Thursday, September 29, 2011

Diablo III - A more immersive Diablo

Diablo III - A more immersive Diablo

I still remember back in 2001. I was an addict. Much of my afternoon was filled by playing (back then) innovative Diablo II. As I was (am), also an avid (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons player, I was naturally attracted by the game of the devil. Like Dungeons & Dragons, Diablo II gave me days and days of monster slaying, treasure hunts and great adventures. I could see places and fantastic cities and be the hero of the day. But after the initial euphoria, I missed something that Dungeons & Dragons gave me, but I did not have in Diablo II: character role-playing. After all, the game was sold as an RPG-Role Playing Game. But where was the role-playing in Diablo II? Sure, the game had an almost unparalleled replayability by the time, but I did not feel like role-playing my character. The conversations were always the same. Epic, but shallow. Basically, people giving you missions using flowery words. But I could not choose to refuse the mission, or bargain my reward. My paladin would always be a champion, and always have the same lines in all the times I play with a paladin. Diablo II was perhaps the best game of that season, but lacked something to make it perfect: world immersion. My character in Diablo was just an avatar through which I clicked to kill. If I truly wanted to feel like my character, I would have to resort to good old paper, pen, dice and imagination of Dungeons & Dragons. The irony of all this is that the creators of Diablo said they were inspired by afternoons full of Dungeons & Dragons and snacks.

Baldur's Gate

After many, many games of Diablo II at the end of that year I discovered a certain game that was released about the same time as Diablo II, but because of the hype built around the latter, I'd overlooked: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. At first I was little surprised by the 2D graphics and isometric view, and a lot of dolls that seemed to be involved in some kind of chat on the screen. But, boy, this game marked my life. That was the game that came closest to a tabletop RPG experience. You choose what your character will say or do (of course, within a limited number of choices), according to her personality. You choose to accept or not (most of) their missions. In fact, you might as well kill the good guys instead of helping them, if you choose to be evil. Imagine being able to kill Deckard Cain because you think that you just had enough of the old geezer. The experience of playing Baldur's Gate was quite different if you played with a paladin and later with an evil necromancer. And not only the equipment and expertise available, but the story itself. Hell, you could even have a romance, if you wanted!

It made me think that the perfect game to ever be created one day would be a blend of the randomization and factor "cool" of Diablo with Baldur's Gate deep immersion. Dreams...

Diablo III

Ten years later (wow! it's been so long? Am I getting old or is it just that Blizzard took a "little while" to make this game?), We are about to get Diablo III. The beta testing is already going on, but the debut of the game was postponed (again) for early 2012.

Is it worth the wait? Well, from what I've seen, for those who had nothing to complain about Diablo II and want more of it, yes. There will be endless hordes of monsters to be killed with endless hours of clicks, and treasures lying on the ground, and much sound and fury.

But what about us, the bored roleplayers who expect a greater world immersion? After all, we believe that if we are supposed to be escapists, make it extreme then! We truly want to feel like our heroes, and not only be driven by a mechanical series of dialogues and a predetermined path, only pixels on the screen. We want to feel that the world of Sanctuary (the world of Diablo) breathes and bleeds.

Fortunately, Diablo seems to have evolved in that direction. Here's how the game became more immersive compared to the previous edition. This greater immersion was implemented through both mechanical and aesthetic changes.


No, it's not what you're thinking, you naughty devil. So far at least, Diablo is still safe for children (the violence, on the other hand, oh, that remains the same ...).

We're talking about freedom of choice. Now you can choose the gender of your character. A change merely aesthetic, but certainly allow for greater identification with the character. Besides the freedom of choice itself. And between us, I'd date that barbarian lass any day ... wouldn't you?

Compared to Baldur's Gate: In BG you could choose the gender of the PC (Player Character) as well. This
mainly influenced romances.

Mercs with a "soul"

In Diablo II, the mercenary, that helper you can hire was a mere computer-driven puppet that went to and fro, and, frankly, was more annoying than useful. There was not much interaction with them. The most they did was thank you for an equipment you handed them. But they themselves were little more than walking equipment. They had the same appearance and their name was randomized the same way monsters dropped loot.

In Diablo III, they have not only a name, and not just a face, but also heart and soul. There will be three: the Scoundrel Lyndon, the Enchantress Eirene and the Templar Kormac. They have a history that will be developed along your path together. You can not control them directly. Just as in the previous version, they act independently, following you wherever you go.

Compared to Baldur's Gate: In BG you could take up to five other characters with you. Each had their own personality (very complex, by the way) and agenda, and interacted with each other. In fact, some characters could bicker among themselves and might even kill each other if things got ugly. You control all their actions, but not their reactions and desires.

Recruitable Baldur's Gate Characters: all too human...

To each, it's own

In Diablo II, your character had two resources: health and mana. The latter was used to recharge spells, from the sorceress' fire spells to the barbarian special attacks. Mana was recovered with time or through potions. This for all characters. Now, each character has its own resources to fuel their powers, according to their class.

The Wizard uses arcane power for her attacks.

The Demon Hunter uses hatred for her attacks and discipline for defense.

The Barbarian uses fury, which is replaced as you fight, but this ebbs away with time. That is, the barbarian should not stay too long without a fight.

The Monk uses the spirit feature, almost exclusively for defense, but unlike the Barbarian, this feature is not lost with time, and is also gained through attacks.

The only who got to keep the traditional mana was the Witch Doctor, whose mana is restored slowly over time, just like it was in the good ol' times.

These features are much more aligned with each character, providing a very different experience for each class. It also encourages a "proto-role-playing" of the character. For example, whoever picks a barbarian is encouraged to beat as one.

Compared to Baldur's Gate: Along with Diablo, BG is one of the games with the highest replay value around. So much so that you can find people playing Diablo II and the old BG even today. This is mainly due to the gaming experience to be different according to the chosen character class.

In conclusion: I always thought the perfect game was a blend of Diablo and Baldur's Gate. Baldur's Gate "evolved" into Dragon Age (yes, for those unaware, the same people are involved in both games), but Dragon Age disappoints in this regard, since Bioware has seen fit to make the game more "friendly" to consoles, and thus , "dumbing" down the game. Diablo III seems to be a little closer to the dream of the perfect game. Maybe in ten years?