Diablo III Review: Blizzard's Brilliant, Blundering Wreck

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Diablo III isn't just a game -- it's a sequel, a social service, and a financial experiment all wrapped up in one. We've discussed the game's structure and balance in our extensive preview as well as its security problems earlier this week. The third part of the game -- the Real (Money) Auction House, or RAH -- won't debut until May 29 at the earliest and therefore won't be covered here. 

Diablo III will likely go down as one of the most polarizing games of 2012. What follows is a detailed examination of the game's best attributes and a frank discussion of its failures.

Diablo III: Graphics, Gameplay, and Design:

Act II's Caldeum, Jewel of the East

D3's gameplay is great. It retains all the addictive elements that made Diablo 2 so much fun, but streamlines and simplifies  cuts down on the frantic clicking (my tendonitis thanks you). The new skill system works and scales well. Users who complain that the new flexible skill implementation results in everyone's Wizard or Witch Doctor being the same, are wearing a blinding pair of rose colored glasses. In Classic D2, poor skill implementation, death penalties, and an inflexible skill point system meant everyone used cookie cutter builds or risked being crippled by their own poor choices farther down the road.

There are disquieting signs of improper balance testing at higher difficulty levels, but the Normal and Nightmare modes are both quite a bit of fun. On a simple, visceral level, Diablo III remains a lot of fun -- when you can play. We'll discuss that shortly.

Anyone complaining that Diablo III's art is "cartoony" or "too bright" are confusing "bright" with "Hey, we aren't limited to 16MB of graphics frame buffer and software T&L anymore!" Diablo II used a rewritten version of the first game's engine and retains the 16-bit color limitation that characterized that title. It was one of the last prominent games to feature 3dfx's Glide API, and looked better in that mode compared to Direct3D. Here's a recent screenshot of Diablo II running in forced 32-bit color mode and a Glide wrapper.

Diablo II, back when global, indistinct lighting was a feature. We barely had to re-size the screenshot.

The last generation Diablo game engine isn't dark because Blizzard set out to make some kind of definitive art statement, it's dark because the underlying engine barely qualifies as a DirectX 7 product. Player characters are just 75 pixels high. The Voodoo 3 -- a great video card for Diablo II -- had a 333 MTexels/second fill rate. The GeForce GTX 580 has a 49.4GTexel/second fill rate comparatively; so you get our drift.

Modern Diablo III. If you like the top one more, great. Go play it.

If you're nostalgic for badly dithered 64K sprites dancing in digital apoplexy, great. Go kill Fallen in Diablo II, and leave the rest of us alone. Alternately, go and visit Whimsyshire.

The secret Whimsyshire level - Like Super Mario on LSD

Yes, Diablo III has a secret unicorn/pony level, created especially for the people who complained about the game being too bright/cartoonish. Things like this are the special touches that normally make Blizzard games great. In D3, they aren't enough.

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sackyhack 2 years ago

Pretty much nailed my opinion of this game. It's a fantastic game when I CAN play it, especially last night when I tried co-op for the first time with 2 real-life friends and it was a blast. I need to take more breaks cuz my hands are starting to get tired from playing so much. But the online DRM bugs me to no end. Sometimes it's at Blizz's end, and sometimes my own internet connection drops out. Either way, there should be no reason that I can't play a singleplayer game I paid for, but here we are. I shouldn't have to use an authenticator and worry about hackers in a singleplayer game. Even Mass Effect 3's Origin requirement which caused so many people to lose their minds in anger has an offline mode.

Joel H 2 years ago

The online DRM isn't the problem -- not in the sense that there's some program running that's stealing CPU cycles. The whole "I shouldn't have to be online to be in a singleplayer game" is a separate issue from the question of whether or not there's a DRM function running.

You *can't* play D3 offline. As in literally can't. Monsters and items are created server-side. That was a deliberate design decision to cut down hacking which has had the unintended consequence of cutting us all off from the game.

TBallard 2 years ago

Yea, I agree with most of what's in the article. Just got into hell (3rd difficulty) on my monk. One of the big let downs for me is how short it seems. I played a lot of hours but not a crazy ammount, I cleared every dungeon, every inch, I like to be thorough. That being said, I solo'd normal and nightmare within a week of the launch date. I just don't see the longevity of diablo 2 unless they release expansions of some nature which I think they will. The story was short, flew by, only 4 acts. The game just feels small to me, a lot of the areas are the same areas from diablo 2 and not a lot of "new" areas and less areas then diablo 2. For a 3rd game in a series, highly anticipated followup to the 2nd I consider it a let down. I'm still gonna play and it is a good game for sure in a lot of ways but it stil feels small / short / too easy and too fast to get through.

snakefist 2 years ago

"Storyline makes Michael Bay look like Stanley Kubrick"

hey, being too harsh? it happens in ~50% of blizzard titles, so everyone should be used to it by now:


wc3 expansion - nonsense - "hey illidan, you DID tried to potentially destroy the world and i've kept you in dungeon for 10000 years, but now that you save my broad, you are free to leave to do whatever you want" - and this is 100% correct interpretation, not a mock up

sc1 - great story. sc1exp - deus ex machina

sc2 - unfinished, but likely to collapse...

diablo1 - EXCELLENT (promises sequel, ends in gloom)

diablo2 - EXCELLENT (promises expansion, ends in gloom)

diablo2 - hmmmm... deus ex for PREMISE? apparently, there is some kind of world-stone, never mentioned before, but crucial for some reason? and it's destruction is somehow bad? why prime evils didn't tried to destroy it in original game?

diablo3 - poor, waging war against 6th and 7th greatest evil in the world?! now, that's pitiful... ends in happiness - what the hell will be in 2nd and 3rd expansion? 8th and 9th lesser evil? diablo return and revenge 2?

TZielhuis 2 years ago

I actually had very little connection issues... i started playing one day after launch, i dc'd once... lagged a few times but nothing like what you people describe.

im playing in europe, maybe the issues are worse in the US region? or maybe i just got lucky

fat78 2 years ago

I think if they were to make an expansion the story line would deal with Adria because at the end of act 3, when the prime evil was made, the prime evil tells Adria " Well done, faithful adria. Go now until i call upon you again". She is then not seen for the rest of the game and where she is now is unknown.

Joel H 2 years ago

Obviously some of you didn't talk to Covetous Shen very much. The Expansion (or upcoming DLC, I suppose) will be about the Dirgest gem and / or what happens to Leah's soul. He even says at one point: "After this stuff is over, you and I will head for fresh adventures far from here."


I've played and beta tested nearly every single Blizzard product going back to Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Some of their games have, to be sure, been better than others. None of them have had such a huge gap between the story they tried to tell and the execution *of* that story.

The story as told by cinematic is great. As told by in-game cutscenes, it's terrible. The Black Soulstone unveil? Terrible. The Worf Effect in Act I? Terrible. Diablo's not-so-surprising appearance? Terrible. It's not even that the developers told the story poorly, it's like they threw up their hands and said: "Just get it over with."

I played all the games you listed. I don't think any of them had nearly the same problem.

JMay 2 years ago

I'm now at the end of the game fighting final boss. I have made it this far only due to pure stubbornness and a desire to get my $60 worth. It has not been a great or even particularly good experience, so this is going to be pretty damn negative comment. I'm sorry. My recommendation, skip this game and save your $60 unless you just love clicking your mouse.

Gameplay: Repetitive/tedious.

Graphics: OK but not great. A couple nice environments.

Cinematics: Good but stop about half-way through game.

Storyline: Exceptionally predictable with no plot-twists. Certainly not engaging.

Dialog: Hilariously over-heroic. Characters are dull as dish-water.

NPCs: Helpers are basically useless except the Templar (who can heal)

Design: It is offensive that I am FORCED to log on to play a game I will NEVER play multi-player.

Sound/Music: Too buys clicking to notice. No complaints.

Rating: 4 of 10 Save your money.

Joel H 2 years ago


Whatever else your complaints, the cinematics don't stop halfway through the game. You may have been unintentionally skipping them. Check the "Cinematics" button when you first launch the game (it does not require a login).

fat78 2 years ago

I personally loved this game and wish i had more time to play it. But with school coming to a close i got a lot of deadlines to make and finals to study for.

JCarriger 2 years ago

I had a.. just OK opinion with this game while waiting for Blizzard to step up and fix severe issues with gameplay, chat, skills, gear, drops, elite affixes, and LAG/RMTs.. but the only things they are interested in fixing is anything to extend the hours played, or urge you into RMAH to give them their 15%.

Last time I will ever buy anything relating to Blizzard North.. South.. whatever they call themselves who cares, ...or Activision.

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