5 Reasons Diablo 3 Is Everything We Like About Video Games
During my examination of Cosmic Encounter, I said that it was everything that people like about board games. It uses all of the strengths of the medium to propel itself into greatness. Likewise, Diablo 3 is a fine example of why gamers, and not just PC gamers, like games in the first place.
#5: Character When We Need It
Like Valve's excellent Left 4 Dead games, D3 takes the idea of situational dialogue for characters and runs with it. When you approach a named group of especially tough enemies, your companion will say something like, "there's a worthy foe!" This makes you discover the characters organically simply by seeing how they react to situations and characters. It takes a very light touch, but the end result is solid, believable characters with more personality than 90% of the NPCs in Skyrim.
How is this unique to video gaming?
Unlike books, movies or tabletop games, this emergent storytelling is completely dependent upon the player's decisions. Character class, gender, companion and situation are all taken into account.
One of the biggest challenges when designing games is ensuring it can be played more than once. Some games are made for only one or two play-throughs, like Bioshock or Batman: Arkham Asylum. Now, I've personally played through those two games at least four times, but the content remains the same. Nothing significant changes from session to session unless I'm going out of my way to pick different guns or gadgets.
Diablo 3 is essentially a giant bag of dice attached to the frame of a narrative. So much of the game is randomly generated that no two players are going to have the exact same experience. The items, levels and events are always changing, hopefully allowing people to play the game for years to come without getting bored.
How is this unique to video games?
Again, movies and books will be the same every time you read them.
#3: Non-Invasive Story
As you play Diablo 3, you'll get monster lore in the form of optional audio diaries. You don't have to listen to them, but you'll typically be glad you did. Characters speak to the player usually when there's some kind of downtime (for instance, when you're selling your junk to the vendor in town). The rest of the time, they'll run after you while you continue slaughtering the minions of Hell.
If you've ever played a game like World of Warcraft, you've probably skipped a few (or all) of the quest dialogue to get to the action faster. Reading quests is a great way for interested players to experience the world, but the other half of the players just want to play. D3 has found a way to give you story without getting in your face.
How is this unique to video games?
Video games are made to be played, not watched. When a player isn't interacting with the game, it stops being a game and becomes a movie or book. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but D3 never stops being interactive.
#2: Seamless Multiplayer
A few years ago a company named Splash Damage created a game called Brink that was supposed to blur the line between single and multiplayer games. It completely failed in that endeavor, but the gameplay was decent. D3 might be the first game to actually accomplish this goal. Monsters "level up" a little as soon as someone joins your game, so the difficulty dynamically scales so that everyone can have a good time.
How is this unique?
The game wants to be played, and it wants you to play it with your friends.
#1: Seriously Fun Gameplay
No piece of entertainment would succeed if it wasn't fun to play. Fortunately, Blizzard has taken the (rather considerable) time to polish every aspect of the game to a glossy shine. As it exists today, D3 is basically a psychic needle directly to the pleasure center of the brain; the part that likes seeing killstreak rewards in Call of Duty, or successfully winning a roll for loot in an MMO.
In a way, it's like Blizzard is exploiting humanity.
Anyway, the game does as much as it can to make the player the star of the show all throughout the game. When you kill boss monsters, they properly explode or writhe or groan. Barrels and railings shatter when a particularly powerful attack goes off. Loot flies out of chests and monsters. In a word, the game is satisfying to play. It embodies almost everything that you've ever loved about video games.