At some point in time, someone decided it would be fun to create a game where you simply clicked on enemies to attack them. Not only that, but you’d do it repeatedly for upwards of 10, 20, 30 hours, maybe even more.
If clicking a button repeatedly got a bit too much for you, you could just click once on an enemy and keep it held down until they or your fine self met their demise. Sounds riveting doesn’t it? The thing is though, this is literally what you do in titles like Diablo 3 and many other action RPGs. Technically they should be rubbish; a lesson in tedium not worth your time or energy. But when they’re done right, they are utterly engrossing.
I don’t really want to think about how many days I’ve lost to the Diablo series and those that have tried to ape it. I’ve possibly spent weeks of my life lost in their worlds, simply holding down buttons to kill hordes on ruffians, miscreants and demons, relatively unthinking and unblinking. Most of the time there’s no real gaming skill required – no need to block with expert timing or anything like that – you just need to keep doing the same repetitive tasks and click on enemies relentlessly, using the odd special ability if you have any to spice things up a little or give you an edge.
The real draw of games like Diablo 3 isn’t the action though, or at least not in the way it is in other games. No, the draw of games like Diablo 3 is the endless pursuit of self improvement, and the non-stop clicking on enemies is what facilitates it. Every time you go on an adventure or quest there’s a chance for you to find some better gear, and even if you don’t find anything that does directly improve your character, it can probably be sold or broken down to provide a future benefit. For those hellbent on seeing their stats rise and their enemies torn asunder with a single blow, games like Diablo become an obsession; an infatuation that doesn’t pass until you attain your goal or eventually become too disheartened by your continual failure.
Diablo 3 is captivating on a whole other level compared to its peers, however. The reason? Its deluge of end game content that is constantly being tweaked and expanded upon. In Diablo 3 only once you’ve played through the story with a character and reached level 70 does the game truly begin, and that itself can take upwards of 20 hours. At level 70 you gain access to Rifts, challenging dungeons in which the rewards are great. More legendary items become available, and when they drop they have a chance to be an enhanced “Ancient” version, allowing you to push your stats just that bit higher.
At the end game, the character sheet that you’ve been poring over, watching the stats climb up steadily as you approach level 70 becomes pretty much useless too. To succeed in Greater Rifts to unlock yet more, harder ones with more generous rewards, you need to synergise your equipment and skills, thinking outside the box and away from the game to create a build that can deal huge damage via a myriad of bonuses and effects that the game won’t spell out for you. Increasing your damage output needs to be balanced with improving your survivability however, or you’ll spend most of your time dead on the floor, unable to even scratch that demon in front of you that’s going to frost nova your ass while freezing you in place.
From levels 1-70, Diablo 3 is accessible to all; a gentle action RPG that’s fun for anyone to jump into, especially with friends. After level 70 however, Diablo 3 becomes a different beast entirely. It becomes a thinking person’s game, one that’s much more rewarding than its action suggests. It becomes a game that asks you painstakingly agonise over every item and skill that you use, making sure that they are all working together effectively. If not, you’re likely able to tweak them to do so, or at least use something else that will. But you might have to work for it.
On paper, Diablo 3 and games of its ilk should be dull as dishwater, but by appealing to our primitive nature to be the best, or at least better, they transcend their basic and repetitive gameplay to be anything but. They keep us glued to our screens, ever hopeful that the next chest we open or high level enemy we kill will drop us an item that increases our stats, even if just a little.