It was twelve years ago since I last descended into the very dark, searing depths of Diablo’s realm. He had risen but only a few years before, but the corruption was rampant. Several lords of hell, including Diablo (and Baal in the subsequent aftermath) fell to my blade and for a long time there has been an era of peace and prosperity. Many years have passed. A new Tristram has risen close to the site of the ruined town. Reports claim that a star has fallen on a Cathedral close to New Tristram and the dead suddenly walk the earth. While I can only leave my quest to a new generation of heroes, observing from a great distance, one question dwells on my mind. Has the Lord of Terror truly risen again?
Who have I left my task to? These chosen few are a special kind of warrior, each with drastically varying abilities. The Barbarian is a physical fighter who hacks and slashes foes; unleashing their fury as the rage within builds, calming down when not in combat. The Monk is also a physical fighter, but they mostly use their fists and channel their mind through fighting, albeit with the added perk of being able to store their spirit for future confrontations. As for the Wizard, they use magical attacks through the powers of the arcane to freeze, burn and shock enemies, while also being able to manipulate time and space. The Demon Hunter is an oddity as they use both hatred and discipline for offensive and defensive abilities respectively and is a trickster at heart with abilities such as to lay snaring traps or hurl a hail of arrows. Finally, the Witch Doctor can call upon monsters to assist in the heat of battle or use shamanistic powers to scare or poison the enemy.
Their quest was most certainly an arduous one for their morale. Upon arriving in New Tristram, they discovered that my dear friend Deckard Cain was in the Cathedral at the time of the star’s impact and that his adopted daughter Leah was the “sole survivor”. She certainly seems somewhat familiar to me, but alas I can only observe from afar. Making their way to the Cathedral, they soon discover Cain is still alive, rescuing him from the disturbed soul of the Skeleton King. After a few trials, they eventually come across the source of the star. Details regarding what it is are hazy, but the revelation soon sparks a chain of events that would pit the heroes against Belial – Lord of Lies and Azmodan – Lord of Sin; before a confrontation with Diablo himself.
One thing that was certainly peculiar was how the tale unfolded. It was in the same perspective from all those years ago, though there was a significant improvement in the quality. I recall everything being blurred before, with not such a rich diversity of environments. Surely Diablo’s reach has extended further afield this time, with both familiar and unfamiliar adversaries to face. One interesting detail this time around is that the world altered wildly upon each hero’s adventure. Some would encounter a farmer trying to save his crops; others would find a different farmer who was tending to his recently unburied wife. I even saw that the farm had gone completely and a cave was in its place. I suspect that each time an alternative universe is shown where different adventurers take on Diablo’s army; the heroes will not see the same thing twice, meaning that you’ll certainly will be on your toes for some of the time. But the thing that most impressed were the little details – such as crumbling environments that damage friend and foe alike, with each environment having a fitting ambiance.
As the heroes awoke to new powers along the way, they were able to augment them with runes that could drastically change the properties of the main attack. A prime example of this is regarding the Witch Doctor’s Zombie Dogs that can be altered to either inflict poison damage with their bite or drop health vials upon death, among other customisation options as the hero progresses. The fact that these aren’t permanent means that if their skill set isn’t working out for a particular encounter, they can change on the fly (with a small cool-down timer) to better equip themselves against the ordeals ahead. They also have access to passive perks that help further augment their abilities.
They may have an easier time than I did, as heroes can pick up aforementioned health vials from fallen foes for instant recovery, and their perks are far easier to manage, but their skills are generally more interesting as a consequence of their training. They could still find many different grades of loot on fallen foes and this is largely the focus on their quests. Item management is far simpler this time around, with not many items being bound to specific heroes and a simpler interface for storing items. Are these heroes getting off lightly? Other observers might feel this way, though mind you the observers of my quest may have imagined cattle brandishing broad-axes. Perception is a fickle thing.
New Tristram, along with other camp locations, act as a safe haven for the weary heroes. Here they will come across various vendors who try to sell their wares, are able to stash items in chests that are accessible to other heroes, and upgrade both the Armoury and the Jewelers to create better equipment for themselves. Each person they encounter has multiple dialogues, including the allies they pick up along the way. One nice thing is that Deckard Cain hasn’t changed all these years, still sounding the same as he did way back when. Mind you, whether they are human or demon, the adventure was impressively immersive due to the quality of the voice work.
From afar, I also sensed that the heroes were governed by the outer god – “Battle.Net”. Because this has famously been temperamental of late, it is worth noting that the mandatory online access has caused issues, even for solitary campaigns. Once the outer god has been appeased however, I could see clearly. While at times I mostly saw the fate of one hero, I also saw what happened when one hero teamed with up to three others. Each of them teaming up with others to a merry adventure where co-operation was the key to success as the forces of Hell were far stronger.
Heroes were also able to access the Auction House to sell off wares that were deemed too inferior for their own personal use. At the time of observation, no currency other than Gold collected on the journey was available to trade, and heroes could not turn on each other in “PvP” matches. If I can be honest here though; PvP seems a little pointless, as the goal is to slay Diablo himself, rather than each other.
Diablo’s return himself is a terrible thing for mankind, but the adventure is far from it. The new generation of heroes are diverse and well equipped to take on the Lord of Perdition with some fascinating abilities along the way. I do feel that they had a far simpler time compared to myself back in the days when I was alive. Some of the reasons are merely convenience, which is fair enough and I have no objection to it; but others are just because the demons have had too much time to rest. My visions weren’t without elements of style and finesse, and the third encounter with Diablo is perhaps the finest of its kind. Despite being a streamlined affair, there is plenty on offer to keep the spirits of the old heroes observing – for as long as the outer god is appeased that is.