“Diablo III” has the unique distinction of being a great role-playing game with excellent gameplay and action while at the same time causing such angst and anguish among gamers when technical problems arise.
This diametric split among fans changes from moment to moment, and reflects the passion and desire for a game that took nearly 12 years to make it into their hands. It is a love/hate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment for creating a fantastic franchise and causing so many angry words on chat boards and Twitter when game servers go down.
The game takes us back to Sanctuary and everyone’s favorite scholar, Deckard Cain. Cain claims the End Times are coming with the rise of the Evil. You are tasked with searching out and destroying demon lords bent on taking over the world and literally bringing hell to Sanctuary.
Players can select one of five classes – demon hunter, wizard, witch doctor, monk or barbarian. Each has specialties and advantages that the other classes do not. Characters level up as they gain experience, making new abilities available and new powers active. To get the most out of the experience, pick a class fitting your play style – barbarian or monk for up close and personal; demon hunter and wizard for distance mayhem; witch doctor for a nice mix of both.
Nearly every action is done with the “Diablo” tried and true method of point and click. Make sure you have a sturdy mouse because the left button and your index finger are going to get a workout.
Want to attack? Point and click (repeatedly). Want to talk with someone? Point and click. Want to walk along a path? Point and click, although holding down the button and dragging it along your chosen route works as well. Want to trade with a merchant or rearrange abilities, inventory or spells? You get the idea.
Special abilities and health potions are tied to buttons on your keyboard. Depending on your class, those special abilities will cost you mana, hatred or some other measure of power, so they aren’t inexhaustible. After a brief pause, those power reserves will refill fairly quickly.
The enemies are varied and numerous. There are also leveled enemies, meaning some are more powerful with special abilities than others. This creates a bit of strategy when wading into battle – go for the obvious leaders while the minions are swarming around you or take out the little guys before powering up for the big baddie?
The demon lords are your reward for reaching the end of each act and present their own challenges. While they can take some punishment and dish it out pretty good, smart players will find the cracks in their armor to take them down.
Speaking of armor, you will find a lot of that after a battle. You’ll also find a lot of gold, weapons and health globes. If I have a complaint about the game mechanics, it is there is too much loot. You will make multiple trips back to town (thank goodness for the portal spell) just to clear out your inventory.
It gets a little monotonous. I guess you can choose not to pick up the loot, but you’ll need that gold if you want to train with the blacksmith or jeweler. The former allows you to craft your own weapons and armor, while the latter help create gems that can enhance the abilities of your clothing and implement of destruction.
There is a new auction house system allowing for the buying and selling of your loot using in-game gold. Blizzard has also been working on a real-world money auction house where players would buy and sell in-game items for real cash. That system was repeatedly delayed while they worked on implementation, but is currently up and running.
There are four different difficulty settings to the action, from normal to Inferno. The challenges progressively increase as the difficulty is raised, but the rewards in armor, weapons and more also increase appropriately. Tactics that work on the normal level will likely get you killed in the Hell level. When you complete the game, it allows you to keep your character and restart at a higher difficulty level. So all your hard work and loot gets carried over into your next attempt.
Players can also create Hardcore characters, which progress as regular characters through skills and levels with one important difference – death of the character is final. Once you die, your character stays dead. It won’t be revived at the last checkpoint and Blizzard will not recreate your character under any circumstances.
This creates some pretty intense and crazy moments in gameplay. You always are keeping an eye on your health globe and trying new tactics to take down bigger enemies.
During my regular run, my character would just plow through rooms, knowing that if I went down, I would be reborn to try again. During the hardcore run, there was much more caution and strategic retreating. Getting surrounded was not an option.
Along your journey, you can meet and recruit companions to help you along the way. Three different types – a templar (like the barbarian class), a scoundrel (like the demon hunter class), and a sorceress (like the wizard class) – provide support during attacks, offer passive benefits during battles, and act as comic relief with some of their dialog. The artificial intelligence for these characters is good and they act appropriately with no direction (even if their dialog gets a little repetitive).
If AI helpers aren’t your style, three friends can join in your adventures through online play. Make sure the party is close to the same character levels. A wide disparity in power can make some people feel left out or overbearing during combat – neither is very much fun for anyone.
The graphics, both indoors and outdoors, are well done. They are bright, vibrant and alive when they need to be as well as dark, foreboding and gloomy when it is called upon. The physics engine really shines through during combat as body parts go flying during strong hits, and walls and masonry collapse realistically. It raised the level of immersion for the player and evokes an appreciation to the sense of detail. Of course, after 12 years of waiting…
However, for all its grand flourishes and spectacular battles, none of it matters if you can’t play the game.
Blizzard was plagued with server issues from the very start. “Error 37” quickly became the buzzword among players, indicating problems logging in. While the company worked quickly to resolve the issues, the Internet lit up with players proclaiming their hatred of Blizzard and frustration with the always-logged-in requirements.
Maintenance time and patch updates have also recreated harsh feelings among “Diablo III” players. Forum boards reached their limits after players voiced their displeasure.
From my own experience, I only received the Error 37 once and it was resolved quickly. I’ve only been shut out due to scheduled maintenance one time, and I did something else while it was going on. While I understand people who want to play when they want to play, the venom and anger at being temporarily inconvenienced seems excessive.
And no, I do not have a direct line to the Blizzard servers, as was jokingly suggested. I treat the idea of downtime like going to an amusement park and finding my favorite ride has a line two hours long. Either I can stand in that line and complain for the next two hours or I can find something else to do until the wait is over.
The amount of excitement and adventure to be found in “Diablo III” is worth the wait – two hours or 12 years. The action is crisp and clean. The quests are enjoyable without feeling repetitive. It is one of those games where you can easily lose track of time as you get lost in the never-ending battle against evil.
It took me almost 21 ½ hours to get through the normal level, raising my demon hunter to level 31 in the process. The Hardcore mode option is one that should be experienced to really get the flavor of the action as it unfolds. But if final death isn’t your idea of fun, hit the next difficulty level and challenge yourself with stronger monsters and greater rewards.
That is the true testament of “Diablo III.” Play it the way you want to by creating the character with the abilities and skills that work for you, by picking a difficulty mode you want to enjoy (regular or Hardcore), and by playing with friends or AI characters. It is flexible enough to find a way to play your game.
Treat the server downtime as an opportunity to do something else; because once you get in, you’ll never want to leave Sanctuary.
“Diablo III” is available now for Windows PC and Mac OS X systems. It is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, and violence. This review was done using a provided digital copy for the Windows PC system.
If you have never gotten involved in the “World of Warcraft” craze, Blizzard just made it easier for you to come to Azeroth.
The trial program, which was previously limited to 10- or 14-day time restrictions, is now open for players to explore as long as they like until they reach the character level of 20. Players who had previously used the time limit trials will be able to jump back in where they left off.
The new program, called “World of Warcraft Starter Edition,” requires a Battle.net account and an internet connection.
In addition, players will be able to get the original “World of Warcraft” and the game’s first expansion set, “The Burning Crusade,” as part of a new digital Battle Chest available in the online Blizzard store. Anyone who already owes the original game will automatically be able to access all of the content and features from “The Burning Crusade” for free.
If you have been keeping up with your character and are working your way through “Cataclysm,” fear not. Blizzard has not forgotten about you.
The second content update, “Rage of the Firelands,” is now live. With a new raid, a legendary DPS staff quest line, the most diverse daily questing experience to date, PvP Season 10, user-interface enhancements such as the Dungeon Journal, and much more, “Rage of the Firelands” brings a little something for everyone.
Blizzard Entertainment announced that “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm”, the highly anticipated third expansion for the world’s most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, will be released starting on December 7.
There had been rumors that testing and development might push back “Cataclysm” until sometime in 2011, but Blizzard puts those rumors to rest and promises a pre-holiday release.
The expansion will be available for Windows PCs and Macs on a DVD and will also be offered as a digital download from the Blizzard Store. A special Collector’s Edition packed with bonus items will be available exclusively in retail stores.
“Cataclysm includes the best content we’ve ever created for World of Warcraft,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “It’s not just an expansion, but a re-creation of much of the original Azeroth, complete with epic new high-level adventures for current players and a redesigned leveling experience for those just starting out,”
The first two World of Warcraft expansions, “The Burning Crusade” and “Wrath of the Lich King”, each shattered PC game sales records upon their release.
In Cataclysm, the face of Azeroth will be forever altered by the return of the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing. Players will explore once-familiar areas of the world that have now been reshaped by the devastation and filled with new adventures.
In an effort to survive the planet-shattering cataclysm, two new playable races — worgen and goblins — will join the struggle between the Alliance and the Horde. As players journey to the new level cap of 85, they’ll discover newly revealed locations, acquire new levels of power, and come face to face with Deathwing in a battle to determine the fate of the world.
Because a new “World of Warcraft” game alone isn’t enough, Blizzard Entertainment announced plans for a Collector’s Edition for their third expansion, “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.”
“World of Warcraft” is the most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) in the world with over 11 million subscriptions to play WoW. The first two “World of Warcraft” expansions, “The Burning Crusade” and “Wrath of the Lich King”, each shattered PC game sales records when they were released.
This new expansion will feature two new playable races – worgen and goblins – as well as a new level cap of 85. Players will find that Azeroth has changed and been reshaped by the Cataclysm, offering new adventures and challenges leading up to a battle with the Dragon Aspect Deathwing.
The special Collector’s Edition package, which will only be available at retail stores, will include the following exclusive bonus items in addition to the game disc:
- Art of the Cataclysm art book, featuring 176 pages of never-before-seen images from the archives of the Blizzard cinematics department and the World of Warcraft development team, as well as progressive visuals from multiple stages of development.
- Exclusive in-game pet: Lil’ Deathwing will proudly accompany heroes on their struggle to save Azeroth from his much, much larger counterpart.
- Behind-the-scenes DVD with over an hour of developer interviews and commentaries, as well as a special retrospective examining the rich gaming history of the Warcraft universe.
- Soundtrack featuring 10 epic new tracks from Cataclysm, including exclusive bonus tracks.
- Special-edition mouse pad depicting Deathwing menacing the ravaged continents of Azeroth.
- World of Warcraft Trading Card Game cards, including a 60-card starter deck from the Wrathgate series, two extended-art cards, and two Collector’s Edition-exclusive hero cards, marking the first appearance of goblin and worgen heroes in the TCG.
After 12 years (and 20 minutes of downloading time), “StarCraft II” blazed its way onto computers at midnight Tuesday and kept thousands of people from sleep with its rich story, beautiful graphics and familiar game play.
“StarCraft II” (Blizzard) is a real-time strategy video game played out in the science fiction motif. In this version, “Wings of Liberty”, the single player version focuses on the Terran (human) race as they battle against the Protoss (tech-based race) and the Zerg (bug race).
Game play is very similar to the original “StarCraft” game. Mine your resources of minerals and gas. Build structures and buildings that allow you to spawn people and vehicles. Create a military force that will allow you to complete the mission objectives and defeat your enemy.
There is no variation to that and, in real-time, the action is fast and furious. It is micro-managing to the extreme, but that has always been the draw to the “StarCraft” mythos.
The missions range from simple “capture the flag” tasks to recovery and rescue events. All the while, your Terran forces battle against the bugs of the Zerg and a fanatical, splinter group from the Protoss. There are also a couple of missions where you get to play as a different Protoss group, which was a nice change of pace from the human missions.
There are also bonus missions that offer objectives to get new units and upgrades. Exploring definitely pays off rather than just focusing on the main task.
The graphics are a vast improvement due to the technological advances in video gaming. Colors pop on the screen and the maps offer more details, though those details have little to do with game play. One of the drawbacks, however, is the lack of zooming out on those maps to get a greater overview of the action, so play is up-close and personal.
A Blizzard spokesman said there was more than an hour worth of cut scenes and cinematics in the game. Those movies sparkle with realism and emotion. It almost looks like a Hollywood feature film and inspires you to complete the next mission just to see the following clip.
They also help move along a compelling single-player story that follows up from the first “StarCraft” game. You play as Jim Raynor, a rebel with a cause. The story details how Raynor attempts to inspire the people to overthrow an oppressive government while a Zerg force masses on the galactic borders, waiting for their opportunity to strike. No spoilers, but there is a definite twist in the story that was very unexpected.
The game has to be played on the Blizzard Battle.Net system on your PC or Mac. It is an online gateway that has many features, including matching up players for multi-player action. But don’t tread into that area until you’ve played and practiced. Otherwise, you’ll get very frustrated very quickly.
More than 500,000 players were online at midnight (Eastern) on Tuesday to be one of the first to get their hands and keyboards on this game. Eleven hours later, more than 750,000 were playing.
“StarCraft II” spices up what worked in the first version and weaves it into a rich, compelling story that will keep gamers hooked for many hours of game play. With few drawbacks and the opportunity for exciting multi-player action, it is sure to be a hit with gamers all over the world.
With all the commotion about Blizzard’s announcement to require the use of real names in their forum, then the rescinding of that policy, gamers have been asking more questions about how identities (real or in-game) are going to be used in the future.
When the initial policy was announced, there was a backlash from players about invasion of privacy, lack of protections and fear of real world reprisals for in-game actions. Blizzard took back their policy shortly after unveiling it, but continues to use their Real ID system to allow gamers to connect with friends inside their Battle.net system.
Some players of “World of Warcraft,” “Starcraft” and “Diablo” are confused by what Real ID does and does not do. So Blizzard has come out with answers to some of the more pressing questions.
Q: Do you have any plans to allow players to not show their real name to friends of friends while using the Real ID system?
A: As with any new feature we add to our games, we’ve been evaluating how Real ID has been used since its release to identify new functionality that would help improve our players’ experience. The in-game Real ID “friends of friends” list is designed to give players a convenient way to populate their Real ID friends list with other players they know and trust in real life, allowing them to quickly and easily send Real ID friend requests to these people without having to enter their Battle.net® account names. However, we recognize that some players would prefer not to be displayed on friends lists in this fashion, so we plan to include an option that will allow players to opt out of appearing on their Real ID friends’ “friends of friends” lists. We’re anticipating this feature to be available for StarCraft II shortly after release of the game, and World of Warcraft at around the same time — we’ll have more information for you in the coming weeks.
Q: What are your plans for Facebook integration?
A: With regard to Facebook, our goal is to help Blizzard gamers on Battle.net more easily connect to their real-life friends and family. For the launch of StarCraft II, we are introducing an optional Facebook friend finder feature to help achieve this goal. The friend finder enables players who decide to use it to easily populate their Battle.net friends list by sending Real ID friend requests to the people on their Facebook friends list who have Battle.net accounts. We hope players will find this feature convenient, but it’s completely optional. In the long term, we hope to give players who use Facebook some fun, and also optional, ways to share what they’re doing in Blizzard games with their friends, similar to the optional World of Warcraft Armory integration now available, but we don’t have any specific plans to share at present.
Q: How does the friend finder in StarCraft II work? What’s sent to Facebook?
A: When you use the Add a Friend feature in StarCraft II, one of the options you’ll see is to search your Facebook friends list for people who also have Battle.net accounts in order to quickly send them Real ID friend requests. When you click this button, you’ll be asked to enter your Facebook login information, and you’ll then see a list of your Facebook friends who also have Battle.net accounts. You’ll then have the option to send any of these Facebook friends a Real ID friend request in-game. (Keep in mind that for someone to appear on the list, their Battle.net account email address must match their Facebook email address. In addition, you’ll see the names of any Facebook friends who have registered Battle.net accounts, regardless of whether they have Blizzard games attached to their account or just, for example, created the Battle.net account to make a purchase on the online Blizzard Store.)
It’s important to note that Blizzard Entertainment does not share any personal information with Facebook as part of this process. Keep in mind that as with other Real ID features such as the “friends of friends” list, our goal with the friend finder feature is to create convenient options to help players easily find people they know in real life on Battle.net without having to remember email addresses or account names. We hope players will find the feature easy to use and convenient.
Q: How can I prevent World of Warcraft add-ons from accessing Real ID first and last names without my knowledge?
A: As always, we recommend that you get your UI add-ons through reliable sources. It’s important to note that without installing a UI add-on specifically designed to retrieve that information, there’s no risk of it being accessed. On our end, we’re looking into the issue and are at work on some changes that we can make to help protect against these types of add-ons. We’ll provide further details as soon as we have more information to share.
Q: Are you secretly trying to build a social gaming platform with the new Battle.net?
A: It’s no secret — as we’ve discussed openly since we first started sharing our plans about the new Battle.net, one of our goals is for it to serve as a social gaming service for Blizzard gamers. This was a deliberate and open design decision, driven 100% by the desire to create an even better online experience for our players by giving them powerful tools to compete with and stay connected to their real-life friends and family.
Q: If my account was compromised, what information about my Real ID friends would a hacker have access to?
A: We take account security very seriously, and we offer a number of ways to help players keep their account secure, including the Battle.net Authenticator and the free Battle.net Mobile Authenticator app, available for a wide range of mobile devices. Aside from your friends’ first and last names, no other personal information is shared through the in-game Real ID system.
Q: What’s a StarCraft II “character code”?
A: When you first log in to StarCraft II, you’re prompted to choose a single character name. This is the only name you’ll use on Battle.net, and it’s tied to your StarCraft II license. In order to allow players to select any name they wish regardless of whether another player is already using the same name, we then generate and assign a three-digit character code that uniquely identifies the player. When posting on the forums of the new StarCraft II community site, players will be posting using their StarCraft II character name and character code.
Q: Will the new StarCraft II forum posting name format (character name + character code) carry over into the forum communities of other Blizzard games?
A: Following our recent decision to no longer use real first and last names on Blizzard forums, we’re still evaluating how we’ll move forward with our other forums. Our ultimate goal is still to promote constructive conversations and improve the overall forum experience for our players, and we think increasing accountability is an important part of achieving that. StarCraft II already uses a character name and character code combo in-game, which serves as a unique player identifier and fits well with our goal for the forums. World of Warcraft handles player identification differently, so we still need to determine whether adding a character code system like in StarCraft II is the best solution. Ultimately, we want to come up with a system that makes sense for each community and fits our long-term vision for the forums.
Q: Are there any plans to change the in-game Real ID system so that players will have the option to display an assigned user name instead of their real names?
A: The Real ID system is designed to help real-life friends and family who decide to use it keep in touch with each other across Blizzard games, and our goal in using real names is to ensure that players will be able to maintain long-term, meaningful relationships on the service for years to come. One way it helps make that happen is by eliminating the need to remember who, for example, “Thrall123″ really is when you see him or her pop up on your friends list again after months — or years — of being offline. Ultimately, we think this is the best way to ensure players who use Real ID are able stay connected with the people they enjoy playing with most in the long-term, and we don’t currently have any plans to change the system so it can be used with character names or alternate handles instead. That said, Battle.net is a living, breathing service that we will continue to evolve over time as we evaluate how players are using it and identify new ways to improve the experience.
Q: What plans are there to improve moderation since the use of real names on the forums has been changed?
A: Our new community sites’ forums, beginning with the StarCraft II site, will have an improved moderation system as well as a post-rating system which will help our players promote the conversations they find the most constructive, as well as help forum moderators identify quality discussions. This, coupled with the unique StarCraft II character name and code, will help us to create a more positive atmosphere based on community interaction and accountability.
With the success of reality programing on television, it was only a matter of time that a video game designer would take that premise and create a game full of excitement, explosions and deep TV announcer voices.
“Split/Second” (Black Rock/Disney Interactive) lets gamers become drivers in a new reality, racing show that is part “Cannonball Run” and part “Carmageddon”. Racers speed through different tracks in an attempt to qualify for the next episode of a reality show that pits racing stars against one another.
The tracks are similar to Grand Prix racing, where the course flows through cityscapes, but with a twist. Some races occur near airports, ports, warehouses and nuclear power plants.
The graphics are well done with very good detail in the backgrounds and environment. The choice of cars is varied to allow the player to pick a car based on the type of race being run. They handle very well based on their stats and pretty easy to manage (or so you think).
Sure, racing to a finish line is pretty much a one-trick pony. But this pony is full of excitement and amazement.
Speed is not the only way to win. By drafting or drifting through the course, players can build up a “powerplay” meter to let them create explosions along the track to knock opponents off course or out of the race.
Build the meter up far enough and the explosions just get ridiculous. Along the airport course, the control tower was blown up and fell across the course – altering the race track. Then a military cargo plane that was on fire attempted to land on the course as cars are racing along.
Nuclear power plant towers are blown out. Huge passenger ships crash into piers where cars are racing. If you think this is extreme, you are just scratching the surface. There are some races where attack helicopters shoot missiles at you in an attempt to slow you down.
For a “reality” program, it is totally unreal. And the game is all the better for it.
Those who would rather get their “reality” in other worlds have their calendars marked for upcoming important dates.
Blizzard Entertainment is ready to release their highly anticipated strategy game,“StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty” on July 27.. Blizzard has been refining their game since the beta release earlier in the year.
“Thanks to our beta testers, we’re making great progress on the final stages of development,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment.
“Wings of Liberty” will feature the human race for single-player action as well as bring back the Zerg and Protoss races for multi-player gaming. Future installments will bring the non-human races to the front for single-player play.
Blizzard fans are also waiting for June 2 and June 5 when tickets to the 5th BlizzCon gaming convention go on sale. In the past, all tickets were sold on one day, but decided to split the availability to the October convention in Anaheim, California.
Tickets are prices at $150 and can be bought at the official BlizzCon website. Blizzard did not respond to requests for information on how many tickets will be available on each day.