And the heavens shall tremble
Who was right? ;)
During my lunch break today, a booking on one of the library’s computers and several incessant clicks on the Refresh button told me that Blizzard Entertainment, as predicted, did indeed unveil Diablo III at the WWI in Paris.
And good golly, does this game look impressive or what? I was very worried during the run-up to the announcement that either the game wouldn’t live up to its predecessors, or else it would be something else entirely, like a World of Warcraft style MMO. Rest assured, however, Diablo III retains the series’ trademark top-down perspective and emphasis on action/role-playing hybrid gameplay. Best of all, we have confirmation that it will be playable in single player mode, jettisoning any concerns that this was the “next-gen MMO” that has been mentioned several times on the company’s Employment Opportunities page in the last couple of years.
For me, it was watching the 20-minute gameplay trailer when I got home that hammered home how amazing this game is going to be. The trailer, complete with commentary by lead designer Jay Wilson (who, MobyGames informs me, previously worked on Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, among others), shows the amazingly fluid gameplay mechanics, beautiful graphics and, of course, the tried and tested formula of mowing down thousands of monsters in a row. It’s not rocket science, but it’s what made the first two games so much fun. What impresses me most is that, at least in the interior areas, some of the foreboding atmosphere from the original Diablo, somewhat absent in the second game, has made a welcome return, while at the same time making the most of the 3D engine to deliver environments which are more than just a flat plain.
There is, of course, a slight caveat in all of this, and that is that virtually none of the developers of the first two Diablo games are still at Blizzard (many of them, including the key designers and project leads, went on to dubious acclaim with Flagship Studios and Hellgate: London). Not that this necessarily spells doom and gloom - Blizzard employee turnover has been constant for years, and the one thing that has remained more or less consistent has been the quality of the company’s output - but it does suggest that we may get a dramatically different Diablo. This is the first game in the series to be developed solely under the Blizzard Entertainment label (Blizzard North having been disbanded in 2005), and aesthetically, things look to be rather different. The familiar logo is gone, and the screenshots and gameplay movie that have been released hint towards a subtly different art style, one with richer hues, a grander scale and, at least in the demo build shown at the WWI, a tendency towards a rather self-deprecating sense of humour that seems out of place in the series (I hope what they’ve done with the character of Cain is not representative of the final product). It might seem a little mean to say this, but given the completely new talent behind the scenes, this will in some ways be more of a Diablo clone (à la Dungeon Siege or Titan Quest) than a true continuation.
One thing’s for sure, the new team will have their work cut out living up to the legacy left by their predecessors. I wish them the very best of luck and have considerable faith in them, but am aware that I should probably expect something subtly different… which is not necessarily a problem, since Diablo and Diablo II, which have resided on my hard drive for twelve and eight years respectively, aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Seriously, Starcraft II and Diablo III in the pipeline? It’s every PC gamer’s dream come true.