Opinion – Don’t be afraid to be the one dealing out 1-hit K.O.s

Confusing title, I know. It’ll all be clear by the end of this opinion article.

Video games have been, since their humble beginnings all the way back to ‘Pong’ and ‘Space Invader’, majorly based on challenge. Hell, it used to be worthy of pride to have your name up on the high-score list at the local arcade shop. That is all but clear: video games started out as a way to challenge and entertain the player – simply as games.

Yet, we are seeing this medium evolve at a rapid pace. Once, it was all about one simple, primal objective: score as many points as possible. Classics such as ‘Pac Man’ were based on this motivation. This is no more. Sure, you still have this element present in almost every game you might play. The recently released success, ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ is littered with minigames as basic as your average arcade game. Each mission you play is ranked through a percentage, and you are given the gold, silver or bronze for it. However, are players really feeling the same motivation with this, as they were back in the dawn of video games? The answer is no.

This is because video games are becoming deep and immersive experiences, as they delve into the journey of its evolution as a form of entertainment and art. Gamers are now playing the games to experience a new world, and a new story.

Now that my little introduction is settled, let’s talk about my argument here. Not long ago, I was discussing ‘The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’ (my favourite game of all time) with a friend. I told him that at first, I began playing through the game at a moderate difficulty level. Unfortunately, this meant that battles would take much longer than usual, and I was killed and sent to the dreaded last checkpoint more than a few times. This was not the way I wanted to experience the game, as it just stalled my exploration of the stunning and rich world of Cyrodiil. So I went to the settings menu, and pushed the difficulty bar about 1/5th down. He seemed appalled by this, but I haven’t messed with that bar since.

The problem was, an increased difficulty was not delivering the expectation I had with the game. I simply wanted to become a hero from a high-fantasy story. The Hero of Kvatch. The Champion of Cyrodiil. That was NOT the hero who would be killed by a couple of Scamps and a Clannfear try after try. Turning the difficulty to that level, and making the battles extremely easy to win made the game virtually challenge-less, and that is exactly what made my gaming experience so much better. After realizing this, I did the exact same thing for ‘Fallout 3’. And the ‘Halo: Reach’ campaign. And ‘Halo: 4’. And countless other games.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a game with a challenge. Sometimes, all you want is to push your limits and reach that high score. One of the best gaming experiences in my opinion, is to grab a bunch of pals, sit down, and settle a 4 vs. 4 fight in ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’. I spent my best moments in ‘World of Warcraft’ at the battleground or fighting through dungeons with a party. But sometimes it’s just nice to take it down a notch, and enjoy the ride without any major bumps on the road.

So, here I am offering an alternative to all who fail to enjoy the richness of a game’s world because of the challenge it presents. You’re gonna want to navigate the menus, find the difficulty settings, turn them down, and just let the dust build up on that option.

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Diablo III – Xbox 360: Some innovation, even better adaptation.

Diablo III – Xbox 360: Some innovation, even better adaptation.

Diablo III was released mid-2012 for the PC by one of the giant companies in video games, Blizzard (popular thanks to titles such as Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, amongst others). Even before release, developers spoke to the crowd about their dreams and wishes of bringing the Diablo experience to console players. Still, it wasn’t until after the original release date that the official statement announcing the console version was released. Some were confused, others were delighted. After playing it at launch day (August 7th 2013), I have my own opinions on the game.

Before we begin with the actual review, a quick glimpse at the game, for those unfamiliar with the original PC-version of Diablo III, or the Diablo franchise. The game is an RPG, dungeoneer, adventure type of game. You must pick a class for your character (5 in total for Diablo III), level him (or her) up, and equip him (or her) with a range of different armour set pieces and skills specific to your class. You progress through dungeons crawling with hordes of monsters and the occasional boss fight. The game is played through a third-person perspective, which would seem familiar to MOBA fans, and even resembles the camera style of classical RTS games.

Firstly, I would like to state the purpose of this article’s title. Diablo III for the consoles has some innovative elements brought into it. However, this is NOT why it may be considered a good or even a great game. Instead, this title can be given to it, simply because Blizzard was able to accurately transpose a game specifically designed for the PC since the first Diablo game (1996), to the console in a manner that deserves applause.

Gameplay-wise, the game is solid. Blizzard was able to design the game’s controls effectively. It is easy to get used to the new button-designation of your character’s skills. If you are coming from the PC version, the keyboard-to-controller transition might feel a bit clunky at times, but it is only noticeable on the first few hours of the game. Surely, Blizzard deserves a nod of approval in this aspect. Additionally, the new evade feature, which is controlled by the right-stick, has my head scratching as I wonder why the feature was not added to the original game. It adds a great dynamic sense to battles, and mastering it can be just as important to your strategy as any of your skills.

Of course, we cannot forget this: We are talking about Diablo III, not Diablo III-2: Director’s cut version. If you buy the game, looking for more content, you are better off saving that money for the upcoming PC-version expansion. The console version offers virtually the same amount of gameplay hours as the original game (which to be honest, disappointed most players). Its replayability is designed so that a player can experience the game four times, through the four different difficulty levels (Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno). These difficulty levels are only unlocked once you complete the previous level. Unfortunately, they are accurately named, as difficulty levels. They offer no new content to the story, the only change being loot and enemy level. I’m sure that I’m not the only player who would not  be bothered to play through the same campaign JUST for the sake of the challenge. Still, for any hardcore gamers out there, it’s nice to have that option.

The game’s visuals are what you could expect from a Blizzard game. That well-defined, signature balance between the cartoonish and realistic. It is darker than say, World of Warcraft. Yet it is still recognizable, and I am perfectly fine with that. Diablo III ran in a surprisingly slick manner on my 360. Minor visual bugs were present, but these were petty and easily forgettable. One thing that only a madman can pass from saying in a Blizzard game are the cutscenes. If these do not make you gawk at your screen, nothing else will. And that is all I have to say about them, because if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you better change tabs and search for a Blizzard cutscene on Youtube right NOW.

The interface has also been cleverly designed to fit in with the console version. The various features in your character’s inventory have been collapsed into sub-menus and such to add some agility to it. It is nothing special, but worth mentioning that Blizzard took the time to modify from the original game’s inventory menus.

The game’s multiplayer servers worked reasonably well. Even with my not-so-decent connection I was able to play online and only disconnect a couple of times at launch day. Lag was an issue, but it was expected, and I seriously doubt it was Blizzard’s fault. The game does offer an option to play on region-locked servers, or override these completely, which is a real perk worth noting.

As said before, this game is made good by the fact that it keeps that Diablo element loved by many. Exclusive console players now have the chance to experience this renowned type of game that has become a classic, and almost spawned a genre of its own. Gamers who also enjoy and prefer the perks of playing on the console rather than the PC will also value this game. But again, expect disappointment if you played the original PC-version and you’re simply looking for new content, because you will NOT find much, sorry.

Overview:

• Couldn’t be stressed farther – some innovation, and a great adaptation. (+)

• Gameplay feels like a Diablo game. (+)

• Controllers and interface were carefully transposed to the console version. (+)

• New evade mechanics is a great plus to the fighting side of the game. (+)

• Visuals stay true to the Blizzard style. (+)

• Multiplayer servers function well. No more error 37 folks. (+)

• No new content worth noting added. (-)

• Replayability isn’t great unless you seek a challenge that will taste repetitive. (-)