Platform PC/MAC (PC Previewed)
Things You Might Like
- Classic Diablo Gameplay with some new twists
- Plenty of Classes to choose
- System requirements won’t break the bank
- It’s Diablo!
Things You Might Not Like
- It’s Diablo!
- Average graphics
Blizzard have clearly learned some lessons in the years since Diablo II, but the real challenge will be facing down new faves like Torchlight.
Disclaimer: this review of the Diablo 3 is based on a beta and all experiences are based on in-game experience. The discussion of the beta in this article is condoned and encouraged in the beta agreement.
So here’s how my day went after discovering I had been chosen for the Diablo III beta:
- MORE JOY
- Struggle to get through a day of work
- Rush to tell friends/family/anybody who will listen
- Rush to get away from friends as they threaten to skin you and wear you like a coat in an attempt to get into the beta
- Attempt to login to the beta
- Attempt to login to the beta
- ATTEMPT TO LOGIN TO THE BETA
- Finally login and create your character
- MAGICAL SUPER FUN TIME
- Realize the sun is coming up
- Call in sick to work
- Repeat steps 8-13
To be clear, I’m not a loyal Diablo fan. I played the demo for Diablo and played through Diablo II with friends in college and that’s about it. However, being a lukewarm fan didn’t do anything to keep me from getting sucked into the hype of Diablo III along with the rest of the Internet. The online gamer community knows that they’re going to get a good product considering the amount of time Blizzard puts into development of their titles. The question is, will it be good enough given how long Diablo has been on vacation?
So far, I’ve played through the Diablo III beta with two classes and have started a third, and my verdict is:
The game runs well on my dated machine. I don’t have the most impressive computer set up, but I had no problems running the beta even during frantic battles with many enemies onscreen. This speaks to Blizzard’s attempts to get their products into as many hands as possible. Sure, hardcore gamers might bemoan the lack of groundbreaking graphics, but I don’t recall Diablo ever being THAT cutting edge. Another problem I frequently faced was logging into the game and creating my character. Other times I’d be dropped from the server and the down times were quite long, but this is a beta and is expected.
From my memories of Diablo 2, I recall a similar mechanic that is now used in World of Warcraft (WoW) where skill points are allocated to special abilities (via talent trees), which then go on to unlock more specialized abilities for your character to use as you level up. I never was a fan of this because I am terribly indecisive and after your points were allocated you were stuck with those skills.
Diablo 3 changes things up – now skills are awarded and unlocked when your character reaches certain levels. This simplifies things for me, and the really interesting thing is how you’re allowed to use these abilities in game: Your character can only have a certain number of special abilities available at a time. You start with one open slot for one ability and quickly open up another at level two. So while there are many abilities (about 20+) at most, you can only access several at a time. As you level you open more slots and from what I saw in the abilities sub-screen you can only have six abilities ready for action at a time.
If you want to swap abilities you have to interact with shrines which are located in town or at dungeon entrances. I feel this streamlines the play and makes the combat in Diablo III more participatory, and not an act of keyboard agility that can be seen in games such as Starcraft or WoW.
I’ve played with the melee focused Monk, the minion focused Witchdoctor, and have only started the trap/projectile focused Demon-Hunter. Each style is amusing in its own way: with the Monk you are a whirlwind of energy and your attacks usually attack multiple targets; with the Witchdoctor you sit back and attack from afar as your minions chip away at enemies; with the Demon-Hunter you are constantly on the go, attacking-and-moving and setting traps to slow your enemies. So far the Demon-Hunter is the hardest to play; the Monk/Witchdoctor were not nearly this difficult early on in the beta.
Another aspect of combat that I believe is new to Diablo III is the use of destructible backgrounds to your advantage. In the areas I could access in the beta, most consisted of dark catacombs and you would find walls being held up by flimsy wooden planks or heavy chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. If enemies are under or nearby these environmental hazards, you can use them to stun your foes. I found this to break up some of the monotony of just trudging endlessly from room to room killing enemies over and over again.
Diablo III, like many games today, has added the ability to craft gear with the help of artisans located in town. In the beta only a blacksmith is available. As I played, your character finds many weapons that are either meant for other classes, or of lower quality. You can now break these down, and these scraps can be used to craft new weapons. Oh, and artisans can be upgraded by finding “pages of learning” as you’re adventuring to unlock new recipes for new items.
The last improvement of note is that town portal scrolls are no longer needed. Early in the beta you are given a stone that will instantly send you to town, with a cooldown of 8 minutes. I found this to be a welcome change because I hated having to carry town portal scrolls in my inventory.
Again, top marks – Diablo III has exceptional art design. The game world is beset by monsters, and your hero is the only one who can save it. Expectedly, everything is gloomy and depressing. Whatever complaints the gamer community had about early footage of the game being too bright has been addressed, and is now appropriately dark and eerie. Enemies in the beta consist mainly of undead that may remind you of special infected from the Valve franchise Left 4 Dead, with their grotesquely rendered corpses that vomit and break apart when you kill them.
One thing I noticed early on was the lack of originality in the dungeon designs. I felt like I was rediscovering the same areas again and again. This is most likely a byproduct of the beta, but it is worth noting.
Oh, and one last thing: Unlike previous Diablo games, you are allowed to pick your sex with each class. This is a great addition, but what I found hilarious is how the female classes look like they purchased all their starting gear at Fredricks of Hollywood or Ann Summers. The Demon-Huntress honestly looks less like the bane of evil and way more like a sexy dominatrix, with her thigh-high boots and black bustier; and the female Monk looks like a hobo covered in worn bindings and a tattered orange skirt.
I get it Blizzard. I know EXACTLY who you’re pandering to with these designs. Hell I’m still part of the 20-something demographic, but it is super hard to take a Demon-Huntress seriously when all you can think about is how cold she must be as she’s stomping in the head of a monster dressed like a Victoria’s Secret model.
In conclusion, I’m enjoying my time with the beta. I’m going to finish playing through with the Demon-Hunter, the Barbarian and the Wizard. The rich story and history that Diablo III draws from is exciting and only gets more interesting as you read more of the in-game lore. To everybody I say to keep an eye out for this one in 2012; it’ll be nice to know that I’m not the only one who will be up in the wee hours of the morning looking for sweet gear to bling out my character.
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