlayStation 3 and 4.
Also, Metzen is probably the only computer geek I’ve ever seen who actually manages to look badass.
I think we can all agree Diablo III is a game with some significant problems. You may recall my own review of it was somewhat lukewarm. It is not, however, a bogeyman that roams the night doing unspeakable things to small children, fluffy kittens, and defenseless grannies.
But that is exactly how most of the gaming community seems to view it. Even nearly a year after its release, the Internet seethes with hatred for this game. It’s impossible to participate in any discussions of anything even remotely related to Blizzard without someone going off on D3.
The official forums for D3 are a nightmare. They’re so full of rage and hate for Blizzard it’s unbelievable. The name “Jay Wilson” is spoken the same way people tend to say things like “Adolf Hitler” or “sadistic pedophile.”
I play World of Warcraft, and I used to run the fan campaign to save Star Trek: Enterprise. I am no stranger to hate and nerd rage. But the hatred for Diablo III is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. And it doesn’t deserve this level of bile.
I’ll be the first to say D3 has serious problems. For me, the biggest issues are that the incredibly poor graphics and incredibly archaic quality of life issues make the game feel years older than it really is. Why is it that the original Dungeon Siege had an auto-loot button ten years ago, but D3 makes me sacrifice combat stats just so my character can pick up gold more easily?
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight.
Diablo III isn’t an MMO:
This doesn’t seem like something that needs to be stated. Diablo III is and always has been a single player game with a multiplayer option. The max number of players in a single game is four, and it has no persistent world. Aside from being a client/server game, it has nothing in common with MMOs.
But yet the vast majority of people seem convinced D3 is a massively multiplayer game, and many of their complaints are based on this assumption. Of course, D3 is an absolutely terrible MMO, which would be a problem if it was an MMO. But it isn’t.
Even the professional gaming media seems to have somehow gotten in their head that D3 is an MMO. Massively regularly reports on the game, despite being a site devoted exclusively to MMOs. I’ve even seen posts on the official forums wondering if the game will survive to the first expansion.
The biggest complaint about D3 seems to be that it has no endgame. But since when do single player games have an endgame? You kill the final boss and finish the game. That’s your endgame.
Why aren’t people complaining that Mass Effect has no endgame?
The only legitimate complaint here is that the odd sequential way they did difficulty meant you might have to play through the game a couple of times before you beat the final boss on a difficulty that feels satisfying to you, which is pretty dumb. But even that has been largely solved with the monster power system.
People often cite the huge number of players who’ve quit after launch as proof of how much D3 sucks, but that’s how single player RPGs have always worked. I remember Blizzard saying before launch that they knew the vast majority of players would kill the last boss and then quit until the next expansion.
What’s amazing is that Blizzard gave people the option to continue playing with the same character indefinitely. What’s even more amazing is that they’re still putting out new content and new systems for dedicated players, and they’re doing it for free.
How many other single player games keep adding new content for months after launch and ask no payment in return? Normally, additional content like this would come in the form of paid DLCs.
And yes, these new content patches would be considered pathetically small if D3 were an MMO. But it isn’t.
Diablo III’s positive traits:
Yes, it does have them. They tend to get forgotten as people clamber over each other to demand Jay Wilson be flayed alive, but I think it’s time to add some balance to the discussion and remind people that, while significantly flawed, Diablo III has plenty of things going for it.
I mean, the combat may be pretty mindless, but who doesn’t enjoy seeing an entire squadron of demons turned into a fine red mist by a single ability? Nor can you deny the thrill of narrowly beating an especially difficult pack of elites.
Yeah, it had a few disappointing bits — act II just didn’t work, and the ending left too much unanswered — but on the whole, it was a really epic and engaging story with much more emotional impact than I’m used to from Blizzard lately.
The real strength of the story in D3 is its characters, which are some of the best Blizzard has ever produced. It is a fact that everybody loves Shen. Anyone claiming otherwise is either lying or hates joy and awesomeness.
Kormac is an infinitely likable character, as well, and I’m not just saying that because he’s voiced by Dominic Keating. Well, okay, maybe a little. Eirena is also quite fascinating. It took me a while to warm up to her, but I like that there’s more to her than the eye-candy she initially seems to be. There’s steel in that girl.
Another great thing about the story in D3 is the way it’s presented. The fact that most of it takes the form of conversations and lore snippets that can be enjoyed without interrupting your zombie-bashing is absolutely brilliant. It represents one of the best meldings of plot and gameplay I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
And then there’s the huge opportunities for build experimentation. It’s extremely satisfying to be massacred by a boss, come back with a new build, and faceroll him.
Everybody, just calm down:
Diablo III is a game of many flaws. The controls are awkward, the graphics are terrible, it has many irritating quality of life flaws, and I don’t even know what they were thinking with the itemization. Overall, I’d say it’s not up to Blizzard’s usual standards.
But it’s not the bogeyman. It didn’t kill your mother. It’s still better than reams of non-Blizzard games, and I wouldn’t even say it’s Blizzard’s worst game to date. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it much more than I ever did its predecessor, Diablo II.
I’m sure this post won’t make any difference. Trying to counter the D3 hate is like trying to hold back a tsunami with a sand castle. But I just felt the need to get this off my chest. I feel better having made this plea for sanity.
My latest article on WhatMMO is Top 5 Free to Play/Buy to Play Business Models. I was somewhat distressed by how hard it was to find games without a serious case of “pay to win.” I guess the free to play model still needs some refinement.
In other news, seriously, just buy The Secret World already.