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What took Blizzard 12 years to deliver is already nearly a month old – I’ve been fortunate to own this latest release to the Diablo franchise since launch on 15th May so wanted to take the time to share my opinions of the game and the general direction I can see it taking in the future.

Getting up and running in the world of sanctuary was actually fairly straight forward … well it was until I tried to login to BattleNet (Blizzard’s proprietary online gaming platform) where I was presented with a multitude of error messages which basically summed up that Blizzard’s servers were unable to cope with the surge of new players trying to login to the game – While Diablo 3 is a single AND multiplayer game you have to be logged into the BattleNet service regardless.

This disappointed and frustrated me; whilst I expected some difficulty or queuing for the BattleNet servers to process my login I didn’t expect not being able to login at all. It wasn’t until the following day which I actually managed to login and roll my character – There was a lot of anger vented towards Blizzard and while some of this was just plain rude, it is in my opinion that the majority of it was justified – Blizzard simply under estimated and didn’t provide a robust enough infrastructure to handle the initial surge of players. To their credit they did provide a comprehensive apology but it still doesn’t make up for the fact they weren’t prepared. I can only hope that they were sincere in their intention not to let this happen again.

Moving on to the actual game and it’s far more positive news – The hack & slash experience is split up into 4 ‘Acts’ and more importantly 4 difficulty levels (more of those later). Once you’ve chosen your class, name and banner design the game commences – After the first few levels it immediately becomes apparent how well polished the game is. I’ve yet to notice a major bug or glitch, apart from the odd character warping which is most likely caused by lag.

Gameplay is the typical hack & slash approach with no complex tactics required apart from when you encounter a Boss or Mini-Boss – Now this might sound a bit mundane and your probably going to get put off even more when I inform you that the script is very cheesy but the quality of the voice actors is excellent. Stay with me though as the whole selling point of the game is the difficulty system and extremely flexible co-operative play.

Diablo 3 has 4 difficulty levels: Normal, Nightmare, Hell & Inferno – You have to progress through each one in sequence (with the same character) before moving on to the next difficulty level. Normal  is designed to introduce to the game and once completed you restart the game again but this time at Nightmare difficulty, now as I mentioned above this might sound rather tedious but I can assure you it isn’t – While the story line is the same you continue to progress your character (inc. Skills & Professions) while facing much harder mobs with new abilities that really do challenge you. To give you an example I’m transitioned from Normal to Nightmare and after the first few levels you start to die … a lot … at some sections in the game you actually have to grind up your level and gear to progress (unless some kind fellow boosts you). I’m timidly looking forward to what Hell & Inferno have in store for me, if I ever get there!

The co-operative play is another element which has been expertly orchestrated by Blizzard. At any point during your game you can invite friends to jump in and help you or if you so desire , however they have to at the very least have unlocked the difficulty level for which you are playing at, apart from that you’re free to help or even boost if you so desire. The mechanism for joining a friends game is extremely simple, you just right-click on their name in your friends list and the invite is sent. You also have the option of opening your game up in true chat-roulette style to the public, I’ve not tried this yet so cannot comment on how well it works.

Before I close this post off it was rather nice to see a nod to other products in Blizzards portfolio such as World of Warcraft – They manage this with subtle touches such as the hearth stone animation when you’re using a portal back to your home town and the overall UI design.

I hope you found this post at least partially informative – I’m typing it in an off the cuff style so apologies for any lack of structure. As always comments are welcomed as are any questions you may have in regards to the game.

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