So last night, for the first time in months, I logged into Diablo 3 again. Taking a brief moment to explore the new maps, I ended up on a nostalgic romp down memory lane into my childhood.

So Diablo 3. There are those who love it, those who hate it, and that last, unfortunate crowd asking “What’s Diablo 3?” Personally, I’ve had a blast in the countless hours I’ve lost hunting for the next great item with each patch, the story, the adventure mode, the different classes. Everything has done a fantastic job of keeping my interest, and I praise Blizzard for its work in spite of a generally underwhelming release years ago.

Blizzard isn’t known for making bad games, in the long run. Sure, there are the people who like to trash World of Warcraft, the countless stories of ended marriages and ruined friendships. Sometimes their work needs polish, but overall, we’re not exactly talking about the Uwe Boll of video game developers here.

Reaper of Souls has been out for quite some time now, and after playing through it multiple times across several characters, one thing has been a recurring gripe for me about Diablo 3.

It’s not creepy.

Remember the first game? Remember going into those dungeons for the first time with that tiny circle of illumination around you? Creeping around every corner because God-help-you there was probably another pack of imps you didn’t have enough health potions to survive?

If there’s one thing I’d beg Blizzard to do, it’d be to make the game dark again. I don’t mean dark in the “We’re all going to murder the Lord of Hell” dark. I mean cut the lights, make me feel like I’m creeping around in Satan’s penthouse. Remember in the first game, those items that actually had a stat for increasing your illumination?

What happened to that?!

Why is it that suddenly, in deep, underground caves, cathedrals, and dungeons, my hero can suddenly see in the dark? What happened to that setting where every corner was a nerve-shredding peek into your next possible demonic possession?

Who remembers the original Butcher? Remember that nutjob? Maybe it was because I was a kid playing Diablo, but damn that guy was scary, wasn’t he? Hearing “AHH, FRESH MEAT!!!”

Yep, you almost peed a little, didn’t you?

The Butcher was scary back then. The first time that voice came out of the darkness, thundered through your speakers, rattled you to the core. It left a mark on all of us. Blizzard knows that, and continues to haunt us.

Now?

Butcher_Diablo_III_Wallpaper

*Yawn* Oversized, overdone, boring-boss-monster-wannabe.

Making the Butcher the size of that terrifying kid everyone ran from on the playground doesn’t make him scary. It makes us think of all the cooties we might have picked up from the opposite sex in 3rd grade. He’s not scary anymore. He’s a boss monster. Cave his skull in, go about your business. I didn’t nervously peek around corners waiting to see him in a cluster of hungry imps with aims on my Man-wich.

Reaper of Souls has Nephalem Rifts. I gotta hand it to Blizzard. They saved their own skin at the last possible minute.

Some of the rifts actually dial down the lighting quite a bit and, in my opinion, those are the moments I feel like I’m playing Diablo as it should be. Dark, foreboding, and unsettling. Now just make the monsters disappear in that darkness and we’ll be friends again, Blizzard.

Diablo has always been the benchmark for hack-and-slash, isometric, beat-up-the-devil…okay, maybe the only one. Games like Torchlight do the same setup, but they’re meant to be cartoony and fun. Diablo is meant to make you fear the dark. Or at least fear the fat, sweaty guy in the butcher block at your local supermarket a bit more than yesterday.

Another problem I had with Blizzard was that the epic moments in the pre-release footage showed bosses that we never got to fight. What happened to The Thousand Pounder? Now he’s just one of the countless copies that show up in basic mob clusters.

Thousand_Pounder_summonedAnd the piece that made me really jump for joy at the chance to play Diablo was the Siegebreaker Assault Beast. Remember the beta gameplay footage where he picked up the Barbarian and bit the top half of his body off?

Bithishead BOOM! HEADSHOT!

That’s the kind of stuff that makes the game scary. Sure, you’re a nephalem. Awesome, way to go, angels and demons, for making something that can bash both of your faces in. But the fact that they can still die from a basic chomping makes it feel like you’re actually against monsters that might have a skosh of a chance. Feeling like everything I blow on is going to fly away in an epic cloud of splinters, aka Barbarian basic attack, doesn’t make the game unsettling and uncomfortable. Knowing that at any point, a huge beastie could rip my head off and shriek down my throat, aka Dead Space monsters, makes it a terrifying romp through demonic landscapes.

Bring back the fear, Blizzard. Don’t make me beat you up in the dark.

–Jimmy

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