Diablo 3 Subtle Ambience for Your HTPC
Diablo 3 may be the most anticipated game of the decade, arriving 12 years after its predecessor - now it's finally here! The PC-only video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment continued its point-and-click, hack and slash fest last night at 12:01 AM PST. Die-hard fans either attended late night sale events or were downloading and installing the game at the stroke of midnight. Unfortunately for those of us on easterly time zones we had to wait considerably longer than midnight to actually play. Blizzard’s Battle.net servers hosting the online-only game were delivering an alarming Error 33, warning users that the game is not available yet. Considering Diablo 3 was first announced back in 2008 with no release date in site, a few more hours couldn’t hurt.
No company delivers as polished and well-planned games as Blizzard, makers of the infamous World of Warcraft, Starcraft and of course the Diablo series. Compared to Blizzard’s other successful franchises, the ongoing Diablo saga's fantasy/horror theme is far more dark and moody. It's not just about blood and gore, Diablo 3 uses its high resolution textures, sound effects and musical score through a superb 5.1 surround soundtrack to conjure an ambiance of despair so thick you can cut it with a broadsword.
If it's been awhile since you loaded up Diablo 2 or if you’re a newcomer to the franchise, you’ll be immediately drawn into a world on the brink of destruction. Although the basics of game play are simple and addictive, the character building and storytelling elements are miles deep.
Minutes into the game’s first act any veteran of the franchise will be reminded of how the Diablo franchise reeled you in for the very first time. It’s not the top-down perspective, which has been done before and many time since. It’s not the overly-simple game play or bloody hack-and-slash missions. It’s the ambiance. The game has a mood you can feel the first time you enter a ruined temple and the rats scurry away from your footsteps, tension is created as masterfully as any great horror movie.
Even the music is unlike most fantasy games. Yes, there are sweeping orchestral numbers composed by Russell Brower. But what really gets you are the subtle, quieter scenes where the score produces only a barren-sounding classical guitar that lends a sense of minimalism to your character wandering the horrors outside of Tristram.
Yes, the simple hack-and-slash, point and click style would grow dull very quickly in any other hands. But from designers Jay Wilson and Leonard Boyarsky of Blizzard Entertainment- you stay hooked. What keeps you there is the deep character building that is much improved from Diablo 2. Thankfully, Blizzard has come out on the side of exploring character development options in Diablo 3. The new system frees you from the straight-jacket of pre-set character builds that you either follow religiously or find yourself with an obsolete character at higher levels. Gone are the branching ability trees and over-commitment and frustration of having to start a character over because you picked a wrong skill last level.
Blizzard's new system involves slotted abilities and runes representing your character class' talents with an unlimited ability to switch between them to find the most suitable combination to fit your needs. It's a less structured character development system that will hopefully see more variety this time around in the world of Sanctuary.
Diablo 3 is exactly the kind of game that will make you glad you put some effort into your HTPC build. A decent surround experience or even a good set of headphones will pay off in immersive game play. But many audioholics have consoles attached to magnificent home theater systems that let them kick back and enjoy a game rather than playing while sitting at a desk like some poor stiff who's still at work.
Diablo 3 for Consoles?
Rumors have Blizzard alternating between seriously considering a console version of Diablo 3 to rejecting the idea out of hand. So, basically don't hold your breath. Remember this is the game company that takes it sweet time developing a sequel that would be a slam dunk for sales records. Blizzard could reskin 1983's ET the Extra Terrestrial with Diablo sprites, call it Diablo 3, launch it to consoles and it would probably threaten current video game sales records. But Blizzard seems to have integrity, which makes them unpredictable. It's likely that if they can release a quality console experience they will, but not until then.
Note: As I post this, many Diablo 3 gamers are frustrated with a drawn out launch-day round of server maintenance. The Blizzard forums are afire with complaints from gamers expressing their personal tragic circumstance. To them I say: Cry me a river! I stand behind what I say about Blizzard launching with polish and integrity despite technical difficulties. Be patient. Blizzard will fix the problem and the launch day problems will all be forgotten.