Into the Mouth of Hell All By Myself

(Editor’s Note: Ever been so sure of something only to be proven completely wrong? Enjoy watching me eat a nice helping of crow.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of World of Warcraft. I have not enjoyed this latest expansion as much as I thought and I might even be in the twilight of my WoW playing days. I start with this statement to immediately clear up any misconception right away. I like Wow, which immediately brands me as a Blizzard fanboy. As with most generalizations, this one is simply not true. I enjoy Heroes of the storm and occasionally tolerate Hearthstone when I can, but I have never even played any Starcraft game and only played Diablo III completely by chance.

I knew of the Diablo games, but only came upon Diablo III as a result of a WoW promotion. Unlike many players in the game, I never even played Diablo II. I know that is considered a sin because DII is widely thought to be one of the best games made and possibly Blizzard’s greatest game. I just wasn’t much of a PC gamer at the time. By the time I started gaming on my computer, WoW became my loot filled addiction. As tends to happen, that addiction became a potential gateway into others.

Blizzard ran a promotion that got you access to Diablo III if you signed up for their WoW annual pass testing. I had nothing to lose and another game to gain, so I joined the test. True to their word, I received a code for Diablo II and downloaded it using their Battle.Net app. Having never played DII might have worked to my advantage. All I kept hearing from other players was how much DIII sucked mainly because it wasn’t DII. I came into the game without that baggage and could decide for myself. Unfortunately, whether or not you played the previous game, DIII was not that great of a game. I played it for a couple of weeks or maybe a month, off and on, and then stopped in favor of other games. It wasn’t terrible. It just was not very fun. Blizzard pats themselves on the back for making fun games. They really missed on this one.

More recently, Scott Johnson from The Instance podcast mentioned how much he liked the console version of the game as a couch coop game. He is an admitted Blizzard fan boy, so I considered the source. Nevertheless, always on the lookout for new games for the web page and podcast, I ordered the game from Gamefly. When Chris and I got too busy over the holidays to play or record, the game sat at the bottom of my gaming bag. We started recording again and I suggested DIII during our most recent game night as a topic for the digital playground.

Part of the problem with the game is that it starts off slow. Really slow. I know that games are supposed to start off with training wheels to give you time to find your footing (sorry for the mixed metaphor), but DIII’s beginning is annoyingly slow. There is entirely too much talking and not nearly enough action. I know that Blizzard prides itself on story (mostly ripped off from other sources) and those stories are sometimes actually very good, but there has to be a balance. Diablo III, in my opinion, goes too far in the direction of story at first. That certainly led to my less than favorable first impression of the game. It nearly made me just say forget it and go back to the drawing board for the podcast.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long for the action to increase. We were soon up to our eyeballs in zombies, demons, skeletons, and other supernatural foes. Once that happened, the game was really fun. We played through until our tired brains wouldn’t allow us to focus well enough to progress anymore. After we played, Chris wrote in an article that he enjoyed himself and I finally did, too. For me, Diablo III is much better as a multiplayer game. Heck, it might even only be fun on consoles as a couch coop like Scott Johnson mentioned. I do know that i wasn’t fun to play by myself. But, I’m going to try it again. Hey, you can’t say that I didn’t give it a chance.

Maybe I’m stubborn. Maybe I’m just trying to figure it out. Like most gamers, when there’s a game that I don’t like but probably should, I want to know why. For what it is, DIII is a good game. Other gamers who play it really like it. I play the game by myself and I don’t like it and I’m not sure why.

Maybe it just isn’t my style of game. That’s often where you start when trying to assess a game. I always thought that I didn’t like MOBAs until I started playing Heroes of the Storm. Turns out that I jus tdidn’t like playing with the jerks who normally play those games. Heroes of the Storm is less competitive (offers less competitive game modes, at least) so you can avoid much of the toxicity of the MOBA community. That’s not the case with DIII, either. I have played other ARPGs extensively and they are fun. Another game that had a dubious launch was Marvel Heroes. People hated that game. Initially, so did I. The roster of heroes (and especially free starter heroes) was horribly small. The story was strong, but the gameplay was repetitive with little payoff. However, the the developers took feedback seriously, tuned the game, released more heroes, and the game became the most improved MMO of last year. The gameplay is still repetitive, but now there are more ways to play the game to keep it fresh. I play Marvel Heroes daily and have leveled two characters to max level with a third almost there. Even though the game is free to play, I even bough a character to support the developers and encourage them to keep improving the game.

The other game that I really like from this genre is Torchlight II. Around the time that I abandoned DIII for the first time, I learned of the Torchlight series. Several people called it “the game that DIII should have been.” It wasn’t F2P, but it was only 20 dollars on Steam. Even though I wondered how such a cheap game could compete with one that cost 60 dollars, I bought it. That was when I learned that my life long pursuit of being a cheap gamer would finally pay off in a big way.

(Before I proceed, let me explain. Skip ahead if you want. It won’t hurt my feelings. Once upon a time, I paid full price for a Playstation. Not a Playstation 2 or 3, but an original Playstation. That tells you how long ago this happened. As these stories generally go, a couple of months (or weeks, I remember it as weeks) later the price dropped. I vowed after that to never pay full price for a game again. Other than a couple of games (ironically, mostly when I was unemployed), I have stuck to that vow. One of the side effects of this is that I rarely get to play a game when it is new. Usually that isn’t a problem because I’m not much of an online gamer. Lately, it has been even less of a problem because of the proliferation of F2P.)

Thankfully, I was wrong. Torchlight II is amazingly full featured for such an inexpensive game. Everyone who suggested it as a substitute was right. It played nearly identical to Diablo III at one-third the price. Furthermore, I played the game both by myself and with my friend Kevin. I had fun playing both modes, but I actually played the hell out of the game by myself. Like Marvel Heroes, I played all the way to the end. i haven’t gotten a character to max level yet. I have done some end game and started another to play through again. What about those games makes them more fun than DIII? Let’s explore.

Diablo is much darker than the other two games. I don’t mean the story. While that might be true, the colors of DIII are very dingy. It reminds me of Batman from The Lego Movie if he added brown to his palette. Kevin and I both talked about this in Episode 2 of the podcast that got lost in the murky nether realm of dead hard drives. Even with a less than happy tale, Torchlight II still manages to use many shades of all the colors of the spectrum. Marvel Heroes, of course, inhabits the colorful comic book world. Granted, color scheme can’t be the only reason, but it can make for a dull play experience.

There is also the slow story ramp of Diablo. I don’t think that I can overstate that. Not knowing much about the story of Diablo might have hurt me in this regard, too, because I didn’t care too much about the characters or what was happening to them. The thing that got me through the Marvel Heroes introduction was my connection to the characters and stories. Like Diablo, I knew nothing about the Torchlight story, but the Outlander class kept me interested in the game until I got interested in the story. Perhaps that is my problem with Diablo III.

Let’s try something else. I’ve got the new video capture card for the computer. Maybe I can test it out with Diablo and try again. Up until this point, I’ve picked a Witch Doctor. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe I just don’t like class of Witch Doctor. I thought that it might be cool with the description and the spells available, but let’s try something else. I really liked Outlander in Torchlight II. Is there anything like that in Diablo? Turns out that the Demon Hunter looks similar to the Outlander. I’ll pick that. Also, as I was setting up the video capture card, the introduction of the story played through. I had skipped through it every other time playing the game.

Both the introduction and the new selection of class seems to have worked. It changed my mind about the game. I love hearing the *bang, bang* of the Demon Hunter’s gun as I blow stuff up. Not literally, yet. I don’t know if enemies explode when you kill them like they sometimes do in Torchlight II. If not, add that to the list of things that make TII better. In either case, I was wrong about Diablo III. The game is a fun game as long as you find the right class to play. My final piece of advice. Witch Doctor might not be the right class. Get out there and kick some demon butt.

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