|System: PC*, PS3*, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Blizzard Entertainment|
|Pub: Blizzard Entertainment|
|Release: May 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
Engaging enemies is a simple matter of clicking on them to attack or using a hotkey. While certainly better than the left and right mouse button attacks from Diablo II, you're still fairly limited here, with only four more hotkey slots, making six in total. After unlocking the entire skill selection, this does make for some strategic choices, but even a few more slots would have been appreciated, and the ability to have two different skill sets to swap between would have saved players a lot of time.
The music was also a little disappointing. We all know how iconic the strumming and simple synthesized tones from the first two games were, but I expected more than just a carbon copy after a decade of audio innovation. There are some nice fully orchestrated numbers, but they just don't have that melody that will stick in your head years down the road.
The voice acting, though, is wonderfully done, and every piece of text, even the literature picked up, is verbally played back. Your character is also spared the disdain of being a mute, and each class and gender has their own well-executed vocalist.
Equally impressive are the crisp sound effects, with tons of subtle variations from upgraded skills and diverse enemies. Monsters burst with a satisfying sound, and every weapon strike feels impactful on the ears.
Diablo III is a much more engrossing experience when played with up to three other fans. Joining or creating a group is a simple process handled right in the main menu screen, and you also have the option to seamlessly open your solo game in progress to the public and watch the help pour in. You can only join up to the chapter you've already cleared, but since the action is addictive enough and playing different classes is worthwhile, you'll easily fill your ten character slots for any matchup.
The combat becomes much more chaotic, but also more strategic with a group of four. The enemy count rises, as does their strength and endurance, but using thoughtful skill combinations between classes not only helps keep you alive, but looks really cool. Several of my forays into group play suffered from poor latency, causing lag and characters to pop in and out. This isn't a tactical issue in the early going, but could prove problematic further into the game where every second counts.
The game requires a constant connection to the online servers, which makes communication with friends easier, but is a major detriment to those just looking for a solo campaign. Being disconnected or waiting for maintenance when you just want a quiet game alone is very frustrating, and the launch issues certainly haven't helped matters.
Because of the length of production and repute of the developer, many gamers had extremely high hopes for Diablo III. These hopes might be dashed a little with server issues, visuals that aren't as cinematic as the cutscenes, and a somewhat constrained skill system. However, Diablo III is still amazing, and after you've poured countless hours into numerous characters, you'll find the purchase price fully justified. It has a great story and pertinent quests, it maintains the honor of being the best loot series ever, and it's just simply fun to play over and over again.
Check back after the PvP release for another comprehensive look at Blizzard's latest hack and slash. I'll review the new multiplayer mode, explore the Hardcore and Inferno difficulties and the epic-level content, see if the Auction House has crashed, and weigh in on any new and persistent technical issues.
Date: May 16, 2012