Recently, we at Dusty Cartridge posted an article outlining what some of us felt were our “Worst Games of the Year”. Since then, we’ve received some criticism. My contribution in particular was noted to be vague, while my knowledge and experience with the franchise was questioned. The article in question can be found here.
To begin, I am a Diablo and Diablo II veteran. My contribution to the WGOTY article was ‘vague’ because it was to be short and concise, abiding to our normal word limit. But enough on that.
The online requirement of Diablo III is probably the first red flag here. Fans inform me this is to “prevent hacking”. But please, explain to me why there are so many botters active currently and why so many people are complaining about their prevalence. They have been such an issue with this game since launch that shortly after release, gold drops had to be nerfed because gold botters were so prolific they were harming the economy. You are misguided if you cannot understand how bots can ruin the game. Bots farm gold, this gold goes straight into the Real Money Auction House and the global economy, causing MASSIVE inflation. This causes prices to sky-rocket and the system to become incredibly unstable.
Regarding latency, some Diablo III fans remark that they have never experienced “inherent lag”. This statement is utterly incorrect. FACT: Every person who has played Diablo III has experienced inherent lag. Any time you move your character, use an ability or click on anything, your computer is sending and receiving data packets from the server you’re connected to. If a lot of people are connected to the server at once, this takes longer. Therefore, no internet connection in the world would be free of lag in Diablo III. Anyone who played the game at launch experienced the complete inability to connect to the game at all for a day and connect stably for a week. If I purchase a single-player game, the burden of service is on Blizzard to provide me with a game that doesn’t lag, or at the very least an offline option.
On to next train wreck: story. Here’s the thing about the storyline being bad in Diablo II – it wasn’t. But even if it was, how is that any excuse? I and many players enjoyed the storyline of Diablo II, though not as much as the original. It was coherent and straightforward without being pushed upon the player, but suspenseful enough to keep you invested; all while giving you a sense of urgency. Diablo was great, not only because of the simplicity of the story and the atmosphere it generated, but the fact that it was never forced upon you. If you wanted to gain a little more immersion, you could listen to bits and pieces of dialogue from townsfolk at your leisure. You could play the game entirely ignoring story.
In Diablo, the story was never spoon-fed to the player. Diablo himself was actually scary because you never saw and barely heard about him until the final showdown. He never appeared before you to monologue his plans, telling you exactly how to beat him (like he and every other major boss do in Diablo III) before being foiled and running away to the next major game event, screaming “HAHA, YOU WON’T STOP ME NEXT TIME!” Unfortunately, the inadequacies don’t end there.
I also mentioned in my WGOTY that there were a plethora of game systems that were and still remain oversimplified and unbalanced. First and foremost is the difficulty. Diablo III’s difficulty curve is nothing short of horrific. Normal is insanely easy; deliberately dumbed down to attract casual gamers and therefore a larger market, in an attempt to make more sales. Nightmare and Hell are harder, but are mechanically identical to Normal. The only thing that changes between difficulties are enemy health, damage numbers, stats on items and enemy affixes. But those are few and far between and unbalanced at best.
Inferno is nothing but a gear check. There are no interesting mechanics to skilfully overcome; your success in these levels is dictated by the exploitation of overpowered defensive abilities (such as Smokescreen, which have all been nerfed to uselessness) and the quality of items you have – meaning you’ll be grinding Act I for loot or … guess what? Spending $$$ in the RMAH to progress. So you are left to either grind loot continuously to progress, or spend some cash. That is the very definition of pay-to-win. Superficially rewarding ‘challenges’ that require mind-numbing repetition of monotonous tasks and almost no thinking from the player at all. Farmville has more strategic depth.
Let me spell it out. Diablo II was strategically diverse: players were given a plethora of skills to overcome challenges. It was your skill and mastery of these abilities that enabled you to overcome the challenges. Why has this been replaced with a clicky-spam grind? TO GET YOU TO BUY GEAR FROM THE AUCTION HOUSE. Why is the loot table so awfully skewed so loot suited for other classes drop more frequently than your own? Why do you think the vendor price for loot is so disgustingly low? TO GET YOU TO USE THE AUCTION HOUSE TO SELL THE GEAR TO OTHER PLAYERS. People never complained about Baal runs in Diablo II, because boss fights were diverse and varied. Boss grinding in Diablo III is fraught with frustration. Every fight has one strategy and god forbid, a player comes up with a skilful way to surpass it, Blizzard nerfs it. Because of the terrible skill system, players are restricted from any form of creative development of strategy.
It’s this kind of lazy, shallow “gameplay” that has catered to instant-gratification gamers. Anyone who enjoys this behaviour is part of the problem. The problem that small-minded contemporary games of this sort are marketed everywhere and heavily, but very quickly discarded and shamed by gamers (see Metacritic’s 3.8 user score of Diablo III) and gems like Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls receive universal acclaim, yet are few and far between.
The first major content patch included additions such as Monster Power and the Infernal Machine. While acceptable, they are nothing but filler and do nothing to address the real problems the game still has. They have been quickly pushed out to fill the void that the lack of promised PvP has left and to reclaim the 65% of disgruntled players that left after realising they had wasted their time and money on a virtual slot machine. See.
Legendary items were also “improved” from their miserably underwhelming status, but in all honesty, they should have been that way at launch. Blizzard doesn’t get a pat on the back for fixing something they never should have broken in the first place. Why even tout that as an improvement? It’s a terrible, miserable example that die-hard players spew at others in a simple attempt to justify playing a game that is without merit or value and why they are still supporting the veritable poster-child for what’s wrong with this industry.
While some fans stand up for Diablo III’s ‘storytelling’ and ‘gameplay,’ others stand up for Blizzard’s community ‘management’ and customer ‘support.’ Listening to player complaints? Please. I frequented the general forums since launch and saw any thread critical of the game either be locked or deleted and a Blue (CM) post once every fortnight. I myself was banned for starting a thread listing suggestions and changes. Explain to me why Unknown Worlds, the guys making Natural Selection 2 – a company with 10 employees – has a higher standard and rate of community communication than Blizzard, who have 5000 employees. There is no explanation or excuse for this appalling lack of interaction. Any and ALL decisions made in Diablo III are made first and foremost to appeal to the concerns of the shareholders. Never the players, the shareholders. The stench of a poor attitude towards development permeates the entire game. One has to look no further than the attitudes of the developers themselves for evidence of that.
To the keen eye, Diablo III is without a doubt a hollow experience devoid of any redeeming factors; a façade of a proper ARPG. However, this thin veneer of mass marketing ultimately failed to hide what lay beneath, explaining the massive player losses the game experienced soon after launch.
This is the story of a company that has everything, wanting more. Ignominiously and unceremoniously spending top dollar on a product designed so thoroughly to make them more money, that it might as well have been designed by accountants, while riding on the still-warm corpse of its namesake, as its developers slung insults at the original creators of the franchise.