When I chose Diablo III as my next review game, I wondered how I would write it without the final product coming across as a love letter to Blizzard Entertainment. Since the days of the original Warcraft, I have spent countless hours playing nearly everything they had to offer. However, the Diablo series was one that I had missed.

Being my first foray into the Diablo universe, I expected that I was going to have my mind blown and I waited with baited breath for the game to release. I pre-downloaded the game client, kept it updated and when I got home from work on launch day, I dove in. Sort of. The launch issues with Diablo III are well documented so I won't go into depth, but it was a good 24 hours later before I was actually able to enter the game.

Blizzard has always excelled at producing fantastic cinematics, and Diablo III's intro is one of their best. After watching, I was even more excited to get started. Diablo III offers 5 classes at launch: The Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor, Wizard, Monk and Barbarian. As the game centers around fighting the forces of hell (more on this later) I opted for the Demon Hunter.

One thing that I was immediately impressed by is how powerful you feel, regardless of class. As a Demon Hunter, I am able to use a bow and arrow or cross bows (the one handed variety can be dual wielded), and the barrage of projectiles that are unleashed is incredible satisfying. Likewise, the Monk's hand-to-hand combat really gives a sense of impact as you unleash a series of punishing blows. All of this lends itself well to a fun gaming experience.

Of course, there's a downside to all of that power: things can get very repetitive and somewhat boring as you face relentless (and seemingly endless) hordes of undead, monsters and other monsters. I found that changing up my abilities occasionally helped keep things fresher, but ultimately there's a whole lot of rinse and repeat going on here. This issue is not helped by the fact that by simply holding mouse buttons will unleash abilities until you release the button, all of it can feel rather ‘brainless'.

Diablo III also falls victim to something that I believe is unavoidable in the ‘dungeon crawler' genre. There is (for me at least) a finite number of times that I can enter a "randomly generated" dungeon before I can't shake the sense of "Hey, I've been here before." The fact is, "randomly generated" means that there are preset rooms (think of them as building blocks) that the game throws together on the fly. So the same blocks, which look familiar, are present but just happen to be laid out a bit differently.

Blizzard has traditionally kept their games fairly tame from a content perspective. Most of their artwork has a more cartoon feel to it and they tend to avoid the more mature artwork that is associated with many of the foreign RPGs on the market. That said as the name suggests, and as I have eluded to, Diablo III is all about fighting the forces of hell. The Diablo series' lore is deeply rooted in battling three lords of the underworld, Diablo, Baal and Mephisto. Christians will recognize Diablo and Baal as synonyms for the devil and Mephisto is rooted German mythology as one of the chief demons. It goes without saying that there is a lot evil in this game, all of it trying to take over the world of "Sanctuary". Conversely, archangels make an appearance, however they seem to exist in absence of power higher than them, so there's no sign of a god figure.

Profanity is mild but violence and gore are prevalent. Corpses explode in blood and slime and as battles subside, the ground is frequently soaked in the blood of your foes. Likewise, it has all of the sound effect associated with killing hordes of undead and it could all be unsettling for more sensitive gamers.

Finally, I have to take a bit of an issue with an element of the game that hasn't even been released yet. Far before launch, Blizzard announced that they would be launching a "real money auction house" which would allow gamers to buy and sell in-games with real world money. Hypothetically, I could sell the loot that I collect in the game and collect real American dollars in exchange. Obviously, this has led to all sorts of questions ranging from tax implications, ethical dilemmas (could somebody turn Diablo III into a full time job?) and the whole idea of spending real cash on virtual goods. As of today, the auction house has yet to launch and some are questioning whether it ever will. There are plenty of arguments both for and against the idea (and I have taken both sides) but either way it's one more thing to wrestle with and consider before choosing to play.

Alas, my fears of writing a love letter to Blizzard were completely unfounded. What you get for a $60 is easily duplicated in the much tamer Torchlight series, for a fraction of the price. While Diablo III is fun, and I suspect that I will finish my current play-through, the replayability here is questionable and I doubt that I will ever feel like I got $60 worth of value from the game. I would love to tell you to check it out on sale but Blizzard very rarely discounts their games so that could wind up being a very long wait.

Language: Nothing too bad, but approach it from a PG-13 standpoint.

Sexuality: There is some gear which reveals more of the female figure than some may be comfortable with, but the non-playable characters are fairly well covered, but use caution.

Violence: There is a lot of blood and gore and the fights are intense. Lots of blood, lots of slime, plenty of reanimated corpses.  

 *This Review First Published 6/18/2012