Okay, so I picked up Diablo III this weekend having waited over a year for a console release and so far I’m pretty enthralled in all of its addictive loot-dropping and bloody monster slaying. It’s a relatively basic game when you boil it down to its component parts and it hasn’t evolved much from its predecessors in terms of basic game mechanics but that’s certainly not a bad thing in this case. Blizzard aren’t really of the console world and this is their first trip to the dark side for nearly a decade but you wouldn’t think it. The game has made the transition from frantic clicking to button mashing mayhem in style. This isn’t a port, it’s a game that has been carefully redesigned to fit the format of your PS3 or Xbox perfectly, adding new features and keeping the best ones. Anyway, I’m not trying to write a game review here, tempting though it is to get all mushy and smug about Diablo’s addictive, hour stealing ways. No, I’m trying to offer a little advice that would’ve come in very handy had I stumbled upon it when I took my first steps into New Tristram.
First, a note about online co-op play…
Online play in Diablo III, for me at least, was a little tricky to get used to. Having played From Software’s Dark Souls so much that my fingers bled I’m used to rather complex multi-player mechanics and marvel at how much they can enhance play. When I started Diablo III however I was a little perplexed at what was happening. I was trying to progress through the game, hoping that I could get other online players to assist me on my journey (much like Dark Souls) but to my bewilderment it seemed to have more of a ‘free for all’ feel to it. Players would enter my game and basically take over, completing quests while I was chilling out back at New Tristram with the Blacksmith. I had it all wrong. Think of Diablo as a book that you can dip in and out of, reading odd pages and chapters at a time. It doesn’t matter that one of your online co-ops skips through a load of dialogue leaving you thinking, “whaaa?” because you’ll no doubt encounter this moment time and time again throughout your journey for loot. It’s all about the loot. Getting better gear and building your characters and this means playing through various acts repeatedly and getting to know the game inside out – although that’s never truly possible, as the dungeons randomise infinitely and you never know when a ‘unique’ monster may spawn and come down on you like the wrath of hell, dropping bountiful loot or a rare item as you finally pulverise it into the ground. So although you’ll get to replay sections of the game over and over with different friends and members of the online community and at different difficulty levels (there are many) it never seems to get old and you’re always on the look out for a rare item or that wonderful feeling that comes from seeing a legendary drop. My advice? Play through the game solo once on medium difficulty. This way you get to enjoy the storyline and locations in full without backtracking before you start enjoying dipping into random acts with other players at harder difficulty levels. Diablo III is well equipped for this and switching from ‘offline’, ‘friends/invites only’ and ‘open to public’ modes is a simple case of hitting the start button. Use it! Now, on with the top tips…
1. Be aware of colours. Colour coding is worth understanding fully right off the bat. Monsters and loot both have colour codes. Purple monsters are known as ‘super-uniques’ and are boss types who are always there in the same location, triggered by story events or otherwise.
Gold coloured monsters are simply known as ‘uniques’ and are randomly spawning powerful monsters which always carry some nifty loot. Blue coloured monsters are known as ‘champions’ – they randomly spawn also and these guys are tough, often coming in packs of higher attribute enemies – they’ll guarantee you an item drop if you kill them. In terms of items; grey ones are pretty much worthless, white items can have a good attack damage but have no magical qualities or enhancements, blue loot will have magical qualities which will increase your attributes or alter your attacks, green loot is meant to be used as part of a set to grant you bonuses (ie: matching armours), yellow items are regarded as ‘rare’ and will often have higher stats and more enhancements. All of these items are randomly spawned as you play which keeps things fresh and interesting. The remaining loot colour you should really keep an eye out for is orange. Orange loot is regarded as ‘legendary’ and is not randomly spawned – there are a set number of these all with a set name and associated magical properties. The satisfaction when a legendary piece of loot drops is really gratifying and will make you want to squeeze in that extra hour before bed…
2. When you’re playing in online co-op, loot can be initially confusing. It’s not. Basically, if you’re playing online all of the loot and gold that drops is yours and yours alone – the other players won’t be able to see your loot and you won’t be able to see theirs. The only items that are visible to all players are those that are ‘dropped’ from your inventory on your command. This keeps things nice and fair and also means that the loot you retrieve is specific to your character and their magic find percentage. Each player has their own ‘dice’ based on their own stats that determine when loot drops.
3. Salvage items and build up your blacksmith early. This will pay dividends later on in the game when your blacksmith is cranking out high level items for half the cost of the merchants. I’d advise flogging your grey/white loot to merchants and ‘salvaging’ blue items you aren’t going to need with the smithy. By the time you’ve built your smithy up to a decent level, materials won’t be an issue.
4. Try and make money early in the game. Get into the habit of picking up loot and selling it, even if it seems like junk at the time. Otherwise you’ll find yourself staring longingly at the rare item that’s spawned in a merchant’s inventory while moths flutter out of your coin pouch. This happened to me a lot. From the end of the first chapter of Act 1 you’ll have the ability to warp back to New Tristram at any time for free – do it regularly and sell, sell, sell. Gone are the days of saving up ‘Scroll of Town Portal’s!
5. Even when you’ve trained your smithy to the highest level there will still be things to craft for which he’ll need ‘recipes’ to unlock. These are usually dropped as loot and are quite rare from my experiences so hang on to them.
6. Experiment with more than one type of character. This is something I shied away from at first wanting to focus purely on my Hunter class but the game wants you to use multiple characters and makes it very easy for you to do so. The stash chest retains items across characters enabling one character to scout and save items that may be useful for another class you’re working on. It’s also worth noting that training your blacksmith (which can be pricey) carries over to other class characters you decide to start with also. You’ll find that playing as a one character and stashing loot you can’t use (but you know would be useful to another character) will provide some much appreciated boons when you decide to start with a new class.
7. Turn ‘Elective Mode’ on in the options menu right at the start. This basically allows you to assign skills that you learn to any key on the control pad which comes in very handy and will make your combat a more personalised affair with greater versatility. I’m genuinely not sure why this is off by default as eventually it gets rather limiting.
8. Take advantage of co-op early. Say you’ve just started Act 2. Your around level 18 and need a serious cash injection and want to boost your character. Go back and select and earlier quest (usually one or two before the one you’re currently on) and select Master V difficulty. Master difficulties (I through to V) offer more experience, loot and gold respective but the enemies are much more difficult. Joining co-op when you’re a bit underlevelled/unprepared might seem crazy but when you’ve got 3 other players kicking ass you can often tag along and build up some serious gold/loot while gaining a level in the process. Not best online etiquette I’m sure but it helped me out once or twice when I wanted to advance a little quicker.
And there you have it. There are, come to think of it, about a hundred more things I could say but I think the above points are enough to get a good start and really start enjoying all the game has to offer. Diablo III is one of those titles that didn’t completely bowl me over at first but it’s slowly earning its place among some of my most played and cherished games. As with all of my favourite games, there’s a bit of a learning curve to conquer for maximum enjoyment but hey, that’s what gaming is about. All I know is that I bought GTA V at the same time and it’s gathering dust on my shelf. Way to go, Blizzard!