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Talraen, June 4, 2012 2:57 PM (edited 6/4/12 2:18 PM)

Dowd's Diablo Odyssey

Mood: Neutral
Tags: Gaming, Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo III
I have a lot of rambling stuff to say about the Diablo trilogy, and the chat didn't seem like the place, so I'll put it here where it can be safely ignored.

Back Story
Back Story
A few weeks back, I broke my no-$60-PC-game policy and bought Diablo III, and I'm glad I did. Still mad at Blizzard for being single-handedly responsible for PC game inflation for at least 15 years, but oh well. Turns out Diablo III is a really good game, basically offering everything I like about MMOs with none of the stuff I don't. It's not even really my "kind" of game (meaning action RPG loot fest), but it's so well made that I love it anyway. Plus the Monk class basically combined my favorite parts of Diablo II classes - the Assassin's melee and the Paladin's auras and survivability. So that was cool.

I paid some attention to the plot going through Diablo III, enough to know what was generally going on, but didn't spend a lot of time looking for optional plot content. This is generally the way I play any RPG for the first time - I just want to finish it, then savor the storyline the second time through. I started doing that here, but a few things made me decide to instead play the entire trilogy in this way. Specifically, those things were a comment by Cyris about the word "Nephalem" (for the record: he said it was from the first game, but it turns out that's not actually true), and the fact that they retconned the hero of Diablo (1) to a specific character, King Leoric's other son Aidan.

Now, I've always loved Blizzard's lore - I've read all their manuals, even the irrelevant story stuff (Warcraft especially!), and it annoys me to no end that I have no interest in WoW because I like Warcraft lore and now it's all lost on me. However, for some reason I never really paid attention to the plot of the second half of Diablo II. Up until yesterday, I couldn't accurately say why Act III was in a jungle or what I was trying to do there, aside from "kill Mephisto." As of this writing, I've just started Act IV, and all I know about the rest of the game is that a.) Diablo is in Hell and b.) Baal is trying to destroy the world stone. And I only know the latter because it was mentioned in Diablo III.

Going back to Diablo 1 wasn't as much of a rude awakening as I expected. Sure, the graphics are low-fi and the interface is terrible (and I mean terrible) compared to what follows, but I played a ton of this game and it was basically as I remembered it. (Diablo II was another story, but I'll get to that.)

In some ways, the simplicity of Diablo is refreshing. There isn't a huge variety of item possibilities, and anyone who spent any time on back in the day pretty much knows the optimal setup (King's Sword of Haste, Godly Plate of the Whale, Obsidian Rings of the Zodiac, etc.). Not that you're liable to get any of that stuff in a typical game, but you can always find lesser versions. One issue I've always had with Diablo is that there is no Nightmare or Hell in single player. I never bothered with Nightmare in Diablo II, but I'm in the middle of it in Diablo III, and have some inclination to play through it in every game.

I ended up deciding to make a multiplayer character and play solo. This enabled nightmare and hell, and had the added benefit of giving me the exact canonical quests (the Butcher, King Leoric, and Lazarus - all major plot elements in the backstory - are the only quests that appear in D1 multiplayer). Multiplayer is a bit harder, but there are no plot uniques and it felt a bit more like the later games in general (where you can start a new game and resume in the area you left off - although in this case areas are locked by level rather than progress). Everything was fine until the last few levels, where the fact that I was a (canonical!) warrior meant that all the teleporting mages and succubi were a real issue. This is true in single player as well, but single player offers a bunch of quest rewards with nice resistances (hello Veil of Steel!) and I didn't have those. Plus if you die, you need to go on a corpse run rather than just reload, so it was pretty mean. Fortunately, Nightmare opens at level 20 and not when you beat Diablo, so I just started killing easier monsters for better rewards (including a KSoH lite - a Lord's Sword of Speed), and eventually destroyed Diablo.

At this point I started playing through for real on Nightmare, but I am sad to say my progress was stymied. Even though I had maxed out all my resistances, magic attacks just wreck me. It seems that the cardinal advice of Diablo 1 multiplayer - only play a Sorcerer - was true. Still, I had almost reached level 28, and you unlock Hell at 30, so I dug in and looked for levels without ranged enemies to grind my way there. I did this partially to say I had, but also because (due to a bug) you can play single player in Nightmare and Hell, but only if you have a multiplayer character of appropriate level. This way if I eventually decided to play single player on higher difficulty, that was at least an option.

Single Player
Single Player
I should have stopped there and gone on to Diablo II, but for whatever reason I didn't. I can't explain it, so I won't bother trying. I ended up playing the same canonical Warrior, and finished the game basically without incident. And I got a Veil of Steel this time, thankfully. It was briefly tempting to try Nightmare, but I was still a warrior. Even with the single player differences, it was probably still a bad idea. At this point I really should have moved on to Diablo II, but again I didn't. Instead I decided to play a Sorcerer.

I moved on to the Sorcerer for a few reasons. First, I had finished the game as a Rogue earlier, and it was the only missing class, which bothers me in a bit of an OCD way. I had also learned from my wiki reading that all three Diablo 1 classes are represented in Diablo II (the warrior as the Dark Wanderer, the rogue as Blood Raven, and the sorcerer as the Summoner), so I figured what the hell. Mostly, though, I played the Sorcerer in Hellfire and remember them just being the most fun. Diablo being a short game, it was worth doing. Plus if I wanted to play on Nightmare, this was probably the best way.

Turns out that was an excellent decision, because sorcerers rock. Seriously, did they try to balance this game at all? Every ranged attacker runs away from you at the exact rate you walk, making fighting them as a warrior an exercise in frustration. A sorcerer, on the other hand, just kills everything. It's not particularly fair, but it's fun. I did notice an interesting sort of thing - playing a Sorcerer feels sort of like playing Diablo III. You're ridiculously powerful, but can still die if you make mistakes. Sure, you need a lot of mana potions where in D3 you basically can kill forever, but it does sort of feel similar. And if I want to stretch the comparison a bit, the rogue feels more like Diablo II - generally fair, not broken, but with serious issues against certain foes.

With all three classes covered, and no real desire to play Nightmare via a bug, it was time for Diablo II. Well, it was that or Hellfire. But Hellfire is non-canonical, so it has no place in this exercise!

Diablo II
Diablo II
I've played a ton of Diablo 1, but D2 is an interesting thing for me. I enjoyed it somewhat in single player, but my first character (an amazon) ended up fizzling out some time in act II. This happened a few other times as well, to the point where by the time I actually beat the game, it was with an expansion character (an Assassin). While the assassin is fun enough, I had serious problems with bosses that hit really hard (specifically Duriel and Diablo), so when I did my "replaying of old games" thing a while ago (see my previous blog post), I played as a Necromancer instead. That certainly made the game more enjoyable (pet classes rule!), but the fact that I didn't really reproduce my previous playthrough always nagged at me.

With that in mind, I am playing an assassin. As of this writing, I just finished Act III. A few things have struck me about the game. First is that Diablo III plays more like I remember Diablo II playing than Diablo II actually does. What I mean by that is that certain D3 mechanics, like auto gold pickup, immediately seemed familiar, to the point where I thought they had been in D2. This is not the case, and now I'm wondering where I have seen said mechanic before. But this is just a general feeling... Diablo III does a great job playing like the game I thought I remembered.

Anyway, I've tried being a bit more focused in my build than last time with the assassin, hoping to prevent my glaring weaknesses. It hasn't worked (Duriel still rocked me), but it has made the game generally more fun. After playing D3 with only six abilities total, I have a better appreciation for a focused skill set. Plus they added the ability to respec a few times, which means I don't need to worry about screwing things up.

Having played the first two acts a ton of times, I don't really have anything to say about them. Act III was quite interesting, though. For one thing, it's where the game becomes hard enough that I really needed to learn to play well. I now have a pretty bitchin' setup for my melee attacks that has been highly effective, and have used a few abilities I really never appreciated before (like the Cloak of whatever that pseudo-stuns enemies). I see the assassin's influence on monk more heavily than before - I had forgotten that the assassin had the AOE knockback kick, teleport attack, and a few other familiar abilities, often with the same names as the monk versions. Of course, they still lack the monk's survivability and healing, but I guess you can't have everything.

Tonight I will set off in Act IV, planning a full respec when I hit 30, trying to find some way to fight Diablo that isn't just "town portal, drop traps, run away, repeat." I don't have high hopes, but the game has still been fun. And now I actually know what's going on in act III, which is cool. I will be moving on to D3 as soon as Baal is finished, but I do have a mind to do playthroughs with some or all of the remaining 5 classes at some point, as well as returning to play nightmare and maybe even hell with whoever I end up enjoying the most.

Diablo III
Diablo III
Soon enough it will be time for a plot-heavy replay of D3. My time off means that everyone is way higher level than me now, which is disappointing, but maybe it will be easier to explain to people that I want to play once solo. The big issue is what class to use. My monk is in the middle of nightmare, so that's out. I have a Demon Hunter and a Barbarian in the early teens, and I don't really want to restart those. The witch doctor would likely suit my play style but I'm not sure how interested I am in throwing spiders at people, while the wizard doesn't seem like the best class to play strictly solo. Then again, this game is really well-balanced, so we'll see. I'd like to finish the game with all five eventually, and get someone to 60. That seems much more feasible this time around and previously, so it may even happen. We shall see!
Re: Dowd's Diablo Odyssey – June 4, 2012 3:35 PM (edited 6/4/12 11:35 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
That's really interesting that they carried over the three main classes in D1 to be bosses in D2. I did not know that. I thought I had a good idea of the plot in general, but i guess there's a lot of subtle details that they've snuck in here and there for the observant. Cool.

I wonder if you initial problems with D2 was less to do with your play style, and more about how the game was initially balanced. My first playthough of D2 was with a Necromancer, and it was really cool... right up until act 4 where all my monsters could theoretically kill just about any enemy with 4 hits, but also couldn't hit any enemy. I would have a wall of 11 skeletons, plus my golum, sitting there like a wall swinging away at one enemy for 5 minutes before any of them connected at all. It wasn't until they patched the game way later (when the expansion came out possibly?) that my build became feasible at all since the summoning boosting skill also boosted attack. So I'm wondering if those initial builds of yours fissiled out because of poor skill balance.

Just out of curiosity, are you playing D2 with /players on at all? I did a play through with that on and found it much more fun on the whole. The challenge ends up being the same, but you get better equipment and more skill points to play with, which was more interesting for me. Plus if you really get stuck on a boss, you can take /players off to deal with it with less frustration.

Re: Dowd's Diablo Odyssey – June 4, 2012 3:46 PM (edited 6/4/12 11:46 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Yeah I definitely think my initial issues had something to do with balance. The total patch notes document is over 2,000 lines long now, which says something. I also liked to experiment with as many abilities as possible, which is far from optimal. The real turn off for me was always that once you went online there were certain builds which were considered good and some that weren't, which isn't great for experimentation. Especially since there was no way to respec.

I didn't use the players command the last few times through, just because it didn't feel like the way the game was intended. I may very well do so if I play again in the future, but when the point is to be OCD, it seems like not the thing to do. Also, Diablo 1 multiplayer doesn't rebalance for multiple players, so a solo multiplayer playthrough is basically stuck on /players 2 - except with no extra rewards. Since that was kind of annoying, I wasn't inclined to increase the challenge again (even with related rewards) right away.

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