Game Review 003: Diablo Series

PROLEGOMENAN

Fewer and fewer newer games out on the market continue to stimulate, excite, and even shock those who play them for the first time. It often takes several years to develop a game with a rich atmosphere like that found in the Diablo series of RPGs. Several types of genres will on occasion bring about these fresh perspective gamers desire, from first person shooters, turn based strategies, racing, and of course RPGs. Blizzard is one such company with the dedication and talent to create a truly unique game that sets it apart from the rest.

GRAPHICS, SOUND, INTERFACE

Set in a classic magical medieval environment, Diablo uses an isometric top down view which lets you walk around a 3D like world without using up vast amounts of computer power for the graphics as you would find in games like EverQuest or many FPS or MMORPGs (with the exception of World of Warcraft). Most Diablo enthusiasts will confirm this simply by the resolution settings. The games are beautiful in all their visual aspects, and the sound effects create a complete setting wherever you are in the game.

However, with Diablo 2 for instance, you are only able to run the video resolution up to 800x600. Until recently, the lack of graphics detail has often been one of the pitfalls of games (for those that cared more about the graphics than the gameplay anyway). Even though players often will explore games based on the story and depth, you still have a vast majority that look for the visual effects before anything else. If Diablo didn't have such a simple and unique gameplay style, the detail of those graphics and other interface settings would have damaged its potential that it has secured over the years.

Take Neverwinter Nights for example. A game similar in concept and perspective as Diablo, but with vastly updated graphics. The reason it hasn't gained quite as much status as Diablo is because some games which are simplistic and first to be at the idea, often turn into classics. This is what happened with Diablo, and will continue to do so with the third installment in the series due to be released sometime in the next year or two.

The interface is simple enough to use that you just click your way around the game world. A shortcut keyboard layout is provided for those wishing to speed things up even more. Players have no trouble locating objects lying on the ground or identifying buildings up ahead. In fact, as you journey around the world an overlay map shows you areas you've recently discovered. One gripe that I have about this radar map concept is that it does not provide enough detail for the areas that you've already explored. Terrain detail, monster detail, and areas-of-interest information would be a welcome addition to the radar map. Clutter can become a concern here, however, simply adding "turn off" options would help to solve this problem.

GAMEPLAY

Blizzard always sets you in an amazing storyline that encourages you to play their games from start to finish. Diablo is one of those games that creates a story that is simple enough to understand, but complex enough to really make you feel a part of the world and its characters. As you progress through the levels, end monsters unfold a plot that propels you to the next level of exploration. When you reach key points you will often know what to do next and what to expect. This is important in a game. You don't want your players to wander around forever looking for items simply because you want to make it "difficult". The worst mindset for a player to be in is when he is confused about what level or mission he is on! Make the mission itself difficult if you have to, not how to get to that mission. Progression through the world should be fun and challenging, not tedious and repetitive.

While Diablo aims at a clear direction and simple choices overall, it does provide some welcome twists to this paradigm. A unique map generation system effectively changes each area every time you log on to play. While it doesn't change it to the point where you become completely disoriented, it still brings about enough of a change to be stimulating, for a short while. This should continue with the third installment, adding even more detail than ever before due to (I hope) graphics details higher than the 800x600 previously set in Diablo 2. The game series is aging as it is now over eight years old. Fans of the franchise would love to see a sequel, and after this much time Blizzard is finally set to deliver.

Some recommendations that I would like to see in Diablo 3 that are different from previous Diablo games are:

*Updated system capabilities with resolution choices you see in game like Neverwinter Nights.

*Maps that allow you to change your view from isometric to third person or even first person views.

*A world that is longer lasting than the current Diablo 2.

WRAPPING UP

The one reason Diablo 2 is still popular is because of its easy-to-play mentality, much like you see in World of Warcraft and later Blizzard games. Players will often play through areas over and over simply to gain levels with their buddies. While this is fun for awhile, it becomes tedious because you end up seeing the same areas over and over again. A better map generation system would provide an expansion to the world without adding on tons of manpower as you see it in continuous games such as many MMORPGs are using.

While Diablo 3 is still far off on the horizon, I don't mind going back to the original series' games and playing through them once in awhile. Sometimes newer games aren't better than older ones, and I am reserving judgment on whether or not Diablo 3 will be able to deliver enough to satisfy those dedicated fans of the franchise, without turning them off while appeasing to the new generation of gamers that want more hack-and-slash and less in depth gameplay.

PROS:

- As yet unchallenged unique gameplay experience
- Expansive maps that change slightly each time you play through them
- A simple yet diverse enough set of characters to choose from
- An interface that allows you to fight through tons of creatures without becoming overwhelmed with too many shortcut keys to deal with.
- The sound, graphics, and overall atmosphere combine into a very pleasing gameplay experience.

CONS:

- Graphics resolution are extremely low and don't offer the best detail
- Make sure you have a good connection for battle.net. It's free, but not the fastest online gameplay service around.
- Saving gameplay is limited, as you have only "waypoints" instead of a "save wherever" feature.

FINAL OVERALL RATING

9/10

No comments: