I've had a love-hate relationship with the ARPG genre. For me, it started, as it did with most people, with Diablo 2. I loved the immediacy and the impact of combat, and the artwork and atmosphere kept me engaged maybe more than anything else.
However, it was too hard for me. As a tender young lad of twelve, I didn't understand why all my gear and gold dropped when my avatar died. Frustrated, I abandoned it until just three short months ago, when I decided to give it another go.
As a summoner Necro, I only died twice in normal mode, once to Duriel (because I didn't know that you'd just freaking drop right next to him), and once to Mephisto. Diablo himself would have killed me, but I refused to engage him with anything less than a full army of skeletons. With the pressure of completing the game done, I'm having a blast trying different characters and leveling up my necro on nightmare difficulty.
The reason why I wanted to try Diablo 2 is because Diablo 3 completely underwhelmed me.
First of all, let me address some common complaints:
-It's too much like WoW: I keep hearing about the damn hotbar. Gather around children, as I tell you the tale of Titan Quest. Titan Quest is an ARPG released circa 2006. It had a hotbar. Diablo 3's hotbar didn't copy WoW. Diablo 3's hotbar was pioneered by Titan Quest. People who complain about a "WoW-like hotbar" are dumb.
In terms of visuals, the comparison is completely justified. Diablo 2 manages to creep me out to this day (unless I'm on my necro, in which case the cold company of skeletons keeps my nerve up). Diablo 3, on the other hand, was decisively "meh." Torchlight's artistic style turned me off because I couldn't take it seriously, and here I have a Diablo game, in my hands, trying to ape that cartoonish style? Why?
Because millions of people play World of Warcraft. Look at an in-game model in WoW and an in-game model in Diablo 3 and tell me you don't see similarities. Hell, Diablo 3 models look more like Warcraft 3 units than anything related to Diablo.
-The "DRM:" Again, completely justified. This has been harped about on and on and on. I consider it on the same moralistic plane as bitching about Fox News. Millions of people still watch Fox News, so obviously people enjoy the product or just don't care. Millions of people still play Diablo 3, therefore no one gives a shit. I'm not saying the online-only DRM was correct or just or even makes sense (it doesn't), but apparently the detractors are either in the minority or have bought the damn thing anyway. Minus 60 DKP for the consumer.
-No character development: This turned me off more than anything. The argument can be made that everyone does the same build anyway and blah blah blah--but that's not true. The hardest of the hardcore will have the same builds, but everyone else is going to do whatever the hell they want to do. And if it works? Great, awesome! My point is that normal Diablo 2 was easy enough for "weird" builds to work.
Diablo 3 is not an action-roleplaying game; it's just an action game. The moment there's no character development, a game ceases to be an RPG. The goal is MORE diversity, MORE builds, MORE classes, MORE skills--not fucking less. Titan Quest had like 8 or 10 masteries and you could combine two of them. That made for an incredibly diverse game--and this was SIX years ago.
You think a company of Blizzard's magnitude, with a basically limitless budget, would be able to innovate and improve upon the old formula, not take several steps backwards. This is not Diablo. This is, like, the approximately billion adventure-action games that have gone by the wayside since the dawn of time.
I personally think they did it for the sake of "balance." Ever since Brood War, Blizzard has been known as the company that "balances shit." That mindset has effected every game they've released since.
Now that the common complaints are out of the way, let me delve into my biggest issues.
-Combat: Yeah, you heard me. I have a problem with combat. There's too much shit going on at all times, and more often than not I ended up just spamming whatever ability I had been preassigned and hoped that those bright blobs would fall over. I can't make heads or tails out of what's going on during a fight. I blame this on the artistic style more than anything. Diablo 2 and Titan Quest are crisp, smooth, and there's never a moment where you're not sure what's happening. Diablo 3's fights feature giant swirly blobs and not much else.
-The auction house. Diablo is a single player experience. Maybe I'm in the minority, but that's how I've always felt about Diablo. The auction house is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. You see, they needed to monetize the game so they could pay for their servers. But that wouldn't have been necessary without the retarded DRM. They just topped off their unnecessarily-retarded cake with an unnecessarily-retarded cherry. Get gold from the auction house or get gold from a vendor? This ain't a fucking MMO. There's no persistent world in the usual sense. You can get a billion gold from just playing the damn game.
-The writing. Pretty atrocious. Like Starcraft 2 but with more voodoo. I think Tyrael and Raynor could be best friends just exchanging one-liners over dinner. What baffles me is that the writing in WoW is significantly better. There are some truly great quests and quest chains in that game (well, before Cataclysm herped the world, that is). Why can't that ever transfer to their single player games? I don't even remember what the story is about, only that there's a bitch-titted Diablo with high heels at the end.
I can't say that Diablo 2's story was more memorable (it was). But at least there wasn't that cliched urgency that pressures the player into the saving the world RIGHT THIS MOMENT. Even in Hell, Tyrael was just like, "get around to killing that demon sometime this week, kk?" And it was all good in the hood. It didn't take itself too seriously. Diablo 3, on the other hand, dangles a carrot in front of you and beats you over the head with a 2-by-4 with nails.
-The price. I'm a cheap bastard. I waited 5 years to get Sins of a Solar Empire so that I wouldn't have to pay full sticker price--and I payed for a used copy! (#worththewait) Diablo 3, for the product it's worth, should be about 40 dollars. You know what drove the price up? Their DRM. In terms of the retarded cake metaphor, that's like the icing. I played my friend's copy. I'm not paying full price for a game that treats me like a criminal, and takes several steps back in genre evolution and pretends it's all grown up too. lol. Fuck that. I don't know how long I'll have to wait to buy Diablo 3 at a reduced price (probably when someone makes a drunken Craigslist post), but at the moment I wouldn't touch this thing for 50 bucks, let alone 60.
The ARPG genre is not technically demanding nor philosophically demanding nor challenging design-wise. You beat stuff and that stuff drops stuff. tada, you've now made a game! Blizzard overcomplicated themselves technically and are now forcing consumers to pay for their mistakes.
End of rant: Even still, Diablo 3 is the fastest selling PC game in history. I hate to say it, but Diablo now joins the ranks of the Call of Duties, Battlefields, God of Wars, and any franchise that sacrifices evolving the art form for milking the cash cow. Blizzard is in the best position to truly revolutionize the games industry. Instead, they took a giant leap back and shoved retarded cake in my mouth.