So… Diablo 3. I’ve been putting this off for a while, mostly to wait until the early post-release chaos died down and to see what was actually going to be resolved with patch 1.03 and I feel now that I have played the game enough to really put together a well-rounded review and not just a quick “This game sucks/rules”.
For those who do want that kind of this, allow me to preface this: This game is pretty damn good. I’ve made it to Inferno and I am enjoying the “endgame” and all that entails, and I’ll touch on that later. I hate reviews that just do nothing but bash a game and I swore never to do it, but a lot of this is going to be me breaking that promise because, seriously, Blizzard isn’t going to change anything unless people speak up (but they have and they didn’t so whatever) but I also have a lot of good things to say too, so let’s see where this trainwreck goes. I naturally had some concerns (as many did) about some certain things as the always-online play, and the real-money auction house. And those are still something of a heated topic (especially if you happen to join “General” chat in-game…I mean good God.) There are other things too. I think I should probably tackle these topics one by one.
1. Always Connected or You Can’t Play – On one hand, I understand their reasoning for doing this. Security is a big issue and Blizzard wanted everyone able to access the Auction Houses even if you only play on your own, and the social aspects, achievements, etc. But it introduces a problem: servers go down. And they did quite a bit in those first few weeks.
As a default, having everyone online does have more benefits than drawbacks, but is it a reason to force your players to conform to your way of doing things when an offline mode for single players that can’t access any of those other aforementioned features? No.
I can understand their point of view. Also, it does not really affect me since I play online and do not have interest in being locked out of online play like having a single-player character would be in Diablo 2. But there are people who do, and I personally know people who live in locations where internet access is spotty and downright rubbish. Those people have been essentially discriminated against in their ability to play this game.
I said it before and I will say it now, it cost them sales and it is only a matter of time before someone hacks and pirates a version of the game with an offline/LAN mode added on. If their choice of actions was nothing but a ploy (as many people believe it to be) to lure people to the RMAH to spend cash, it may harm their reputation more in the long-run. The customer base was clear about their feelings toward being forced into online play and those voices were ignored. Good businesses do not do that. Maybe Activision is influencing their decisions?
2. Real Money Auction House – I was in the minority here, because I thought this could really work if done right and be good for the game. I knew that players were going to buy and sell items and commodities from the game whether Blizzard liked it or not. It happened in Diablo 2, it happened in World of Warcraft, it happens in countless other games, and it would happen here. It only made sense for the publisher to say “Look, people are going to do this so we may as well make it safe and easy for them.” and I was behind that. What I was not behind was the obviously inflated fees they decided to charge for this convenience. $1.00 PER ITEM, plus another 15% if you actually want your money out. Who decided that was a good idea?? I’m sure Blizzard/Activision is loving it because they are laughing all the way to the bank but guess what, I won’t ever, ever consider buying anything there thanks to that decision of theirs. It is approaching scam territory and it was a terrible, terrible idea and here’s why:
- High fees : The high fees give a lot of room for 3rd parties (the ones this decision was clearly attempting to combat) to undercut the sanctioned system. $1.00 plus 15% (or 15% + another 15% on commodities…which STILL can’t be bought or sold as of today because who knows what the hell) is a ridiculous cut for transactions of imaginary objects. A flat 10% would have been more than fair and would not have invited accusations of scammery and they would be making just as much, if not more money in the long run.
- Battle.net Balance vs. Paypal. Pick One. : I was actually really happy about the RMAH until I learned about this little part. Which, in a word, is bullshit. When you create an auction on the RMAH, you have to choose, if it just happens to sell, if you want your money deposited to your “Battle.net Balance” or to your Paypal account. And those are your only two options. First of all: What fucking year is it? Why is it that I have to choose first? There is no legitimate reason why their system cannot have money sent to your Battle.net balance by default and at any time allow me to cash out via paypal. Secondly, again, what fucking year is it? Why is Paypal my only option? The amount of payment options I have with World of Warcraft alone is proof that they could have given us more choices, but decided not to. So, I get to pay 15% on top of the already absurd fees, or my money is trapped inside Blizzard’s pocket forever and my only options to use it are either again on the RMAH (what a coincidence) or digital downloads of other games; as far as I have seen, you can’t even use that money to renew your WoW subscription, and there is absolutely no reason for that. It is maddening, and all the people on the internet right now accusing Blizzard/Activation/Paypal of colluding to abuse their customers have a huge leg to stand on in those accusations and I won’t offer any arguments against them.
This is what Blizzard needs to do, in a big hurry:
- Reduce your fees.
- Allow me the choice to get my money out of my Battle.net balance after the fact. Pre-selection of where my funds go is unnecessary in every way.
- Give me a choice other than Paypal, which is notorious for engaging in nigh-criminal customer abuse. Offer some competition for reduced rates for Pete’s sake. Not doing so is not only suspicious, but really just a slap in the face when you and I both know you can do better.
What has all of this done? It’s given the “Chinese Gold Farms” a huge edge to make for themselves and guess what we see all day long on the chat channels? That’s right!
SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM! What fun!
Which brings us to…
3. The Game Itself – …Is good! But (understandably) riddled with problems, and you’ll note that I used the word “good” and not “great” and certainly not “legendary” as would befit the sequel to Diablo II.
The biggest problems I have are the cheating, and the spam. Which I see almost zero evidence of Blizzard combating. I keep hearing about “Warden” their anti-cheating system and I honestly wonder if it is doing anything at all. I would really like to be proven wrong on this, but I can’t have a discussion in chat without seeing a link to some asshole’s gold-selling/power leveling CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP website every sixty seconds. And that is not an exaggeration. I see the report spam button…I click the report spam button…The goggles, they do nothing. This is extremely disheartening and demoralizing, and I am told that this activity (and lack of adequate correction) has really messed up the game’s economy in record time.
I hear there is also a huge problem with items, and patch 1.03 was supposed to correct a lot of it but fell short in a big way. Anything with Increased Attack Speed was nerfed, but the fact that Legendary tier weapons have hilariously inadequate damage ranges when compared to Rare items of the same level…something that they plan to correct, but existing items will not be retroactively effected, even though they could fix existing items as they did to anything with Increased Attack Speed. They just won’t.
The story is fun, each Act is shorter than the last it feels like, Act IV being extremely short and rushed (just like D2) it just makes me feel that after 12 years, there could have been a lot more meat on the bones. More random events, more special content, special content for groups, there was so much potential, it makes me wonder what they have been doing this whole time with the nigh-unlimited resources they had to work with. So much was changed right-before release too, it really is confusing…just what were they doing? I sincerely hope they bring a lot more to the table with the expansion, and I actually hope they do more than one expansion as well. Diablo II’s expansion was an amazing improvement on the base game; please please please live up to that standard, Blizzard.
Aside from that, and half the game pretty much being “INCOMING MESSAGE FROM THE BIG GIANT HEAD” after any story event, where the act boss wants to jeer and taunt like some kind of terrible Bond villain. There are also some significant imbalances between the different classes and those are closer to being resolved. I did not appreciate the way that most things were just nerfed instead of correcting things in the other direction; that is to say “A is too weak, so instead of making A stronger, we’ll just weaken B through Z”. I also read some things about chests and objects in the environment being dumbed down in terms of what they can drop, which was to combat the botters and cheaters which really was a crap response to what should have been a matter of making Warden work properly in the first place, now people who play by the rules suffer instead. However, I am still having fun and I will continue to sell my items to people with way too much money to waste. (It blows my mind what people will spend, literally, on what equates to nothing more than imaginary numbers.)
4. Having said that…Blizzard’s questionable choices have created a great opportunity for Torchlight 2 to take the lead. They (Runic AND Blizzard) should seriously take notice and act accordingly. - Everything I see about Torchlight 2 looks really great, the class selection is the only thing I am not thrilled about though. If Torchlight does the whole auction house thing and does it better (which shouldn’t be too hard) they could siphon off a ton of revenue from would-be Diablo 3 players. I am really excited to see that release and I hope they take advantage of these facts and deliver.
Blizzard has been given time to correct their mistakes, and we are reaching the critical point where they can turn this good game into a great game and their inaction no longer has a valid excuse. It will become very clear in the next month or so what their intentions are, how much they respect their customer base, and who is really in control of that organization. I am enjoying the game, but the longer I go with these gripes and inconveniences piling up unresolved, my attention will turn elsewhere because it will no longer be a fun experience for me.
The proverbial ball is in your court, Blizzard. Will you deliver or disappoint? Please show us that we were wrong in suspecting that Activision’s involvement is ruining you slowly.