Diablo 3 story mode is an awful single player game

One of my gaming goals for this month is to finish the story mode of Diablo 3. I’m trying but my god is it a terrible game.

Now before my Diablo 3 loving readers come gunning for me, I’m talking specifically about the story mode that you have to clear before you can start doing Adventure Mode and Rifts and Seasons and stuff. In other words, all the stuff my friends love about the game is locked behind the requirement to finish story mode. I also am talking about playing single player mode today, long after launch. It may have been different when you played through it.

The issue here is mostly about balance. I guess this happened when they pulled the Auction House stuff out of the game and re-did the loot tables? In my game, played on Hard (and I realize in retrospect I should’ve turned up the difficulty) there has been virtually no challenge in the game because there’s so much good loot.

I haven’t made an effort to grind or anything (though I am something of a completionist) and when I got to the fight against Diablo in Act IV, just as an example, I literally just sat there with my thumb on the X button, talking to Angela while my character whittled down Diablo. The only ‘challenge’ was I had to keep in range of him. My gear gives me so much health regen that Diablo couldn’t hurt me.

When I first started playing my policy was to sell regular gear, salvage blue gear and stash yellow gear. Then I switched to selling regular and blue and salvaging yellow and stashing Legendary. By the time I got to Act V I’d stopped picking up anything that isn’t Legendary. My blacksmith has a ton of materials and I’ve never really had to use him. I have more gold than I know what to do with. Meanwhile sometimes a quest will give you a reward. The rewards are blue level items…that’s what was intended to be good loot at this stage, back at launch (I’m assuming). I’m so over-powered compared to these quest rewards.

Then there’re the NPCs. You get blacksmith, enchanter and jeweler well before you “meet” them in the story. I was totally confused when I met the enchanter in Act V after I’d been chatting with her since at least Act 3 in town.

The problem is that Diablo 3 combat is so simple that when it’s easy it becomes really tedious. Sometimes the screen will fill with a ton of enemies and it’ll be amusing just to watch stuff die, but running down hallways killing 3-5 enemies at a time is started to feel like work. I finally got to where I just run past things until I get a huge crowd then stop to kill everything.

I spent most of my gaming time this past weekend trying to finish Story Mode. I thought there were only IV acts and I was SO happy to kill Diablo. When Act V started, I almost sobbed. Even Angela was disappointed and she isn’t playing!!! Hopefully Act V is the end of it.

Now for all this griping, I do have hope. First of all, I’ve had fights in Act V that were an actual challenge. Times where I had to think and avoid attacks and even back off to heal. MUCH more fun than Acts I-IV were. And once I had character level 60 the loot seemed to kind of reboot. Now I’m getting gear as low quality as Blue stuff that is better than some of the legendary items I’m using. And I discovered there’s Green loot too. Who knew?

I really hope Adventure Mode is as fun as everyone says it is (and as fun as Act V is suggesting it might be) because Diablo 3 story mode is one of the worst games I’ve played in quite a long time. Mindless, tedious, boring… I can’t wait for it to be over. I see Trophies about completing Bounties. What’s a bounty? Maybe I’ll find out soon.

I died in Diablo 3!

One of my gaming goals for this month is to finish the campaign in Diablo 3.

This morning I was playing and… I died! It has been SO LONG since I died in Diablo 3 that I didn’t really understand what was happening for a few seconds.

Then I felt a moment of euphoria… was Diablo 3 going to turn into an actual game instead of the mind-numbing busy-work it has been? You hold down a button and move around and collect loot until you have to go back and sell or smash it, then return for more. Seriously it has been incredibly tedious so far. I should have pushed the difficulty up I guess. I’m playing on Hard, I can’t imagine how mindless Normal must be.

Unfortunately the euphoria was short-lived as I realized that death really has no consequences. You can revive right where you died and aside from having to spend a handful of coins to repair your gear, there’s no harm done.

I’m not really hardcore enough for hardcore but I wish there were some setting in between. Something that give death some sting but not the pain of having to start fresh. I really miss the old Diablo games where you’d drop your gear and have to try to get it back. You’d have to have backup gear to help you recover from a death…it was really interesting.

Later I died a second time, but then res’d on the spot and kept going. What’s weird is that right now I seem to have two states: Full health and dead. In both cases it seemed like I was 1-shotted by a powerful enemy or something. It happened so fast I never really saw my health dropping.

But meh, push a button and stand up and keep grinding through mobs… YAWN.

I know the conventional wisdom here is to play MP and I’m sure that makes the game much different. For for solo players, Diablo 3 is a real snooze-fest so far. I’m hoping once I unlock Adventure Mode it’ll get more interesting.

I can’t Let It Die and Mordor bares its fangs

It’s been about a month since free-to-play Playstation title Let It Die launched, and I still haven’t really played it. I’ve tried to play it on no less than 4 occasions but each time the universe conspires against me. Either the dog needs to go out or Angela decides on an early dinner that night or some other interruption. Problem is, it’s now been so long since I played the tutorial that I’ve forgotten everything I learned, and it’s a weird-ass game so that might be a problem. I’m not even positive I want to play it since it’s so gross, but I’d at least like to give it a try.

[Oh by the way I managed to take exactly zero screenshots last night so sorry for the wall of text today.]

Yesterday Diablo 3 got patched. For this month only (as I understand it) you can play through a re-creation of the original Diablo inside D3. One of my January gaming goals is to finally finish the Diablo 3 storyline. I’m in Act 2 and can’t go back to Act 1 without losing progress, and you need to be in Act 1 to check out the Diablo re-make (again, as I understand it). Since I didn’t want to lose progress I created a new character, but Adventure Mode doesn’t open until you’ve completed Story Mode. I started a new Story Mode game but didn’t see the portal in Tristram. Either I was looking in the wrong place, or you can’t get to this content from Story Mode.

I guess this all just means I have more incentive to complete Story Mode sooner rather than later. Oh and I had a laugh at myself when I created the new character. I’d said somewhere that “even on Hard difficulty” Diablo 3 was pretty easy. My bad I guess, since Hard is the 2nd easiest out of about 16 (literally) difficulty levels. There’s Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and then 12 tiers of Torment difficulty beyond that. What a noob I am! I had no idea.

I can still only play Diablo 3 for so long before I get bored. When I hit that point last night I jumped back to Shadow of Mordor and it’s like the game heard me talking about how easy I’ve been finding it, and decided to school me. I’ve done something, either gotten to a point in the storyline or leveled to a critical point…something I’ve done has changed the game. There are now caragors (the big hulking dog-ish things) roaming all over the place and Orc captains are springing up like weeds. I died three times to caragors last night when they came charging into a battle I was in the midst of. On top of that, several times I’d get into a fight with some run-of-the-mill orcs and uruks and suddenly there’d be one or even two captains there.

Long story short, I guess I died half a dozen times last night, and of course every time I did, the orc captains grew stronger. Video game life has a way of balancing things out, though, and towards the end of the night I unlocked a new tier of powers and now I have a skill that lets me shoulder rush uruks with shields in order to break said shields, and when I leap over an orc it gets stunned. I also suddenly have this flurry attack power; not sure where it came from but it’s potent. So over the course of the night the game got a lot harder but then eased up a bit due to new abilities. I was getting really frustrated at one point last night but by the time I quit I was back to having fun.

I did manage to complete one of the wraith’s story quests (the ones with Gollum) and I got Ratbag in position as a War Chief. Now I just have to finish thinning his competition to complete that quest. So…progress!

Holiday weekend recap: Still a little baffled by Shadow of Mordor

Even though I had a 3-day weekend thanks to the New Year, I didn’t do a ton of gaming this weekend. Instead I watched a lot of TV. Football for one thing, and after a long and idea-filled thread at Imzy, I started in on a new (to me) anime, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I’m enjoying so far.

Next week we’re canceling cable so I signed us up for Playstation Vue, and I’ve been messing around with that a lot. I find the interface is taking some getting used to, but overall we’re fairly pleased so far. Anyway in the course of messing about I started watching Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel and got inexplicably hooked. It’s about some townie from Boston who travels around the world sampling various alcoholic beverages while taking in the local culture. I like booze so I’m interested in that aspect, and it’s fun to see the places he travels to. It’s much better of a show than I expected it to be.

I also watched Tiny Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the true story of journalist Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan. I enjoyed that very much, and I was delighted to find it on Hulu. Since when does Hulu get recent movies?

Beyond that, we’re working our way through the DC superhero shows on Netflix. So yeah, lots of TV.

I did start up Diablo 3 again. After one session on the launch PS4, I installed it on the PS4 Pro. It hasn’t been patched to take advantage of the Pro’s extra horsepower, but it runs much quieter on that system. It’s one of those games that makes the fans on the launch PS4 start to scream in protest.

I’m playing D3 as a barbarian on Hard mode and it is still ridiculously easy, at least for the parts I’ve played (I’m in Chapter 2). And so much loot. Too much, really. As a natural pack-rat I can’t just leave stuff laying in the dirt, so I’m constantly heading back to town, trying not to be overwhelmed by all the choices I have, and feeding most of the stuff to the Salvage yard. Honestly I get bored playing D3 pretty quickly, which makes me sad since I loved both Diablo and Diablo 2 back in the day.

The other thing I played was Shadow of Mordor and man I’m confused by some of the choices the devs made in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast playing but I feel like the more you struggle, the harder it gets, and vice versa. I haven’t really been focusing on the “main quests” but have been roaming around the world collecting things, doing side quests and slaying lots of orcs. There are these “Conflicts” on the map that tutorial text told me were struggles between orc captains and that if I didn’t break them up, one of the orc captains would win and grow stronger. This wasn’t happening for me. I also had a bunch of skill points I couldn’t spend because I wasn’t powerful enough.

Then finally, I died. And when I did it was like time moved forward. The conflicts got resolved and some of the Captains got stronger. I also gained power somehow, which unlocked the next tier of abilities. Seemed odd that my death resulted in enemies getting stronger. Then I died again shortly thereafter (when a cave troll noticed me hiding in some bushes) and more conflicts got resolved and more Captains got stronger.

I wrote a while ago about how Shadow of Mordor seemed much easier this time around and now I think the reason is that I’m moving cautiously, gaining power while not dying much, so the orcs aren’t getting more powerful.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve started playing this game a few times before and it never ‘stuck’ for some reason, but this time it sure is. Even more so now that I’ve encountered this old villain:

Diablo 3 Redux

So Diablo 3 came and — for most gamers — went a few months ago. I dutifully pre-purchased the game but honestly I didn’t like it very much. I managed to get a Demon Hunter to level 17 and then moved on.

I really felt like the game was dumbed down from D2. You had to start playing on Normal mode and the entire first act of normal was completely devoid of challenge. Death was meaningless (when it even happened) and character building at low levels was more or less non-existent.

Intellectually I understood that many of these issues resolved themselves further into the game or on higher difficulty levels, but emotionally I just couldn’t bring myself to slog through the newbie-friendly stuff to get at the good gameplay. So on the shelf it went.

Now plenty of people suggested I try out Hardcore mode and I thought about it but I was just too soured on the whole Diablo 3 experience.

Fast forward a couple of months and Tipa has been chronicling her Hardcore Diablo 3 adventures. Her posts intrigued me.

So for the past week I’ve been playing Diablo 3 again, in hardcore mode. I’m approaching it like a Rogue-Like. In other words I expect to die a lot and my goal is to see how far I can get rather than to see the end of the game or whatever. And I took a hint from Tipa and rather than just playing 1 hardcore character, I’m playing a stable of them. That way when 1 dies I don’t have to start over at level 1 again.

Essentially I’m playing the meta-game of Diablo 3 now. My crew can share resources and work together to level up the vault and the blacksmith. Good items are traded back and forth. Also switching characters helps stave off boredom, because much of the basic game play is still dull as hell.

The differences now are those moments of terror when you finally encounter something that can put a ding in your health pool and you’re reminded that it is possible to die, and that dying means starting over. It changes the whole experience for me.

Back in the real world, we’re moving next week so that means evenings have been devoted to packing. I generally wind down at 10 or 10:15 pm and then I’m looking for an alcoholic beverage and something fun to do. As much as I want to play The Secret World it kind of requires too much thinking at the ends of these days, and click-click-clicking and sorting loot in Diablo 3 fits my current situation perfectly.

I don’t know how long that will be the case. And I’m not sure how I’ll react when I actually lose a character. But for now I’m at least getting some value out of a game I’d pretty much written off.

I’m really glad Blizzard lets us share resources between characters. What would make the game perfect for me would be if a character dropped its loot when it died and then a different character could actually go and find that loot. I feel like that would be a nice organic ‘quest’ to do… since a dead character means there’s probably something bad-ass where that dropped loot is.

But you can’t have everything I guess, and while I’m still looking forward to Torchlight 2, for now Diablo 3 is entertaining me, and that’s what gaming is all about.

A little more Diablo 3

When Diablo 3 launched, I wasn’t a fan. I was hoping for a real sequel to Diablo II in more than just lore and the very broadest of brush strokes, but that’s not what Blizzard delivered and I found it hard to adjust. I was anticipating a game with endless character building possibilities but Blizzard opted to deliver a more mainstream title for today’s more casual gamer. People no longer see having to re-roll a character as part of the challenge of gameplay and learning a game; they see it as an annoyance.

Anyway while Raptr was showing people racking up 18 hours in the first 3 days of launch, I put about 5 hours in total in the first week. I just didn’t find it all that interesting so I stopped playing.

Friday night, after almost a full week away, I picked it up again. I spent some time tweaking the controls (I have Move on W and Stop on E & D) so it controls a little like a direct control game (downside is I keep hitting S meaning to backup but instead pop up the Skill window in mid fight) and I have easy access to the few hotkeys the game gives you. I think these adjustments helped me let go of the dream of a sequel to Diablo II since the game now played so differently. I also turned off the stupid, stupid system that makes you bind certain skills to certain buttons and only lets you have 1 skill in every category active at a time. Now at least I have some tactical customization options.

You can probably tell by the tone of this post that I still harbor some ill-will towards the game, but at least I’m finding it fun in small doses now. Mostly I’m just soaking up the lore and the random chat going on around me. My Templar companion makes me chuckle fairly often and the things the villagers say can be amusing as well. The gameplay still seems awfully simple and there are some very odd decisions that seem to have been made as a result of yanking features. For instance they’ve gotten rid of Town Portal and Identify scrolls. Casting Town Portal takes a few seconds and I understand that…you don’t want it to be an escape mechanism from a tough fight. But Identify takes a few seconds, too. Why? Why have Unidentified items at all if you just have to right click them to identify them?

I do miss those scrolls though. I miss having a full inventory and having to decide if it’s worth the cost of a Town Portal to go back and sell, or if I should just discard some low value objects and press on. On the other hand, not requiring them keeps casual players clicking away, which is what Diablo 3 is all about. Click click and click some more! It could almost be a Zynga game.

Another thing that’s a bit disappointing was finding out that my rate of fire while holding down the left mouse button is much slower than the rate of fire I can obtain by rapidly clicking it. On the one hand, the ‘hold down’ rate of fire is sufficient to kill most enemies before they get near me. On the other hand, if the game ever does ramp up the challenge spamming that button is going to play hell with my RSI issues on my mousing hand.

I’m a bit baffled by the loot system, too. I’ve had a few Rare items drop but they’ve tended to be no better than Blue items I already had equipped, even though they both have the same level requirements. Nor do they salvage into anything interesting. I guess they’re meant to be vendored? Or maybe I’ve just been unlucky. I did find one rare Quiver that is pretty interesting..it has a bunch of stat boosts on it. Most of my Rare stuff has been dull, though.

So far gold has been kind of irrelevant. I’ve been spending all mine to level up the Blacksmith since the merchants never have anything worth buying, I’ve never had need of potions, and scrolls have been removed from the game. Essentially there seems to be a lack of gold sinks in the Normal Difficulty game. I understand this all changes a lot on higher difficulties though. I don’t want to use the AH because honestly the game is providing absolutely no challenge at this point (still in Act 1, remember) and I certainly don’t want to make it any easier.

My goal for now is to chip away at my first play-through, enjoying the story and the lore. Then when I have the higher difficulty levels unlocked I’m hoping the gameplay gets more interesting (or maybe even before then…perhaps later Acts get more exciting). Or perhaps I should re-roll as a barbarian (I’m playing a demon hunter) since I hear in general the game is much more challenging for melee characters. Or maybe Blizzard will put a $9.95 “unlock” item up for sale that lets me jump to higher difficulty levels before finishing normal.

Still, I’m at the point where I can jump in and spend an hour having fun just making monsters go “Blammo!” and listening to my Templar pal hoot and holler and ask for more fights like that one. This is way beyond where I was during launch week when I was just pissed off that I’d flushed $60 down the toilet for a game I really didn’t like.

I really wish players could just pick a difficulty level from the start. I think that would’ve changed my experience considerably.

First look at Torchlight 2 (and how it differs from Diablo 3)

Runic Games is running a Torchlight 2 stress test this weekend and I was lucky enough to get an invite. I already have TL2 pre-ordered, mind you. I’ve been waiting for this game with the same kind of anticipation many of my friends have been waiting for Diablo 3.

The two games share an awful lot of similarities. Both are action-RPGs that are focused on looting and leveling and both are pretty casual-friendly. Both are mouse driven and played from a 3/4 view 3rd person perspective.

The big difference? Torchlight 2 is the sequel to Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 isn’t. 🙂

My biggest disappointment with Diablo 3 is that there’re no strategic decisions to be made when it comes to growing your character. For a given class, everyone unlocks the same skills/runes at the same level. There are certainly tactical decisions to be made (Which skill/rune combo is right for this area of the dungeon I’m in?) but everything is easily reversible and at a given level everyone has the exact same skills to pick from (disclaimer: I’m still in Act 1 so maybe this changes).

Compare this to Torchlight 2 where every time you level you get 5 points to put into stats. Here’s a strategic decision: do you want to focus on one stat or spread things out? If one stat, which one? With the dude I’ve been leveling I’ve been putting a ton of points into Dexterity and relying on increased critical hits for causing damage, and my dodge stat for avoiding damage. Is this smart? Not sure yet, but it’s the strategy I’m using with this character. Later I could roll the same class and put a ton of points into strength and have a different kind of character.

Diablo 3 also has stat increases each level but the game decides what they are and most players probably don’t even notice them. Fans of the game like that they’ve got one less thing to worry about and tell me that they’d probably spend the points the way the game is auto-spending them anyway, so it’s just more convenient this way. That may be true for your first character in a given class but I think Torchlight 2 will have a lot more replayability.

But it isn’t just stats, there are skills too. Each level you also get a skill point, and each class has 3 skill trees. You can specialize in one tree or spread things out. You can also craft a character that fits your playstyle. Spend a lot of points in passive skills and your actual playing experience will be fairly simple. Or spend point unlocking a ton of active skills and your fingers will be dancing on the keyboard hitting different skills constantly. It’s all up to you.

Diablo 3 has some of this on a tactical level, but in Torchlight 2 you won’t be able to get everything on a single character. That’s going to encourage multiple play-throughs with variants of the same class and should help keep the game interesting long after folks have squeezed all the goodness out of D3. (Let’s face it, this style of game is all about the journey and leveling up characters after you’ve experienced the story once.)

It all boils down to more choice. Diablo 3 is about cool loot and tactical choices, while Torchlight 2 is about cool loot, tactical choices and strategic character building. Torchlight 2 also gives you two sets of weapon slots and lets you toggle between them, which makes combat more interesting. Add in the pet you have right from level 1; a companion who’ll run back to town to sell excess loot and buy you some more pots, as well as helping out in battle. Oh yeah, and you can fish for treats that’ll turn your pet into some other creature for a while.

I’ve been playing an Outlander, a class described as “a gunslinger with some secret weapons!” He was ‘born’ with a pair of pistols but soon enough I found a nice bow and I was playing him as an archer for a while. But then I found a nice magical ‘claw’ weapon, so now when things get into melee range I switch over to a pair of claw weapons. Plus he has a ‘glaive’ that he can throw and that bounces around hitting more than one enemy (that’s his first magic spell) and I’ve been leveling that up. He also has a kind of rage mechanic where the more things he kills quickly the more powerful he becomes, and I’ve been spending points on a passive skill that slows down the ‘draining’ of rage between fights. Basically I’ve ignored his ‘gunslinger’ side and he’s still very playable. I could roll a new Outlander and put all his points into ranged attacks and that would be a very different character.

Now, let’s give Diablo 3 its due: in terms of sheer spectacle, D3 beats Torchlight 2 hands down. The artwork is better, the lore is better, the NPCs are more interesting, the sound design is better. And D3 has the ‘bonus’ that everyone and his brother is playing, so if you’re looking for a multi-player game, someone is probably ready to join you.

Torchlight 2 just has more interesting gameplay, more replayability, and costs $20 instead of $60 and probably runs better on older computers. If you find yourself enjoying Diablo 3 gameplay but are hankering for something a bit more meaty to sink your teeth into, then consider dropping a Jackson on Torchlight 2 when it comes out in (I’m guessing) a month or two.

Here’s a gameplay video. This isn’t an epic fight or anything; I just fired up a game and started recording. It’s a little hard to make out but about a minute in I switch from bow to claws, and later back again, and you can see the blue glaive flying around now and then. The wolf is my pet; her health is at the top left corner of the screen. Middle center bottom of the screen is my rage meter.

The day Diablo 3 broke the Internet

I’m in a really lousy mood today, and it’s all because of Diablo 3. Though it isn’t Diablo 3’s fault.

Diablo 3, in case you didn’t know, is a video game. You’d be forgiven if you thought it was a cure for cancer or the key to world peace, because god damned if people aren’t giving it that kind of weight.

I bought it but I only played for 90 minutes or so. My ‘gut’ response was fairly tepid but I’m trying to reserve judgement until I get farther in. I’ll admit I’m one of those curmudgeons who would’ve been happy to pay $60 for Diablo 2 re-skinned with better graphics.

So how’d Diablo 3 break the Internet? Why am I bitching this time? Well, first of all let’s set hyperbole aside. I’m not talking about the entire Internet, I’m talking about the gaming-oriented parts of it. G+ and I assume Twitter, and personal blogs.

But I feel like EVERYONE is mad today. Some people are mad at Blizzard because of the DRM model and/or the fact that the servers are/were down. Some people are mad at the people who are mad at Blizzard. Some people are on very tall seats, pompously chiding the people who are mad at Blizzard. Others are on equally high seats, pompously chiding the people who are mad at the people who are mad at Blizzard. Of course there are people mad at the people on those very tall seats..mad at them for their condescending attitudes. People who bought Diablo 3 are angry, people who didn’t buy Diablo 3 are angry. People (and here’s where I come in) are angry that everyone is angry about a stupid video game!

The game-facing web today is a giant cluster-fuck of bad feelings and ill will, and it’s all because Diablo 3 launched.

It reminds me of a story…

I used to be a bartender in a local-kind of bar in a resort town. One day, Gerry Cooney walked into the bar with a friend. This is long enough ago (mid 1980s) that everyone knew who he was. Conversation almost immediately died down. Cooney sat at the end of the bar, quietly talking to his friend, and had a beer or two. Then they got up, left a nice tip and thanked me, and left the place.

And suddenly the clientele went nuts. Guys swearing that Cooney wasn’t so big and they could take him. Other guys calling bullshit on that, which led to whether or not guy A could even take guy B. Next thing I know I’m trying to manage 3 separate altercations at once. I started ejecting people from the premises left and right… everyone was mad and throwing punches willy-nilly.

Now Gerry Cooney didn’t do anything and carried no blame, but he was still the cause of everyone having a terrible night down at the local pub that night.

Diablo 3 is the Gerry Cooney of the club that consists of my gaming friends on social media and blogs.

I think I’m just going to put my head down and wait for this whole thing to blow over.