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Diablo III: Demon Hunter First Impressions

Developed by Blizzard Entertainment and published by Activision Blizzard

Lloyd Sabin, May 21, 2012

Lloyd takes a monster-sized bite out of demon-hunting comfort food. You'll want to, as well.

I named my demon hunter Luthor, because that’s what all male demon hunters should be named. I decided not to play as a female because it would be too distracting for me and I would most likely busy myself by ogling her totally unreal, armor clad female physique. Skedaddling off into Tristram, both New and Old, I immediately noticed both new and old features in Diablo III.

Aural Pleasures

The first thing I noticed was the music. It’s fantastic: rich, atmospheric, and hearkening back to the music of prior Diablo games from both ten and fifteen years ago. It would also sound eerily appropriate on an album by one of my favorite musical guilty pleasures: Enigma. Yes, I am a sucker for Gregorian-chant based music and have always secretly harbored a soft spot for Enigma. All of the tracks that I have heard so far in Diablo III would mesh perfectly with any of the many Enigma albums I own. Either you are like me and quietly excited by that, or that will turn you off immediately. If you have read this far, I bet it is the former.

diablo3

Welcome to New Tristram, the hottest real estate on the planet.

Coupled with the music were the sound effects. Undead bodies realistically squish, splash and slap into stone walls and floors as they are pierced and rent asunder by my demon hunter’s rapid fire cross bow bolts (which have a report similar to a gunshot, but who cares?). I also noticed that some effects from the older games have been imported into this newest version: the tinkle of gold doubloons on a stone floor, the swirl of a tome or a book through the air, and the clank of a heavier piece of armor hitting the ground all sound exactly as they did in the prior game and because of this, I could not help but feel at home immediately. Moaning, wailing, and other appropriate end-of-days human and inhuman sounds are awash in Diablo III and the sound design goes a long way towards immersing the player in the darkness of the world. The screenshots I’ve taken don’t really do the game justice as it’s an action game. You really need to play it to fully appreciate them.

Dark Mechanics

The Diablo games have always been point and click affairs, and Diablo III uses the same exact mechanic. Use your mouse to point your demon hunter where you want him to go and click on what you want him to kill. It is a tried and true mechanic, but in a world now populated by games like Skyrim the game can feel a bit quaint. It works, but feels dated.

The demon hunter is outfitted with little more than one cross bow at the very beginning of the adventure. Since the player is immediately thrown into the story, this dearth of equipment does not last a long time at all…the player begins picking up gold, clothing, weapons and armor almost immediately while slaying growing hordes of supernaturally evil creatures, and also begins to level up. Several classes are available at the start of the game, and these can range from a Monk to a Wizard. I chose a Demon Hunter.

diablo3

Dazzling effects of combat as the town of Wortham burns around us.

The Demon Hunter moves quickly through the world and attacks fast at-range. In my first couple of hours with Diablo III I picked up a few key pieces of swag that sped my demon hunter up even more, and I was even able to boost my avatar’s skills and got some perks. These included a set of boots that helped Luthor move quicker, a snazzy buckler that allowed me to carry more items, a rapid-fire function that allowed me to fire bolts at machine-gun speed over short periods of time, and a new skill allowing me to quickly knife targets to death. Being a ranged attacker, I did not expect and did not find any melee-associated items or skill boosts yet and will concentrate on both melee and magic skills with other character classes when I play them.

Powered by Hate and Badassery

My Demon Hunter’s special skills and abilities are powered by reserves of ‘hatred’ and ‘discipline.’ With proper reserves of both, I can use a wide and varied combination of special attacks, mowing down crowds of supernatural creatures like an amped-up Wesley Snipes. Since I am in the earliest part of the game now, I have just tapped the tip of the supernatural ass-kicking iceberg. And although I am only at a paltry level 6, Diablo III is already doing a good job of making me feel like a badass.

To me, that is the hallmark of games like this. Succeed at making me feel like a badass and I will come back for more and more. The leveling is fair and well-paced here, and of course the eternal search for elusive pieces of phatus lootus (that’s Latin for phat loot) amuses and engages almost everyone.

diablo3

Getting ready to blast the bad guys.

The Real World Makes an Appearance

I have heard rumors about the online market for aforementioned phat loot, but I am not planning on using it. It is not something that attracts me. The always online requirement is something that appears at the beginning of every session of Diablo III, requiring a password to be entered, but that is about it. Annoying yes, but it did not feel particularly draconian to me yet. While playing the game ran smooth as buttah, and I experienced no crashes, lock-ups, loss of internet access or technical problems of any type. Technically, the game ran without a problem, which was a relief after hearing about the initial difficulties experienced by thousands of players at launch. (That experience is not universal. Some gamers have reported errors getting into servers in the early days of the launch. Others have reported problems logging into their accounts; problems apparently experienced in previous versions of the game. – Ed.)

Ultimately my first few hours with my Demon Hunter were nostalgic, engaging and most importantly, fun. I tore my way through the initial missions through New and Old Tristram, and spelunked into the cracked-open void of the local cathedral looking for Deckard Cain. I squealed as I ran willy-nilly through hordes of shambling corpses and bloated serpents, and unleashed a righteous fury of rapid fire bolts on anything that stood in my way.

All of this, combined with Diablo III’s newly destructible environments, had me feeling like a supernatural tough guy in a very short period of time. If the game can maintain this feverish level of excitement and sense of discovery, Diablo III will be an addictive romp, albeit through familiar territory. Think of it as demon-hunting comfort food for your gaming soul.

 

diablo3

Preparing to enter another dungeon…and scoop some phat loot.

 

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