I love video games, but it’s rare for me to play them right when they are first released. Normally it takes me a somewhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing to a game. I’ve got a considerable backlog of games that I’ve been meaning to play and it hasn’t been until earlier this year that I’ve been able to start chipping away at the list. With that in mind, I’ve created a series of posts called Late to the Party, wherein I discuss the games that came out in the preceding years that I’m finally getting around to experiencing. Today’s entry in the series is Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, which I will refer to as just Diablo 3 from hereon for obvious reasons. Today is also the final edition of Season 1 of Late to the Party, and with a game like Diablo 3 on the docket, you know we’re going out with a bang.
My interest in Diablo 3 started years ago when I played a demo that was available for it on PlayStation 3. It was the longest, deepest demo I’ve ever played, and holds the distinction of being the only demo that took me more than one play session to complete. Diablo 3 is a game that’s been sitting in the back of my mind since then—always on my list of games to play eventually, but repeatedly getting postponed in favor of other games. Now I can say that I’ve finally played it, and since this was Ultimate Evil Edition, I was playing a remastered version of the original game that also came with the Reaper of Souls expansion pack and all the patches and updates to the game that have come out since Diablo 3 was first released back in 2012. It’s not always beneficial to be late to the party, but I think this time it clearly was.
Exploring Tristram Cathedral
The story of Diablo 3 begins with your character selection. Each of the six character classes has their own backstory and personality, and knowing that I was only going to have time for a single playthrough, I tried out all six classes for about an hour each before settling on the Barbarian class. The Barbarian is a stoic and noble warrior whose homeland was destroyed and since then he/she has been wandering the land looking for a worthy foe and a good death. Though I felt somewhat guilty for picking the Barbarian, as it seemed like the most generic class out of the six, it was the one I had the most fun with during my trial period. I made my Barbarian a male and named him Phil—the most fearsome and warrior-like name I could think of. Thus began the adventures of Phil the Barbarian, who I like to think of as a distant relative of another famous barbarian named Conan. Phil’s quest first took him to the town of New Tristram, where a fallen star had caused an outbreak of the undead and other demonic forces. At that point Phil got caught up in the greater story of Diablo 3, which as you can probably guess is a tale of a hero battling back the forces of Hell. I won’t spoil any more of the story, both because I’m in a rush to get this commentary finished and because it’s not all that memorable. If I had played the other Diablo games I might have had a better appreciation for the characters and what was going on, but even if I did I don’t think I’d have found the story any more captivating. Diablo 3’s story does a decent job of providing context to what is happening in the game and pushing you forward through each of the five acts, but not much else.
What does keep you driving through Diablo 3, however, is the gameplay, which largely consists of you murdering everything in sight. The armies of evil infest every location you come to, and Diablo 3 makes sure you have fun killing every last zombie, beast, demon, sorcerer, cultist, and everything else the developers concocted to throw at you. As a Barbarian, Phil’s battlefield tactics involved running straight into the thick of battle and swinging his weapon(s) and using his special abilities until everyone around him was dead. Though at times the Barbarian’s playstyle could seem like mindless violence, the sheer level of gratification from being a one man army, as well as the Barbarian’s perpetual taunting of his foes, kept Diablo 3 from ever getting boring. To aid you in your adventures, you recruit three teammates in the game, and at any given time you’ll have one of them with you. These allies—the Templar, the Scoundrel, and the Enchantress—each have unique skills to compliment your character’s own abilities, and you can switch allies any time you are back at camp. For my part I mostly used the Templar, as he is fairly similar to the Barbarian and I wanted a second character in the middle of the melee to distract some of the enemies while Phil bashed everyone else with a giant warhammer. As you continue your journey of being the world’s most zealous deliveryman of death, you’ll be continually acquiring loot from both the hordes of enemies and the treasure chests that are scattered across each map. You never go too long before getting another piece of epic armor or a legendary weapon, and that cycle of killing, looting, and profiting is a strong motivation to play the game for hours on end, and helps you ignore any deficiencies in the game’s story. I regularly found myself thinking that I would play for just an hour, but ended playing for three or four because the temptation of doing just one more mission was too much to resist. That said, I do have two problems with Diablo 3’s loot system, which are the same ones I had when playing Borderlands 2. The first is that I spent too much time managing my loot, and the second is that you get cool loot that you don’t want to part with, but inevitably you have to because that loot gets outclassed by new loot. If you want to save any loot you’ve developed an attachment to you can store it in the game’s vault, but like Borderlands 2, the vault is not nearly as large as I would have liked. Going back to the gameplay, the one major fault I had with it is that the game can get pretty easy after some leveling up and getting better loot, but you oftentimes have to wait until later in the game to raise the difficulty level. I started Diablo 3 on Normal, and after a few hours I found I was steamrolling every opponent I came across. Even boss fights were hardly a challenge. Looking at the game’s menu, I increased the difficulty to Hard, which brought a more balanced experience, but soon enough I was crushing everything on that difficulty too, and I had to wait until later in the game before I could increase the difficulty again. It could very well be that the Barbarian is just an overpowered class, in which case perhaps some adjustments to the Barbarian’s stats and abilities should be made.
Behold Phil in all his glory!
Given that Diablo 3 first came out 2012, it’s not going to wow anyone with its looks, and I don’t think it craned too many necks back when it came out either, but it can claim a few accolades for its technical achievements and parts of its art style. Diablo 3 ran at a silky smooth pace, even when I was simultaneously being swarmed by enemies, had multiple magic spells being cast that triggered explosions of color, environmental objects were being destroyed, and I had used my ultimate ability to summon a trio of ancient warriors to assist me in battle. There were times where I had trouble seeing Phil in the middle of the fight, but the game never stuttered once. Where Diablo 3 did falter slightly was in some small issues sprinkled around its periphery, such as a instances where enemies would disappear for a second or two before popping up again, and not in the sense that they were cloaked by magic, and there was a glitch I encountered twice where I got stuck in an arena after a boss fight. These issues hardly detract from the experience of the game, however, and generally can be overlooked. In terms of aesthetic, the standouts to me were the variety of both the enemies and the weapons and armor I equipped my Barbarian with. There are a fair number of enemies to slay in Diablo 3, ranging from the humanoid and animalistic to the outright demonic. All of them fell before Phil’s mighty blows, but I did appreciate that Diablo 3’s designers put the time and effort into creating a vast array of evil beings. They also didn’t skimp out on the designs and variety of Phil’s equipment, and as I played the game I got to see him slowing changing from a guy with a just a small axe and some cloth around his pelvic section into and armored berserker with all manner of epic weapons. In addition to his steadily improving outfits, I also was able to equip Phil with an interesting cosmetic item that was unlocked for me at the start of the game, which gave Phil the mechanical angel wings of the character Mercy from Overwatch (another game made by Blizzard). If you’re watching the videos embedded in this post and wondering why Phil has wings, now you know.
Defending the ramparts
Battle in the High Heavens
When Phil had smote the final boss of Diablo 3 and I at long last reached the game’s credits, I was tired. Diablo 3 is a long game, and when I got to the end it felt like I had been on my own arduous quest, sort of like Phil, but unlike Phil I didn’t have mountains of demon corpses to show for it. This was easily the hardest game for me to complete this year, and probably of the last several years put together, and not because of the game’s difficulty, but rather because of what was going on in my life at the time. A stressful, soul-crushing job that robbed me of most of my time each day, along with a hard deadline I set for myself to get this commentary written, combined to make for a monumental task. Many nights I stayed up late to make progress in Diablo 3, which cost me sleep and made my other life problems worse, but there wasn’t much of a choice to be made. Now it’s finally done, and I feel much more a sense of relief than satisfaction. I normally play games for fun and/or relaxation, and the vast majority of the other games I played for Season 1 of Late to the Party were one or both of those things, but Diablo 3 felt more like a job and a burden. If I wasn’t under such pressure while playing it I would have enjoyed it more, and it’s truly a shame I had to play it the way I did, as I recognize, even with my single playthrough of the story mode with only one of the six classes, that Diablo 3 is a good game. It’s also a shame that I likely won’t ever be coming back to it, as Diablo 3 is clearly meant to be played several times over using the different classes, and it has an Adventure mode that I never tried out, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the time and interest to do so. Still, I’m glad that I kept my commitment to playing Diablo 3, and four years after the game first came out I have now finally checked it off the list. It’s hard to think of a better way to close out Season 1 of Late to the Party than with a game that’s been waiting for so long for its time in the limelight.