Like everyone else I have waited more than a decade for this sequel. I think most of us got what we wanted from D2 after the first 5 years, so it will be easy to that our wait for this game was 7 long long years. Yeah, yeah, yeah ZZZ what is the point? Well the point is this: Was it worth it?
The short answer is: Hellz YES!
I attended the midnight launch at my local Gamestop and found the group excited and also very polite, I had my copy in hand by 1207am and was home within 10 minutes. Since I had already downloaded and installed the client all I had left to do was to activate the game on my BNet profile. Once that was done, I enjoyed the next three hours with my lovely wife, watching LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring and discussing my fondness for the archaic world that it depicts that so clearly inspired the world of Sanctuary.
When 3am came, I sat at my PC and entered my user name and PW into the login screen and...OUCH! Like many I was not able to log in. I tried in vain for one hour and decided that it was simply too popular, too many people were trying to log in and that it was best that I simply get some rest. Which I did.
In the morning, the log in error had apparently been resolved and I was able to log in and create my first character (since Open Beta). The interface was of course nothing new to me and I quickly made a Female Wizard and began my journey.
Since I had played through the Open Beta a few times, I was in familiar territory and I quickly advanced through the story. I still took my time and explored every nook and cranny as if I had never seen it before, as is my custom. I butchered every creature that stood in my way and cleared each area. What I was struck by first was the fact that the full retail seemed to run much better on my machine than the Open Beta did. I could have been a connection issue with the Beta that cause it to be a little laggy, I was unsure but it seemed to really run smoother. It was also more difficult.
My character was actually put in real danger more than a few times in content that I was already prepared for.
I found that much to my liking. Eventually I exited the Beta content, post Skeleton King and my amazement really took off. The environments were so lush and detailed. The world really seemed much more alive and dangerous than I had really ever seen in an ARPG. The water, the movement of the trees and bushes in the breeze, the weather effects and the fog! My lord the fog really made this game eerie and moody. All the yammering by "art direction" dissenters, who railed against the "rainbows and unicorns" which the game clearly lacks, however the color palette used was perfect. It was subtle, yet still added great depth. The lighting effects were also done extremely well and nothing seemed separated from the environment. Even my character didn't seem detached from the environment as I have seen in so many other games. It was almost as if I was manipulating a painting in real time. To say I am taken with the art style of this game is an understatement, obviously.
Keep in mind I too was a doubter in this game's direction. I had followed the development closely for a few years and lost interest when I saw some of the directions the art had taken with the armor sets, as the Barb's sets made him look like a Transformers reject, I mean they were completely ridiculous. Well I came back about a year later and things seemed to have improved but I still had lingering doubts. The Open Beta put much of that to rest.
Now with the retail, I am fully convinced that this game will be a spectacular hit for Blizzard.
After gaining access to some of the higher level skills with my Wizard, at the time of this writing she is level 13 and Energy Twist and Spectral Blade are really serving me well. Many of the Elite Packs I have run across have been rather challenging even with this higher level skills. I have a true sense of progression and development with my character, more than I have had with any other ARPG. Being able to swap my skills if a certain combo isn't working in a given area is very liberating and very "organic". I mean, if this Wizard was real person, wouldn't they fall back on skills they had previously mastered if a higher level one was not cutting it in a given situation. It simply feels much more "real". That is the best way I can explain it. But imagine a character in D2 being asked about his skill set, if he were a Hammerdin for instance he would say in response to "How to deal with X situation?" His only response is: "Hammers". When asked how he would deal with Y situation, he again would respond with just: "Hammers". When I began to view the differences between D2's and D3's skill systems in this manner did I realize the superiority in D3's system.
And I am glad to say that I do NOT miss stat points! Now I can focus on using any item I find, as long as I meet the class and level requirements, instead of feeling compelled to begin squirreling away points out of fear of not having enough Strength of Dexterity to use this or that Armor or Weapon. Again it is very freeing and allows me to actually PLAY the game. Which made me realize, that during the last 10 years of D2, I like most people I knew really didn't PLAY the game. We would instead, get our character rushed, then we focused on power leveling our characters through the grind of Chaos and Baal runs with a naked character. Fun? Um...no. It was work.
The way this game has been designed it has really brought the FUN back to the game. It isn't just that it is new and shiny. It is that this is a new life for this series. I am extremely excited for the future of this game.
When the PvP Arena's are introduced I will be losing even more sleep!