Diablo 3 Beta – A Quick Look
So, the Diablo 3 open Beta Weekend is over, and I am no longer able to play it (thanks for never giving me a real beta invite, Blizzard). However, I did play it almost nonstop while it was available, and so I have gathered my thoughts and impressions together in this post. Please keep in mind that the Beta only covered 1/3 of Act 1 and 13 possible levels, so this is basically only the tip of a much, much larger game.
D3 brings only 5 classes to the table, less than D2, but each of them had their own similarities to D2 classes, with some new things thrown in. The Barbarian returns as the incredibly destructive melee hero, skilled in cutting swaths through enemies and grinding hordes of mobs to paste in seconds. He actually felt extremely overpowered in the beta, and at no point did I have trouble playing him. He’s pretty close to his D2 counterpart, but more focused on cleaving and attacking groups. The Wizard is the quintessential elemental spellcaster, with lots of AoE effects than slow and snare enemies, and is very squishy in combat. I found that the wizard was very weak in the beta, especially compared to some of the the things the other classes were doing. I imagine the class is stronger at higher levels, just like in D2.
The Demon Hunter played like any kind of archer with traps you can think of, and I wasn’t too excited about it, even though it was cool to watch. All of the DH’s moves have style. I’m hoping that’s also a class that also gets better with time, because it look like it had potential. Unfortunately, due to some server issues (lots of those this weekend, since it was a stress test), I wasn’t able to try Monk or Witch Doctor much, but I have gathered that the Monk is very much like a Paladin, and the Witch Doctor has summons, like a Necromancer. Every class has a primary stat, Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence, and it’s a very easy system to use. Also, unlike D2, each class can be either gender.
The gameplay is pretty much the same, with a few interface changes to allow you to have more moves out. You beat down hordes of monsters for quests and loot, and you run about open randomly-generated areas to find treasure and objectives. There’s a ton of breakable scenery, which I like, and there’s plenty of random short dungeons popping up all over to keep you occupied. You also don’t have to carry keys or scrolls anymore, as identifying and porting to town just takes time to cast. Everyone uses a different resource for skills, so there’s no mana potions either. These are great changes, and don’t let the D2 purists tell you otherwise. The game still feels like Diablo. It’s still a hack and slash loot bonanza.
Honestly the only issue I have with the gameplay is really more of an issue with the game’s developers. D3 only runs online, all the time. You can never play it in an offline mode. At several points I was getting server lag while playing a game with only myself in it, which should never happen, and never would in an offline mode. I understand that this is done to avoid cheating and to better incorporate the Auction House, but I don’t always want to play online, and I know many people feel the same way. This isn’t a game you can just put on your computer and go somewhere with it, you’ll always need an internet connection, and it’s a damn shame. Saying all that, though, Blizzard still runs their servers very well, and any lag I experienced can probably be chalked up to stress testing. Also, it’s extremely easy to join a game and immediately have the quest and get to your friends to fight enemies. It’s a very slick system and it makes for accessible multiplayer, which is really the heart of Diablo. Hardcore mode is in the game for anyone who wants it, complete with the familiar DIRE WARNINGS about permanent character death.
The music is appropriate for the setting. It’s ominous, dire, and serious. This is good for a game series with precious few comedic moments. The voice acting is top-notch, and while it was strange to hear it for every quest, I never felt like it was out of place. You can always skip it if you don’t want to hear it. The sound effects are good as always, I do love the sound of my sword cutting through 3 enemies at once. You’re never going to hear an immersion breaking noise, unless you earn an achievement…and then you’ll be out. Yes, there’s achievements already implemented in the beta. There’s even some beta-only achievements!
The Story So Far
It’s typical Diablo fare. New Tristam is overrun with the undead after a mysterious star crashed into their cathedral. Your hero shows up to help, and runs around collecting artifacts that will allow him/her to defeat said boss. The one in question is a former king of the area (now a skeleton) who went mad and was killed by his followers. I thought it was funny that Blizzard named him Leoric, after the DotA hero. Deckard Cain is once again important to the game, and there’s really no surprises so far, but to be fair it isn’t even half of Act 1. I’m not complaining.
This is the most divisive issue among the fans right now. The talent trees and skillpoints are gone. In their place is a system of abilities and passive bonuses that every member of a given class receives. Now it’s not about permanently making a character set in one path forever, but rather about picking the right set of skills and passives for the right situation. Everyone is more flexible, and any possible build can be tried. To make things even more interesting, every regular ability can be augmented in one of 5 or 6 ways to alter its effects. I personally am a huge fan of this change, as it removes all the need to look up arcane guides on where to place every single talent and skill point, only to find that you’ve ruined your character’s potential forever by a single misjudgement or misaimed click. I’ll be honest, those terrible interfaces and confusing descriptions were my least favorite part of D2. Don’t say that on any forums though, because old D2 players will chew your head right off.
Character appearance isn’t really customizable, which is more a relic of D2 than an actual issue. I didn’t mind, gear changes you enough to look different, and instead of changing how your character’s face looks, you get a banner you can customize instead, which serves as your crest and also as your teleport point.
The D3 beta left me with a good feeling, even as the servers crumbled under the pressure of the stress test. The difficulty was very easy, but once again, it was just part of Act 1. I liked how the new system of abilities works, and I like having so much more freedom of choice with my character. I never have to stress about trying a new spell, I can just do it and change back if I don’t like it. I don’t have to put 20 levels of points into a spell to make it good, it’s good when you get it. I still have fun finding random loot, and now you can break down the enchanted stuff and craft new things with it, so you’re always rewarded when you find loot, even if you can’t use it. The stash is linked between characters, which is also a good change. Overall, it’s a prettier (MUCH prettier) D2 with a whole lot of great changes and not very many bad ones. Most importantly of all, though, it FEELS LIKE DIABLO. And that’s all I really wanted.