It’s been a week since the long anticipated and much awaited Diablo III was released. So how is it?
In short, a mixed bag.
I’ve been able to play, but not as much as I’d liked. Problems have cropped up on my system (Mac, if you’d like to know), and things have bogged down a bit. From logging on the server to response time lags and installation quirks, my experience has decidedly been …mixed.
Here’s the good:
- It is everything it was made out to be – addictive, engrossing, compelling, all-consuming. My mouse arm actually aches from all the playing I do, either that or I’m not really cut out for long-term gameplay. I have to clearly and deliberately take breaks from it whether I want to or not just in order to actually eat, sleep and get some rest. Otherwise I’d be endlessly playing the game, and to heck with life in general. Gotta get that gold and kill those bad guys!
- It’s as reasonably advanced as it could be, considering the 12-year hiatus between this one and Diablo II. The game is as polished as you could expect: the game environs look properly decrepit and menacing, and fog appropriately swirls around your character when he or she is running around the grounds and dungeons. When you come across the demons, monsters and the undead, you zap away into a zone where all you do is kill, kill, kill, and it’s all glorious.
- The basic isometric gameplay is untouched. Blizzard didn’t screw around with a good thing, and it’s intact from the previous versions of the game. The key here is its simple appeal and reachability: gamers don’t have to undergo a strict and difficult learning curve. All you need to learn is how to click. Clicking around gets you places, and clicking at the monsters kills them. The addition of social elements like getting people to play with you is genius, and the addition of an Auction House to sell or buy from in a public arena is a brilliant move. I find that in the hairier situations when the undead and the demons attack in hordes, it’s best to stay in place and just click-click-click away, and the room’ll clear right up of those things, like the old days. Of course, you gotta monitor your health, but mostly only in boss battles when you gotta replenish when it dips low. Most of the time in those horde skirmishes, health packs appear regularly and there’s no need to top up, you do it automatically.
And now for the bad:
- You have to be online to play the game. Yes, online. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the game strictly in a solo campaign, or playing with strangers in public games, you gotta be connected to the internet. Otherwise, nada. You won’t be able to play Diablo III. Bummer for anti-social gamers like me, who love their solitary gaming experience. And it isn’t that easy getting online, too. Sometimes long minutes tick by while the screen freezes on Server Authentication, and you just restart the process out of frustration. Frequent server outages don’t help. I understand first-week blues, and ironing the kinks and all, but daily two-hour outages and server restarts are a real problem.
- Installation is a pain. At least for me. It didn’t install properly the first time on my iMac and got stuck at 69%, but the game played anyway, so I went with it. I installed it on my MacBook Air, and it went without a hitch. But later on, technical issues (which we’ll get to later) had me erase and reinstall it, and it took forever. I had to leave it overnight, and when I woke up, it had finally completed. But lately, on subsequent installs, it gets stuck at 69% and stays that way for the duration. I’ve had to turn my Mac off for a few hours (I don’t really know if that helped) before it went ahead and installed. Seems to be working fine now, even the lag (which is my next complaint).
- Player lag is a real problem. It’s a bummer to click on some monsters and get no response until half a minute later, and by that time your character is dead as a doornail. I often had to restart the game several times before I got a good enough situation where the character and the clicking weren’t separated by much of an infuriating response time lag. From chatter on the Blizzard forums this seems to be a prevalent problem, although it seemed confined to the Mac version. I did an install on a Windows 7 environment running on Parallels, but it sometimes had the same lag, but not all the time. The good news is that Blizzard is working on a patch to improve performance on Macs, and I expect it to be out within the week. (At least I hope.)
Right now I’m trying out the different character classes (when the game allows me to play, that is), and I’ve gotten most of my characters near to the end of Act I. Some of them require a lighter touch, like the Wizard and the Witch Doctor, while some, like the Barbarian, benefit from a brute-force mode of play. Socially, I’ve made a few non-friends who I play with sometimes, but on the whole I’m trying it first on solo mode. I find I prefer to explore every nook and cranny of the dungeon I’m in first before clambering down some portal to proceed to the next level, just like in the previous games. I get loads of gold, and often my inventory quickly fills up with junk that I need to dispose of by just leaving them in some dark corner. (At first I went back to town to sell the stuff to some merchants, but for what they pay me, I get more gold just harvesting from dead villagers lying around and collecting it from killing the baddies.) I just stop and see if my character is outfitted in the best gear I can find before I junk the cheap stuff.
And onwards go the Quest. More later, maybe.