* Initial Review (5/18/12)
Let me start by saying I'm a HUGE fan of the Diablo series and RPG's in general. I played D1 and D2 extensively, although I was more interested chasing women back in college when they came out. However, I did play D2 pretty regularly up until last year in anticipation for Diablo III.
I'll be leaving out all the release day server issues, I couldn't log in until about 3pm PST, but this was expecting this since it's such a popular game. How was it after 10 years or so of waiting? These emotions can almost sum up my first experience
I initially chose a male Wizard, no you still can't change their appearance. The game starts you out back in Tristram, the atmosphere and musical scores are astounding! It's classic erie Diablo, just updated and will bring back some good memories. The game is very easy to pick up and play, Blizzard did an excellent job with this.
In my opinion, and probably the vast majority (over time will realize), the lack of stat and skill points are a great thing. You now automatically get stat points and new skills every time you level up. If you are a D2 buff then this might sound like a dissapointment because of the lack of "customization." Well let me tell you, it sounds that way but you soon realize there is much much more customization than D2. Gone are the days of the "cookie cutter" D2 character builds that only every use 2 or 3 skills spammed over and over again. You now get to select up to 6 skills on your hotbar, change them at any time, and upgrade those skills with "runes" (which add new features to those skills). The combinations are endless, which just add to the overall "customization". Oh that reminds me, make sure you enable "Elective Mod", which will allow you to map any skill to any hotkey. So get the old school D2 methodology out of you head and accept this new and improved way of character building.
The gameplay is smooth and fast paced. It starts out at a very beginner pace, but by act 2, it's non-stop action. The all classes start out very powerful, unlike D2 where it took lots of time before a Wizard (Sorceress) became worth a damn. Nothing is more fun than exploding 20 or more guys at once. Alternating between skills is seamless and necessary for survival. Some of the game physics have changed, most of your skills base damage off of weapon damage (even for a Wizard). This threw me for a loop as I found myself walking around with a bow at first because it increased my skill damage more than a wand would.
The story is excellent! There are so many twists and turns, it will keep you on the edge of your seat for the first play-though. The individual characters attempt to have their own story, however, I feel this could have been developed slightly more.
Replay value seems like it will be very high. There is no need for creating multiple characters of the same class, which is a good thing. You can now focus on your main and change at will if you get a new piece of gear or skill. Since I haven't made it to the "end game" yet, I can only assume play-throughs will be for gear/recipies/etc like a MMO.
All that being said, there are a few negatives about the game. I did mention sever issues on release day, they seem to have fixed that now. I am dissapointed there is no PVP system in place yet, I'm sure this will be in effect down the road though. There are no more "custom" game names now, you only join games based upon the quest the host is working on at the time. Finally, there are no "custom" chat channels or "rooms", you have to join one of the preset channels as there are no more rooms.
So if you like anything about D1/2 or just like hack and slash games, you will love Diablo III.