My page this month is about two games that have been out for just over a month or so now and which the action gaming market has been geared up and ready for since they were announced as forthcoming last year. Both of these games contain violence akin to their genre and thus are aimed at the over 16s so be thoughtful if you are thinking of buying them for presents for younger players. As they have been on game store shelves for around 4-5 weeks you may well be able to find them at bargain prices by now, though the Collector’s Edition of Diablo III is still currently available on eBay for around £160.00 and probably not available in the shops any more. So here are my thoughts on them both.
The most awaited and wanted game of the first half of this year was DIABLO III from BLIZZARD Entertainment (who also publish World of Warcraft and Starcraft). To compliment this amazingly well designed strategy adventure BRADYGAMES have published strategy guide and put it out for sale at a price that I cannot comprehend they can afford to and still make a profit.
To add to their fantastic signature series of gaming guides they have launched this 450 page full colour guide (that’s 450 pages including the cover and all in colour) for just £14.99 ($23.99 Canadian $21.99 USA).
DIABLO III is huge, make no bones about that. Indeed had it been produced by (almost) any other company than BLIZZARD (who continue to ensure that World of Warcraft is still the most played and best) then this would have been a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO), for with the amount of random content within the game it already isn’t far from it.
To make the game more accessible to all players the BRADYGAMES guide has gathered the 31 quests of the main campaign into four separate Acts. Each of these contains fully detailed maps and text of towns, areas, creatures and the populace.
This book has walkthroughs that will convey all you need to know, where to find the loot, any specialities of the monsters and, well just about everything except hold your hand and press the right buttons on the console controller.
The skills that each of the five characters can gain as they level up through experience are delivered within the chapter of each in alphabetical order. At first this seems to be both a boon and a bane because the levels of each spell are not conditioned to the letter it begins with.
If you haven’t read this guide there is every chance that you will not realise that many of the monsters encountered are randomly drawn from the Monster Pool and thus they may be Normal (easily fought), Champion (tough opposition) or Rare (larger in size and named, as well as being the toughest to kill).
I cannot heap enough praise on this volume. It us extremely useful and necessary for an inept player like myself, but it will also open many secrets for even the most experienced player, and I still cannot believe there are 450 pages of colour for just £14.99.

DIABLO III – the game on the PC
Diablo III has been designed to play over and over using the same hero over and over again at higher level and difficulty. If you have played Diablo and Diablo II then you’ll know what to expect – a fight fest from start to finish with a little thought in-between.
Deckard Cain and Leah, his niece, are in New Tristram Cathedral when it is hit by something from space (possibly a falling star) and destroyed. Cain goes searching for the missile and disappears. The player character, one of the following, Witch-Doctor, Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk or Wizard, go off in search of Cain, discovering on the way that the star was some kind of person.
The story is told in four Acts with the finale of Act IV being a three-part fight against Diablo himself. The game is an adrenaline rush as you go from scene to scene, combat to combat, dungeon to dungeon. Every time you play the world is randomly set up, though the same type of creatures are always found in the same areas, possibly in different numbers.
Each beginning area has a couple of Merchants, various people to chat to – some interesting to the actual game and some only for the story – and three Followers, the Enchantress, the Scoundrel and the Templar, though you pick up the Templar during early adventuring. During play you will discover underground areas filled with creatures and monsters generally ending in combat against a tougher or sometimes end-of-level style adversary. The regular creatures are still cunning enough to perform flanking manoeuvres and the main demon or demons at the end have different attack styles.
Occasionally you will have 2 or even 3 quests at the same time. These generally lead to mini adventures – small dungeons etc – that do not have any real impact on the story but give you the chance to build up your character and maybe obtain better gear. In the safe areas you will also find artisans who can train you to break down equipment into craft resources and gems. One guy will train you to make the best gems to add to equipment slots and the other guy trains you in making armour and weapons. You can give certain equipment to your Follower, weapons, shields, trinkets and rings mainly. If you get something that will suit a Follower you aren’t with at the time you can hold onto it and give it to them later.
Speaking of Followers, they are a great help throughout the game and then when you need them most – to fight Diablo – you are not allowed to use them. Therefore, like any good MOM, you need to build your character up as high and fast as possible and collect the best gear possible. If you don’t have the best gear and you haven’t suited the best skills then you have little chance of beating Diablo – I know this from experience. Also once you reach Diablo, although you can go back and find other creatures to kill, you get little or no additional XP.
Diablo fans will be happy to know that apart from Diablo, Rakanoth, Belial and Azmodan, they can once again kick the proverbial hard-ass, the Butcher and he is tougher than ever. The only downside to DIABLO III is that apart from Diablo himself, it is too easy on Normal difficulty. Other difficulties unlocked with success are, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno. Hardcore heroes die forever if they get killed – they have just one life. It is fun to see how far into the game you can take such a hero.
Playing the Normal difficulty doesn’t give you all of the crafting training, you need to locate spell book pages as well as components derived from equipment, to make things that will benefit you. In Normal mode you can usually find better equipment than you can make. Cooperative play is more fun. Once you have a friend (or friends) online they can join you if you let them. If you accept a friend’s help you will lose the Follower you have with you at the time.
There are subtle differences from the previous games but this is mainly more of the same, fight, fight and fight. You do not need to solve puzzles you just need to use what you find as best as possible. Fantastic landscapes, powerful creatures perfect fantasy role-play visuals for the underground sections. We have waited for DIABLO III for a long time and it has been well worth the wait.
You MUST have a Battle.net account.

The next MOST WANTED game so far this year is MAX PAYNE 3 from Rockstar Games.
This is an exciting adventure which really is all-action. Max Payne 3 Rockstar Games X-Box360
Max Payne 3 is not written by the original creator, Sam Lake, instead it is written by Dan Houser (lead writer of the team) who has made his name with Rockstar through the famous RED DEAD REDEMPTION and the famously infamous GRAND THEFT AUTO series.
This is a new Max Payne. This is not just an extension of the previous games, it is almost like a completely new franchise except that it is, in its roots, the Max Payne we know and cannot get enough of. Max has moved from New York and retired from the NYPD, moving to Hoboken in New Jersey an older and wiser man, but still a man who lives life in the mould of Atlas.
Now addicted to alcohol and pain-killers he is easily riled and quick to resort to violence in any confrontation. His latest conflict sees him get down and dirty with the son of a local Mob Boss but an interception sees the cynical Max flying out of the country and on his way to Sao Paulo in Brazil where he has been recruited as a security specialist. Life is good but only for a very short time before Max is back in action. His new boss’s wife is kidnapped and it isn’t a clean case of paying a ransom, there is more at stake and Max finds himself in the middle of it.
There is a fairly linear plotline which needs to be followed but the amazing graphics and actionmean that you (Max) are always in the thick of it, solving puzzles, dodging bullets – great in slow-motion – and shooting/using a variety of weapons, also often in slow-motion (Bullet Time gives some absolutely breathtaking screenshots).
This may not be the old Max who one felt a sympathy for but the new grizzly, sardonic, scornful and skeptical, is formidable and a great character to play.

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