Tag Archives: Diablo Series

Forecast: Blizzard

For some indescribable reason I decided to further my vacation from my consoles for a while longer and dove headfirst into Diablo 3, mostly due to all of the hype surrounding the new 2.0 patch and the (then) upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion pack. First: good news, everyone! My concern in Lightsabers and Labyrinths was unfounded and Diablo 3 does in fact hold up quite well in the atmosphere department. The setting still feels very much like the grim world of Sanctuary from Diablo and Diablo 2 and even then some and the music is still great and perfectly atmospheric. The graphics, while a tiny bit cartoony compared to the previous games, actually feel ike a perfectly logical evolution of the previous style and overall look great. I had other concerns too such as hearing that they packed in much more backstory and dialog (including from your character!) than in previous games. I was somehow picturing a bunch of cheesy in-game cutscenes which would probably change the feel of the game quite a bit. Instead most of the dialog is delivered using something akin to ye olde “audio logs” and the follower interaction and plot related cutscenes that are there are mostly delivered in fairly unobtrusive ways too.

I feel like Conan most of the time I'm playing my Barbarian. Fuck yes!
“I feel like Conan most of the time I’m playing my Barbarian. Fuck yes!”

Gameplay wise, I rolled a Barbarian and played through on normal difficulty – Barbarians being one of the simplest yet funnest classes from Diablo 2 I figured it would be a good starter character to try out and I was definitely right. If anything I could have stood to bump up the difficulty a bit. I feel like it bears stating that yes, this playthrough took place entirely AFTER the 2.0 patch which included a lot of the refinements of the earlier console ports of Diablo 3 including the apparently greatly improved loot system so I have no first hand account of how things used to be. All I can say is that what is there now works quite. I felt like loot drops were aplenty and upgrades came fairly often, at least in the first few acts of my adventure. Perhaps some of the best praise I can give Diablo 3 is that despite just playing through all of Torchlight and the last act or so of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, I not only managed to avoid getting burnt-out on the simple and repetitive ARPG gameplay but even somehow wound up totally addicted like I was playing Diablo 2 back in 2000 all over again.

I might as well mention the expansion since I bought it and played it inline with the original campaign and it’s still somewhat new on the shelves as of this update: it’s largely more of the same. The new zones, monsters, and events are awesome, the story, journals, items, and powers fit perfectly in with the core game, etc. etc. Really, the bulk of the biggest changes in the game outside of new content were those patched in (to everyone, expansion or not) with patch 2.0. The other big change is “adventure mode” which I’ve only briefly dabbled in so far. Regardless, it certainly seems like a better way to grind out levels and new gear than playing through the campaign for the 30th time. I think my only real surprise with Reaper of Souls is that it’s not just a straight continuation of the plot like they did with Diablo 2’s Lord of Destruction expansion. Instead it’s a new story entirely. That is, while continuing where the plot of the core game left off, it’s not just “and then a bigger, more badass demon showed up and you had to kill him too!” kind of thing. The only problem with this is that the stakes will always have to be extraordinarily high given your character’s story and the fact that you already managed to save the world from total annihilation in utterly epic fashion the first time around. Hey, if they can keep that expansion cycle up more power to them!

Someone call an exterminator?
“Someone call an exterminator?”

Overall I found Diablo 3 a total fucking joy to play through – capturing what I loved about Diablo and Diablo 2, refining some of those systems, and giving a slightly deeper look at the world of Sanctuary and its lore. Sure, the story arch feels a bit of a rehash of Diablo 2 in some ways and the game is still a simple blend of remorseless clicking and inventory management, but Diablo 3 delivers exactly what caused me to be captivated by the genre in the first place and does it with the usual top notch Blizzard polish. I’ll definitely be heading back through the campaign with another class against at some point in the future, probably multiple points even. I’m ecstatic.

Blizzard also updated their… err, updater? Okay, their “launcher” recently to serve as a single launch (gah, I did it again!) point for all of their newer Battle.net games and on that list is there new free-to-play collectible trading card game “Hearthstone”. Hearthstone plays like a simplified version of the old WoW TCG which itself was highly inspired by Magic: The Gathering and its ilk. I’ve heard great things about Hearthstone from friends and on some of the podcasts I subscribe to and, being the sucker that I am for mounts in World of Warcraft, seeing the little advertisement for a special mount for trying Hearthstone out was all the extra push I needed to give it a whirl. A whirl turned into a couple of whirls and then more whirls and now hours and hours of whirls. Man, this game is fun!

Hot troll on troll action.
“Hot troll on troll action.”

I’ve never been a TCG/CCG guy – I tried Magic out when it first hit in the 90s but it just always felt slightly too complicated to me for what it was trying to do. I also had a love/hate relationship with the whole collectibility part of it. Hearthstone, by streamlining the rules so much, really nullifies most of those complaints. The game is really fast and really easy to pick up on. Sure, there is still a “he with the most cash wins” aspect to it but I feel like the streamlining means that even the most rare (err, “epic”) cards aren’t too crazily overpowered. That, and Blizzard has the free-to-play mechanic fairly fine tuned so far so that you can pretty consistently unlock new cards without ever dropping a dime of real money. Add that addictive gameplay to some Warcraft aesthetics and some good old Blizzard polish and man, this game is rad! Given the repetitive nature of something like this I doubt I’ll play it too much more besides trying to master a coupe of more “classes” but so far I’ve really enjoyed my time with it.

Blizzard has definitely still got it.

...and I log in to immediately start grinding fucking Archaeology again. Ugh!
“…and I log in to immediately start grinding fucking archaeology again. Ugh!”

As an aside, yes I know I probably shouldn’t care too much about World of Warcraft mounts given that I don’t actually play World of Warcraft anymore but… *sigh* once an addict, always an addict! I loaded up my level 50 something goblin hunter the other day and played through a whole zone and actually enjoyed myself once again. I suppose I’m getting hyped back up for the new Warlords of Draenor expansion coming later this year. I truthfully barely have enough energy for the game left in me to remain interested enough to buy this expansion. I almost didn’t buy Mists of Pandaria as it was back then. The new character models and the free level up to 90, as shallow as those offerings are, help sway me. The bigger thing is probably just having to personally come to terms with what I get out of the series nowadays – a few months of hardcore addiction before I put it back on the shelf until the next expansion, and honestly that’s totally fine with me.

Lightsabers and Labyrinths

I haven’t really sat down and attempted to complete anything new but I’ve definitely played some odds and ends on PC lately that I feel are worth a quick mention.

First, let me step back in time to something I forgot to mention several months ago which incidentally happens to me a lot with my blog – I randomly decide to pick something up for a few hours and put it back down without it ever earning a mention here. Anyway, I was feeling the MMORPG itch and since I hadn’t touched my old World of Warcraft account in quite a while I decided to make a brief incursion back into the galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic. You might recall when I mentioned the game originally that, despite being kind of a cookie cutter WoW clone in so many ways, I was actually quite fond of it and planned to go back. While I really wasn’t truly ready to return, having long since decided that this would be a game best played in all of its graphical glory after I build a new gaming rig, I still somehow ended up getting sucked back in.

The perks of dogfighting in an asteroid field.
“The perks of dogfighting in an asteroid field.”

I played my my Sith Inquisitor through a whole new planet and got my first taste of the on rails space combat which was surprisingly fun and appropriately Star Warsy. Most of all, the game is still mainly most satisfying because I like my character which is to say I like the way I imagine my character. Make no mistake, this is a twisted amalgamation of the imaginary image of him I have and my head the very wrote and scripted ways he behaves (no matter what choices I make) in his storyline dialogs and cut scenes. This is still very refreshing to me and gives me a much greater sense of attachment to my character than I’d normally have in an MMORPG, or even a lot of single player games.

I got so into it, in fact, that I ended up rolling some new characters in some other Sith Empire classes just to get an idea for the other characters and storylines at my disposal. I played a ruthless female bounty hunter pirate and a goodhearted but dutiful imperial agent somewhat based on the titular character from the Rogue Trooper comics and enjoyed the hell out of both. While I intend to stick it out with my Inquisitor (when I return to the game sometime later) I can definitely see why some people with far, faaarrrr more free time than I opt to level up each of the classes in the game.

An audience with Nem'ro the Hutt.
“An audience with Nem’ro the Hutt.”

Moving on, I got a bit of an itch to play a classic hack and slash action RPG. I’m not quite sure what inspired this but I decided to warm up the original Torchlight. Although I got fairly close to the end (or bottom of the dungeon, as it were) in my first playthrough as a Vanquisher I had never actually beaten the game. You may recall from a 2012 blog post that I was considering replaying it on Xbox Live Arcade and actually played around with an Alchemist at the time to do a little theory crafting, so this time I went through on Hard mode with a brand new Alchemist. It was fairly fun, though I more or less breezed through the first two thirds of the game until I reached somewhat of a difficulty spike in which my character switched from an iron cannon of doom to a wee delicate glass cannon and I suddenly found myself relying quite heavily on my potion stores. I started to feel a bit burnt out by the repetition and lack of good loot upgrade options but forced myself through to the end anyway. While I still standby my words of immense praise for the game I’m definitely curious about whether or not the team at Runic managed to fix these issues with Torchlight 2.

Ember Lightning and Ember Shield all day long!
“Ember Lightning and Ember Shield all day long!”

While the loot system (and the rest of the systems, really) are essentially refined versions of those from Diablo 2, I felt like I so rarely ever got loot that was actually better than what I had that it made the whole looting, identifying, and selling cycle more of a chore than anything else, and it isn’t like this was because I was already wading through the dungeon in some exceptionally awesome, epic gear or anything. One thing that isn’t lifted from Diablo 2 but rather Diablo is the mission and story structure. Torchlight takes place in one town, in one large, somewhat randomly generated dungeon, and has a simple main plot and even simpler side quests. Diablo made up for this by having an amazing and compelling atmosphere and while Torchlight’s isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t really hold a candle to that of the Diablo series.

So, after beating Torchlight (the final boss was bullshit, by the way!) I dusted off my last playthrough of Diablo 2 which I had also started all the way over a year ago in 2012 in anticipation for Diablo 3. I have to say, the Paladin isn’t my favorite class and act 5 (the expansion act) isn’t my favorite act either, or perhaps the dreaded ARPG repetition is simply in full effect by then, who knows. Regardless, I flailed Baal to a fiery grave.

Flinging flaming flails at foe's frozen faces...
“Flinging flaming flails at foe’s frozen faces…”

While playing back through again my above statement about Diablo’s atmosphere was reinforced without question, and then some. I simply love the dark, serious, gritty feel of the world of Diablo and Diablo 2. The music and sound effects are particularly affecting – I ended up turning off the otherwise excellent music in Torchlight and listening to some podcasts and audiobooks while playing it but in Diablo 2? No chance! I’ve got to hear that eerie score and the those freaky ambient noises and sound effects! After this playthrough I’m now foaming at the mouth to finally load up Diablo 3, providing it stays true to those aspects of the series. My only hesitation besides the impending launch of the expansion pack is sending myself into some kind of horrible ARPG overdose but I don’t think I can resist, especially after the major pre-expansion pack patch that just dropped has renewed so much interest in the game again. Ugh!

Hacking, Slashing, and Blasting into Space

While still not gaming particularly heavily I’ve certainly had my nose in all kinds of different things lately.

First of all, I’ve been slowly blasting my way through Fallout 3 on PC. I knew I’d love this game from when it was first revealed, being a fan of both the original Fallout games and the Elder Scrolls series, and I was right. I was toying with the idea of doing some kind of a “Garn” like Let’s Play though probably scaled waaaayyyy back to quick journal entries or something but as my main inspiration for starting up Fallout 3 was to play something similar to Oblivion in between writing my blog updates I decided to forgo doing anything like that and just play the game at my own damn pace.

Charon doing what he does best.
“Charon doing what he does best.”

My character started life as a chaotic good (or some approximation thereof) energy weapons loving, grenade chucking hacker and medic and so far I’m not regretting the choice, despite hating the hacking mini-game and having an ungodly huge stash of Small Guns ammunition stockpiled thanks to some major early game ammo shortage scares. I’m having a ton of fun with it and will probably play it again on 360 at some point in the future. I also can’t wait to dive into New Vegas though I’ll almost definitely play that one on console to fix up my achievement sickness. 😉

All the ghouls love my Protectron's Gaze!
“All the ghouls love my Protectron’s Gaze!”

Hmm, what else? Inspired to do something more creative but not really having the time for an all out coding project I started playing around with the original Neverwinter Nights engine on my old laptop and eventually started to run back through the original campaign. It was hard for me to slog through this thing when it originally came out and I started hitting road bumps real early this time as well. I still think the old module creation toolset is pretty awesome but I more or less lost all inspiration to create something with it once I subjected myself to the campaign proper again.

I’m not sure what inspired it, other than maybe not having that much fun with NWN and having a copy of it lying around, but I then moved on to the original Dungeon Siege. So far it is part intriguing and part horrible. I like being able to lead my party around and have them fight automatically which feels kind of novel for this genre (somehow?) but not having any special abilities or much else to do other than navigating and popping potions me makes it a little boring after a while. Short play sessions have been mandatory so far. I’ll probably finish it one day since I had never played it before and I have definitely been getting some enjoyment out of it.

I was still feeling the hack and slash itch and with all of the Diablo 3 buzz going on in the last few months I figured I might purchase and run through the XBLA version of Torchlight. Theorycrafting with some build ideas I decided to simply try them out in Torchlight on PC since I already own it. Hours later and, yes, I still like the game quite a bit. I’ll probably still break down and buy the XBLA version of it soon. I wonder if Torchlight 2 will end up making it to console? The XBLA port of the first game was apparently ported quite masterfully.

Like an old glove...
“Like an old glove…”

After all of that I finally decided that, yeah, I really need to buy Diablo 3. I really wanted the collector’s edition but missed the original window and couldn’t find it anywhere on launch day so, feeling a bit defeated, I still haven’t go around to buying it. Instead I decided first to play through Diablo 2 once more to refresh myself on the story and whatnot. I honestly wanted to start with the first Diablo but I figured I’d save that for a review/retrospective sometime later.

Now, I’ve played through normal difficulty probably a dozen times with most classes and while never a crazy Diablo 2 addict I’ve certainly gone into higher difficulties and even played hardcore mode some. This time I picked a Paladin which I had played before but never gotten out of normal with. So far, despite having trouble adjusting to the brutal way 800×600 resolution looks on my flat panel, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The creepy, dark tone and sense of isolation and despair the game sets is just perfect and, as influential as Diablo 2 was, still feels quite unique all these years later. Awesome. Now I’m absolutely salivating for Diablo 3.

The look on their faces says it all.
“The look on their faces says it all.”

Finally, after hearing the Rebel FM crew (and others) talk about it on podcasts I grabbed Kerbal Space Program. Hours of fun, this. There’s nothing quite like building your own rocket and then laughing hysterically as you struggle to get the thing off of the ground without some marvelously epic disaster. The real challenge starts after you finally manage to build a decent rocket and then find yourself having to actually learn a thing or two about the real life science of space travel as you attempt to actually orbit the planet, change orbits and orbit the moon, and then finally make a successful moon landing. If you’re real ambitious you can even try getting your little Kerbalnauts back home in one piece.

This is definitely a game I’ll be dusting off every now and then to check out new version enhancements and give a spin. I’m loving where indie game development is right now…