By Michael Quartly-Kelly
I have fond memories of playing Diablo on the PC back in the mid '90s.
Huddled over in the dark of my man-cave, the glow of my then whopping 17 inch SVGA screen serving as the only light in the universe, as I hacked and slashed my way through level upon level of ghastly procedurally generated horrors.
Heavy violence and blood curdling sound design made for a visceral gameplay experience and Diablo, along with Warcraft, helped put Blizzard on the map.
It's one of those games that hit all the right cues for me at the time and will live on forever for having supplied me with hundreds of hours of fun.
Almost 20 years later Diablo III has hit the Playstation 3. After an eventful launch on the PC last year, punctuated by always-online DRM and real-money auction house issues, it's fantastic to not have these not plaguing the console version. Moreover, it is a game that seems totally at home on the PS3 controller, with all the action buttons covering the complicated range of abilities developed as your character evolves.
You start the game by selecting one of five character classes, ranging from the physically dominating Barbarian to the spell flinging Wizard. I opted for the middle ground in the Demon Hunter, a hybrid of bombs, traps and ranged attacks.
Once you have chosen your character path, you are thrown into the story with a modicum of background to serve as your supposed motivation. Truth be told, your real motivation is the same as it is in almost any RPG - to cut a swath of destruction across the land in search of treasure and experience. There is a lofty story of course, involving impending doom and the imminent triumph of evil, and as flimsy as it seems at first, it actually is pretty exciting in the latter stages when it's all coming to a head.
Gameplay consists of navigating through a third-person perspective and combating an array of enemies that set upon you. You are equipped with only one primary attack method to start with, but quickly gain extra defensive and offensive abilities as you level up your character.
My Demon Hunter was soon laying down enemy slowing caltrops and throwing explosive grenades, supplementing her foe seeking hail of arrows. The logistics of combat are fairly basic, employing a point-and-mash-your-attack-button system, with secondary attacks only coming into play when your screen fills with too many enemies or with one great big opponent who needs to be kept at bay.
You can also employ a secondary character as a follower, who will aid you with whatever particular skills they have and equipment you have given them. The in-game dialogue with these followers deserves a mention, as it is rich in interesting background info and often leads to very funny exchanges with the main character or with other entities in the game.
A big part of this and every Diablo game is the treasure system, particularly the range of special items dropped by enemies or found in chests. These are random for the most part and come in a variety of levels, from normal to magical, rare and unique.
They can be weapons or pieces of armour and can convey massive bonuses to your combat abilities or allow you to move faster or collect further treasure more effectively. There's a handy feature in your inventory that gives you an overview of your character statistics, including your damage per second rating.
This is something I thought I would find annoying, having your abilities and equipment reduced to math equations, but it actually makes your decisions regarding the plethora of items collected much easier later in the game.
The graphics are superb and as bloody as I remembered from the first Diablo. The soundscape is not quite as cutting edge, but is perfectly serviceable.
The various character classes and follower combinations offer a diverse gameplay experience, and along with procedural generation of levels allows enough randomness for multiple playthroughs.
All in all, Diablo III is a fun romp and a superb entry in a great series.
:: Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
:: Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
:: Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
:: Rating: R13