Home > Uncategorized > McDamnation, or A Convenient Journey To Hellville

McDamnation, or A Convenient Journey To Hellville

April 22, 2012

Like many others, I played a little Diablo 3 Beta this weekend.

By played, I mean I did a lot of clicking and became rewarded with frequent merry chimes and little visuals to trace with my mouse cursor. Farmville, I thought. Pure bloody Farmville. However, as I got more into it, it grew on me. It evoked the warm memory of being a carefree toddler in swaddling clothes, receiving easy stimuli for batting at a colourful toy suspended above my crib, while Mother was in the lavatory regurgitating a corpse.

I played through a couple of times with a monk. Early on, I equipped two rings with +3 health after each kill. I wasn’t even being all that clever – I sought to fill empty equipment slots (the game made sure I didn’t forget to, with insistent pop-ups) and they were simply the more reasonable of two choices on the Fence vendor. Thereafter, my hps scaled with the sizes of the monster groups, and their dps never really caught up. The orbs they dropped were never necessary for healing. Nor were the consumable potions. Nor was my self-healing move.

In the final encounter, Leoric was menacingly alone for about ten seconds and his mace actually made a small dent in my health pool. Ah, interesting, I thought. Will I actually have to play a bit of a hit and run game with the mad king, dodging his slow mace swings and building focus to heal myself with Breath of Heaven? Nah. Leoric made a trollface and summoned some skellies, and my life-on-kill kicked in. They dropped some superfluous health orbs, too.

I am trying not to be too scornful of the difficulty. This is the first 10 or so levels of Normal. Presumably, it will become less monotonous and safe, and combat positioning will actually be important – since the game has few twitch requirements and no strategic depth, it is the only thing that can be. I do expect, given the centrality of spawn-adds-for-health-orbs mechanic, that various forms of health return on kill will continue to punch above their item budget.

In general, the game is quite careful to make sure the click-stimulus loop isn’t unnecessarily impeded by much else. At the end of a dungeon, one is offered a convenient magic stone to return to the entrance. I envision that design meeting: this isn’t 2000, we can’t have the player run back through so many yards of empty space! It was probably the same chap who came up with Concentrated Coolness, one of Blizzard’s design mantras and a driving principle of D3. If I ever meet him, I will steal his library card and mail it to The Mittani.

The rune system, once a flagship of the game’s depth, has long been gutted, and there is little choice as one ascends the levels: each rune appears hands down superior to its antecedent. The skills themselves offer a little more variety. For example, I found the monk’s bell-dropping move (Wave of Light) charming in its Eastern European ecclesiastic evocations but ultimately too costly and inefficient for most monster groups. I reverted back to Lashing Tail Kick for most purposes. Generally, though, nothing like D2’s wild and crazy and often gloriously wrong talent builds will be possible here.

Progress through the environs of New Tristram is very linear. There was gating in the previous games, but it is taken to a new level here, with strategically placed barricades making certain that you follow the story exactly, instead of rudely rushing out into the wild and grinding mobs.

All items take up one or two inventory slots. Gone is the diabolical puzzle game of D2 with its quiet snigger at the player’s greed.

Even the typeface oozes accessibility. A fitting metaphor for the Diablo spirit as a whole, the Diablo font is still around, in those places where it won’t do too much harm to the Hellville experience. Where it counts, however, Helvetica carries the day, lest too much strain be placed on our delicate peepers. Helvetica explodes to gigantic size when it is used to indicate the ‘value that matters’ in item tooltips. This big number is DPS, Aunt Mabel, replace the weapon when it shows something higher, okay?

The Blizzard machine certainly delivered a product to specifications. Let us hope it never turns to the actual production of fruit juice.

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  1. April 23, 2012 at 18:10
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