Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III: Eternal Collection, a compilation of Diablo III and its expansions, underscores how far the gothic hack n’ slash series has fallen. The first two Diablo titles helped popularize the randomization of map layouts, item drops, and enemy encounters in gaming and were notoriously challenging, especially on higher difficulty settings. Diablo II stands as one of the better video game sequels in history, with its supercharged player move speed, more varied environments, and intimidating gallery of adversaries. Given that legacy, it’s hard to be that impressed by this definitive edition of Diablo III, as the game, originally released in 2012, is slower, safer, and less exciting than its immediate predecessor.
As in previous Diablo games, you select a character class before embarking on a series of straightforward missions that center on slaughtering throngs of foes and collecting innumerable items that range from the worthless to the incredibly powerful. As usual, the hackneyed storytelling—about needing to save this person, attain this artifact, stop this cult, and so forth—takes a backseat to the ever-frequent killing, equipment management, and skill development. The whole point of playing this game is to build the most decked-out badass that you can, a purpose that’s fueled by the thrill of discovery: Because items are procedurally generated, you never know what kind of stat-boosting weapon or piece of armor you might happen upon after opening a treasure chest or taking down a particularly resilient threat.
It’s easy to get sucked into Diablo III’s cycle of item fetishization. Just when you think you’ve obtained the necessary gear for combating the hordes of hell, a rare or legendary type of equipment will fall into your lap. And even though there are probably too many different types of things that one can wear, the game’s menu system allows players to conveniently compare the status effects of their current equipped stuff with those of newly acquired helmets, breastplates, shields, rings, maces, wands, greaves, and so on.
The monster-snuffing action is where Diablo III falters significantly compared to its predecessors and other similar games. If the original Diablo excelled at stoking our fears throughout its dimly lit settings, and Diablo II made you feel like a ferocious yet vulnerable bat out of hell, Diablo III is akin to going on a moderately paced rampage through swarms of enemies. In this regard, the game recalls the rather leisurely combat of such Diablo-inspired titles as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. In other words, there’s little that sets Diablo III’s violence apart from its own franchise’s legion of imitators.
It doesn’t help that the game’s default difficulty setting is a cakewalk, but even when you kick up the challenge a couple of notches, it’s still far too simple to survive a skirmish. Diablo III showers you with an array of special moves that, despite having cooldown times, render the opposition irrelevant outside of chance encounters with foes who’re invulnerable to certain types of damage and status effects. The game also fails to provide greater suspense by oversimplifying the series’s healing system. Thanks to a health-restoring item that automatically regenerates and countless different types of equipment that constantly refill your hit points, you no longer have to worry about whether you have enough potions or if, when used, the potions will heal you fast enough as you sustain numerous blows from a horde.
Diablo III attempts to make combat more interesting by letting you enlist allies. But these computer-controlled friends rarely do anything as dynamic as the companions in 2004’s Diablo-influenced X-Men Legends, whose scuffles revolve around multi-character attack bonuses, air combinations, and different types of enemy-stunning melee techniques. You know your beloved action franchise is in a state of mediocrity when it struggles to kinetically and strategically compete with games that it helped give birth to.