Down Goes Foreman, I Mean Diablo, And Other D3 Musings

**************** DIABLO 3 SPOILERS BELOW ****************

Diablo 3’s Witch Doctor shakes like he suffers from Parkinson’s. In one hand is his weapon, in his off hand is his wanga doll, both of them are constantly moving. The Witch Doctor is the Michael J. Fox of Diablo 3[D3]. His comical movements add some much needed humor to a plot line and atmosphere that can be, at times, dire. By the time you make it to Leoric’s Manor and delve into its torture chamber depths, you realize D3 is just as dark as its predecesores. The only thing that takes away from the fear that one feels as he or she ventures through the dungeons of Diablo are the in-engine story cinematics.

The games Act transition cinematics (major cinematics play when a player progresses from one Act/Setting to another) are some of the best I have seen and are a testament to Blizzard’s creative ability. The end game cinematic, that follows the slaying of Diablo, is gorgeously rendered and beautifully scored. It’s a cinematic that is befitting of the death of Diablo. Diablo, a character that is the series namesake and its main protagonist, deserved the cinematic given following his death. It’s the juxtaposition of the in-game cinematics and the in-engine ones, that makes it difficult to immerse oneself into the games story.  Most of the in-engine cinematics are forgivable and not so terribly important to the overall game play, or the game’s story-there is one exception however.

Following this quests completion is one of the most befitting cinematics for the death of terror itself.

Deckard Cain has been a reoccurring character in all three of the Diablo games. He is the last of the wise Horadric mages who have spent their lives fighting back the Prime Evils. Throughout all three games he has provided valuable information to the player and the plot,   and more importantly (in Diablo and Diablo 2), he helped identify your magic loot. He is the wise old man that you would gladly give an ear to when asked to, “Stay awhile and listen.” Deckard Cain is/was the Yoda of the Diablo series. His death in D3 was a sad moment but the magnitude of his passing was lessened by the in-engine cinematic that portrayed it.

Deckard Cain receives an in-engine killing blow.

If any plot lines deserved the same cinematic treatment that was given to the Act transitions, Deckard Cain’s death was one of them. Instead of feeling like I just lost my Grandpa, Deckard Cain’s in-engine death came across like the death of a week old pet goldfish. I was sad, but the cartoonish visualization of his death cheapened what should of been a momentous event in the Diablo lore. Even in his death Deckard Cain was working to fight the Prime Evils. As he took his last few breathes he recrafted Tyrael’s sword, letting everyone know that, “The truth lies within,” just as Yoda, on his deathbed, lets everyone know, “There is another Skywalker.”  Deckard will be missed, despite his unceremonious sendoff.

Even right before his death, Deckard Cain continues his fight against the Prime Evils by making Tyrael’s sword whole again.

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Up To Act Three In Diablo 3.

Unexplored depths are less scary to explore with friends.

So Diablo 3 [D3] had a bit of a bad start. Its launch could of gone a lot better, but 24 hours after its release Diablo had his horns affixed and millions addicted… myself included. Though some of us will never forget Error 37 and the Torchlight fanboy trolling that occurred during D3’s troubled release, I think all of us will remember that moment when we realized we were hooked on the Devil again. Once I had chosen my character and I experienced my first Monster Massacre (D3 keeps track of how many monsters you kill in a certain time frame, 58 is my current record) and experienced my first significant loot drop, I knew I was hooked to an old friend made new. Diablo has returned and it is glorious.

Have a case of arachnophobia? D3 will test your limits, especially with Cydaea – Azmodan’s concubine.

Crusading against Azmodan’s minions in the battlefields that make up Arreat Crater (yes, all that remains of the Worldstone and the mountain that held it is a hole) is a constant melee. You encounter one group of demons after another and you must use all your character’s skills, passive or otherwise, to survive, especially when venturing alone. Each mini battle feels grandiose and after each Monster Massacre you take a deep breath, and prepare for the next one. Your characters powers feel like they should. They feel accurate for a race that is part angel and part demon, these powers are appropriate to the nephalem of Sanctuary. From Act I on the  super human abilities of your character are immersive and provide the proper amount of feed back to the player. This is the first Diablo that has instigated shit talking to the dead demons at my feet. On multiple occasions I have blurted out, “Suck it you bastards!” in response to Monster Massacre popping up on my screen.

Massacre + Loot = Win.

What D3, and all the Diablo’s preceding it, does well, is loot. D3 sticks to its shinies roots, and then turns it up to 11. My first unique item was a moment worth telling others. Actually, I did convey my excitement to my girlfriend upon finding a unique helmet, to which she replied,”So what does that mean?” I guess some people just don’t appreciate shinies as much as a Diablo junkies does. A brilliant move by Diablo, other than making loot drop better when playing with a group, is the addition of the loot focused moster appropriately called the Treasure Goblin. This goblin can be found throughout D3’s environments, shitting gold across the map. If you kill it before it ducks away into its portal, you receive a generous loot drop. My first three deaths in D3 were the direct results of my greed and of the Treasure Goblin. All three times I felt like a stock broker betting on credit default swaps, hoping for a big payout but never considering the risk. I chased that goblin and his riches across an entire map, three times, and each time I aggroed almost every creature in the area, then died. The best way to best the Treasure Goblin is to corner him before he awakens the rest of the map, otherwise you should just cut your loses and save your life. Then again, you could miss out on some unique, or even legendary, shinies. Ah, just chase the little bastard.

Circled in red, a Treasure Goblin being PWND!

A crown meant for a king.

D3 does everything you would expect/want from the third game of the Diablo series. Fighting is more fun than ever. Loot is one the most important elements to the game, hell, it already has its own Ebay built into it. Are you a nephalem who grew up on Diablo in its original form? Don’t worry, D3 is a nephalem nostelgia fest, with hundreds of references to the first Diablo. Hell, my first legendary item… Leoric’s Crown!  Looking to do some ample button smashing and mouse clicking like you did in D2’s Hell difficulty? Don’t sweat hell’s heat, D3 has four difficulty levels: Normal; Nightmare; Hell and Inferno. The only troublesome thing I’ve encountered with D3, is finding the will to stop playing long enough to write about it.

10 Minutes With The Devil: Diablo 3’s [Error 37] Release

Diablo is just as infuriating and conniving as he was in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 but for the time being, it’s for the wrong reasons. After setting up my Battle.net account and installing the game, I feverishly anticipate the opening cinematics. It didn’t matter that I had seen the opening sequence at least a dozen times before, this time was different. This time I was watching Deckard Cain convey his worries to his niece Leah (smart move Blizzard, adding the h at the end will keep the Lucas lawyers away), while my very own copy of the game set in front of me. When Deckard Cain asks Leah, “You do believe me don’t you Leah?” and the sky falls down on them in the Tristam Cathedral, I quickly answer, “Yes.” That however, is where and when my belief in Diablo’s third coming… ended.

As soon as Deckard Cain states, “It has begun,” is when my fun with Diablo 3 concluded. After the excitement of the opening cinematic you arrive at the log in screen for Diablo 3. With my account already created and my email address verified, I input my user name and password. Error 37. Here begins an error that will live on in infamy, via internet memes, for years to come. Of course I cancel and try again. Error 37. And again. Error 37. Taking a breath I exit out of D3 and give it another go. Error 37. The message board on the right hand side of the login screen addresses the issues with logging in, and state they will be fixed by 1:30PDT. I rejoice for a bit, it is 2PM CT and well pass 1:30PDT. I try to log in again.

Internet memes, commence.

Error 75. That is the next error I am faced with after my most recent attempt to log in. My fears of Diablo returning with his minions are replaced with the realization that I will not be able to see them nor stop them for the time being. Diablo will go unchecked in the world of Sanctuary, not because I lack the courage to face him but because of his brothers, the real Prime Evils, Error 37 and Error 75. I understand it is launch day for one of the most anticipated games in recent memory. I understand servers will be under a lot of stress but you can’t help but feel a bit of hell fire on the back of your neck as you stare at another error screen.

One of the lesser known Prim Evils, Error 75.

Once the lava cooled in my veins, and I embraced the teachings of the Dalai Lama for five minutes, I returned to the login screen. This time I am rewarded with a box that puts a check mark next to “Connected to Battle.net server” then another by “Authenticated” then finally, next to “Retrieving Hero List.” I am logged in and ready to create my character that will push back the hellspawn spewed from the ass of the Devil himself. I create my Monk, Dalai Camel, and exit out. My battle versus the Devil’s minions will have to wait.

*On a side note. Read the brief description for the Barbarian within the Quick Start Guide. Who does the line, “Armored in thick plate and driven by rage, these primal fighters wish only to crush their enemies and see them driven before them,” remind you of?

Diablo 3’s Release Gives Hope That One Dungeon Replaces Another

I play a multitude of games that focus on dungeon crawling. From Skyrim, with its plethora of dungeons scattered across its massive landscape, to the Legend of Grimrock, with one dungeon stacked on top of the other, I live to explore and pillage damp caverns of stone and rock. The great thing about dungeon crawlers there’s always the option to quit, there’s always an exit. For the last eight months though, I feel like I’ve been stuck in a dungeon with no option to quit and no exit.

Beautiful, but I want out.

I’ve been unemployed for the last eight months. My old company could no longer afford to pay me due to the decline of print, and the recession that is quickening its death. For the last eight months I’ve been crawling the same unemployment dungeon. In Skyrim, dungeons are littered with traps, monsters and magical rewards. The unemployment dungeon is littered with poor and few good job opportunites, a multitude of other (qualified) candidates and supposedly an exit… a job.

No exit, just stairs to another dungeon.

In the unemployment dungeon I have yet to find that exit. I’ve been close, a lot. With 15 plus first round and around five second round interviews under my adventure’s belt, I’ve seen the light that signifies my escape. Three times now I’ve been, what I like to call, a semifinalist for a position. I’ve been the companion that is left behind as the hero narrowly rolls under the falling wall. Now I feel a little remorse for all those hired hands that died during my adventures in Skyrim and Diablo 2.

You didn’t know Aliza but you did know she would die.

On the horizon is the release of one of my all time favorite dungeon crawlers. A dungeon crawler I used to go to computer cafes back in the 90s to play with my brother-in-law. A dungeon crawler that caused me to drag my step-dad and mom into the home office, to show them the in-game cinematics. A game I’ve been looking forward to since its second coming in 2000. Until recently. Blizzard’s Diablo series is set to release its third iteration (Diablo 3) on May 15th, 2012 and after my most recent near escape from my career dungeon, I was looking forward to it.

After receiving another letter in the mail this past weekend, informing me that my time in my personal employment crypt is not yet over, my anticipation for a virtual crypt took a hit. Diablo 3 lost some of its luster and importance to me as I read the HR letter filled with fluff. I’ve had this disease before but found the cure. This time around it’s different. My cofers are thinning and I’ve used all the potions available to me. As I write though my excitement for a game 12 years overdue rises, just like the games protagonist and namesake. My determination to leave my real world dungeon and enter a virtual one, is reastablished.

Lets hope the exit is just ahead.

Lipstick On The Collar: Cheating Can Spice Up Your PC Gaming

I cheat. I cheat regularly. After running a game through its paces I usually look for a particular mod that frees up my in game options, and garners me a bit of an advantage. A mod is not exactly the most accurate term, more or less it’s a cheat that I am looking for. Before you raise your Cardinal crest in protest, please know I only use cheats in single player games or in single player modes-I do not cheat in multiplayer games. The cheats/editors I am after are ones that turn a very challenging game into a more casual version, or add a bit more life to a game that’s lost some of its luster. Much like how a mod adds new life to a game, whose mechanics seem tired, cheating is essentially its ugly stepsister.

The little engine that could.

After 200+ hours of roaming the mountains and streams of Skyrim I wanted to ease my burden, of carrying a burden. Using the console cheats (left behind by the developer) I changed my carrying capacity to match that of the Hulk, and increased my personal treasury to a level that would rival Tony Stark’s. In a matter of seconds I gave my character the gold and towing capacity that would of taken hours to obtain, if ever. I didn’t break the game but manipulated it into a form that renewed my interest in playing it regularly again.

Plenty of gold and a high enough carry weight to haul it.

Shogun 2 is a challenging game. It requires strategy and foresight to even attempt to overthrow the current Shogunate, and dam near perfect tactics to hold onto the title yourself. After tediously and slowly carving out a Chosokabe Shogunate, during my second attempt at conquering feudal Japan, I felt drained, but accomplished. It took hours of planning and hours of investing in my provinces to finally be able to raise an army worthy of challenging the Shogunate. It took hours of frantic troop movements and a handful of lost provinces, to repel the Shogunate army and his allies. It took every spare koku and troop, peasant or samurai, to hold Kyoto. It also helped that I could load up my prior turn if a decision to attack a castle or fleet worked against me.

Shogun 2 is, in its original form, not a casual game, but use a hex editor to boost your koku count and it can be. After my strenuous slog to Shogunate I was ready to keep Shogun 2 off my recently played list, but after doing some internet digging I found its saving grace. A hex editor allows you to manipulate fundamental binary data, in this case Shogun 2’s koku count. This simple to use editor turned a game I wouldn’t of touched in months into a game I couldn’t wait to launch again. It turned a fiercely difficult strategy game into a casual, samurai slaughtering, jaunt across feudal Japan. Cheating brought new life to a couple of old girls, and no one broke up with me because of it.

Yeah my treasury is overflowing but look at that profit margin.