Rob: This review is written by my best friend Alan Wright, who will be playing Diablo 3 until the world opens up and devours him or Blizzard release Diablo 4.
I have been an avid fan of blizzard games since Lost Vikings 2 and I've played many of their amazing games since, my most recent addition is Diablo 3. As soon as i get back from buying my new blood soaked fantasy game I feverishly load it into my computer and start to download, first I'm prompted to add the game to my battle.net account and with this done I shake with anticipation as the loading bar slowly edges towards 100%, as it downloads I read Deckard Cain explaining the previous games' story lines. Before I even start the game I notice many additions to Diablo from blizzard's mmorpg World of Warcraft, firstly and most obviously Diablo 3 is a completely online game and so to make sure you get maximum play time they've added the updated uploader which was made for WoW so waiting for lengthy patches wouldn't take so long, another thing that screams out at me is that the login and character creation screens are practically identical to the ones used in World of Warcraft, lastly is the addition of an auction house which can be used with either in-game or real-world money (which i think is a genius little touch). Before the game starts a cinematic plays to introduce the player to the story line and set the mood and as always with Blizzard's cinematics its a stunning piece of work that looks almost real.
Once I've logged in I'm faced with the hardest choice of all: Which class to play? Diablo 3 has 5 classes to pick from available in both genders, each with it's own unique resource (instead of Diablo 2's use of mana as a resource for all classes). First up is the barbarian, a hulking war machine that uses fury as a resource and destroys foes with devastating melee attacks, second is the demon hunter, a fleet of foot demon killer that uses the twin resources of hatred and discipline to attack enemies from a distance with ranged attacks and slow them with traps, the third, the monk, is a holy warrior that utilises the resource of spirit and fights with martial arts style melee attacks and holy powers that heal or destroy, fourth is the witch doctor a shamanistic caster with mana as a resource which uses a variety of offensive and summoning spells to attack enemies and lastly there is the wizard, a powerful caster class that uses arcane power as a resource and attacks with an array of powerful magic attacks and defends with magical shields. In the end I choose the demon hunter (mainly because he just looks so cool). Each class has an attribute to look out for that effects the attack of your character, strength is best for barbarians, dexterity is for both demon hunters and monks and finally intelligence is best for witch doctors and wizards. The classes of Diablo 3 are all very similar in play style to the old classes of Diablo 2, the barbarian is obviously the barbarian, the demon hunter is the amazon, the monk is the paladin, the witch doctor is the necromancer and the wizard is the sorceress, so if you had a favourite class in Diablo 2 don't be too disheartened by the change because you can still play whichever class is similar to the old one.
The game opens with the male demon hunter act 1 cutscene (each class gender combination having its own cutscenes) that seems written straight from the how to write a badass back story handbook and is narrated by my characters surprisingly deep and gravelly voice. The gameplay itself starts on the road to new Tristram, your character starts with 1 ability that is operated by highlighting the monster and holding or pressing the corresponding button for the ability you wish to use (the default being the left click on your mouse), my demon hunter starts with the ability 'hungering arrow' which shoots an arrow which jumps to another target after hitting the first. The first quest begins with captain Rumford who directs you to speak to Leah in the inn, but first you've got to help him kill some undead so he can open the gates (a paltry task when compared to your heroic might), after talking to Leah and killing a few more undead the player is tasked with killing 3 wretched mothers and the wretched queen (monsters that literally vomit up undead). Once I've slugged through old Tristram road killing the wretched mothers as I go I find myself in the old Tristram ruins (the town which is a staple of all three games) facing my first rare monster: the wretched queen.
I've now been playing Diablo 3 for about a week, I've completed the campaign on normal difficulty and I'm playing through act 2 on nightmare difficulty, so now I'm going to go through some of the highlights. Lets start off with the abilities, each class has a wide variety of active skills, runes (which boost your active skills) and passive skills that can be mixed and matched to suit your play style even further, I for example like to slow my enemies and shoot them from a distance using enough crossbow bolts to take down a large army. I have 2 favourite abilities so far which I think are worth mentioning, they are 'rapid fire' which rapidly shoots out bolts in an orange stream (I use the withering fire rune to extend how long I can use this ability) and the 'rain of vengeance' ability which shoots a hail of bolts from the sky (I use the dark cloud rune on this ability to make it more precise). Diablo 3 offers 3 followers (a slightly improved version of the followers from Diablo 2) the Templar a melee fighter, the scoundrel a ranged fighter and the enchantress a caster, personally I find my Templar indispensable as he can provide the melee my character lacks and adds the occasional life saving heal. Conversations with the followers during the game also gives each of the followers an enjoyable depth of character.
Now i could go on for hours about how amazing the world of Diablo 3 looks and feels but I'll try to keep it to a reasonable length. Diablo 3 offers a wide variety of environments all rendered in stunning detail, at one moment you could be fighting off undead in a cramped underground dungeon then the next you'll be fighting off hordes of demons in a vast desert and I feel this diversity in enemies and settings keeps the game fresh and exciting from start to finish. The world is also randomised so you could play the same quest several times but the path and dungeons you encounter could be completely different, this makes further playthroughs much more enjoyable and keeps you exploring. Another fantastic aspect of the world is the interactivity, for example most of the furniture you find in the game is destructible even if it doesn't light up when you hover over it (a small touch but a nice one), however the big interactive aspect is the traps that are scattered throughout the world which provide even more ways of killing enemies (killing enemies in this way even gives a small xp boost). Some of my favourite traps are: walls supported by planks of wood that once triggered come crashing down on the enemies, troughs full of hot coals that spread a sheet of fire across the floor and a pit filled with spikes that spawns undead and once activated drops a large slab of spiked wood on top of the pit with an audible crunch (okay maybe not a trap but its awesome anyway).
Like all my favourite games this one has me hooked and shows no signs of letting go. While the gameplay and interface is simple its tried and tested allowing you to enjoy the game and with the beautiful and diverse environments this game seems to have no faults, however if you don't like spending hours killing monsters and exploring large levels this may not be the game for you and thats pretty much all this game is, but if you do like that sort of thing or your a fan blizzard games then this game is definitely worth buying or at least playing.
And so finally there's only one more question left to ask:
Is there a cow level?