The Problems Diablo III Has As A Diablo Game

Diablo III feels like an evil clone of the Diablo series. It may be an official Blizzard product with the Diablo name slapped on the box with some of the familiarities of the Diablo games, but it's not a quintessence Diablo game. There are several problems with the game (some nitpicky issues, sure) and some very major problems with the spirit of what makes a Diablo game truly a Diablo game. This isn't to say that Diablo III isn't a great game. In fact, my review for the game is full of praise and that's even with vanilla Diablo III. But that doesn't mean I believe it's a true Diablo game.

To better understand this opinion, consider other popular franchises which have a similar problem within their own line of products. There's a lot of Star Wars fans that don't consider the sequel trilogy to be a part of the Star Wars universe, because of how fundamentally different they feel. Mark Hamill even felt betrayed by the new trilogy and stated that he didn't feel they did Luke Skywalker justice. Disney changed so much of what Star Wars meant to its original fan base that it's practically excommunicated within communities. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so drastically different from a typical Zelda game that parts of that community are split on calling it a true Zelda game. Quake is a franchise that has six games under their belt. Fans of the original seem to hate the transformation into a space alien shooter from its roots as a demonic gothic shooter.

Why's any of this important? Because while each of those examples are a part of their official series,  they feel like different games from a setting and game play standpoint. Each product has a "spirit" that's either expanded upon or separated from. In Diablo's case, Diablo III is so fundamentally different from the previous two games that it's hard to say they're even on the same playing field.


Diablo was the first role-playing game I ever played and I was instantly impressed with how everything felt. It was dark, scary, and extremely rewarding to find good gear after a long battle. Plus, it was a great LAN party game. The first time we went down a couple of floors of the desolate dungeon and stumbled into the room where the Butcher was eating human carcasses, it was a terrifying experience. You died. You lost your nerve and had to steel yourself to that point again to gather your belongings and hope you could defeat the demonic being.

Diablo II expanded on what made the original title so amazing. Instead of traveling down levels of dungeons that are separated into entirely different atmospheres with different evils lurking, Diablo II went in a horizontal direction and created Acts which replaced the different looks and layouts deep in the dungeons of the original Diablo. Loot was expanded upon with more variety and abilities. Characters were added to the game that expanded the gameplay from being cookie cutter wizards and warriors to a range of holy knights to dark necromancers. The game also increased the difficulty by adding more variations in monsters and their resistances and elemental damage. The sequel feels like a natural progression to the first game similar to how Super Mario Bros. 3 progressed Super Mario Bros.

With the Lord of Destruction expansion for Diablo II, it took things to another level and improved on the formula even more by adding another Act to the game, adding two new characters, new bosses and including improvements to the loot by adding runewords as something to seek out. But the core gameplay still remained the same and the spirit of the game was very much the same.

In both games, you're exploring a gothic medieval setting that jumps from the pages of Dante's Inferno or classic Christian literature of how people imagined demons and devils. The chess game of good and evil was on display and while there are many evils in these worlds, your good and holiness shined and outweighed any and all obstacles. The lore is wrapped around this concept and it's just about the end times. It borrows heavily from Catholic gothic literature and keeps that theme throughout, even though things like magic and necromancy would never be an acceptable form of fighting evil. That's where the fantasy comes into play and is similar to Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia.

When Diablo III hit the scene, most of this changed, not only from a gameplay aspect, but the setting and spirit of the game completely changed. The game went from gothic medieval fantasy to dark high fantasy. The tone changed from a disturbing evil to a sort of anime/cartoonish evil. The chess board was overturned and apparently God is on vacation while ultimate evil takes over the physical and spiritual worlds. And the entire gameplay element goes from being a role-playing game to a slot machine where nothing really matters except big numbers and incremental upgrades.


Diablo and Diablo II focus heavily on skills and attribute points, both giving you a wide range of character builds and strategies. If you want to make a leaping frog whirlwind tank, that's perfectly acceptable and if you're skilled enough as a player, you can be successful. You can contribute more of your stat points into strength as a wizard if you want because that freedom is available to you since these are role-playing games.

Diablo III completely squashes all freedom you had by simplifying the entire system. Attribute points are now automatically applied after each level gained. Skills are progressively unlocked and can be changed out on the fly. This dramatic change  in the way skills are managed radically changes the core mechanic of role playing games. Being able to quickly change skills with no punishment removes the risks inherent to experimenting with builds. A better method to reset skills might have been to pay someone to reset them or find a tomb that gives you that ability. But instead they went with the more arcade and simplified method of doing so which is never punish players for not paying attention to their skills.

Why would any of this matter? Because Diablo games were always about risk and reward. Diablo III takes out all the guess work and focuses more on "perfect builds" instead of the ability to customize a build to suit your play style. There's really no point of testing out the waters yourself with your own build or own playstyle because the pre-determined calculated styles of someone else are always better for the end game content in Diablo III. It went back two steps to make the game easier for new comers and streamline the hand holding of how skills and stats work in a typical RPG. Instead of playing a game where you know your skills and their abilities, you're focused more on setting up the perfect numbers game of pressing 1-4 (or all buttons on your controller) in order to pull of big splashy number damage. The entire skill system is dumbed down for the casual experience and to bring in their World of Warcraft crowd..

In Diablo II, you had specific gear and skills for each act because it wasn't about damage to all that mattered. Some enemies were immune to certain types of attacks and you had to prepare for those battles. You have gear with certain elemental damage that really hurts certain types of enemies and helps you in your playthrough, but you weren't sticking with that gear alone because it's not possible to play on the higher difficulties with the same elementals. You also had to wear appropriate armor for battle. You didn't want to walk into a battle where fire damage was the main element and be resistant to something else. You'd more than likely die.

In Diablo III, you can just become a lightning based hammer throwing crusader and kill everyone because everything is destructible to everything without any immunities. Honestly it's fun to just wreck house without any consequence but that's where it loses it touch with its roots. It's not an improvement on the previous systems; it's a removal and a big removal that puts the focus on being easy and accessible to all rather than rewarding someone who invests the time into learning their character and their foe. They also took away any real reason to focus on changing gear and preparing before battle. Instead, you just look for the highest resist all armor because resist all is king in the game. The only real challenge in Diablo III is being caught in a series of rotating energy beams that drain damage.

The number one biggest change is one of the biggest reasons Diablo III feels like a clone with the Diablo name slapped onto it. It's more akin to old console action role-playing games like Dark Alliance or Gauntlet Legends rather than a true Diablo game where choices matter and freedom is king.


If you want dopamine hits and to check those ADD check boxes, Diablo III is the most rewarding game of all time in terms of loot. It's as if Santa Claus rains down presents every 15 minutes with bright a glowing orange item on the ground. This is a lot of fun to change your gear out constantly but the loot is so diluted in it's current state that the fun of finding a set item or a legendary item is meaningless. You end up wanting a few extra tiers of item rarity just so there's something exciting when it drops. Most importantly, it's a big step back from what made Diablo fun. Getting a rare item and having it be rare is rewarding. But Diablo III isn't like the other games. It's focus is splashing bigger numbers at you while giving you a small incremental number to push you to the next greater rift difficulty for all eternity.

This is one thing I liked about vanilla Diablo III over it's current state. Finding a legendary or set item was such a rare experience, it felt rewarding. It was exciting and you couldn't wait to see how it was going to improve your experience. The way the game is now, finding loot is boring. It's so common to find legendary loot that you're left feeling uninterested after a few runs because you know for a fact how and where to get the rarest items.

Diablo III even misses the point of the loot. In the first two games, you can play the game similar to a Demon's / Dark Souls game by being completely naked. It was your skills that got you through the game, not your loot. In Diablo III, the focus on having the best loot might be tied to the root of its original loot problem: the real life auction house. It's been removed since, but the game's focus was to obtain loot to be able to play the harder difficulty levels. It's a constant carrot on a stick mechanic that isn't at all the focus on the previous games. It feels like a different game entirely when it comes to the point of loot drops.

Because the loot is so important to the core mechanics of the game, a lot of skill abilities are tied to the loot rather than the player. Instead of just getting a bow with better dexterity and using skill points to stack the abilities you want to you, you're now focused on looking for the loot that does the stacking for you. As mentioned before, you can take your armor off and still manage to run through the entire original games if you're skilled and talented enough. It's not possible to do this in Diablo III. If you're running the end game rifts and one or two pieces of important gear breaks that's key to your build, you have to repair it to continue or else you're wasting your time.

If you're not understanding why this makes Diablo III so fundamentally different from the previous games, just consider that the loot was more of a bonus than a requirement. Having different builds for different acts and different bosses was a norm and from the first game to its sequel. Diablo III wiped the slate clean and started over, removing what made Diablo's loot important to the series. It's more similar to various other action role-playing games than where it's supposed to be coming from.


I won't dwell too much on this as I covered most of this under the "Diablo to Diablo II" section, but as far as what makes Diablo III feel so different from its previous games is how you are exploring a world in an apocalyptic medieval state with a band of the last remaining saviors on Earth to a setting that's more full of life and world where evil just happens on the outskirts of the city (excluding Act 5 which did manage to fix some of these issues). But even in Act 5, the game has a very high fantasy style than a gothic and scary feeling of demonic presence. The monsters aren't focused on being evil and the world just isn't dark enough. The progression of the first two games had you enter a broken world and stumble into the pits of hell while Diablo III has you stumble into an overrun heaven? Imagine if a new Silent Hill came out and instead of exploring a world that's full of nightmare creatures in an abandoned city or room, you were holding a minigun mowing down criminals in New York. That's not what Silent Hill is, no matter the name.

You can tell the game was created with a different understanding of Diablo by the hidden cow level alone. In Diablo II, the hidden cow level is silly and a joke, but still maintained the darkness of the game by allowing animals to be controlled by demonic forces similar to pigs in the bible being demonically possessed. They didn't understand the joke, similar to how Rian Johnson didn't understand anything about Star Wars. They thought the joke and feel was because it was so silly and they went to the point of making a rainbow themed island full of silliness as their easter egg level and also as a way to acknowledge the fans complaints that the game has a very bright and colorful palette compared to the first two games.

The art direction also feels closer to Torchlight in this genre than Diablo. The cartoonish look and feel of everything, the polished abandoned tombs and buildings, the sleek and clean look of the overrun cities have little to no resemblance to the original games. To beat a dead horse, it's because the tone of the game changed from a gothic medieval fantasy game to a high fantasy World of Warcraft-lite game. I mean, it's so ridiculous that a colorful purple butterfly woman kills Deckard Cain right at the beginning.

And speaking of Cain, the amount of forced nostalgia they brought into the game is overwhelming. It feels like they brought a lot of these greatest hits over to remind players that this is a Diablo game, because certainly the gameplay and art direction wasn't going to do it. One of the first bosses you fight is the Skeleton King, which doesn't really make a lot of sense outside of the nostalgia. Same with the Butcher, which is another boss that they couldn't truly nail. It doesn't make any sense to kill the Butcher as he dies in the first game. It was clearly brought back to appeal to the old fans and introduce him to new fans. But they managed to completely mess him up because as I mentioned above, walking on the Butcher the first time was terrifying. He's chopping up bodies, he's bigger than the other enemies you've faced, and he's just sitting in a room that you can miss if you're not exploring. It's a scary moment the first time. Now? He's just a boss you rush through to get to the next area. That spirit is missing.

The boss battles changed so much as well. Diablo always had you stumble into the areas you were going to fight a boss. You generally knew where they were but they were just apart of the level. You could retreat and come back to them and they didn't feel disconnected from the level. In Diablo III, they made the bosses much more video game like where they have a few moves and you just dodge them to attack again. In the first two games, you had to think about what you were doing when you encountered them and had to learn their weaknesses, their immunities, and the attack elements. It's the difference between a role-playing experience and a typical arcade experience.

Aside from bosses, they tried to do a few more nostalgia flashbacks with familiar characters, areas (Acts 1 and Acts 2 of Diablo III look like Acts 1 and 2 of Diablo II). They brought back the runewords but somehow made those feel as exciting as skills with no ability to find them. They eventually brought back the Horadric cube which was an actual story element in Diablo II needed to progress. But all of this just felt like things to remind you that yes, you're playing Diablo even though the game is really different.


Diablo III is one of the easiest games I've ever played and easy usually gets boring. It isn't until around Act 4 the difficulty picks up. Until then, being surrounded by enemies is just another dopamine hit when you smash your sequenced skills together and knock them all out of the park. The vanilla game was a bit more difficult because they didn't create an infinite numbers difficulty game at this point, so getting to a higher tiered difficulty level was a challenge. But even at the start of Diablo III, you can't just pick a harder difficulty level. They have to spoon feed the challenges to you at a pace they feel you should play at.

I've managed to knock out half a dozen hardcore characters. Hardcore characters are much easier in Diablo III because there's not much challenge in leveling up your characters without dying. You're not running into an issue with immunity attacks. You're copying a build you find online and just playing that until you see those numbers go up to max level. Resist all and skill based gear for maximum damage is all you need for an easy win. You'll die sometimes which is a permanent death of course but it's pretty hard to die in the non-rift areas of Diablo III.

The awesome thing about the previous games is that dying hurt. You had to run back to your body to collect your things, meaning you needed a 2nd set of gear since all of your junk is in a dungeon or field somewhere. You lost gold, something that's completely useless in Diablo III. You even lost experience points, meaning that if you couldn't handle an area, you need to figure out how to overcome it instead of Rambo push through it over and over until success.

Difficulty is important in a gaming. Diablo III lacks this compared to Diablo and Diablo II. It's key to understand how different the difficulty works in Diablo games and why Diablo III pushes an arcade friendly gameplay rather than a role-playing gameplay. Without an risk, the reward feels less accomplishing. It's why so many people enjoy the Souls series. It's not the masochist inside them; it's the feeling of accomplishment from overcoming objective.


The entire end game of Diablo III is a lot of quick, actiony fun but it's also a completely different game than Diablo 1 and 2. Both of those games still focused on boss runs and getting better loot but that loot was to increase the difficulty which also changed the entire dynamic of how bosses and enemies worked. In Diablo III, they went with a very simplified approach to appease the casual gamers by introducing the Greater Rifts. They are challenge areas that turn the game into a complicated clicker. In a clicker game, you're just clicking buttons to make numbers go higher and higher for basically as long as you feel like playing. Diablo III managed to base the entire end game off that. Instead of just clicking, you're playing the game with the same exact goal. You just want the number to get higher so you can do it all over again on the next higher difficulty.

This is fun, but its not an improvement on Diablo at all. Because Diablo wasn't a numbers game. That's what a high score, leaderboard type arcade game is. Diablo used to be an role-playing game. The difficulty improvements in the first two games were about making the game harder for the sake of gameplay, not so you can see what level you can get to in your rifts. Diablo III manages to take the end game and turn it into a slot machine. You do the run you're bound to win, then you turn out a jackpot of loot if you manage to beat the time limit. You do this an infinite number of times, increase those big flashy numbers on your screen and hoping that your worthless naked characters gets the loot to go from a 130 Rift to a 131 Rift. It's why Diablo fans that put a lot of time into Diablo II went back to Diablo II. That's not the same type of end game or an improvement on a role-playing game. But it makes for an excellent arcade game with friends.

Looking at Diablo III from a series lens, it's missing so many things that it is known for and to a lesser extent, what fans expected from it. They mostly removed the exploration aspect in place of a much more linear world map. They removed the PVP and put it into a side arena. They removed the ability to collect someone's ear when they died by your hand. They scaled back the multiplayer and removed 8 player runs. They changed the gear so much where getting a rare blue item isn't even important and just another thing to trash. They removed "insane item" finds.

Diablo III did improve on some things. One of my favorite additions is randomly spawned demons that had killed your friends and hunting them down to avenge your friends death. That's the kind of improvements you'd like to see in the series, not totally redoing how skills and loot works in the game to make it easier for the kids. The amount of drastic changes to the gameplay really turned fans of the series off from calling it a true Diablo sequel. Now it would be considered a Diablo-like clone.

None of these changes make Diablo III a bad game. They're totally different games with only slight similarities in gameplay on the surface. You can enjoy both games, but these are the reasons Diablo II has a stronger community than Diablo III. During a new ladder in Diablo III, you might see some people jump into the game to collect the season's loot, but the lasting effects are over. Diablo II has managed to keep it's community even when Diablo III went through a drought of hardly anyone playing online across all of its platforms.

If anything, Diablo III is the Resident Evil 6 of the Resident Evil series. They replaced the dark and abandoned survival horror setting for a much more action packed game within the same universe. They might share the name, but they're not even close to the same game in spirit.

Since it's clear Diablo IV is going in the direction of Diablo III rather than going back a step and making a role-playing game again, some games I'd recommend as more faithful to the original series would be Grim Dawn, Dungeon Siege 1 and II (skip 3), and Titan Quest. Just don't expect these games to hold your hand completely and throw a reward at your feet every minute to keep you coming back.

Share on Google Plus

About DryvBy

The best thing about running your own website is that no one can tell you what to do. Also, video games are awesome.
    Blogger Comment


Post a Comment