Throughout the years, I've always struggled to get on with Blizzard games. Warcraft somehow passed me by, StarCraft always seemed like a samey, hokey space western and WoW lost me as soon as I realised that there wasn't really any meaningful goal to the game. Even Diablo, long held up as Blizzard's greatest achievement, failed to impress me when I was bullied into playing it years after release.
Blizzard was a company that had become popular even despite the games it made, I thought, as their games all seemed more well-timed than they were genuinely groundbreaking. Now though, I can admit that I was wrong; I can bashfully join the furiously clicking masses of fans and say, yes, Diablo 3 is a bit good.
Frustratingly though, it's good for mostly the wrong reasons. It's not groundbreaking or original, nor is it technically marvellous. It's not even polished as well as you'd expect a AAA game to be, as proved by the game-ending bugs that Blizzard is still rushing to patch out.
Click to enlarge
In a stark departure to Blizzard's usual approach, Diablo 3 isn't even as accessible as we'd expect either; the manual doesn't contain anything but narrative flavour and the littering of tool-tips and hints fail to touch on such fundamental features as identifying objects. As someone who never played Diablo obsessively in the past, I found myself frequently hitting ALT-TAB and searching fan-made Wikis or the online game guide for help.
So, if the question is 'What does Diablo 3 have which balances out these often basic shortcomings?' then the answer has to be that it is still so incredibly satisfying to play even despite these flaws. The basic systems which percolate around in Diablo 3's dark-fantasy mass are more-ish to the extreme and the breadcrumb trail of achievements and new skills acts as a balm to even perpetually grumpy game journalists.
Click to enlarge
That Diablo 3 relies so heavily on this addicting trickle of loot and achievements does influence the overall experience however; those new to the series would be well-warned that this isn't the hardcore and deep RPG that they may be expecting. There may be plenty of statistics and fictional esoterica to wade through, but the reality is that most of this is only useful to obsessive players. Those with a bit more balance will instead find Diablo 3 feels decidedly casual in the main; a clicking frenzy with enough positive feedback to make a slot-machine envious.
Honestly, we suspect this is the type of RPG that Popcap would design if it had the inclination; a game which tasks you with defeating hell's denizens but also gives you on-screen congratulations for smashing more than five crates in quick succession.