Oct 15, 2011

Diablo III Beta Impressions

The next highly anticipated game of the past 10 years since StarCraft II and perhaps Duke Nukem Forever is coming. The Closed beta has been out for a few weeks and I’ve spent some time with each class learning what the differences are and what the overall feel of the game is. And if you’re a fan of the Diablo series and have been following this game’s development closely, you know almost everything I’m about to tell you.

Diablo III closely resembles Diablo II in structure, but not so much in presentation or execution. These are not bad things, on the contrary. Blizzard knows they could release an updated Diablo II and get away with it, but they chose not rest purely on their laurels. You roam the landscape stumbling on towns and find randomized caves and wells to explore for special loot. Continuing the roaming landscape versus Diablo’s one-town, one-dungeon model was a smart move. One of the biggest strengths, but complaints from the die-hards is the art style. It’s visually striking, yet soft and vibrant at the same time. As you can see in the screenshots below, environments vary and you will see a lot of highs and lows of the color spectrum through your travels.

One of the immediate things you notice in the above screenshot and when you start the game, Diablo III heavily uses the new 2.0 – utilizing friend lists, matchmaking, parties, etc. – matching that of StarCraft II. is Blizzard’s online future with their IP’s. This of course involves a bit of controversy, as even if you don’t want to play online with friends, you will be required to be online in order to play Diablo III. I think there’s a large percentage that really won’t be affected by this, but when the internet goes out – removing the ability to play Diablo III in the mean time will put a damper on that. Matchmaking works fast and well to find friends or strangers to help in your questing. I couldn’t tell if the enemies scaled when receiving help. In this beta build of the game, no one is able to check out the PvP (or Player vs Player) part of the game. It’s locked off for whatever reasons I don’t know.

The classes as you’ve seen revealed over the years are: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and the Wizard. Each character is varied and requires some time in order to get acquainted with their controls and inner workings. Barbarian remains largely unchanged. The Necromancer is now The Witch Doctor, etc. Any character can solo the game with ease and efficiency and what your playstyle is. The beta came with a standard difficulty you cannot raise or lower, whatever the standard is – is a bit too easy. However, for beta purposes and enjoying yourself during testing I’m sure it was kept relatively low for new players as well as old. Though if you’ve been playing Diablo II the past 12 years, the 5 quests you play through are far too easy.

You can assign attacks to the Left and Right mouse button, and then bind active attacks to number keys to further inflict a recipe of damage. As you level up, the game automatically assigns you passive and active attacks to add to your repertoire. This might be surprising to those number crunchers looking how to min-max and develop the perfect build, but removing that requirement for some is a huge sigh of relief – allowing you to more quickly focus on stories, quests, and the great gameplay.

The game has been further delayed to seemingly a final release of early 2012, and I think with what we have here is a solid, presentable game with some features offline or not included for specific reasons – but when Diablo III ships, it will be something that you cannot miss out on.