Diablo 3 Co-Op

Posted on 25 June, 2012

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I think Diablo 3 co-op is broken, quite badly broken. Diablo 3, as everyone knows by now, is a pretty easy game in Normal mode. I romped through with my first character (a Demon Hunter), and then romped through it again with other characters, soon discovering that most of them had an even easier time than the Demon Hunter.

I’ve been playing through in co-op mode with my wife (as Sorcerer and Monk) and finished over the weekend. It was freakishly easy. And that meant no direct sense of achievement when we finished. What about the rewards for killing Diablo? Well my monk was fortunate to have a rare (monk-only) fist weapon drop. It was level 15 and pitiful damage compared to what I was wielding as a level 30 monk. ie. redundant.

It’s hard to shout “broken” without understanding the underlying mechanics of the system. Indeed this is a game that (in one shape or another) has been in development for 12 years so one can only assume it is doing exactly what the designers want, and the designers have thought long and hard about how they want it to play. So why is the culmination of our co-op game a stupidly easy fight with pointless rewards?

The minute by minute action of Diablo3 is fun. Kill stuff, gain experience, develop character, gear up. However several aspects seem fundamentally off. There’s very little sense of peril (in our co-op we never died against any boss, either ‘gold’ roaming enemies or set-piece end of act enemies), the loot drops feel wrong (stashed hand me downs from higher characters formed the vast majority of new gear), and the skill switching so far seems like the wrong choice to me.

I think I could write a book on the skills. Bottom line, they went the wrong way on this one for my preferences. I prefer making a decision and going down that route. Indeed being ‘stuck’ down that route is part of the adventure. The counter-argument is certainly there about not locking players in, penalising them, and avoiding redundant builds, but I would ask Blizzard to take a look at an infrequent gamer playing and their utter confusion about all the skills and runes that unlock each level.

After all the issues above, there remains yet another issue: if Normal mode is so easy does the real game begin in Nightmare mode? This is a laughable notion. Diablo and Diablo 2 both had this same system, but both provided a genuine challenge in their Normal mode playthroughs. The sense of achievement lured you in to continuing on at the next tier, despite knowing what was waiting, because of the enjoyment and challenge previously presented. In D3 the compulsion just isn’t there. The overall experience was flat because it was simply too easy, the skills too broad and bewildering, and the loot so irrelevant.

It pains me to write a post that could appear as nothing more than a rant. The basic game is fine, but those key layers (skills, loot, difficulty) don’t connect, and leave the overall experienced a long way short of brilliant. That’s simply my honest thoughts as a fan of the series, and a fellow maker of games.

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Posted in: Gaming, RPG