Check Up: Diablo III (Patch 2.4.3)

It’s been almost three years since my review of the Diablo III expansion pack, Reaper of Souls. But the game is still going strong. In fact, due to a recent update I decided to provide a “check up” on the status of the game.

Since Diablo III’s initial release, the game has gone through a number of changes. We’ve seen the removal of a few controversial features, a full expansion set, and even a port of the game to home consoles.  Throughout all this time, Diablo III has managed to stay relevant through a series of patches that not only fix bugs, but add exclusive items and loot that are typically only available for a limited time.

Most players manage to complete the game’s main story rather quickly. It’s the game’s “Adventure Mode” or Seasonal challenges that really seem to gather the most attention.  At the time of this writing, Diablo has just launched it’s ninth season. What are seasons? Well, a “season” in Diablo III is a chance to start the game over from the very beginning. You create a new character and tackle the game from the ground up. What’s special is, when playing a seasonal character, you have the chance to earn exclusive season-only items. When the season is over, your character and all of their seasonal loot are converted back to your main savefile.

This is something that has really taken off with players. I’m ashamed to admit, that I really have not taken full advantage of this feature. Yes, I’ve tinkered around with seasonal characters in the past, but I’ve never really given it the attention that it deserves. As a result, I’ve missed out on some great stuff.

But, even if you’re like me, and never really dabbled in the seasonal or end game content for Diablo III, now is the time to take a second look. It’s the 20th anniversary of Diablo, and for a limited time, there’s a special Diablo 1-themed dungeon available to explore. This content includes exclusive achievements and loot.  This event is restricted to Adventure Mode, so players will be required to have completed the game before they can access it.  But even if you haven’t, there’s still time!

I recently started up my neglected copy of Diablo III just for this anniversary event and was floored at just how polished and mature this game has become over the years. If you’re a fan and haven’t paid much attention to this title recently, now would be a great time to jump back in. Everything we love about Diablo is still here, and it’s better than ever.

Review: Diablo III – Reaper of Souls

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Normally, I do not include separate reviews for expansion packs. But this time, I feel obligated to make an exception. I’ve had several weeks to experience the Reaper of Souls add-on for Diablo III and I feel this release deserved a post of its very own.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, Diablo III was one of my earliest reviews. Looking back at that review now, I cringe to see just how poorly the write-up seems. I suppose my blogging skills have improved over time and interestingly enough, so has Diablo III.

When the game was originally released, D3 was a bit of a mess. There were server problems, performance problems, and lots of controversy over the direction in which the game was taken. Over time, a lot of these issues were resolved through patches and changes to the title. The long-promised PVP system was finally added, and not long ago, Blizzard made the decision to remove the auction house system altogether. In doing so, item distribution was radically revamped in the game. Fans rejoiced and I was no exception.

Even without the expansion, Diablo III is a much better game today as a result of these changes. So, what does the Reaper of Souls add-on bring to the table? Here’s a rundown of some of the more important additions:

New playable class: The Crusader
An extra chapter: Act V – Reaper of Souls
Maximum level increased to 70
“End game” content
Difficulty adjustment

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The game still requires an internet connection, but my criticism on this has softened a bit over time. The game servers are much more stable than they used to be, and it seems that Blizzard’s vision for the hybrid single-player/multi-player experience has become a little bit clearer over the last two years.

Aside from new content and patches, several core changes have really made for an all-around better experience. The old tiered difficulty levels have been revamped and replaced with a new system that seems to be a much better fit. The game now offers Normal, Hard, Expert and Torment options. With the hardest option being very customizable.

I was a bit skeptical at first of the direction that the expansion would take storywise, but that too came as a pleasant surprise. I don’t want to spoil anything, but naturally at the end of Diablo III it seems like everything has come to a satisfactory close. Blizzard did a fine job of adding a new angle and continuing the plot. Upon completion of Act V, it is also clear that the Diablo story is far from over.

All in all, I have to say that Reaper of Souls is exactly what Diablo III needed to help round out the rough edges and bring the game to perfection. When looked at as a whole, my original review is now superseded by the breakdown below:

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Difficulty: Varies –  As mentioned above, the entire difficulty system has been redone, and for the better. Normal – Expert modes seem to be a very nice fit. Although later in the game, they do seem to be maybe just a bit easier than they should be. Regardless, this all goes out the window once you’ve reached the Torment option. From here, you can crank up the abuse to your liking. Why would you do this? Well, the harder the game, the better the rewards.

Story: The original Diablo III had a fantastic story, this expansion only adds to that. A few loose ends are tied up and a whole new villain takes the stage. Excellent stuff here.

Originality: This is hard to gauge considering RoS is an expansion. The new Bounty system and Rift system that becomes available upon completing the main scenario is very fun and extremely well done. It really helps keep the game alive even after completion.

Soundtrack:  The new in-game music is fantastic. Very fitting and well done. For an expansion, no expense was spared here.

Fun: Reaper of Souls really does a lot to breathe new life into a two year old game. I’ve had more fun with Diablo III now than I did when the game was originally released. This is Diablo done right.

Graphics:  Not much has changed here. This game uses the same engine as it always has. The graphic options for Diablo III have always been well done. Lighting effects are used well, shadows are well done. Everything is and was beautiful since release.

Playcontrol: No changes here. The game still works and controls as it should. I tried a number of different mice and I encountered no issues worthy of mention.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4- This expansion and the patch the preceded it were EXACTLY what Diablo III needed to make the jump from being a good game to being a great game. The price of the core game has been reduced to a mere $20 in most places. The expansion will still run you $40, but together they still cost what Diablo III cost upon release. In my opinion, if you’re going to experience Diablo III, Reaper of Souls is a must have.

 Available at retail and through Blizzards Online Store

Other Reviews In This Series:

Diablo –  Diablo IIDiablo III :: Reaper of Souls

Review: Diablo III

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*note: For those that wish to find me in-game, my BattleTag is BaconMage#1654
*** THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED SINCE THE RELEASE OF AN EXPANSION ***

After nearly 12 years of waiting, Blizzard finally released the next chapter in the Diablo series. Diablo III went on the market around the same time I started this blog. Naturally, everything else on Earth stopped for me as I dived into the pits of hell one more time.

This title resumes twenty years after the end of Diablo II, this time the player assumed the role of “The Nephalim” a hero who arrives in the town of Tristram to investigate recent reports of a strange meteor. In Diablo III players can choose to create a character from the following class options: Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk and Demon Hunter. As the plot unfolds, the player explores environments such as dark dungeons, disease infested sewers, war torn strongholds and even heaven and hell itself.

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The play style is similar to the previous games. Crafting of new gear is done via NPC, and items can be purchased on a community-stocked auction house. Skills are handled much differently in this entry in the series. As players level up, new skill runes are unlocked which grant new abilities. This allows for quite a bit of customization. Players can experience with different builds to find a fit that’s right for them.

One of the more controversial aspects in Diablo III is the “always on” internet requirement. This makes teaming up with friends extremely simple. However, for those that wish to play solo, the game requires a broadband internet connection. So in situations where internet connectivity may be an issue, the entire game is unplayable. During release, the game servers encountered massive congestion, thus leading to queued timers and frequent game crashes. Players that simply wanted to enjoy the game on their own were understandably frustrated. Further controversy erupted over the announcement of an optional real-money auction house. Simply put, players can sell items from the game to other players in exchange for real-world currency. The argument has been made that this provides wealthier players with a strategic advantage over others.

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Graphically, the game is beautiful. It’s without a doubt the most visually appealing entry in the series. The audio and score for the game is equally appealing. This is another great game to play on rainy nights by candlelight. Content-wise, I have no complaints. The random levels, quests and encounters make for a unique experience each time you play. On a few occasions, I found the levels to be a bit longer than I like, and wished for things to hurry up and end. But this was not something I encountered enough to really be a problem. I found the environments and enemies in the game to exceed my expectations a bit. Many of the boss fights are very well done and create a great feeling of suspense and awe.

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In the age of Internet gaming, it’s easy to forget that this primarily a single player title. The online connectivity makes for a very unusual hybrid type of experience. In a sense, it’s sad to log in now, four months later, and see my friends list filled with people who have not logged in in over 100 days. Once beating the game, many players have simply moved on. Which, for a single player title, is not at all unusual. Despite this, Blizzard is still planning new content for Diablo III such as PVP combat. So perhaps, in the coming months an update of this review will be in order. Overall, however, I have to proclaim to be Diablo III to be worthy of a purchase. Especially for fans of the series.

Difficulty: Varies –  Again, several difficulty levels are unlockable as you progress through the game. A hardcore mode also exists as it did in Diablo II, giving you only one life. For those that like punishment, have fun trying to play the game on Inferno difficulty with a hardcore character. There will be tears.

Story: The best of all three games. Twelve years of development really gave Blizzard the time needed to create a storyline of epic proportions. Not to give anything away, but the character of Diablo does make a return, and the way this comes to pass will not disappoint. There’s a lot of nice throwbacks and easter eggs for those that are familiar with the older games.

Originality: There’s no mistaking this is a Diablo game. However, with the new skill and companion system, there’s enough fresh ideas in the game to keep things from getting stale.

Soundtrack: A beautiful score that is very fitting. In my opinion much better than the first two games. I actually have a copy of the soundtrack and find myself listening to it when writing or when I’m trying to get my creative juices flowing on some type of fantasy project.

Fun: The game can definitely be fun. At release a large number of issues caused a great deal of frustration. I was excited to the get the game home and play, only to find the servers down due to congestion. This, along with a few early bugs, really put a damper on things. Of course, now most of these issues are ironed out. Aside from the occasional gold farmer spamming the world chat window, there’s not too much to complain about. This title was designed with re-playability in mind, and if definitely succeeds.

Graphics: Absolutely lovely looking game. This one area where the game shines. Everything from the character sprites to the dynamic light looks stunning. This title is a huge improvement over the other entries in the series. Now…. if only they would redo those games on the new engine…

Playcontrol: Very similar to other titles in the series. Occasionally, during high energy battles and boss fights, I found it difficult to select the target. But aside from some occasional frustration, I found nothing to complain about.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Due to it’s troubled launch, and what I feel is a little overly-complex skill system, I cannot give this game a perfect score. It is a title that I certainly recommend, but I do feel that there was a bit more that could have been done to add some polish. I wish the game had an offline option, although I understand what Blizzard was trying to achieve with requiring connectivity. I’m not a fan of the real-money auction house, but it’s easy enough to ignore unless you live for online play. All that being said, Diablo III is an excellent title and well worth your dollars. It is a nice capstone to the series, and I hope to see an expansion of some sort in the future. At this point, I still feel that Diablo II offers the definitive Diablo experience. However, due to it’s age and inaccessibility it is hard for many new players to get started with it. I am looking forward to playing through Diablo III again with the release of the upcoming 1.05 patch.

 Available at retail and through Blizzards Online Store

Other Reviews In This Series:

Diablo –  Diablo IIDiablo III :: Reaper of Souls

Review: Diablo

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Taking a change of course for a bit to talk about one of the first PC games I remember purchasing for myself, Diablo. With the recent release of the long-awaited Diablo III, this is a franchise that really needs no introduction.

In the summer of 1997, as a highschool graduation present, my parents gave me the funds required to build my very own personal computer. Oh, I remember it well. It was a Pentium 166 MMX, with 16 megs of RAM. I had the purchased an OEM version of the OSR2 release for Windows 95… I was ready to go.

One of the first things I did after building my system was to catch up on a lot of great PC games I had missed over the last few years. I gobbled them all up. Duke Nukem, Quake, Heretic & Hexen, to name a few. Then one day at Media Play I came across the Diablo box and I was enthralled. Here was a game I could actually play online for FREE. I snatched it up and brought it home.

Diablo appealed to me almost instantly. It was a modern take on the classic dungeon-crawl games I loved so much. Essentially, there is a giant dungeon under the town filled with hordes of evil monsters and demons, and overflowing with riches and spoils beyond your wildest dreams. When creating your hero, your options are Warrior, Rogue or Sorcerer. Each had their own advantages and disadvantages. I felt right at home.

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The game was unique in that when donning a new suit of armor, or equipping a new weapon, you could actually see it on your character. That was a new, but welcome concept for me. Also, in a way, you never played the same game twice. The levels were created at random every time you started over. There was a bank of quests or tasks that would be shuffled out when you created a new game, so no two games were exactly alike. It was amazing.

Eventually, your character ventures down to deepest levels of the dungeon and discovers the shocking truth behind the terror that has enshrouded the town above. The game ends with your character defeating Diablo, one of the very Lords of Hell.

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The multiplayer portion of the game never appealed much to me. I found it extremely difficult to play with a friend using a modem connection, and attempts to play on Battle.net were fraught with lag. Not to mention that Battle.net was filled with cheating players. Ultimately, I enjoyed Diablo as a single player title.

Even today, I feel that there’s a lot to be offered by this now classic title. The game has a lot of atmosphere. The visuals mixed with the ambient soundtrack match the tone of the game perfectly. This is one you’ll want to play on a nice autumn night with the lights out, perhaps with only a candle burning on the desk. So, If you enjoyed Diablo III and want to see where it all began, or if you’re new to the series, I do recommend this title first. Not to mention the lore and myth that is the Diablo story, gets it start here.

Difficulty: Varies –  This title has a fairly accurate difficulty setting. Occasionally, you may find yourself swarmed by monsters, but there’s never much you can’t overcome on the standard setting… some of those harder modes… God help you.

Story: The storyline is revealed as you progress through the dungeon. Those players that skip through most of the text are missing out on quite a bit. For those that are willing to take the time to read and listen, you will certainly be rewarded.

Originality: Diablo really set the stage for a new type of dungeon crawl. It redefined what a hack and slash game based in a fantasy world could be. When first playing it, I was reminded a bit of the classic arcade game Gauntlet. But the similarities soon faded.

Soundtrack: Amazing. Simple, yet elegant ambient music. It really sets the mood for the game. The soundtrack is a work of art.

Fun: This game provided me with many hours of fun over the years. It’s a title that I’ve often found myself turning to again and again. I recently played through it a few months in anticipation of D3’s release and was surprised at how well it has stood the test of time. If you like dark scary dungeons and demonic monsters, this will be right up your alley.

Graphics: At the time it was released, the graphics were really top tier. There’s no 3D acceleration or dynamic lighting, so it certainly looks dated by today’s standards. However, it holds up quite well. Modern Vista, Win 7 and Win 8 systems experience a color issue when first booting the game, but there are work arounds  available to correct this.

Playcontrol: Point and click. It couldn’t be easier. I admittedly burned through a few mice over the years playing these games.

Overall rating (out of four stars):  3 Stars – Diablo is an excellent game. I do feel it had potential to be a bit more than it was. The network issues and online cheating became a large problem for many players. Many of “gaps” in the game were filled by the semi-official expansion known as Hellfire. But despite it’s few shortcomings, Diablo was a game changer in the PC world. Recommended.

Available today through Blizzard’s online store.

Other Reviews In This Series:

Diablo –  Diablo IIDiablo III :: Reaper of Souls

What I’m Playing : Spring 2012

Flash forward from my last post. I’m now a 33, married, and a father of two. Also, I’m still a gamer. A lot has changed since my Atari and NES years. Games are now high definition, online, and with advent of the 3DS, now they are even 3D with no glasses required.  In the coming posts, I plan to wax nostalgic a bit more, but first I want to take a moment to detail what I’m playing now.

At any given moment, I break my gaming down into three categories: Console, PC, and MMO. I am the proud owner of all three current gen consoles, and despite it’s lack of power, I often find myself drawn to the Wii. Nintendo has a way dishing out some of the most strangely-appealing titles. This is true of their first-party offerings as well as their third-party releases. My most recent Wii purchase, and the console title I’m currently playing is the infamous Xenoblade Chronicles. xenobladechronicles_NAbox-5B1-5D

Xenoblade is a title that almost didn’t see a release in North America. It’s a Japanese-style RPG that Nintendo of America felt would have hard time finding a market with western audiences. I find this a bit amusing, because it seems Japanese pop culture is huge with the age 8-30 demographic these days. When Nintendo announced the title would not be coming the US, the backlash was much louder than expected. An online movement known as Operation Rainfall was launched in attempt to bring Xenoblade and two other nixed titles to the US. Needless to say, as far as Xenoblade was concerned, Op Rainfall was a success. Xenoblade Chronicles was released in the US as a Gamestop exclusive title in April of 2012.

I’ll do a complete write-up of the game once I have completed it. For now, I’ll say that I am thoroughly impressed. I am a big fan of JRPGS and this one does not disappoint.

On the PC front, I’m currently riding the Diablo III bandwagon.

The original Diablo was on of the first PC game titles that I purchased with my own money. It is a classic dungeon crawl (which I LOVE) with an overhead view. A combo that’s rarely done right. Diablo III has been twelve years in the making and I must say it was worth the wait. I purchased it solely for the single player content, but like many others, found myself sucked in to playing with friends.

My only complaint is that the game is dependant on connectivity with Blizzard’s servers, even in single player mode. Which, since launch, have been up and down. This has been less than convenient for me. Luckily, over the last few days, things seem to have stabilized quite a bit.

Finally, in the MMO world, my currently subscription is the infamous Final Fantasy XIV.

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Let me preface this by saying I am a die hard Final Fantasy fan. This is a fact that I’m sure will come to light as this blog continues to develop. Perhaps that explain why I’m stuck with this game through thick and thin. Anyone familiar with the title will no doubt be aware of it’s tumultuous history. Upon release, the game was a total flop. It was rushed to market, plagued with UI and server problems, and little to no in-game content.  Not long after it’s release, the development team was sacked and replaced. The new executive producer conducted a massive evaluation and deemed the current game largely un-fixable. The solution, rebuild the game from scratch.

It has been almost two years since the title’s release, and the long awaited version 2.0 is just around the corner. I must admit, even my faith in the title was shaken in the early days. But many fixes and refinements have been put in place and today the game has made a complete 180. I’m excited to see what the future holds with the 2.0 release.

On a side note, I’ve kept and “in-character” blog since the games release which can be found here:

http://ffxivkijimuna.blogspot.com

In closing, as this blog continues to develop it will be host to both nostalgic memories of my retro gaming years, as well my experiences with the latest and greatest titles. As my sons get older and begin diving into gaming, it is my intention to use that interest as a way to bond and spend time with them. That is truly the main purpose of this blog.