Friday, 17 October 2014

On the Diablo hamster wheel

Just finished playing Reaper of Souls. So when I say "finished", I mean I finished the campaign as a Crusader - the new class that's part of the Diablo expansion, went into adventure mode, finished all the bounty missions for each act once and visited 5 Rifts.
Oh. I got through all this on expert difficulty.
For those who don't know much about Diablo - which is practically everybody I know, apart from two of my nephews - When you start playing the game, you can choose one of three difficulties. Normal, Hard and Expert. The you unlock the "Master" difficulty. Then, you are probably ready to play the game. Because after Master come the real difficulty spikes - levels Torment 1 to 6.

So expert difficulty is as kind of a misnomer. It stands for "at this level of difficulty, you probably know which buttons to press when, but you still haven't figured out which skill combinations do the most damage. Your gear is probably terrible, just a bit higher than 'disastrous' and 'abysmal'"

The game is divided into acts - the core game has 4, and the Reaper of Souls expansion adds a fifth.
I'm just throwing this in because of the sheer ridiculous amounts of awesome involved

The story is - well - there are demons, there are seven great evils, five of whom you already killed off in the previous game, and you take care of the two that remain, here. But due to a P2C2E, the titular baddie - who was killed once in the original Diablo and once again in Diablo 2 comes back and gets killed again. To get to him, you cut your way through hordes of monsters, elite monsters, unique and super unique monsters with a bunch of capabilities that range from the irritating to the deadly.
The demons, unsurprisingly, take their names from the usual sources. Since they kicked off the franchise by calling it Diablo - which is again a Spasnishification of the devil and comes from Diabolos - which is greek for The Daily Mail - sorry, its greek for slanderer, they're pretty much stuck with that. But the usual suspects are there from the Talmud - Lilith, Duriel - which is supposed to be Hebrew for "God is my home", Azmodal, Baal, Belial from the Lemegeton and Mephisto - either from Faust or from the 8th circle of D & D hell. And there are the angels - who either follow the "el" naming convention - Malthael, Tyrael, Auriel, Itharael or the Harry Potter curse convention - Imperius, Inarius, Cruciatus - oh wait - that one isn't there, so far.

But angels and demons are an aside. The original game defined the hack and slash genre, and since I'm playing this on the xbox, its now a button-mashfest.  You select a monster with the left trigger, and keep clicking 'A' to damage it. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can click 'Y', 'X' and 'B'. And squeeze right trigger while you're at it. And there are lots of monsters. Lots and lots of monsters.
Some mobs are even bigger - but thats how it looks. You can't even see your character

The key thing about the game, the thing that ensures your survival, is gear.
You have weapons and you have armour. Weapons and armour come in multiple categories. There's the normal stuff - which has one attribute: Armour for - well - armour, damage for weapons.

Then you have the magic items, in prefixed or suffixed, in blue text.

After that comes the rare stuff. The text is in yellow, there are more magical properties.
And then there's the stuff that you grind for. The stuff that you spend hours and hours on, killing the same monsters over and over again, hoping to see an orange spire of light rising from the ground, hoping to see an orange star on the minimap. That's a legendary. The legendary item is usually just a little better than the rare gear you have, but once in a while you get a beauty.
So, I found this sword - it was level 70 when I found it, and did around 2400 damage. But that wasn't the great thing about it. The killer was the "Chance to summon a demonic slave". Not only does the demonic slave pop up every now now, but he is linked to you by CHAINS OF FIRE, and those chains do massive damage. So you get your enemy - or mob between your demonic slave and yourself, and watch the chains BURN through your foes. With this, I was able to graduate from killing wimpy zombies on normal to Rift Guardians (really bad bosses) on Torment.

But the bosses are incidental. The storyline is incidental. Its about gear. Grinding for gear. Hoping that the next piece of equipment will be better than the one that you have. Raising the difficulty, fighting bosses, entering rifts and hoping you'll see that star on your minimap. It's the distillation of consumerism, it's the addiction reflex, and I've been playing the game more or less non stop for the last couple of weeks.