Throwback Thursday: Diablo III

Diablo III, a now five year old game, recently received a new piece of content. The pack, entitled “The Rise of the Necromancer” brings the Necromancer class to the game. Over the years since release, I’ve played quite a bit of the game and seen it grow and take shape in to the awesome form it is today. The Necromancer as a class is kind of broken but in the most fun, I can brutally slaughter everything in my path quicker than anyone else on screen, kind of way.

I’ve written multiple reviews on the game over the years but the site my original review and its expansion pack review has gone down and those words are lost to the ether. One isn’t though and I thought I’d share it here with a little addition about the Necromancer. Today. On Thursday. Where we throw things back.

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Diablo III released to critical acclaim nearly two and a half years ago. In that time the game has changed in a great many ways. Last year’s console version of the base game carried the first major changes. Aside from being balanced perfectly to play on a controller, the loot system was overhauled to be more in line with what players expected out of the game. Then, earlier this year, the expansion Reaper of Souls released bringing with it a new Act, a new character class (the lovely Crusader), Adventure mode, Paragon leveling, and a rebalancing of the difficulty. Now a definitive package featuring everything together has been released to consoles under the ridiculous moniker of Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition.

For those unfamiliar with Diablo III, it is a dungeon crawler sequel to Diablo II, a game many regard as one of the best games of all-time. In the game players pick one of a handful of classes as their hero and then take on hordes of enemies, securing loot to make them more powerful and cooler looking. The monster hunting is fun with a variety of special attacks mapped to the controller and easily customizable as one gains experience. But it is the fast and furious loot collecting that keeps players coming back for more and more, time and time again. It is a simplistic formula that is super addictive and anyone with a taste in fantasy based action games should play it because it is really the best at what it does today.

For those already familiar with the game though, The Ultimate Evil Edition offers up a slew of reasons to give the game yet another try. This iteration of the game comes complete with all five acts from the base game and its expansion. Act V picks up some time after the events of Act IV and sees players having to take on Death himself in an all new area. This new Act should take players a few hours to complete on their first playthrough and fans of the Diablo lore will be in for a treat as a ton more exposition on the mythology has been packed in. But while the new Act is great fun, the best expansion editions are the Crusader class and Adventure mode.

The Crusader class gives players a whole new character to master. In these types of games I generally use ranged characters as I like to keep my distance, but for this playthrough I gave the Crusader a go. With a variety of crowd control and escape maneuvers that never left me feeling cornered, after just a few hours of play I was already as attached to my Crusader as I was to my original Demon Hunter. The best thing about the Crusader was that despite the depth of moves for the character, everything was just a simple button press.

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Blizzard did a great job modifying the game to work well on a controller, and all the classes feel great. As someone who has played each Diablo extensively on the PC, I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but it might actually be better on controller than with the classic mouse clicking. Granted some adjustments had to be made to make the game work on a controller and there are noticeably less enemies in each horde that attacks. That said, the hordes still feel large and crowd control is still very much a big part of the game. Game balance adjustments or not, the game still works wonderfully on a controller, and nowhere is this more evident than when managing one’s inventory. Gone is the jigsaw puzzle management system of the PC, and in its place is a simplified equipment based system. Players get a flat 60 slots to carry loot (of which some is stackable) and it is all pre-sorted into specific inventory slots (like weapons or boots) on a selection wheel making it really easy to see what is the best items for use.

The other big addition to the expansion is the introduction of Adventure mode. In the past the best way to get better gear after playing the game was to go back and rerun bosses. While this is certainly something that can still be done, it can also get aggressively repetitive and a touch dull. In an effort to provide players with better end game content and provide them with the special loot that they want, Adventure mode has been created. Once Act V has been finished, Adventure mode unlocks and allows players to return to the previous Act locations to take on randomized bounties (quests). Sometimes it may be a run at a previously defeated boss; other times it is defeating a particular horde of enemies, or completing an event. Regardless of the task, these bounties pay off with powerful loot drops and items as well as a chance to access Nephalem Rifts. Nephalem Rifts are randomized dungeons opened via Rift fragments which are gained by completing bounties in Adventure mode. These dungeons have a higher rate for legendary drops and defeating the Rift boss grants major gold and experience drops. The randomized nature of the dungeons and high drop rates for legendary items is something that will keep players questing for a long time to come.

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The biggest change to end-game play is Paragon leveling. The max level for characters is now 70. However once maxed out, players can gain paragon levels, which have no limit. Leveling via the paragon system grants players paragon points to be distributed against player attributes, much like the leveling in the previous games. The hook here is that these paragon levels are not tied specifically to one character but are account based per mode (Normal or Hardcore). This means that any of your account characters can benefit from paragon leveling giving newer characters a great boost at the outset. It is just one more way that Blizzard has found to make sure you are playing their game years and years from now.

The newest addition to the game is the Necromancer class. Returning from Diablo II, the Necromancer specializes in bone and blood spells. Bone spells, obviously, utilize bone and wreak havoc on enemies by thrusting up out of the ground. Blood spells require a sacrifice of health to cast but are generally more powerful. Additionally necromancers utilize corpses, which populate on the screen. Depending upon the skill being used, corpses can work as explosive devices, missiles, or even refueling for mana. And of course, Necromancers can call on the undead to do their bidding. The right combination of bone, blood, and corpses can make the Necromancer super powerful and a ton of fun to play.

While certain people had issues with the way Diablo III originally handled its end-game content, there was no denying that Diablo III was still a great game. In the roughly two and a half years since its original release, Blizzard has overhauled massive aspects of the game and made something worthy of being played for hundreds and hundreds of hours. The Ultimate Evil Edition provides a hell of a lot of content in its retail priced package and the fact that it works just as well on consoles, if not better, than my PC experience is a testament to how much Blizzard has devoted to making sure their game is the best it can be.

Portions of this review were originally published at Critically Sane on 26 August 2014.

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3 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Diablo III

  1. I beat all the difficulties at release with one class and never really enjoyed playing it. I always felt it was too simple, and a bit too easy and stopped playing it.

    I did then play the updated version without the expansion pack, and it seemed even easier so never bought the expansion.

    1. I’ve never found Diablo (as a series) to be particularly difficult but have always enjoyed the epic quest for more loot, especially when playing with others. If you didn’t enjoy the base game though and found it to be a bit to easy, playing as the Necromancer won’t change your mind. The character is, at least currently, completely overpowered and kind of broken. I love it but I can see where others might be put off.

      Have you played any other games in the genre that you find more challenging?

      1. I found Diablo 2 difficult on the harder settings. But can’t really think of any lootathons I played. I transitioned into MMOs for years, and when I quit The Old Republic not really played anything that is online and open ended.

        Because of my site I usually try to vary what I play and not spend too much time on one thing. Probably only Dark Souls 1 and 2 that I’ve played more than once this year, and Final Fantasy VI twice in 2 years…

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