Diablo III – Beta Review

As a Diablo I/II veteran, I can tell you, Diablo fans are not going to be disappointed with the upcoming, long anticipated Diablo III.  The story continues in a lush new revision of the original game, while keeping the same dark and foreboding feel that Diablo players love.

Set in New Tristram some 20years later, your hero begins his/her quest in search of a fallen star. The same star that foretells the coming of the end of days.  As seen in the Opening Cinematic, this star crashes through the grand cathedral destroying much of it, and rendering Decard Cain missing. And so your tale begins.

Familiar Gameplay Mechanics

If you are a veteran Diablo player, you’ll find that Diablo III will give you a sense of familiarity that does not disappoint.  Diablo III implements the same isometric viewpoint and click-to-move style found in the original games.  While much of the world has evolved and improved you will find exploring the vast dungeons, and discovering hidden treasures while hacking your way through evil creatures as enjoyable and exciting as ever.

Improved Gameplay Mechanics

I found the game play to be smooth and easy to handle. In Diablo III, the character build and interface layout have been simplified.  Instead of dealing with skill points for builds you automatically gain access to skills as you level.  You can then choose up to 6 of these skills (based on your level as you attain these slots through leveling) to use at a time, and arrange them in any order to fit your individual fighting style.  These skills can be swapped in and out at any time, to give you the freedom to try new combinations and builds.  I would not recommend doing this during combat because there is a short refresh penalty on newly swapped out abilities.

As shown below, you will see the first two abilities you choose are automatically bound to your right and left mouse buttons.  After that your the next skills you choose are bound to 4 hot keys.  All hotkey and shortcut buttons can be customized, making your character easy and fun to tailor as you like.

In the previous games skill points were used to enhance each skill.  In Diablo III you will now have a single rune slot per skill that should allow you to further customize your abilities.  These runes can be swapped in and out as you like.  However, I did not get to play with this feature in beta.

While health potions are still part of the game, you now get the benefit of what are called health globes.  Dropped by defeated enemies, these globes will immediately heal the player when picked up, removing the need to stop combat to drink a potion.  And as an added bonus, they heal any surrounding party members as well.

Travel is made easy in Diablo III.  Aside from well placed portal stones set at the far corners of various dungeons that will port you to the dungeons entrance, you now get a town portal ability.  This saves you space as you no longer need to purchase portal scrolls to get back to town to sell your goods.  With the completion of a quest early on you get this clickable ability added to your game bar.

As for inventory space, thankfully your personal cache is now shared between all your characters! Hazzah!  Asking random players or friends is no longer necessary to transfer gear to your alternate characters.

Crafting skills are another thing that will be shared between characters.  No leveling the same crafting skill more than once!  Crafting also works a little differently then what one might be used to.  Crafting skills are basically vendor based in Diablo III.  You simply invest coin to advance the skill of that particular artisan to gain access to new recipes.  You acquire materials for these crafted items by salvaging magical items obtained from defeated foes or completed quests.

Now on the subject of death…








Need I say more?

Improved Dungeons

The graphics and layout are simply beautiful, giving an enjoyably creepy atmosphere to explore and battle the forces of darkness.   Diablo III continues with the same randomized dungeon system we’ve become so familiar with in the first two games.

In addition to their many improvements, dungeons are now enhanced with destructible environments. This gives a realistic feel and allows the player to use the environment to demolish one’s foes.  While I did get to play with this feature, I wasn’t severely impressed by the few spots where I could use the almost collapsing wall or dropping chandelier to crush some monsters.  They were too few and poorly placed to really take advantage of the opportunity. Unless one feels the need to kite the entire dungeon to said spot simply for laughs and giggles.  Although, I did very much enjoy how the environment responded, if only aesthetically, to my attacks and presence.

What fun would killing monsters be if you couldn’t get a little something extra out of it?  Like say experience bonuses and achievements for killing large numbers of mobs or even inanimate objects within small periods of time?  Now you can! Which I must say I had a whole lot of fun with as I became a destructive force to any moving or non-moving object I encountered within the dungeons depths!

Music/Voice Acting

It’s easy to get critical when it comes to voice acting and music. Especially from a Dragon Age fan such as myself, voice acting and dialogue are everything.  I must say they did a pretty decent job with the voice acting.  The dialogue and script fit well for their purpose, and the extra narrations are quite enjoyable.

One of my favorite added features to the dialogue are the vocalized journal entries.  When you pick up a lore item or journal entry in game, you get to listen to the new bit of lore as you continue your journey.  If you were to busy beating down the scourge of the underworld to hear the journal entry you can always find it in your journal, and listen to it again!

I’m sure everyone will recognize the classic Diablo music.  Love it!  The new orchestrations Blizzard adds only enhance the whole atmosphere of the game, both beautiful and dark.

New Classes/Comparisons

The classes currently available in Diablo III include Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor, Wizard and Monk.  Aside from the Barbarian and Wizard, these are all new classes.   One nice change is that now you get to choose to be either male or female, not matter the class.  Though they may remind you of some classes you remember from the original games, every class has new skills and abilities making them stand out from the old.  Here are some similarities and differences you might notice.

The Barbarian, a master of brutal attacks and offensive and defensive shouts is everything you remember, plus much more.  Whether he’s taking the heavy hits or dealing the heavy blows he’s a force to be reckoned with on the battle field.

The Demon Hunter has abilities that you might recall from both the amazon and the assassin.  Though she does favor bows and crossbows, she also has the ability to lay traps and now uses shadow magic to conceal herself.

The Wizard is pretty self explanatory, being a close sister to the Sorceress. Her wide range of abilities make her quite versatile.  She can utilize the power of the elements to strike hard at individual foes,  conjure powerful area effect attacks, or shield and protect herself or fellow companions.

The Witch Doctor, while he may remind you somewhat of a necromancer and/or druid, he definitely holds it’s own.  Commanding the dark forces of nature and utilizing the powers of hexes and curses through destructive magic.

The Monk is probably the newest addition to our merry band of misfits.  I might say this master of spiritual power may have replaced our long lost paladin.  Though I would say he is nothing like him.  This guy deals purely in hand-to-hand combat,  and while he can wield staves and such he does not fight with them, sadly.  With fast reflexes and focusing the power of his mantra’s, he proves to be no easy target for any enemy.

To sum it up, I am very excited about Diablo III and plan to pre-order as soon as the release date is announced.  From my beta experience I can tell you Blizzard has definitely made some exciting improvements in all aspects of the game.

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