Diablo III missed its mark, but the next installment doesn’t have to

Published By: Ken Bock on April 26, 2016 11:27 am EST

Being an avid fan of the franchise, I still remember the gruesome months that I had to bear towards the release of Diablo III. However, personal commitments forced me to delay my purchase. Early user-reviews, though, suggested that long-time fans of the series should simply not bother with the new installment. Baffled, I started looking for an alternative, all the while asking myself whether I should give the game a try or not. 

At this point, I found solace in Torchlight II (Runic Games), a game that with time has only caused me to curse the studio for its inability to release a third installment afterwards. Featuring highly addictive gameplay, I have never found myself tiring of starting a new character and toying with the vast customization options in terms of character builds. Satisfaction is what I can relate my overall experience with. However, even with a profound sensation of enjoyment and contentment, I had to ask myself if Diablo III could possibly offer a better experience.

The open beta release of Path of Exile (Grinding Gear Games) would then convince me to dwell in a dark unforgiving world that was missing from Torchlight II. Even in its early stages, Path of Exile was a force to be reckoned with. Featuring a talent tree with an insane amount of customization and build options, I once again found myself looking forward to pursuing new runs with new characters. The game’s strong and well written lore further reeled me in, another element that was missing from Torchlight II. However, surely Diablo III can offer me so much more, I kept telling myself.   

Having thoroughly experienced two incredible games, I finally decided that it was time to see for myself what Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) had in store for me. Also, it caught my eye that Diablo III was on sale, allowing me to get it and its expansion pack at a sweet 50 percent discount, each. 

A promise of something great was what befell me at the start of my run, which quickly ran aground. For a series that boasts a gripping lore of a long-running war between heaven and hell, resurrection of diabolical evil, demonic entities rampaging across earth, Diablo III clearly fell short in the writing department. The storyline, for me, was mundane and the couple of plot twists present were hardly surprising.

The feeling of dread that instilled me when I first found myself on the beach in Path of Exile or when I was exploring the cursed caverns, the forbidden forest in Torchlight II or the entirety of its last Act, even the sewers in Diablo II, were completely absent from Diablo III. At no point I felt any tingling sense of purpose to survive this onslaught of hell and save our lands. Blizzard needs to go back to the storyboard and take note of how well Path of Exile succeeded in creating an atmosphere for players.

Furthermore, the studio needs to take into account another very important element, the pure and utter satisfaction of popping enemies in Torchlight II. It’s troubling to try explaining that better but Torchlight II just has this signature death cycle where destroying every single enemy AI feels so incredibly rewarding.

The growing trend of dumbing down complexity levels in a game to invite new users caught up with Diablo III in a bad way. Blizzard did not only reduce the number of talents but also made it so that players can shuffle around abilities on-the-fly. Coupled with the bad design decision to access higher difficulty levels upon completion of the game, I hardly found it necessary to chain multiple abilities or explore new boundaries. The freedom that Torchlight II and Path of Exile offer in this regard is immense. It’s a pity that such an important element was taken away from Diablo III.

Can we also please have better boss battles in Diablo IV? Diablo III lacks in boss variations, and also harder boss fights. Diablo himself seemed too linear at the end. Whereas, Torchlight II and even Path of Exile boast bosses that have their own unique attack patterns and can surprise you with environmental attacks as well as summoning reinforcements.   

Another aspect that I loved about the two games in comparison is the fact that levelling up is so fast. That means more talents unlocked, and more decisions to make in the talent tree. That perfectly combines with the feature of side-quests. Diablo III’s side-missions are more or less forgettable. In comparison, Torchlight II – for instance – is overflowing   

While a few rumors have surfaced over the past couple of years to slightly hint Blizzard to have started work on Diablo IV, let’s hope that there’s still time left for the developer to incorporate a number of elements that were done far better by the two other games.

Do you agree that Diablo IV has much to learn from Torchlight II and Path of Exile? If so, then what other aspects it can improve on? Let us know in the comments below.