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<p><span style="font-size: small;">Let's draw a distinction between a &ldquo;sequel to a game&rdquo; and an &ldquo;installment in a franchise.&rdquo; In a sequel, the developers examine what made the original game work and then expand on those ideas. Sometimes that work produces stark differences. The near-decade between <em>Fallout II</em> and <em>Fallout III</em>, for example, saw that game switch the perspective from isometric to first-person, the combat change from turn-based to real-time with pauses, and the setting move from California to Washington, DC. In other cases, a decade of work results in an installment that is much more about incremental refinement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;">The original 1996 <em>Diablo</em> was a successful, simple title&mdash;a real-time, single-player role-playing game with randomly generated dungeons and loot along with minimal plot and character development. You clicked on things to kill them while delving deeper into a dungeon until you arrived at the very gates of Hell and found the titular villain Diablo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;">The 2000 sequel, <em>Diablo II</em>, made everything about its source material bigger and better. The core concept of clicking on bad guys until they died remained intact, but very little else stayed the same. Instead of a single setting, the town of Tristram, <em>Diablo II</em> took players across its world both above and below ground, from the European-like forests and fortresses of the first act to Arabian-style deserts in the second, etc. The plot was detailed in a series of cutscenes, where a witness to the game&rsquo;s events recounted the key moments from an insane asylum.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;">Perhaps most importantly, the game&rsquo;s class and skill system added a huge amount of variety to each style of character. The Paladin, with his auras and different attacks, was roughly as complex as the Sorceress, with her spells of different elements. This wasn&rsquo;t true of their equivalents in the first game, where Sorcerers had different spells to pick from, but Warriors could only attack and occasionally heal themselves. <em>Diablo II</em> marked a major change in the way that RPGs were played, and it proved tremendously influential on the massively multiplayer role-playing games that followed (specifically <em>World Of Warcraft)</em>, which then fed back into single-player games like <em>Dragon Age</em>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;">Such genre-defining changes aren&rsquo;t found in <em>Diablo III</em>, which is clearly an installment in what has become the hugely successful <em>Diablo</em> franchise. Most every aspect of <em>Diablo III</em> is either identical to <em>Diablo II</em> or comes with a slight tweak of that formula. This isn&rsquo;t a bad thing. <em>Diablo II</em> was a Hall of Fame-worthy game, and an updated, graphically enhanced version of its mechanics can hardly be a bad thing, even 12 years later. Those looking for more dramatic changes may feel a bit of disappointment at seeing the series settle into a comfortable middle age. On the other hand, the mistakes and passions of youth can be exhausting; Blizzard's developers have clearly learned what works and are determined to refine it here.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;"><a target="_blank" href="http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/05/diablo-iii-demon-cleaving-refined/">Read more...</a><br /> </span></p>

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