Diablo III: a Tale of Barbarians, Swords and Hit Points

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How much hack and slash is too much? Critically lauded by reviewers and players alike, Diablo 3, Blizzard’s hit from 2013, is a fantastic game that unfortunately shows its scenaristic and gameplay shallowness.

A few years after winning the game whilst buying a bunch of « mystery game keys » online – a streak of luck that was followed by many subsequent purchases, and oh so many more disappointing « winnings » –, the holidays seemed like the perfect moment to devle into one of the most successful franchises of all time. All hail Maxard the Barbarian, and let the demons tremble before his might!

After spending some troublesome years fighting far away from his homeland, a now desolate place devastated by Evil, our hero ends up in Tristram, the little town from Diablo 1. Or should we say New Tristram? The events of the first game, when a nameless hero went under the church to explore blood-soaked corridors and hellish planes to vainquish Diablo, led the inhabitants to leave the original town and rebuild not far away. And two decades after the first two iterations of the game, Tristram burns again. This time, a mysterious object falling from the skies has awoken foul creatures that are destroying everything in their path.

After investigating (and killing mostly everything along the way), it appears that said object is none other than Tyrael, an angel already present in Diablo 2. He is now mortal, having shed his wings to fight Evil on Earth whilst his brethren act as observers from the Heavens.

There is indeed something sinister afoot around Tristram, and the player will have to uncover the truth. The fate of the Earth depends on it.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Diablo 3 is described has an action role-playing game and a dungeon crawler. There is indeed quite a few dungeons to explore – and to « cleanse ». As for the role playing element, it is, as usual, reduced to the basics. After all, the Diablo franchise is all about the monsters… and the loot. No complicated intrigues, no (real) dialogue trees, no critical choices that will affect the rest of the game. No: you see a monster, you kill it, you pick up the treasure. And it works! It works, because Blizzard spent many years polishing this game mechanic – maybe to the detriment of the role-playing part of the game. If you can still choose your special abilities from a list, and receive « upgraded » versions of said abilities when you gain levels, gone are the days of spending points to bolster your stats. Now, the statistics are reduced to a measly four, and the points are added automatically.

Even worse, some character classes will only need two of the four stats « branches » to progress. This can lead to our Barbarian, Maxard, having over 1300 points in Vitality and 2200 in Strength, but having only 34 points in Intelligence. It’s probably fitting for a grunting warrior, but the over-simplification is a bit strange.

Stranger, even, is the possibility to be so lucky in the item drops that your character becomes virtually invulnerable. After all, when you play as a Barbarian, you’ll need to get close and personnal with the monsters to fight. There’s no choice, even, since you can’t wield ranged weapons. So you try to maximise your number of regenerated health points by second. And the number of points you get back when you attack. And the number of attacks per second, of course. You grind, and you grind… Until you end up in front of Diablo himself, at the end of the game, and you realize that your character regenerates around 7000 health points per second, and that Diablo cannot really hurt you. What is there to do, besides doing what you’ve done the entire game? You then keep the left mouse button clicked, as you did to walk around, attack monster and pick up gold and items, and you eventually kill the final boss without breaking a sweat.

The sweat will come in the expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, where the monsters will be tougher and will absorb a lot more damage. Manually choosing to raise the difficulty to « expert » will also help. However, just getting « beefier » ennemies is not really a cause for celebration. Having zombies with seemingly hard steel for flesh is not really challenging; it’s just boring.

Should you pick up Diablo 3 and its expansion? There is still something addictive to the Diablo formula; there is still that thrill when you get your hands on a really powerful item. Visually speaking, too, the game is fantastic. The shallowness resides in the main game mechanics: without meaningful choices, without some kind of real adaptative difficulty, the game is holiday or downtime hours fodder, nothing more, unfortunately. Unless you play in multiplayer, which is a whole another aspect of the game. Maybe if you have friends or if you like strangers, then!

Diablo 3

Developer and Editor: Blizzard Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4, Nintendo Switch, OS X, Windows (played on Windows)


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Hugo Prévost

Cofondateur et rédacteur en chef de Pieuvre.ca, Hugo Prévost se passionne pour le journalisme depuis l'enfance. S'il s'intéresse surtout à la politique, à la science, à la technologie et à la culture, Hugo n'hésite pas non plus à plonger tête première dans les enjeux de société, l'économie ou encore les loisirs et le tourisme. Hugo est également membre de l'équipe éditoriale de Pieuvre.ca.

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