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Hamumu Revue: Diablo 302:40 AM -- Tue May 22, 2012

Well, it's sucked up the last week of my life, and I'd like to discuss it briefly. I have hundreds of pages worth of things I could say, so let's see how small I can boil that down... A bullet list usually helps! And I won't be spoiling anything at all, so read on.
  • Info you need. If you don't know Diablo, let me give you a super-quick rundown of some info to make sense of the rest of my comments. A "boss pack" is a group of specially enhanced enemies with a random bonus power and more life and damage than normal enemies. They show up at random throughout the game, just spicing it up funwise. Secondly, the game has a story that you play through, in four acts. When that is finished, you start the story over in Nightmare mode, continuing from the level you were at, with all your gear and all. So the "whole game" actually only carries you up to character level 30 (out of 60). You play Nightmare until approximately level 50, then you start again in Happy Pony* mode and play to 60. At 60, all that remains is Inferno mode, which is the "end-game" you can repeat all you want. Diablo is all about smashing enemies in hopes of getting good random loot, so Inferno is the above-max-level hard stuff you do to get the very best items in the game. Any time you want, you can exit the game and start it over at any point you've reached, like if you want to slay the same boss over and over, or join your friend who's in another part of the story. And that's about it! It's a game of grinding, and that really bothers some people, but it's great for me.

  • It's awesome. Super fun, super addictive. The story's perfectly decent for a video game, though it's told via really lame dialogue. The art is mind-bogglingly, shockingly incredible, better than any game I've ever seen (the background art that is, not so much the characters). Sound is amazing too. Gameplay is so very fun and sucks you in to never stop playing. For the first time since I was in college, I sat and played a game nonstop for entire days (many entire days in a row), stopping only for food and bathroom breaks and maybe a walk or two. It was very unhealthy. And I want to still be doing it.

  • Super-noobified. Blizzard seems to have changed their whole operation to be absolutely terrified of anybody not figuring something out or getting stuck in some way. This has been significantly detrimental to their games, and it shows in this game and in the newest WoW expansion. They're taking out all the fun customization you can do in favor of making sure nobody customizes wrong. That is probably good for the majority of people, who are indeed new to the game in question, but for an old pro like me, you're tearing out the heart of what I have loved. The game is still amazing (and the next WoW expansion looks to be also), but it's missing a lot of little touches that both add to the fun and depth, and create the replay value. There is literally no value at all in creating more than one character of a given class in Diablo 3, they've sucked out every possible reason. Well, they then added one reason - an achievement for leveling 2 of a given class. Very artificial and uncool.

  • Insanely fast, super hard, compelling combat. Actually too fast, I think, as you can die as fast as you can blink. Even though they tried to make it super simple for a newbie, they still made it actually very hard to actually defeat the enemies. What I am saying here is probably going to make me look incompetent since everybody else on the internet is crying about how trivially easy the whole game is, but this is my experience. From the latter half of Act 1 onward, even Normal Mode got me killed over and over again. Now, it didn't happen often in Normal, but I died once or twice per Act, and Act 4 was just downright crazy.

  • Nightmare is a dream. The difficulty really picked up when I started Nightmare mode (as of this writing, I've beaten Act 2 of Nightmare). I am not kidding when I say that at least 2/3 of the boss packs I encountered in Nightmare mode killed me at least one time. But it was fun! The fact that I could get dropped in 2 seconds flat (also not exaggerating), and then tweak my skills a bit and go back in with smarter tactics and conquer them really left me feeling like I was learning things and improving constantly. I'm sure my next character will have an easy time with Nightmare, but starting from new, it's quite an experience. I couldn't help but smile as they splattered me on the floor. The boss of Act 2 was an especially rough experience, where I died about 5 times, and completely redesigned my character's skills twice before I found a way to pull it off. The boss pack system creates an elegant beauty of random challenge. The combination of which mods the bosses have, which monster they happen to be (an archer pack is a whole different experience than a big hulk pack), what other monsters are nearby, and what the terrain is like all combines to create a completely new challenge every 5 minutes or so that you play. Something really hard and really interesting. And that's just the first half of Nightmare mode. After the rest of Nightmare, things ramp up another notch in Happy Pony difficulty, and then there's Inferno, which is supposed to be virtually impossible in a kind of "We dare you, just try it" way. And it doesn't just get harder like more life and damage - boss packs gain one mod in every difficulty. So you might meet a Teleporting Zombie in Normal mode, but in Nightmare, it's a Teleporting Plagued Zombie. And so on up to Inferno, where you are facing 4 mods at once, including many new mods that get added in each difficulty. All that stuff honestly intrigues me, and I think I'll be getting a lot further in this game than I ever did in Diablo 2, which had much less interesting of an upgrade as it went along (same system, but not very many mods, and most of them were just "immune to X type of damage"). And I want to take them up on the Inferno dare, even though I doubt I have the skill.

  • No skill points. :( I want my skill points in a Diablo game. Diablo 2 had a totally broken skill system, I admit it (still one of the best games of all time!). But they could've fixed that without erasing skill points entirely. I have other thoughts on this, but I will spare you. Anyway, the lack of skill points and the total freedom to change your guy at the drop of a hat is a bad thing, RPG-wise. But what it does that is interesting is make this an entirely new game. It's some sort of weird action game, that requires a lot of skill and lots of thinking as you constantly tweak your build and tactics. I can't even really compare it to any other game, it's just unique. That's why I have a hard time complaining about the skill system and how it's failing me. Because while it's not the game I wanted or expected, it's a truly amazing game, unlike any other. They didn't just make another roguelike like Torchlight 2 will be (which should be awesome as well), they made a unique new kind of action game.

  • Polish. I guess it's worth also pointing out that the polish level is off the charts. The mouse control in this game puts every other roguelike completely to shame, with the way you can sweep the mouse over groups instead of clicking each guy individually and so many other little subtle tweaks to make the game understand what you want to do instead of simply responding to each click in basic fashion. And of course all the rest of the polish, with the cool lore system and the smooth UI and on and on. While the game design could've been improved (for me that is - it's quite debatable whether my "improvements" would've actually made it better for the majority of people), the interface and usability is better than any game you'll ever play. Until the next Blizzard game you play. They know how to do it!

Hamumu Rates It: 5 Yerfdogs (out of 4)

* They don't actually call it Happy Pony mode. But... ah, well, I said I wouldn't spoil anything.
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