Evil is back…

[intro]Yes and so it was silent for a bit until.. evil got back![/intro]

On monday evening we had to test Guild Wars 2 under a server stress test. The same evening at 00:01, so actually at Tuesday early morning, Blizzard released Diablo III in their Diablo series, 12 years after Diablo II. Well glad we are back!

On launch, no one could login until much later (an hour or so). Problems with overcapacity on the authentication servers, a logical thing to happen when thousands of players all want to get in at the same time. Later in the day things got better, but the servers are still peaking capacity at times, even now a day later. This will improve over time by both that less people will login on the same time and that Blizzard continuously works on server capacity by placing more servers. The strange thing is, this is a solo game, so why do we have to login???

Diablo III feels more user friendly than the previous games. Menus are clear and buttons have good descriptions. Tooltips are everywhere explaining you about each functionality in the game, tutorials tell you what to do when something new happens (level up for example) and generally has the graphical user interface design been simplified. This also means that the game sometimes can feel like it’s simpler, but after a while things get harder in the game. Ofcourse I cannot tell you too much yet, as I didn’t play the whole game out yet. The game has beautiful graphics, which can be a little harsh resources on low-end machines.

Diablo III comes with five different classes (the barbarian, the wizard, witch doctor, demon hunter and monk), loads of different monsters to slay and items to find. The game also sees the return of the gems. As I said before, the game feels greatly simplified: runes no longer need to be crafted through the cube, but are activating by level automatically and are pre defined per class, they can though be chosen to be applied to a skill or not. Skills are also simply unlocked by level, but you choose yourself which one you use for your hotbars and can also eventually define yourself on mousebuttons and keyboard keys.

At a later point in the first act you will meet an Artisan that can help you craft weapons and armour, which is a nice addition to the game. Better items can be acquired by rare ingredients and a higher Artisan level (the NPC).

Skills menu and character and inventory have also been simplified.. no longer do you need to choose your stats well or find the right order in your skill tree. This is perhaps nice for casual players, but not so for the hardcore gamers that want to fully customize their characters.

With the addition of achievements and certain combat combo’s the combat seems definitely more fun. Kill for example 10 skeletons at once or within a few seconds and you will receive some bonus XP for a massacre. That is.. as long as they work. Currently, right after release, some of the achievements (that unlock banners and just give you achievement points) are not triggering correctly or simply not showing to be unlocked. This is something Blizzard is working on and they will probably hotfix the game soon.

Sofar I haven’t seen mana potions, rejuvenation potions (perhaps these exist still though), nor do we have a cube, nor do we have stamina, but yes that were all Diablo II trademarks and perhaps I should just move on and get used to the new Diablo. PvP is no longer part of the game you are playing but has gotten a special PvP Arena category, I haven’t seen this yet, but I am neither really interested in it.

The auction house is a different approach to the trading that we had in Diablo II, perhaps also much more secure this way (remember the dupe hacks?), they most definitely took this idea from their MMO World of Warcraft. Items can be bought or bid on with ingame gold, in a week or two the real money auction house will also unlock, meaning we can sell and buy items(?) and perhaps even gold.. for real dollars/euros/kroners… or perhaps its going to be the channel for vendoring vanity items to us players from Blizzard out.

The social chat system is now integrated with the new Battle.net meaning battle tags, your friends list you already had from previous Blizzard games and so on.

As for multiplayer.. I cannot say I am very happy with it. As soon as I share a game with one of my friends, suddenly all my friends (or perhaps all people on Diablo III) can see my game(!) as if it was suddenly a public game. This means that suddenly 3 others have joined your game that you weren’t interesting to be playing with and that they could also ruin your quest progress.. they unlock suddenly quests that you weren’t on yet and so on.. this by the way was also a problem in Diablo II but there you had at least the option to put a name and password on your game. Perhaps its a bug, but it is highly annoying for now. Some players have reported to play only single player for now because of this ‘problem’.

If you are playing alone or with two, you get every now and then NPC’s that will follow you and join you during their quest. This is a very nice addition for the harder type of quests when you aren’t playing with friends. When you do play with others these NPC’s stay behind in town.

Sofar the game seems okay to me. Perhaps we can discuss whether the storyline is any good, but I will let you find out about that yourself!

Keep on playing and never give up!

The Game Mistress

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