Recently, with the console release (re-release?) of Diablo III, I started playing again. Instead of holed up in my mother’s basement on a PC, I instead played on a couch, with friends, like a not-lonely shut-in loser. While it has its rough edges, some of which couldn’t actually be filed down, local co-op Diablo III is a breath of fresh air. It definitely captures that old school “Gauntlet” feel, without some jackass shouting about how Red Wizard is hungry again all the time.
This has led to a creeping desire to play Diablo III again, beyond the exploitation of my friends’ game system purchases. There’s a definite part of me that would like to buy the console release (re-release?) of the game so that I could play non-local co-op with them from the familiar comfort and safety of my mother’s basement.
And yet, I can’t bring myself to do it. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I bought a game called Diablo III. It was a stunningly beautiful game; nothing since has really compared to the environments and animations in terms of sheer quality. Like any good game, the animations and light bursts and sounds nicely balanced between being big and flashy but not covering up important details for survival. Little touches, such as when my monk kicked a dude off a bridge and he fell to his death, abounded. Even the scripted events retained a bit of interest, because they were so well done.Then I played this game called Diablo III, and discovered horrible truths lurking beneath the veneer of beauty. After spending hours upon hours upon days upon days in Diablo II, the mechanics and setting of Diablo III were shallow and unrewarding. First, permanent and unpenalized skill mutability meant there was no such concept as a “build.” Tired of using Skills A, B, and C? Switch them over to Skills X, Y, and Z, and keep going. All characters of a given class were functionally identical, once you swapped out the right skills. Second, there was no reason to grind anything but gold. Since the game had a built-in auction house, trading and loot runs no longer mattered. You just optimized your GPH and bought what you needed. Or, if you were insane, bought what you needed for real-world money. Third, and what dealt the game a fatal blow, was that all but one of the character classes was not viable at the highest levels of play.
Think about that for a moment. Blizzard was once the company that famously balanced three distinct races in Starcraft. Here, they couldn’t manage to make anything but a Barbarian viable in the early days of Inferno. Sure, you could play a different character class, but your kill speed (and, thus, your GPH) would be so much lower than a Barbarian that it’d be folly to continue to play. And that’s assuming that you weren’t forced to switch into the few skills that were viable in Inferno.
Time passed. The Auction House is now dead and buried. Difficulty levels have been made more granular. Loot distribution has been changed, becoming somewhat of a system of “welfare legendaries” from bosses. But since you can no longer trade (everything’s BoA after you leave a party!), welfare is the best you can do. The Diablo III of today is not the Diablo III of launch.The fact remains, however, that I paid for the game once, and it was a combination of broken promises and broken mechanics. I’m still, in a melodramatic way of putting it, hurt by that. I find it difficult to make the decision to buy (re-buy?) a game that once held so much potential, and delivered beautifully broken promises. I find it hard to believe that, despite the changes to the economy, balance, and difficulty, that once I scratch the surface again I’ll find little more than dust and ash below. Will it hold my attention even without a couch full of friends to drive me forward?
Diablo III has an answer for you: “Yes. We’ve changed so much,” it says, “buy (re-buy?) us and come back.”
I’ve heard that before from girlfriends and employers. Problem is, how do I know this isn’t just another promise waiting to be broken?