Diablo III Review: Blizzard's Brilliant, Blundering Wreck

13 thumbs up
So, the game play is great. Loads of fun. And while that's always important, it's particularly important in this case, because Diablo III's story is poorly told and terribly executed. As the game progresses, the tension between the ambitious cinematic arcs and the rest of the plot becomes nearly palpable. This is a game plot that aspires to greatness -- and misses, badly

Game plot, like size, matters...
It's absolutely fair to ask how much this matters. Diablo III's story is something that you'll sit through once; Blizzard wants you playing the game ten years from now. Between gameplay and story, gameplay wins. What's notable, however, is that Diablo 3 is the first Blizzard game ever in which the company's gorgeous cinematics and crisp pacing have failed to carry the day. The stories Blizzard tells might be the equivalent of popcorn movies, but that's always been true in the best sense of the phrase.


And there arose a war in heaven, in which celestial fought celestial, for the future of mankind

Not any more. D3 kicks off strongly with a great callback to the first game, but staggers badly in the latter half of the first Act. The designers attempt to invoke the Worf Effect to pump up the credibility of a new villain, but the chracter isn't strong enough to sustain the role. Longtime series fans will be left blinking in bewilderment wondering what Blizzard was thinking.

Act I closes with a strong cinematic and the story rolls along merrily enough through Act II right until the end, when a one-two unveil casually rewrites the plotline of the entire game and scarcely no one notices. Imagine if, instead of stepping out of the shadows with dire portents and some nifty Protoss missions, Zeratul's scene with Jim Raynor had played out like so:

SCENE: The bridge of the Hyperion. Raynor looks out the window, bottle in his hand.

RAYNOR
If only I could save Sarah.

ZERATUL
(Steps from the shadows)
But you totally can, Jim. I've got a can of Xel'Naga ZergAway right here.

RAYNOR
Holy crap, it's Zeratul!
(PAUSE)
Hey, where'd you get a can of ZergAway? 

ZERATUL:
I, uh, picked it up at a garage sale on Braxis maybe 8-10 years ago.

RAYNOR
8-10 years... Zeratul, that was four years BEFORE we even met! We went through hell together, teamed up to kill the Overmind, and saved Shakuras... and all this time, you had a can of ZergAway in your pants...

ZERATUL
Protoss do not wear pants.

RAYNOR
Zeratul, she's slaughtered millions of innocent people. Destroyed entire planets. And I was in love with her.

ZERATUL
Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. My bad. Let's go spray her with it!

TYCHUS
Jimmy, I might've forgot to mention this, but I'm probably totally gonna have to kill her.

Sometimes Michael Bay gives us Transformers, sometimes Transformers: Revenge of the FallenDiablo III is the latter, it's bad even by the dubious standard by which it's fairly judged.


And the Lords of Hell plotted, awaiting the moment to strike...

The difference is all the more noticeable when measured against the enormous amount of work that went into crafting the game's lore. Each time you encounter a new monster, a narrator voices a description of it. The game doesn't necessarily travel to more locations, but the various NPCs and Followers you encounter discuss a much wider range of locations and events. Diablo III takes place in a much wider world than either of its predecessors, but the game's history and storyline don't co-exist -- they fight for supremacy, and we players are the losers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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 - EXCELLENT

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?

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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

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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.

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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."

Snakefist,

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.

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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.

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Jmay,

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).

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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.

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