After A 10-Year Hiatus, The Prince Of Darkness Is Back
Blizzard’s tremendous success as a game developer rests on a trio of intellectual properties: Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. While the Warcraft universe has been mined consistently for years, and Starcraft recently got its well-deserved sequel, the last Diablo expansion was released over 10 years ago. Diablo II: Lord Of Destruction hit store shelves back in 2001.
As with the company’s other titles, the game has maintained a sizable player base for more than a decade. Last year I was surprised to find my 17-year-old son playing Diablo II online. His friends discovered it and the game spread like a virus among them, swallowing up embarrassingly large chunks of their lives, just as it had my own. It seems that time, low resolutions, and antiquated visuals do not stand in the way of sublime game play.
Fortunately, the sequel is almost here, free of those cumbersome limitations. Blizzard finally got around to making Diablo III, a game slated for release this month on May 15th, 2012.
When I first fired up Diablo III, I was a little skeptical. I’m a seasoned gamer now with refined expectations, and a lot of the things I played ten years ago are no longer interesting. I was worried that an isometric-view RPG click-fest might not appeal to me as much as it used to, and at first I found the game a little boring. But as I leveled up and gained access to greater and greater powers, I didn’t even notice as the hours melted away. It turns out that the quest for better items, abilities, and gold from freshly-generated random dungeons never gets old.
Diablo III is so reminiscent of the original, in fact, that it feels as though I picked up right where I left off. Of course, almost everything is changed and improved: there are new classes to play, character dialogue is more plentiful and meaningful, item crafting has been added (much more robust than the limited runeword system used in Diablo II), and the graphics are fantastic. But, at its core, this is fundamentally the same Diablo we knew and loved. I think that’s a good thing.
Speaking of the graphics, while Warcraft and Starcraft share a cartoonish, larger-than-life art style, Diablo stands apart with a gritty and realistic feel. Like the originals, the isometric view remains locked in place, and zooming in with the mouse wheel is not an option (although the 'z' key can be pressed for a close-up camera view).
It seems a foregone conclusion that Diablo 3 will be a giant commercial success. The question is, can your hardware handle it? Let’s find out.