Diablo 3 beta review!
We’ve been waiting for it for the last 12 years, give or take a little bit on either side, and now with it looming just over the horizon, I was granted by the good folks at Blizzard access to the beta.
This close to release date, it’s really rather clean, so far at worst, I’ve only had one small issue, which is using the public game finder to connect to someone doing the final quest, and instead winding up in some ones game who just started (level 3, doesn’t meet the requirement for the quest which is 4-13). Aside from that, the game functioned exactly like I expected it to. So let’s get into the nitty gritty.
General gameplay: Fantastic, while having new developers, it has maintained the original –feel- of playing Diablo. Eerie soundtracks when moving through a forest infested with zombies and other hell-spawn. The difficulty is pretty much exactly what I expect for the beginning of your Diablo adventures, so someone who has just picked up and started will be able to play, giving the game accessibility, while Blizzard have added in an extra difficulty setting –above- the old standard ‘hard mode’ hell, called Inferno, which if you believe Blizzards video about it, will slaughter you good. (Video can be found here)
Random side dungeons and quests give the game a less repetitive feel as well, searching through one of three (randomly designated for location) Defiled Crypts for the true crypt for a quest, can take you into a false one with a quest to restore a ghost-lady’s bones, or lead you to a big shiny chest, or maybe you get lucky and play the extremely fun side-quest “The Jar of Souls” where you have to survive for 60 seconds against an increasingly fast spawning onslaught of skeletons, and I can only imagine how fun it would be doing that in nightmare/hell/inferno difficulty. There may even be more side-quests in those crypts that I haven’t found yet, only time will tell.
The storyline up to this point has been immersive, and to those that have played through Diablo I & II, there are lots of character mentions and history coming from those games as well, we get to peek into Adria’s house, and who should be in here, but of course Deckard Cain who for about half a second, I expected to see a pull a Gandalf for those of you Lord of the Rings fans (no, I won’t spoil it, you will see for yourself).
The skill system is very intuitive now, as even the most basic level gamer will be able to pick up and start playing. Your first skills overlay your auto attacks, and tend to A) Generate your main resource (Left mouse button attacks) and B) Consume your main resource for bonus damage (Right mouse button attacks), this template isn’t always accurate, as for Wizard your left doesn’t give you Arcane power, but it doesn’t COST arcane power either, letting you freely regenerate it. As for early game, it doesn’t bombard you will skill choices either, so some people will be disappointed with that I’m sure, the ones that were all too happy to calculate all the skill points you’d need for the tree. For Diablo III Blizzard have gone with a level-unlock system, which will also open up runes that go right up to max level spaced out among your skills, so you can still customise or use that first skill at the end game if you want to.
The need to calculate how many stat points to put into what stat is also gone, with a system that automatically grants you stat points per level to accommodate whatever class you are playing. I personally am not too keen on this, as I’m one of those people that likes to make deviant builds that everybody would rather smack you upside the head than play themselves, but they are amazing fun. Exhibit A: Melee sorc for Diablo II. Still, I can understand why Blizzard did this, and so far it works out just fine, there is still plenty of customisation for characters between gear, skills and runes.
So, without further ado: Here is a small review on each class, and what they bring to the table:
Barbarian gameplay: The barbarian is one of those cookie cutter classes that people expect to be able to pick up and play, safely and easily. They know that the barbarian will probably be tankier than a wizard, and that they will hit hard with their weapons. Blizzard haven’t disappointed, but they have given a few nice skills so far as I have seen (max level for beta is 13). One such skill is an area of effect stun, giving the barbarian some very nice crowd controlling capabilities, making him a fantastic addition to a team. Another fun little skill, is the ability to hook an enemy (assuming they aren’t a boss) and dragging them to you via this lovely big chain, makes chasing enemies down nice and easily. The barbarian has some good area of effect (aoe) damage, so even if you are soloing, you won’t have to struggle against large waves of minions.
Wizard gameplay: Well I felt the need to venture into the world of trademark infringement naming my wizard Harry. Yes. I had to. No, I won’t apologise for the Hagrid in your head saying “you’re a wizard Harry”. The wizard is interesting, something of a mix between your typical mage character, with some interesting mixes, such as a defensive spell called Diamond Body, which when cast, for ~5seconds makes you immune to damage, on a 15 second cooldown. Makes your wizard surprisingly durable with good use. Augmenting your stock in trade spell Ray of Frost with an early rune will actually turn it into a kind of frost bubble surrounding you, and anything inside will take a large amount of damage per second, seemed to me like a perfect combination for dealing with creature packs, and boy did it just work. The wizard has so much area of effect magic, I’m sure you would struggle to poke a stick at the few spells so far that don’t either explode, or zap, or freeze the legions.
Witch doctor gameplay: What can I say about the witch doctor? Something of a mix between a druid and necromancer from Diablo II, this colossally masked man, or this slimline voodoo priestess have an interesting set of moves, very thematically balanced as well. I had a tremendous amount of fun spraying a legion of flaming bats at my enemies, spitting some poison darts at them, then running away laughing, as my legion of zombie hands ascending from the ground dealt a large amount of damage and slowed the enemies. So far the witch doctor has only a small amount of crowd control, which is awkward for how flimsy the character’s tank stats are, but then, do you really need more than an aoe slow when you have a trio of angry zombie dogs to protect you? The witch doctor tends to focus on damage over time style abilities, or channelling for damage as opposed to just a short burst, though I can certainly see the witch doctor taking up one of the main damage roles in a party quite easily thanks to a fairly high level of sustained damage.
Monk gameplay: The very first character I made for the beta, and the character I was most excited about leading up to the game. I say was not because the monk was unsatisfying to play mind you, just that all the other classes exceeded my expectations for how fun they are to play, so now I’m really not sure who I want to play come release =< (curse you Blizzard *shakes fist*). I play a lot of League of Legends and the very first thing I thought after playing the monk is something like “oh my god, this is so fun, I’m Lee Sin, but on a 0 cooldown kick!!!”. The monk has a nicely balanced skillset, with the ability to deal out some aoe damage, knockback or stun enemies, the ability to jump to an enemy and kick them (really cool, as if you target one around the corner, rather than cut it you slide around like a car VROOOOOOOOOOOOM) as well as having a good support role with your own group healing spell, or a blind for the enemies. Enough crowd control to poke a stick at, and has the ability to tank failing having that geared up barbarian in your party.
Demon hunter gameplay: Yes, I played a female, yes, I called her Vayne. Those of you who play LoL will get it, those who don’t, that’s cool too. Those that choose the demon hunter can expect to kite their enemies to death, while demolishing packs before they can even respond to your awesome prowess. One of your earliest skills to overlay your autoattacks will pierce/bounce between enemies on a %chance, and good news, the first rune you get for it increases the chance. The demon hunter for those of you who played Diablo II is something akin to an assassin crossed with an amazon. You have the flexibility and the mobility as well as the traps of the assassin, and god is it fun to cartwheel around places at high speed, but you have the ranged damage dealing capabilities of the amazon. A demon hunter in the party will be dealing out an amazing amount of damage, while still maintaining the ability to fairly heavily crowd control enemies, with an auto attack that can aoe slow, and a trap that can do the same thing.
As promised, here is the gameplay trailer, for the moment you will have to click the link to take you to youtube to see it, since embedding doesn’t seem to work on here at the moment.