Diablo III might be one of the biggest letdowns I've ever experienced in gaming.
It wasn't just one or two elements that brought down the first entry in more than a decade in the storied action role-playing game franchise. It was a combination of several decisions made by developer Blizzard that culminated in one of the most frustrating game experiences imaginable.
Let's start with the anti-piracy system. This is certainly the worst system of its kind ever conceived. In general, I'm not a fan of anti-piracy efforts, commonly referred to as digital rights management or DRM, and this takes such systems to a new level of terrible.
Even for single-player games, Diablo III requires you to set up and authenticate an account on Blizzard's Battle.net service. It also requires you to always be connected to the Internet, and, worst of all, to be connected to Blizzard servers 100 percent of the time.
Never miss a local story.
If for any reason your Internet connection has a problem or the Blizzard servers fail, you are booted from the game without saving.
Say goodbye to that rare item you just looted. There are no saves because the game is all checkpoint-based.
For the first several days, the game was simply unplayable. Blizzard clearly underestimated interest in the game because its servers crashed every 10 minutes.
After Blizzard's incompetent technology team learned to keep the DRM servers online, the game finally started working.
I was surprised at the changes, mostly at some of the core elements that Blizzard chose for character development. As you level your character, you no longer are able to choose skills or class bonuses, or pretty much anything, really.
The game unlocks certain skills at certain levels, and then you choose what skills to use in-game.
Some players praise this as a way to prevent gamers from creating the best character build, but I say it cheapens the experience. Gaining levels isn't really as much fun anymore, because I don't get to choose anything.
There are good elements to the game, of course. It's just as addictive as past versions. Once you get into a dungeon, hours can disappear as you near one of the imposing bosses. The audio also is impressive.
The game is very much a continuation of the series and is, at its core, a decent game. But it does nothing to cement its place as the king of all action RPGs.
If you're interested and never played either of the two previous installments, go ahead and try it. But everyone else should stay far, far away. Downloadable game Torchlight 2, a similar action RPG, is coming out soon, and that series features some of the original minds behind Diablo. It will be a much better experience.