Diablo III leaves gamers bored of terror

By Colin McInerney

Though the improved graphics bring “Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition” to life, the Aug. 19 re-release misleads players with false difficulty levels. Rather than presenting gamers with in-depth challenges, the game feels more like a trip to the casino.

“Diablo III” was re-released on Aug. 19 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 as “Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition,” packaging the base game with the March 2014 expansion, “Reaper of Souls.” The game was originally released May 15, 2012 for Windows PC, intended as a follow-up to the wildly successful “Diablo II” released in 2000, which sold four million copies within its first year. It uses a partially top-down perspective, referred to in gaming as isometric view, allowing players a view of their character and a good chunk of surrounding space. Players are given a wide range of skills across six playable character archetypes with which they mow down enemies, complete quests and explore the world.

The console versions of the game also allow for couch co-op gameplay with up to four players. This is when the game intially shows promise but eventually falls flat. When set to the lowest difficulty setting with friends, smashing through hordes of enemies with minimal effort maintains a casual-friendly experience while retaining some of the complexity expected of the “Diablo” franchise. The multitude of special effects dancing across the screen when players use their abilities creates a beautiful kind of chaos, with a mix of thunderbolts, arrows and wildcards such as poisonous spiders enveloping the characters in a boisterous melee.

Once the difficulty is cranked up, the first two acts are over and all your friends have gone home for the night, “Diablo III” becomes an unrelenting slog. The later areas are full of enemies with gigantic health bars, which the designers may mistakenly equate to increased difficulty. This is a problem numerous games face—time spent is equated to difficulty. “Diablo III” is tedious but in no way difficult.

“Diablo III” pads these long fights with dropped items: various treasures, armors and weapons to increase character stat points. The loot in the game is pseudo-random, dropping level-appropriate equipment regardless of area and assigning each piece a randomized name based on its type. Although picking up the “Genesis Genesis” chest plate or “Lady Puncher” gloves is funny the first few times, the novelty of the names quickly wears off, revealing the item system for what it is—glorified padding. Items inflate characters’ stats as the game continues, but in reality the game throws a few randomized items out whenever a long fight is complete and expects the players to move on. If the fight is particularly long, a key enemy or the game feels generous, it throws out an “unidentified” item, which must be “identified” before use. This process consists of pressing a button in the menu and waiting for a few seconds until the game reveals the item’s stats.

In this, creators Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. achieves the same design goals it does with its phenomenally successful game “World of Warcraft.” The games are never designed to be hard or even fun—only addicting. “Diablo III” can be compared to a night at the casino with one small hitch: Every time you win the jackpot, the lever becomes physically harder to pull and the jackpot takes longer to dispense.

This problem is exacerbated by the Paragon leveling system. “Diablo III” has a very deliberately designed skill progression, slowly unlocking new spells as characters level up from 1 and 70. The Paragon leveling system, all the leveling past 70, allows for actual distribution of stats more akin to “Diablo II.”  The problem is that now all skills are unlocked, and the stat bonuses only serve to make higher difficulty settings more viable to play through. With enough Paragon levels, high-level content feels easy again. 

Given that this takes longer than the original leveling system— Paragon leveling requiring multiple completions of the entire game—Paragon is useless to anyone who wants more than a loot chase out of a video game. If a glorified slot machine is good enough, the game’s $60 price tag is certainly cheaper than Vegas.