The quest for non-WASD games to play using only the right hand on the mouse inevitably leads to either strategy games or isometric action RPGs. I’ve been through a number of strategy games already and I just can’t get into them right now. In the past, I’ve turned to Path of Exile in this kind of situation (because it’s free), but this time I decided to try out the trial version of Diablo III for the very first time.
I was late to the Diablo party. Most of my Quake friends loved it, but I stubbornly rejected it until later in the game’s life cycle. I think I played Diablo II at launch, but I don’t remember much about that game except being disappointed in the obvious lack of 3D rendering. Both of those games stunted most of my enthusiasm for isometric games going forward, and I tend to avoid them now.
I just can’t stand not being able to see what’s past the edges of the screen. My character should obviously be able to see what’s there, so why can’t I? It just feels like a completely artificial, arbitrary game limitation. It makes sense in older games because of technical limitations in graphical rendering power. But it’s 2018 now. Computers are perfectly capable of rendering a 3D world all the way to the horizon.
Anyway I hoped to set all that aside and try Diablo III, and maybe-just maybe!-find a game that would hold my attention all the way until my thumb is healed enough to finish Dark Souls Remastered (which is the game that I want to play).
I loaded up the Blizzard launcher on Saturday morning, and downloaded the free trial for Diablo III. The “Starter Edition” as they call it. What I expected was a continuation of more of the same from Diablo I and II, just with upgraded graphics. That’s why I never bothered to buy D3, because I’d already played that game… twice.
I was pleasantly surprised to find there is actually a bit more depth in Diablo III. NPCs talk to you and there are quests and storylines to follow. I don’t remember anything like that from the first two games. (Wikipedia tells me there was a storyline in Diablo II, but I have no memory of it.) There are even some cut scenes. The “Fallen Star” campaign is not particularly deep or meaningful (it’s a zombie apocalypse story for God’s sake), but it at least gives a tiny bit of interesting content to focus on between all the hacking and slashing.
I thought I might actually go ahead and buy the game. It’s only $20 in the Blizzard store. But then something funny happened. I got to the first randomly-generated map, or at least the first obvious one. I think it was Catacombs Level 1.
Then all the Diablo-ness that I remember came flooding back, and the game reverted back to its roots: A mindless clicker. This is the core gameplay loop of the action RPG that I’ve come to dislike over the years. There’s no rhyme or reason to anything. You just click and click and click and there are lights and sounds on the screen and eventually you run out of things to click and none of what you just did mattered. There’s no strategy or decision-making involved, you just click on monsters and watch them die. Even the map is random so there’s no real exploration, there’s just moving in a geometric pattern to expose all of the areas. I don’t feel any sense of immersion, or like “I’m there,” it’s more like solving a math problem. It feels very passive to me, not much different from watching television. In fact it’s exactly the kind of game I would play while watching television, because the gameplay doesn’t require thinking.
There’s a place for that kind of game, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for right now. I’m looking for those games that are so fresh and inventive that you get so absorbed in the action or the story that you forget there’s a world outside the computer monitor and you lose track of how long you’ve been playing. (Admittedly pretty high expectations-it’s very rare for me to find a game like that anymore, especially when you have to avoid controllers and WASD movement.)
I can report that I finished the content available in the Starter Edition, which went as far as killing the “Skeleton Lord.” It took me about three and a half hours, and I reached level 13 (as a Barbarian). I think I used two healing potions the entire time, and I probably didn’t even need to use those.
I’m thinking I’ll just save my $20. There are a few things that make Diablo III slightly better than its ancestors (companions and their banter, quests, etc.), but if I have a burning desire to play this kind of game in the future, I can always re-install Path of Exile, which is close enough for me, and free.