So, I played a little bit of the original Diablo this weekend. This is after playing well over 120 hours of Diablo 3. (D3 from this point on.) By any stretch of the imagination, I've gotten my money's worth out of D3. Even if you just counted the time my nephew Blake has played a character on my account, it wouldn't be a wasted purchase.
Also, there is a lot of venom directed at Blizard about how D3 didn't live up to either of the previous games. I can only talk about the original Diablo (D1) because I never played Diablo 2 (D2). As a game, I don't think there can be any doubt. D3 has the better gameplay than D1. The previous games have pixelated graphics and clunky animation. The action is also very slow, almost painfully slow, in the original game.
However, I also think I know what is missing from D3. I have no sense of exploration in D3. The levels seem bland and force me through them in a very linear matter. In D1, the staircase down to the 2nd level of the cathedral puts you very near the stairs that lead down to level 3. You are no where near ready to go to level 3 when you find those stairs, and if you go down them, it's going to take a bit of luck to make it back up them. I like that sort of game design better than always fighting monsters that are "just right" for your level of experience. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you can tackle an area that quickly forced you to flee or reload a saved game the first time you set foot within it.
Even in the camps, I don't feel like there is any sense of exploring the town. There is only one path that gets you from one end of town to the other, and if you follow it, you'll see everything and everybody there is to see in town. I decided to wander, and there was a kid selling black market items, but he charged you just to take a look. I didn't have much cash, so I decided not to even see what he had to offer. I also had found some magic staves that took up more than half my inventory space. I wanted to keep the staff of healing, but sell the other two. However, the blacksmith wouldn't buy them. I had to wander to the outskirts of town, where I found the witch Adria (Who also plays a large role in D3, to say anything else would provide spoilers.) I was able to sell the staves, and upgrade my weapons and armor a bit. In D3, the merchants will buy just about anything I might care to sell, but they don't pay enough money to make that even remotely worthwhile. If it weren't for the crafting system in D3, it would be more effecient to just toss items you weren't going to use on the ground than to go through the trouble of taking them back to town.
Another game design element that I didn't really care for now that I've compared old and new side by side was all the mini-quests that string together to make sure you always know you're making progress along the main story line. In D1, I need to kill the butcher, and I know he's somewhere inside the cathedral, but you're not really sure how far down into the depths of the old cathedral you'll find him. However, the internet is far more prevalent than it was when D1 was release, and at the slightest bit of confusion, players would have been ducking out of D3 to check an online player's guide.
I feel like I'm rambling on a bit, so I guess I need to wrap this blog post up. I think what I'll finish up with is my impression that while the gameplay of D3 is far superior to that of D1, that there were some real misses in terms of game design around linearity and difficulty. However, what was really lost between D1 and D3 is the atmosphere of the game. Playing old D1 again, I really felt like I was exploring a town that had come under assault and a creepy old church. In D3 the atmosphere of the old cathedral and Leoric's manner are good. However, in the rest of the game, the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired and the different areas feel like a very generic implementation of level design. Even though the gameplay is light years improved in D3 comparred to D1, I can't ever shake the feeling that I'm playing a game in D3 like I could in D1. The antiquated graphics and speed of D1 would eventually remind me that I was playing a game, but I always know I'm playing a game in D3. I fun game to be sure. One I'm going to play after I post this blog entry, but not a game that immerses me in the game world.
Magic Candle III: Already in Snuff
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