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Diablo 3 Feels Just Like Diablo 2

Anticipated game goes old-school

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Sometimes you run into that song, movie or television show that is merely a retelling of an older theme. Gaming is notorious for that as well. If a game has some success, you can bet there will be half-a-dozen new games that try to emulate it.

Diablo and Diablo II inspired a variety of dungeon-crawl wannabes that tried to imitate Blizzard's franchise success. Most paled by comparison, though there were a few that were decent enough to hang in there. Diablo II was released 12 years ago. In the interim, rumors about D3 ran rampant.

It's here and it's sort of an MMO--you have to have an online connection to battle.net to play. You can play solo but if you need help with a boss, you can open your game and allow other community members to drop in. As for the rest of it ...

For those who remember Diablo and Diablo II, D3 is the same game--sort of. Graphics are updated, the story has some changes but, by and large, this is the same point-and-click dungeon crawl. The old-school charm is back, the hack'n'slash can be entertaining, but the constant click, click, click for movement and targeting can get a tad wearing.

Still, the game got quite a few smiles simply because of the sheer destructive force of the characters and resulting animations that are the stock of a Diablo game.

Want an example? A barbarian wanders through the wastes, the fog of war slowly lifts, but a variety of monsters materialize and attempt to bring the quest to a crashing halt. The barbarian leaps into battle, his or her battle axe blazing and separating flesh from bone as enemies rag-doll it across the landscape with ribcages and other body parts spinning. Blood splatters, some cheesy catch-phrase follows, loot is collected.

Skill sets have been refined so players can fine-tune characters as they work up. The graphics look smooth on higher-resolution machines, though the point of view is the same as previous Diablo incarnations. Still, the game is broody, moody and enjoyable. The character classes (there is now a barbarian, demon hunter, monk, witch doctor and wizard) are diverse and fun to play.

In spite of a familiarity, one aspect that's detracting is that this feels like a been-there, done-that, got-the-T-shirt rehash of the first games. Character creation is weak and the player interface is all point and click. Due to the volume of players on battle.net, lag seems to be an issue at times. The game also makes it clear--no cow level (though there has to be some sort of Easter egg tucked away in there).

So, is this a pass or a play game? Let's put it this way: Hours upon hours were devoted to D2 but that may not be the case with D3. It feels like an extension of the license with the same look, same user interface and mechanics, and is, essentially, the same game. One would think that all of that adds up to a pass but not really. For those who have not experienced an old-school dungeon crawl, D3 is entertaining. For experienced players, this feels like an old friend come to visit. Yes, it's fun, but maybe not quite as much as the first games were.

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