D3 is not D2.

22 05 2012

Holy crap, I have a blog.

The good news is, I got promoted at work last week. It was a complete surprise. It was a very good kind of promotion. The bad news is that – immediately after the promotion – there was the necessary but unplanned trial-by-fire. Something blew up and I’m still scrambling to fix it. It’s not exciting. It resulted in a 60+ hour work week, not much sleep, and a necessary recoup weekend involving beer and Diablo 3.

I played more Diablo 2 than I have played any other game. Ever. So this review comes not from an MMO seasoned voice. No, this review comes from someone who is more steeped in  Diablo 2 than…well basically anybody I know. There’s something fundamentally appealing to me about the whole “Me versus a ludicrously massive and endless horde”-thing. The same reason I so enjoyed Dynasty Warriors through several iterations – however simplistic it was – I do so enjoy Diablo.

Back in the day my favorites were a SwordNBoard Barb, a BashBarb (2H axe with maaaaassive life steal), and a tri-elemental Sorc. I also ran a grossly suboptimal Necro who was fun but did not scale. Too many points in Summon Skeletons and Iron Golem…too little Revivify. Also, I hated Paladin game play so I never ran one past lv20. Same with the Amazon, the Druid, and the stupid Assassin.

Then.

Recall the  Tombs of Talrasha, and my dreaded and timeless nemesis, Ancient Kaa the Soulless.

Back then, the goal was max level. Gear was just a path there, and somewhere in the level 30s or 40s you had every skill you could want and only put points in to max stupid synergies for effective damage and survival. It was a loose and distant goal…a very, very, very long road. And it was a lonely road.

There was no reason to play with anybody else; in fact, it was discouraged. Oh, you wanted other people in the game with you…but not in the same area. More people in the game made the minions stronger and the drops better…but somebody in the same zone as you might race you for drops, so that unique you worked so hard to find…not yours.

Of course, to get that unique, you really wanted to kill specific monsters. Mephisto and the Council, in particular. Admittedly, my grinding of the Tombs was provably suboptimal, but I so craved variety and something more than a single boss kill. Oh, I would kill Meph in every game I rolled…but then I’d clear the tombs for the fun of it.

There was also the problem with optimization. There was a known, small set of specs that were viable for anything past Act 1 of Nightmare; fewer still specs that were viable for anything in Hell Mode. I never did it but my understanding was that the very late additions of “end game content”, the “Ubers” as they were called, was only soloable by a Paladin with a very, very specific build.

Now.

The longer you are in a game (at level 60, the max level), the higher your passive magic find increases; i.e. the more monsters you kill, the higher it gets.  This may not be true before level 60, but it certainly seems true: I found three uniques after having played in the same game session for basically ten hours straight…so no more grinding Hell Mephisto’s face to a smooth finish. No, my friends, you are encouraged to play the entire game through (like a session of Super Mario Bros. 3) and experience the truly crafty and down right mean in-the-field bosses.

Seriously. Giant Bull Guy That Charges. He’s got two powers. He’s “Fast” (very fast) and he’s a “Waller”. A Waller in D3 is a boss mob that can cast many walls to impede your movement. This particular guy cast a very special combo of walls: the combo put me at the end of a dead-end alley. Three walls, my back to one, and the only ways out being 1. through the Bull Boss, 2. leaping over the wall to safety, 3. being plowed out through the back wall at the end of the boss’s very, very painful charge.

When loot drops off a mob, you are the only one to see it. It’s yours and yours alone. A unique drops? Awesome. Take your time. Kill the monsters still present; even if you die and have to run back, it’ll still be there, at least for a little while. (I mean, if you’re excited – which is justifiable – and it’s right there, heck, I’d grab it too.) No rat race though. The only way anybody sees your loot is if you pick it up and throw it back down. (Note: I’m not sure whether or not a failed pick up – i.e. your bags are full and you can’t pick it up – results in everybody else seeing it. I don’t believe it does, but I haven’t tested it.)

Since you needn’t race people for loot ever, there’s no compelling reason to not bring along some friends. Indeed, despite the monsters growing stronger with more players in the game, all multi-player battles I’ve been involved in have been far easier than the fights were solo. We move through the content more smoothly and get XP and stuff faster and easier. Not to mention that the combination of specs make things interesting; two mages each wielding different abilities do what you cannot do on your own: stack nasty, nasty effects on the enemy. Not all things stack; e.g. the blizzard spell specifically states that it does not…but blizzard-spam, slow time, and two disintegrates stack, to devastating effect. Sure, you could do that yourself…but you’d be a one-trick pony. Now one player takes blizz, another takes slow-time, and hey, more boom.

The best part here is that Blizzard went a long way to facilitate co-op play with the easily accessible friends list, timely alerts to sign-ins, and the Quick Join feature. I would’ve appreciated some built-in VOIP (e.g. Left 4 Dead) but this is a very, very minor nitpick. Honestly, who doesn’t have access to Ventrilo or Mumble nowadays? Skype may be a touch sluggish, but who notices? And it’s free. VOIP is easy and makes the experience even more fun.

Finally, the specs. There are so many viable specs. Should my Barbarian find a really sweet polearm that I want to try, it takes me but a moment to drop Frenzy for Cleave and Seismic BOOM for Whirlwind. No points, no fuss: my abilities scale with my weapon damage and other character statistics. The numbers are in the gear and the gear is plentiful and fun to get. I am not hurting for variety and I need not do the same thing constantly if I do not want to. Beautifully executed. Everybody else should rip this off right now.

TL;DR

Let’s recap, shall we?

  • No compelling reason to farm the exact same content; playing through large swaths of content for long sessions is actively encouraged.
  • The boss fights are fun and interesting (for a dungeon hack).
  • Personalized loot drops mean no more rat-race for loot and no more reason to be a private-game hermit.
  • Multi-player is both encouraged and well facilitated.
  • Specs. So. Many. Fun. Specs.

The game is good. Play it.

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