Gamemoir’s Nick D. explains why single player gamers might still be able to get 110% plus enjoyment from Diablo III.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition launched recently on the PS4, and I snatched it up. I had played the original Diablo III back when it first launched but my PC is not great, and so the lag was strong with that one. I had to go back to playing Diablo II and try to get as high as I could on the ladder before it reset. I know some people who buy Diablo 2 items to help them so I’ll have to have a look at that option. Now, I have friends who are very into Diablo III on PC, and they’ve been goading me along to keep playing as well as giving me tips and tricks to maximize my damage output. But the one thing they find absolutely terrifyingly strange is that I refuse to even touch the online component to Diablo III. A large component of the game is online, and I simply have no interest in the game beyond single player. So today, I’d like to explore how such a thing is possible.
Diablo III isn’t a multiplayer game the way that Titanfall is. Instead, it’s a co-op game in the same vein as Borderlands, Dead Island, Left 4 Dead, or, yes, Diablo II. The difference is that co-op games generally restrict play to a small group of people, and the game is premised and balanced around (often) four people working at once. These games also tend to feature multiple protagonists in their story. In Dead Island, for example, all the cutscenes used all four characters even though I hadn’t seen any of the other three because I, once again, refused to touch co-op. These co-op games usually allow for single player, but the experience is often highly diluted like in Left4Dead where you have to rely on he bad AI.
One of the big hallmarks of a co-op game is the increased attention given to gameplay and the decreased attention towards major single player elements such as immersion and story. After all, it’s hard to focus on the scenery or take things seriously when you have people running around, talking trash, providing new racial slurs to your vocabulary, and just plain being a dick. Developers of co-op games know that the bulk of the game has to be gameplay when you get multiple people around. The cuscenes can’t be of Metal Gear Solid proportions, otherwise half of the team would want to skip, and the other half might be interested, thus leading to conflict. Accordingly, these games often thrive on immediate pleasure so as to keep the team happy and playing as long as they can.
Diablo III is no exception to this rule. I say, without hyperbole, that Diablo III has one of the worst stories and writing I’ve ever seen from a big budget video game. Every character is a cliche of a cliche. Every plot line is telegraphed long in advance. And the general writing seems to be that of a twelve-year-old boy. I can see no other excuse as to why the demon lords keep taunting you like bullies on a school yard. As a person who very much values the story of a game, this really hurt, especially since I enjoyed Diablo IIs story. So, I skip every bit of dialogue now because hearing it hurts my brain. And the world feels empty. When a game is made with the intention that many people will be playing at once, it is noticeable. The landscape can feel big and empty, and any attempt to smell the roses is strongly discouraged. I personally, don’t think that Diablo III caters even a little bit to the single player experience.
But, to the game’s credit, Diablo III’s total co-op focus doesn’t demean how fun and addictive its gameplay is in the single player sphere. And that is exactly how many co-op games continue to have a single player following. Diablo III is a loot-based game, and loot-based games are highly addictive. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing with friends or alone, the prospect of playing just one more dungeon can be irresistible. The gameplay being strong is a feather in Diablo III’s cap, but it’s hardly necessary. For example, Borderlands doesn’t have very tight shooting controls when compared to the heavy hitters in the genre, but the loot mechanics overpower that. It’s amazing how much addictive gameplay can make up for average or even subpar gameplay. That’s a general statement, not to the detriment of either game mentioned. If I were to mention bad games that relied on it, I’d start listing MMOs or Sacred 3, just to name an example.
Even if Diablo III is designed as a co-op game, there’s still plenty of fun to be had going at it single player. However, it’s like playing a game in a language you’re only vaguely familiar with. There are tons of stops and troubling aspects that you wouldn’t put up with in a single player experience, but you look past those towards the ever-present prospect of another legendary drop. Diablo III is not a game designed for my, but I can make it work.