Diablo 3 Beta Impressions

The Diablo franchise is one that elicits thoughts of frantic fast paced fun. Diablo 3 does not disappoint.

Story:

Diablo features a robust story, rich with a continuous world of lore.  My full disclaimer is that I tend to disregard story as unimportant while playing and judging games.

In just the 1/5th of the game that I had the chance to play, the amount of dialogue possible, the extra books, and the voice overs made the story robust enough for me to notice it and I believe it can stand up to any modern game.

Also Deckard Cain makes a return.

Verdict:  Average

Graphics and Sound:

Diablo 3 is beautiful, simply put.  The games appearance has almost a quality of being painted.  Spells are bright, ornate, and easily distinguishable.  And the environment is well put together.  Blizzard games have never been about graphics, but the game does not leave much to be desired.

With plenty of voice overs, and creepy ambient music the sound in D3 is fitting and adequate for the game.

Verdict: Average

Game play:

The game plays just as you would expect.  Diablo 3 stays true to the Diablo franchise, keeping everything simple and accessible, but maintaining depth and customization.

Combat:

Diablo 3 plays a bit like it came out of an arcade.  Control over a character is achieved with only your mouse and 1-5 on your keyboard.  Movement is fast, and crisp (when servers aren’t lagging), and killing is extremely satisfying.  Combat resembles Diablo 2 closely so those familiar with the genre will not be surprised.

Killing enemies remains entertaining since Diablo continues to follow the idea of killing tons of monsters quickly as opposed to a few monsters extremely slowly.  The style leads to players feeling powerful as they mow through hordes of zombies and skeletons.  The game has even added kill sprees which give bonus experience for killing lots of enemies without stopping.

Some people may complain that the combat is too simple.  For them I say this is Diablo.

Dungeons:

The primary differentiation of Diablo 3 comes through the new dungeon generation, and a significant change in how characters are customized.

One of the disappointments I feel with D3 is the maps no longer feel as wide open as they used to be.  This may be a result of only playing Act 1, so I’ll reserve judgement on this till later, but Act 1 plays very linearly with no wide open areas.

Customization:

At first glance it seems like D3 lost a step on D2 in terms of customization.  With the removal of skill points and stat points, what really remains?  Well it turns out a lot.  For starters each character can now have a gender chosen.  I know, this is a small step up, but from D2 where all amazons and sorceresses were female, and all barbarians and paladins were male, it’s a nice addition.

Skills:

Then the skills…

Each character has 6 skill slots and 3 passive skills.  The skills and slots are all unlocked by level 30.  Select 6 skills, and 3 passive skills from a pool of abilities, from this picture there are 22 active skills and more passive skills are not pictured.  And then select one of 5 runes for each of your passive skills that add some serious modification.  For example a rune can make a skill AOE, or free to cast, or crit more often, sometimes even change the effect of the skill entirely, like turning it into a shield instead of an attack.  Between the 6 skill slots, 5 runes, and 3 passive skills, the customization on the character build end is seemingly endless.  And builds are changeable whenever a character is in town so experimentation will be quick and easy.

Stats:

Since stat points were eliminated, all stats are gained passively upon leveling or through equipment.  Customization of equipment remains largely the same as D2 including gems and sockets, but with the addition of enchantments, which are a craft that add stats of your choice to any piece of equipment.  Speaking of crafting, the ability to create magic and rare items will become a central point of D3.  Crafting materials can be found often, and used to create a magic or rare items in a similar fashion to gambling in D2, except the mods will be more predictable than in gambling.

I was skeptical when I first read about this system in D3, but it works.  The skills feel varied, and are always usable, and the number of builds possible will really add significant depth to the styles of play available within the game.  While stat points were removed, the new customization within items seems to be enough where unique builds with their own optimal items will add plenty of replay value.

Trading and the Real Money Auction House:

In D2 a significant portion of the game revolved around trading.  Trading in D3 is a bit more streamlined, with the addition of an auction house, but the removal of chat rooms.  The real money auction house will add a serious and interesting element to the game.  Well publicized, items in game can be traded for real money, and vice versa.  The stakes have never been higher and this will add a lot of depth to the economy playing aspect of Diablo 3.

Verdict: Excellent

Conclusions:

Reviews of the closed beta thus far have been mixed.  Of the complains, some have said it’s too short, it is really only 1/3rd of the first of 4 acts.  Others believe it’s not a significant step up from D2.  Other gamers seem not to know what the genre for Diablo is all about expecting some kind of MMORPG experience.

My impressions of the beta are largely positive.  After getting a taste of the game, it retains the majority of elements that I loved in Diablo 2, while the revamp of skills and itemization brings a fresh twist on the game.  This review has significant bias because of how much I loved Diablo 2.  But while sequels have disappointed me in the past, it appears Diablo 3 will not.

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