Diablo 3 launched on PC in May of 2012 after many years of development and waiting. Amidst the buzz and excitement, though, was frustration and dissapointment. Errors at launch, a real money auction house and always online DRM were the main issues fans had, and they hindered many players enjoyment of the game. While the errors have long since been sorted out, most of the games flaws still remain. So, was Diablo 3 worth the wait, or did Blizzard sabotage their own product with poor decisions?
Picking up twenty years after Diablo 2's conclusion, Diablo 3 follows the player and a cast of sometimes interesting, if mostly cliche cast of characters in their quest to defeat the returned Lords of Hell, Belial and Azmodan, and eventually Diablo himself. The fairly thin plot is helped along by some stunning cinematics that give a sense of context to the events unfolding in Santuary. These cinematics are few and far between however, and ultimately seem to be just eye candy rather than a means of deep exposition. But the draw of the Diablo series has never been in it's story, but rather game's consistently addictive looting mechanics.
Looting has always been at the core of the Diablo experience, and Diablo 3 isn't planning to change that. Every dungeon is packed with gold and loot to be hoarded away, and many of the enemies you defeat will spew out something shiny for you to pick up. This time though, Blizzard tried to add a wrinkle to the loot system in the form of the much maligned auction houses. These allow you to sell any loot you aquire for in-game gold or small amounts of real world currency. Many players felt that this made the game feel less about the looting and more about how much you could spend on items, as well as potentially lowering drop rates on the more rare loot in the game (I never felt this was an immediate issue, but it has been thrown around the D3 commiunity for a while). However, if you were driven off by the auction houses, you're in luck as Blizzard is removing them in a little over a month, so a few of the issues players had with drop rates many be resolved when this takes place.
Future fixes aside, Diablo 3 has an addictive and compelling system at it's core. But a solid looting system is nothing without a fun means to aquire said loot. Luckily, Diablo 3 delivers fun, satisfying combat in spades. Diablo 3's 5 main classes all deliver varied and interesting sets of skills which fundamentally alter the rythm and flow of the game's combat. A wizard build may focus on slower area of effect attacks, while a barbarian may be a tank on legs whose focus strongly leans towards melee. There's a class and skill set for everyone in Diablo 3, it's just a matter of putting the time into leveling and discovering what skills work best for you.
As fun as it is however, Diablo 3 can occasionally be dragged down by one of Blizzard's most baffling and frustrating decisions; an always online requirement. Although it was rare, I noticed quite a few instances where gameplay would stutter and sometimes halt, not due to my hardware being unable to handle the game, but due to a slightly unstable internet connection. In a single player game (which is admittedly has optional co-op), it is absurd and frustrating to have the quality of one's experience dictated by their internet quality. Again, this was never a massive issue for me, but I suspect that it could create major problems for some.
Visually, Diablo 3 retains a similar aesthetic to it's predecessors. Everything has a decidedly Dungeons and Dragons look to it, although this isn't to say it's generic or derivative. Like most Blizzard games, Diablo 3 has a certain charm about it that sets it out from the crowd. It doesn't take any major risks in the visual department, but it is consistently good looking. The games physics help it to feel like a real world as well, with books flying across rooms and desks shattering on a spell's impact.
Diablo 3 may have suffered a turbulent launch and a large amount of (justified) fan backlash, but many of the problems that it suffers from can easily be overlooked in the face of it's fun gameplay, addictive looting sytem, and frequently charming aesthetic. The always online requirement can be a drag at times, and the auction houses can feel like an intrusion on the game's otherwise impeccable looting system, but it never feels unenjoyable due to these things. If you originally avoided Diablo 3 due to negative rumblings, give it a shot. You might just be surprised.