Available on PC (version reviewed) and Mac
We should know by now that Blizzard doesn’t believe in a revolutionary approach to games design. Just as the main moan about StartCraft II was that it was, actually, a lot like StarCraft, so you can guarantee that some people will be saying that Diablo III is a lot like Diablo II, which was itself a lot like Diablo. Forget any ideas you might have about new combat systems, cutting-edge 3D graphics, freeform exploration, rich player choice or deep character interaction. Diablo III is, like its predecessors, primarily a game of clicking the left mouse button several times a second while staring fairly mindlessly at the screen.
But then if there’s something Blizzard does do well, its creating a very polished, almost seamless experience. Everyone knows that what Diablo is all about isn’t the story or the tactical challenge or the spectacle, but about that classic vicious cycle of addiction where you slay hordes of monsters in impressive style to gather gold, weapons, accessories and armour so that you can slay larger hordes of more powerful monsters in an even more impressive style to gather gold, weapons, accessories and armour…. Well, you probably get the point.
In this respect, Diablo III is the gaming equivalent of one of those Vegas casinos that doles out cheap beer and sandwiches and live entertainment so that you’ll keep on spending money and not stop to wonder if you’re throwing it all down the drain. Diablo III effectively does the same thing, constantly plying you with new toys, funnelling you in the right direction and smoothing out any obstacle that might make you pause, only here the currency isn’t money but time. While Blizzard’s games have rarely achieved the kind of review scores that, say, Valve nearly take for granted, it’s created some of the most popular and long-running time-sinks in gaming history. Diablo III is another one to add to the list.
Xhead: Shooting stars and smashing heads
Want a storyline? Well, Diablo III does have one. Your hero, on the trail of a mysterious falling star, arrives in the environs of the original Diablo town of Tristram, and finds themselves battling an undead scourge and the evil cult behind it. Behind this, you won’t be surprised to hear, are the remaining Lords of Hell, and as the game progresses you’ll find yourself exploring new locations and taking the fight to increasingly demonic foes.
This doesn’t really do justice to a game with a surprisingly intricate back-story, told through found journals, books and ghostly apparitions, but then a back-story is really all it is. Diablo III doesn’t try to out-do the likes of The Witcher II or Mass Effect with complex plotlines, moral questions and the rest; in the end, it's all about bashing heads.
How this works will depend on what character class you adopt. The Barbarian is your classic Diablo warrior, big, heavy, able to wield and wear the heaviest weapons and armour, and really quite simple to play. The Wizard, meanwhile, is your classic magic user: a bit weak at first, then hugely powerful at a distance but more vulnerable close-up.
The new Witch Doctor is a hoot, initially a weakling with limited melee skills and a poor missile attack, but a great, flexible choice with undead minions to summon, some thoroughly nasty spells and a range of voodoo powers that are great for constraining opponents while you tackle them from a safe range.
The Demon Hunter is a ranged weapons specialist, with dual-crossbow capabilities and a selection of vicious traps. Finally, our own current favourite, the Monk, provides a great balance between devastating, high-speed melee attacks and useful defensive and healing magic.