What Diablo III Is and Is Not

Reading over the blogs, I wonder if Blizzard's biggest mistake with Diablo III was keeping the name.  This is not to say that players have not cited valid reasons for their lack of enthusiasm, but it feels like a disproportionate amount of the commentary has focused on what the game is not. 

Diablo III is not (note: cited complaints are not the whole contents of the linked posts):
  • Available offline (see: Syp amongst many others after the rocky launch week)
  • Sufficiently different in scenery from DII.  (See: Wilhelm)
  • Sufficiently similar in character skill design from DII.  (See Pete, more on this in a minute)
  • A game, but more of an interactive movie (See: Gevlon)
  • Being evaluated fairly by reviewers, but rather being given a bonus based on its title (See Tobold)
  • Reasonable about unlocking difficulty - three complete playthroughs are required to unlock the highest difficulty (See: Spinks)
  • Arriving in 2002, when the incremental improvements from DII would be more consistent with four years versus the fourteen it actually took.  (See: Ferrel)
  • Torchlight 2 (Pete, Arbitrary, several others - I suppose a real credit to Runic that this was such a common observation.)
So far, I've only played through level 11, but from what I've seen so far DIII is a good quality, polished, and fun game.  In some ways, it reminds me of SWTOR - you are definitely experiencing someone else's story, between the heavy involvement of NPC's and the relatively non-customizeable player characters, but the story experience and production values have been excellent.  Two tidbits that I've especially enjoyed:

Voiceover Lore: Those lore tidbits normally found in books that I never read in game?  In DIII, they are saved to my journal and an NPC will read them to me as I continue on my path of destruction.  As a result, I've been exposed to far more lore than I would ordinarily be tracking this early in the game.  This system is a huge step forward from tweet-length boxes of quest text.  Every MMO that is not planning on Bioware-style branching dialog trees needs to look at this.

Skill system: I am solidly in Camp Spinks on this one.  DII had one of the worst implementations of a skill system that I can ever remember tolerating - with no respecs and no requirement to spend more than one point per low level skill, DII basically dictated that players not use any skill points until most of the way through the game's normal difficulty.  In its place, Blizzard has created a system that offers tactical versatility without the dead weight and false choices - many options and almost all of them bad.  With the new system, I'm re-building my character in some way almost every level, and it sounds like I'm not alone in that experience.

Do I expect to be playing DIII every day for months or years?  No.  But that's another thing that DIII is not and does not need to be - a MMO with a lengthy commitment. 

(P.S. My tag-thing for contacting me in game is pvdblog#1183.)