Diablo 3 Review
Always-Online & Auction House
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Diablo 3′s always-online requirement, which is as draconian a DRM measure as it gets. Alarms went up amongst concerned parties when Blizzard first announced what their PR department spun as a “feature,” and Blizzard’s launch night vindicated those concerns.
When server issues left paying customers unable to play for hours, the level of vitriol that began spewing on May 15 was unbelievable. Those first few days proved that we will forever be at Blizzard’s mercy — we play when they decide we can play, or when the servers feel up to it. For days, I experienced high latency and rubber-banding, despite a solid internet connection. Friends and coworkers would be frequently disconnected. Patches meant hours of downtime.
A year from now, no one will remember Diablo 3′s botched launch, but that’s not the heart of the issue — the DRM is, which will never go away. Has the DRM at least served its intended purpose, which was essentially to protect the legitimacy of the Auction House? Cracked servers already exist. Countless players are having their accounts hacked and characters stripped of their items — which, by the way, doesn’t happen in a singleplayer game.
Worse still is the knowledge that, in its current state, Diablo 3 cannot exist as a singleplayer game. The Auction House has clearly played into the development of the game’s itemization — a friend of mine that reached level 60 has found only one Legendary item throughout the journey. In Diablo 2, he would have found at least a couple by level 30.
The increased scarcity of Legendary items in D3 is not an issue, given you can simply visit the Auction House and purchase one. If drop rates remained the same as in D2, the market would be flooded and Legendaries would become worthless. By the same token, if you ignore the Auction House completely, your character will wind up relatively underpowered and the higher difficulty settings will be all the more challenging.
I have mixed feelings about the Auction House. On one hand, knowing that there are innumerable awesome items just a few clicks away cheapens the effect of finding one for yourself in-game. On the other, finding an awesome item for a great deal on the Auction House is a satisfying experience of its own.
I will say that the AH has a few kinks that need to be worked out, and for all the fire in the Burning Hells, Blizzard needs to let us access it directly from in-game. If the design is to integrate the AH with our play experience, then they need to stop making us log out of our game to access it.
To circle back to my original two concerns, Diablo 3 does not feel rushed — the gameplay is smooth and refined, and the absence of PvP arenas, while definitely not a point in D3′s favor, does not detract from the rest of the experience. However, the absence of the original developers is palpable. As for whether or not that matters…
Based solely on gameplay, Diablo 3 feels like a sequel to Diablo 2. Based solely on flavor, it does not. Whether or not D3 is a successful sequel to D2 is a personal decision based on which of those two factors you find more important — for me, it lies somewhere in the middle.
Its value as a sequel aside, Diablo 3 is a fun and addicting game in its own right, with a high degree of polish and a recipe for longevity. Shortcomings and design decisions prevent it from achieving true excellence, some of the most noteworthy being a mediocre story and aggressive DRM, but there’s no doubt Diablo 3 will remain a mainstay in many gaming households for years to come.
Did Diablo 3 live up to its hype? No. But I don’t think any game could have lived up to that level of hype.
- Polished, addicting gameplay
- Fast-paced, brutal combat
- Pays homage to past Diablo games
- Artistically rendered world
- Mind-blowing cinematics
- Dated graphics
- Always-online requirement
- Lack of a temporary PvP measure while we await arenas
- Mediocre story
Final Score: 85/100