I have some mixed feelings about Diablo 3, and as is the custom among my people, I will now share those feelings with you in annoyingly granular detail.
First – A bit of history:
Diablo 1 was the first game I ever preordered. Diablo 2 was the second. Diablo 3 had my money a month before release. I don’t normally pre-order games. I prefer to wait for post-release reviews. The Diablo franchise has been so entertaining that I’ve broken that tradition every time. I love these games.
Considering that Diablo 1 came out on the last day of 1996, that’s 14.5 years of being irresponsible with my entertainment money.
Second – Yes, Diablo is a dark universe:
If I had to describe Diablo as a genre, I’d call it “Action Horror”. It’s the “From Dusk Till Dawn” of video games; A Quentin Tarantino RPG. This is a world where bodies get stacked like cordwood. This is a world where innocent people die in horrible ways as a matter of course. It’s not a nice place, and the heroes that hail from this world are not nice heroes. They’re dark, and sometimes quite creepy. None of them are nice happy fluffy do-goooders.
Third – When it comes to the Diablo franchise, there’s actually some pretty okay stuff in the race/gender department.
Diablo one had three class/race/genders (they were a package deal):
Not exactly a flawless balance, but the sorcerer was downright fantastic. Sure, he’s a foreigner according to the plot (unsurprising, since Diablo takes place in a fake middle-ages-europe analogue), but he’s treated as the intelligent one in the trifecta. The black guy is the smart one. Cool.
The rogue suffered a bit from male gaze (it takes a ridiculous amount of time to find her armor that actually covers her thighs), but she was a powerful and useful character.
Diablo two had seven (again, a package deal):
- White Female Amazon
- White Female Assassin (from the expansion)
- White Male Necromancer
- White Male Barbarian
- Black Female Sorceress
- White Male Druid (from the expansion)
- Black Male Paladin
Still not a 50/50 split, but not as bad as it could be. The women still have male gaze issues (the assassin and amazon apparently need their thighs showing for their powers to work). But the Sorceress isn’t treated as some kind of freak or savage. She’s the educated one, the smart hero. Similarly, the Paladin isn’t out of place in the roster. Compared to the Barbarian and the Druid, he’s practically the least savage of the bunch.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about Diablo 3:
Diablo 3 has five race/classes. THIS time, you can pick your gender for each of them:
- White Barbarian
- White Demon Hunter
- Middle-Eastern Monk
- Black Witch Doctor
- Asian Wizard
So, there’s a few things to celebrate here. First, gender parity, pretty awesome. Even the advertising doesn’t treat this as an all-male cast (the Demon Hunter and Wizard are both advertised as female, the others as male). Second, we’ve got some POC here! Asians in a video game, and they’re not monks or ninjas! Woo! Heck, there IS a Monk, but he’s middle eastern! That’s downright fantastic. Positive portrayals of an asian woman in advertising for an AAA video game title? Is that even possible? AND a positively portrayed not-muslim (fictional universe, remember?). Sounds downright fantastic…
But you may have noticed that I skipped someone in my analysis. I was saving a certain hero for last. Namely, our good friend the Witch Doctor.
I suppose it could be worse. He is a hero after all, and the story puts him on the same level as the rest of them. He’s questing from a distant land to fight the evil in Tristram. That’s good right? Only the Demon Hunter is actually native to the region, the rest of them are all coming from somewhere else. But… look… just, oh come on:
- He comes from a savage land to the south.
- His people practice ritual sacrifice and cannibalism.
- His. Title. Is. Fucking. Witch. Doctor.
- He uses not-voodoo (fictional world, remember?) for his powers.
This actually BREAKS Diablo plot continuity. In the Diablo universe, black people always hailed from the more-civilized lands to the East. Where are my Sorcerers from Diablo 1 and 2? What the sod happened?
Okay, technically our Asian Wizard was trained by the same culture that brought us the Mage and Sorcerer, so some of those not-horrible-stereotype POCs are still out there somewhere… but that still leaves us with THIS GUY:
Look. Blizzard, we need to talk. I have to admit, you’ve made a sodding fantastic game, and you guys have never been perfect on the race/gender front (particularly gender, your female characters are getting a little chilly in their non-armor), but seriously? You’re making gamers and gaming look bad.
You’re embarrassing us. This is Diablo 3, and I’m embarrassed to play it.