Thoughts: Diablo 3. Reaper of Souls Ultimate Edition

For a very long time Diablo had been a very special game for me. I put countless hours into the first game and a great deal more into the sequel. It was a great game and enjoyable to play despite the repetative nature of it. The sequel offered so much more atop the previous, that you always had the drive to get better loot, to farm complete legendary sets and try different character builds.

After so much time has come and gone, we have a third one. Diablo 2 was so wicked awesome, I was excited. I had been survivng off other gameplay-style clones like Divine Divinity, Sacred, Titan Quest, Loki, Torchlight, and Path of Exile. They are all decent games in their own right, but not without their flaws, however Torchlight was everything I had wanted Diablo 2 to be. I hate tetris inventory, I liked the spell system you had atop the class ones, and the pets were very handy and useful. Sending them off to town to sell random crap for you is something very difficult to let go of.

Path of Exile has the dark feeling of the Diablo franchise. The character progress in insane doing the whole sphere grid in Final Fantasy X. I don’t particularly like those setups, they really don’t give you a sense of progression numbers-wise. +1 here and there, it’s all like gathering pennies. It takes awhile for them to be meaningful. The shops are interesting in PoE in that they’re like a horadric cube. If you put a certain combination of items to sell, you will get certain things in payment. Also, the currency with which you use to buy things are utility items instead of gold: things that add magical properties to weapons and various scrolls for example. I do wish it had normal gold, but I’ve gotten used to it.

So now, we PS4 owners have the ability to play Diablo 3 in all it’s prettyness. I must say it is pretty, though a bit more WoW-toon-ish than dark. There’s a vibrancy to the environments that I dislike, and I wanted more of that dark realistic look than the comic-book kinda thing. I dislike the World of Warcraft feeling I’m getting from it. And before you say it, I dislike Torchlight for it’s toony appearrance. I am not a fan of it and this is the only reason Path of Exile surpassed it as my number one game of this style.

Interface-wise, I was confused at first with the strange not-radial-ness to Diablo 3. It was easy to adjust and after I had aquired some loot, I learned what it was I was looking at and how to compare things or just outright equip stuff on-the-spot after picking it up. It’s nice to have basic at-a-glance indicators of whether the item you picked up is better than what you’ve equipped. It saves time from stopping the action to have a peek before continuing on, if you so wish and don’t care to compare magical properties. I like that little addition. When I see green arrows, I’ll see what the heck it is.

Actually getting into the game, the presentation is very Diablo. It has a lot of familiar foes and a lot of new ones, of course being the third installment, we see and hear about familiar faces from the previous installments. To those concerned about needing to play the prior games, don’t worry. You’re only missing out on the nostalgic joy of knowing references and extra little details. It doesn’t affect understanding of the game’s story that I’ve seen.

Getting back to gameplay, the world has a lot of familiar elements. You have all your breakables, shrines, and little mini-dungeons scattered throughout the world. There are some new things like environmental traps, and special buffs. I’m not going to explain all of them, but give examples. When you break a fair amount of breakables within a set time-period, you get a movement speed boost. If you kill enemies with a trap, you’ll get a resource drop bonus. If you slay a fair amount of enemies within a period of time, you get an xp bonus. The more you do towards these things, the higher your bonus. I am not certain if any ofthem are capped, but they are interesting gameplay elements I find myself working towards everytime I perform any of these actions. I may have mis-matched some examples, but the concept is more important.

Character development has been completely redone and people expecting a more classic Diablo progression to things might be put off and frustrated by it. I certainly was, especially not having any form of instructions. It took really getting into the game to realise a lot of things that had I know when I started with PC, I wouldn’t have judged so harshly. My prior faults with the game were ultimately based on my ignorance with a lot of key concepts to the game.

Back in the ol’ Diablo days, we had quite a few stats we could spend our points on. These things governed all sorts of things from our damages, to resistances, to more rudimentary things like health and mana. When you look at your character screen for the first time, you’ll notice they cut a lot of stats out of the game, and also the entire point-buy thing. WTF, right? Nearly every game of the genre utilizes some form of point-buy for progression. Dungeon Siege did things a little differently where your playstyle and what you used is how you’d get stronger. Using a mace would eventually raise your strength. Magic improved as you used and equipped spells in your spellbooks. It was responsible for pulling me away from Diablo. I liked the versatility that brought to character builds.

Diablo 3 has four major stats: strength, dexterity, intelligence, and vitality. These stats will raise on their own as you gain levels, however, gear you find and equip will also increase them and that becomes a big part of your treasure hunt. Each class has a primary stat that determines their damage. Stregth for our Barbarians and Crusaders, Dexterity for our Demon Hunters and Monks, and Intelligence for our Witch Doctors and Wizards. I had been under the impression that my weapon determines damage for my wizard. Running around with some sort of non-stereotypical wizard weapon just didn’t settle well with me. I only cared about the damage of the weapon when it’s much more than that. Your primary attribute matters along with bonuses your gear grants towards base damage or even things related to your skills, and then you’ve got your attack speed and crit chance to consider in the scheme of things as well as the fact that your class-related gear is often what gives you bonuses to your class fun stuff.

My primary character is a crusader and she picked up a legendary sword: Wildwood. It’s this gorgeous looking plant sword that has leaves constantly falling from it and it’s an interesting shape. It has the following stats:

23.3 damage
+7-9 Poison Damage
+4% Damage
+29 Strength
+19 Life after Each Kill
+8 Experience per kill
Reduces all resource costs by 5%

12-21 Damage
1.40 Attacks per Second
Level 12

With everything I have equipped, my Strength is 240 increasing my damage by 240%. Taking into account everything else, I have a dps of 127.48 as a level 15 chracter.

I also have a rare two-handed flail with the following stats:

34.5 Damage
+9-12 Damage
+59 Vitality
+13 Life per Hit
+6 Maximum Wrath (It’s the crusader’s mana pool, essentially)
28-32 damage
1.15 attacks per second
Level 15

All things considered, the dps of this weapon is just barely above Wildwood that has a only 23.3 damage. It runs 127.99. Interesting, huh? The difference between 23.3 and 34.5 surely should mean more than loose change, right? Well, strength is my primary attribute and while the Wildwood’s 23.3, I lose the 4% damage bonus, the +29 strength, AND the +21 strength granted by my shield which I cannot equip while using a two-handed weapon. Despite the Wildwood looking not-so-good, it stands up pretty well from just a dps perspective. The strength bonus and damage bonus as well as improved attack speed make up for its weakness and I can benefit from its other magical properties.

Now, I admit, the other abilities of Wildwood really aren’t the greatest as it stands in this state and bit of a poor example of the point I am attempting to make, but I think I can make it work. In all honesty, I think most people would equip legendary items purely for the sake of doing so and the fact they look so goddamn cool, right? Considering the difference in dps, at face-value, using it seems pretty acceptable. It probaly will be to some players.

Getting right to it, the two-handed flail is far better suited for me and my class. The vitality is good for my tanky playstile, the +13 life per hit is more useful than +19 after each kill, and the increased wrath is nice. These are far more useful properties than what’s left of Wildwood, but I can, and have, easily let them go since I have no problems health-wise with how my templar companion is kitted, I’m good with managing my wrath, so I can use Wildwood in all its vain glory and I can continue to not be arsed about the numbers.

Yet here is where the trouble starts and things start to get interesting. There is a potential tie-break in here that will make one of these weapons go up to a dps of 137.26. Yes, it’s still not a great difference, but it’s enough of a difference to matter to me, and I will explain and reveal why.

Like the old Diablo games, each class has their own skills, their own attacks and defenses they employ on the battlefield. There are also these wonderful things called passive skills and they are simply that. These were all those things you dumped points in to do what you did better, like damage with your certain class weapons, evading things, and whatnot. RIght now, I can only equip one and I have only three avilable to me from which to choose. I have one that increases both my one-handed weapon speed, as well as reduce all cooldowns, by 15%. That’s nice for spammyness and would be nicer if I had other stuff that could add to, but I don’t. I have another that increases my life regeneration by 9 as well as reducing all non-physical damage taken by 20%. I’m playing on Hard and haven’t had any issues with survivability, so that’s not really interesting to me at the moment. My last one is what counts. It allows me to wield a two-handed weapon in my main hand while bearing a shield in my off-hand.

Now, we are talking a difference of only 9.78, but there’s more to it that. Not only do I get my strength bonus from the shield to boost up my damage, by I get to benefit from the other magical properties of the shield and it is those abilities that help settle this matter. My shield also increases my life regerenation, vitality, gold find, i get my block chance that shields grant and the DR that goes with it, and I don’t have to forgoe my shield abilities, which I happen to like.

This was a pretty long-winded example, but the way stats work and how gear affect them shows you just what kind of options you have and how you can improve.

It is also worth explaining that while you don’t spend points on skills or their progression, you are able to equip the ones avialable to you however you like and whenever you like. I like my shield, i like blinding enemies and bashing with it, so I really didn’t want to swap those out just for those pennies-of-a-difference. Since my other two choices of passive abilities were meaningless to me where I’m at presently, I could afford to wield it one-handed and keep my shield. Granted, if I did need either of the other two abilities, the vitality boosts and block i get with the setup do well to makeup for any weakness that could have existed. This being my perspective and playstyle, mind you. Someone else could easily have picked Wildwood finding the xp boost and reduced resource cost valuable, especially if they’re sporting other gear for that, and they could go with the increased attack speed passive skill. To compliment the poison, they could set abilities they have that deal poison damage.

You have choice, something you really didn’t have before on this kind of level. I didn’t like how things worked when I first experienced the game. I wanted my point-based system and skill trees and all that comfortable stuff which I loved, and also grew irritated with, in the past. Things seemed so linear and lacking in any kind of meaningful choice or depth that I just hated it so badly i didn’t even want to try. In the old days you sort of just dumped points into shit relevant to you and then dumped points into other shit as you aquired things you wanted to use, and if you didn’t pay attention, by the end-of-it-all, there was a fairly good chance you were a hot mess. You wanted to be able to fit the choice swag you got, especially sets, so you’d forgo some points and sockets here-and-there to make it happen. I’m not saying you had any difficulty beating the game at any difficulty, just that you might not have fully hit your potential. It’s not as if you can just easily respec when you make mistakes. You had to earn those tokens by aquiring the four essences from act bosses which you would throw into the Horadric Cube, get its spin cycle going, and out pops a Token of Absolution. You could to complete the Den of Evil and get one per difficulty completely. Pain in the ass to fix a build or just remake your character without starting a new game to play.

In Diablo 3, you don’t have those problems. You unlock skills as you gain levels and you equip what you want to use whenever you want to use it. There are runes which further augment these abilities such as changing damage types, things that happen, and other details, so you can really handle any sort of situation or playstile. Make your equipment choices complement this, and you’ve got surprising depth and power. I tried to illustrate this with my example, but as it gets late and I ramble on and the caffeinne wears off, I begin to wonder.

Point is, your characters have versatility and you test out tons of shit without fear of ballsing it up and resorting to creating a new character or using save hacks. To be fair, it’s not that different from past Diablo 2 in that your ability to put points into things were still limited by level unlocks. Now, you don’t have to choose what you want to buy, and you don’t have to spend points increasing them. Eventually, you will have it all and will just choose what you plan to use amongst the categories.

I can honestly say, at its heart, it’s still Diablo and I can after giving it the chance I stubbornly denied in the past, I like these changes. It feels like new life has been brought to the series in this regard and character development is far more interesting with its forgiving nature. You have the world, the quality of storytelling, and overall atmosphere that the previous games had. It’s Diablo.

Now, I don’t like the game enough to say it has surpassed Path of Exile, but I will say it stands a very good chance of dethroning Torchlight from a character perspective providing it can hold my attention. I do get bored with this kind of gameplay rather quickly, so we’ll just have to say, but I really just dig this system and how gambling was replaced by a functional and actually rewarding craft system. In-any-case, I’ve started to realise just how tired I am with the traditional mold these games have character-development-wise. They really are all the same with very little setting them apart from a character-progression level.

If you are familiar with Diablo and enjoyed the previous titles, you might be in for a bit of a shock if you were expecting more-of-the-same as far as character mechanics goes. It may seems stupid and confusing and slow and pointless in the beginning, but I ask that you do what I did and just stick through for awhile. Wait and see how things are when you’ve unlocked things and have choices to make. You might find yourself surprised like I am and ecstatic that it’s real. Diablo 3 is real and Blizzard did right by it.

If you like this type of action-rpg, chances are you will probably like this one. It has all the good things that make up an enjoyable addict-fest of slaughter, theft, and loot aquisition without having to play inventory tetris. You dont’ have to know anything about Diablo to play it or enjoy the story, but you might get more kicks if you do. Nostalgia and a desire to revisit the old games is growing pretty steadily as I play and progress. Still, don’t feel like you’re missing out. I had played Diablo 2 before I played the first one. I had purchased a bundle that had everything in it (except Sierra’s Hellfire mod), and it stood well on its own. Diablo 3 feels the same way. They give you enough to tie into the previous so you know where things stand.

For everyone else, the repetativeness might drive some people to boredom, especially those who outright hate such things especially on the exteme. This likely won’t last you long before you groan and complain that you’re just doing the same shit over-and-over, and that’s fine. I understand that. This is why I usually don’t last in MMOs unless there are things there that really grab me or provide me with enough alternative activities that, while inherintly repetative on their own in most cases, are different in their repetative nature. This is pure hack ‘n slash ‘n loot geared towards developing the best character you can be, whatever you concept, and kickin’ ass.

And that’s all I’m gonna write about, because it’s nearly 1 AM. I’m tired, hungry, and Zekers won’t quit griefing my bare feet. A subsequent follow may appear without warning one day when I get deeper into the game or have finished and can comment on end game play and other such things.

Pink Squiddy Ranger needs sleep badly.

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