Saturday, 12 January 2013

Ramirez, do everything

Well I saw the doctor, bought snow tires at great expense, and arranged for an academic appeal in between buying books, doing readings, grocery shopping and attending class... Saturday posts should be feasible - extras if there's something extra to post.

I played Diablo 1 extensively, and Diablo 2 quite a bit (though enthusiasts of the game wouldn't agree with that estimation). Diablo 3 was a highly anticipated game for me, and as such, I played the hell out of it the week it came out. I got my mage to level 60, the last few levels feeling very grindy indeed, and lost interest. I was in the first act on Hell difficulty and finding it very, very tough going, and also finding very little enthusiasm to progress further.

A lot of people complained about being obliged to be online constantly to play the game. There are a plethora of remarks online, but if I'm going to post my views on games I do have an obligation to opine as thoughtfully as I can - dated though this point is. All I have to say is that even if you have no interest in multiplayer (and I don't really have any interest in that) it's still odd that anyone made such a big deal over the mandatory server connection to play. The reason is that Steam games all require you to log in to play, and Steam is a massively popular game distribution platform. It is possible to play Steam games offline, but first you have to log in online to enable that function, so if your internet unexpectedly fails, you're out of luck. I just don't think it's a very big deal.

Diablo 3 was competent - extremely competent - in most every detail of its execution. The writing was lacklustre however, and the voice-acting was as well. I'm comparing this title with the most recent other major Blizzard launch that I played, which was SC2. SC2 was my game of the year for 2011. I really loved it, beating every mission on Brutal difficulty and getting every mission achievement. I wasn't great at multiplayer, but I did get ranked gold in 1v1 matches as Protoss. SC2 had excellent writing, direction, voice-acting, and the mission scenario developers deserve an extra accolade for going above and beyond in creating 27 missions, each of which had unique challenges and thrills.

Diablo 3, on the other hand, has only minor elaborations on the basic gameplay devices we're familiar with from Diablo 2. As in Diablo 2 it has several Acts, where you battle progressively more powerful demons until you fight the titular badass. They made Diablo, the character, hermaphroditic ultimately, which I found a rather interesting choice, even if it had no real impact on the story or symbolism.

The character's abilities are generally interesting, and I enjoyed playing my mage overall, probably on the first playthrough most of all. As usual, the amount of time it takes to get decent gear becomes truly inhibitive, and this is what has always driven me away from the series. The fighting also gets incredibly repetitive. This criticism might be unfair, insofar as repetition is not avoidable for this game - it's built right in there, an essential part of the very popular formula. Its popularity is an argument for the value of the formula as well. But especially when the enemies get so difficult that the little roving minibosses can and will kill you upwards of 10 times, and the only battle tactic is to get in as many hits as you can before you must flee or die, repeat ad nauseum... then the game is a chore. For me the game isn't worth 60 dollars.

My mage seems to be voiced by the same guy who voices the protagonist from Gothic 3. This is actually disappointing - not because he's a bad voice actor, but because he is a good one. He was not allowed to emote at all with the mage. This was obviously an artistic choice on the part of the director - something about how the mage is a robot or a vulcan or a pre-recorded telephone directory, a choice probably intended to establish that he is so intelligent and awash in arcane mystery as to have left any human emotion or reaction far beneath him. There is a snippet of the sardonic, witty vocal sniper I know from Gothic 3 in the sewers section, where the mage is the straight man against the prolific voice actor who voices the jeweller, Covetous Shen, but this is simply not enough. This archetype has been around in gaming for a long, long time - someone who is so super-cool that they don't emote like a real person - and it is never effective at contributing to a characters impact. It's a tired cliche, and while I have no problem with stereotypes as such - they can be done well (see the film Stardust) - this is one which didn't deserve to be repeated often enough to become a cliche in the first place.

Discussing games usually makes me want to pick them up again. I've thought about dredging up Warhammer 40k Dark Crusade again, for instance, even though I've played it to death. But with D3 I feel only a vague interest in trying it a bit more, and that's quickly squashed when I remember how dull it is to level characters, and how long it takes. They've expanded the loot slots on characters in D3 so there are many, many more equipment slots now. This might make it more interesting for some people, but for me it's only more uninteresting micro-management - more frequent now are the times when you have to closely examine the latest drop in the newest line of glittery dungeon-crawler apparel to try to live up the fashion standards of the snobby hellspawn around you. And you just never find Gucci gift-wrapped off the side of the road, you know. It's always some cheap Korean knock-off.

I've been playing Dragon Quest IX on my DS lately. I like a lot so far. I'll talk about that next.


No comments:

Post a Comment