I’ve said more than my fair share of nasty things about Blizzard lately. I think I even swore them off entirely at one point. You can probably imagine my surprise then when I was excited to hear about the open beta for Diablo III.
My excitement was tinged with a little apprehension. Nervousness. Possibly even concern. After all, didn’t we immediately cancel our pre-order of Dungeon Siege III after we tried the demo of it? Haven’t we heard awful things about Diablo III being stale or just plain bad? Regardless, I knew it was a beta we couldn’t overlook, even though it landed right at the same time as Tera’s open beta.
It took three hours before we were able to actually get onto the servers to check out the game due to congested log-in servers. Creating a character is as simple you might expect from the Diablo franchise. Pick your class, pick your gender, and type your name. Simple, but you definitely won’t be making a unique avatar in this universe. Your female Demon Hunter looks like all the other female Demon Hunters until you get some gear to differentiate yourself.
Travis had a character made before I did, so once I had my Hero created, I was delighted to see right there on the Start Game screen a Quick Join button to join my Real ID friend’s game. One click and I was playing with him. We didn’t have to fuss around with creating a game and trying to get us both into it. This was a wonderful feature we hadn’t expected.
I had played Diablo II before, but, even though it had been a while since I’d played anything dungeon-crawler-esque on a computer, the controls came right back to me and felt intuitive and logical. We were both quite fond of the new skill system. You start out with two attacks, one on Left Click and the other on Right Click. As you level, you unlock new abilities for each ability slot and 1-4 on the keyboard also slowly unlock for abilities.
The abilities in each position can be changed by opening the Skills menu. As you level further, each ability you can choose from has a set of runes you can choose from to empower that skill. The Diablo III website has a handy Skill Calculator that you can use to peruse the available abilities and runes for each of the five classes.
Potions stack in one small square of your inventory and are keybound to Q. You no longer need to preload them to use them. Just carry some and, on a quick push of Q, they replenish your health in a quick burst rather than a heal-over-time effect.
One of the biggest changes from both Diablo and Diablo II surrounds looting in multiplayer games. Everyone gets their own loot drops. Everything that drops from bosses, chests, and even general minions is unique to each player’s screen, and the loot that falls isn’t the same for each player. You don’t see what drops for others, and they can’t steal your drops. You can still trade an item to your friends or just drop it on the ground for them though.
The world seems dark and almost faded with just the right level of eerie for a Diablo game. The interiors are less open space than those of the previous games, but the maps don’t feel too linear. The meat of the game, the creatures and ghoulies, offered plenty of variety even through the short beta.
Having to make a BattleTag before playing is a little irritating; it’s hard enough to choose a name for my characters. A whole new dimension of difficult opens up when you need to have an identity that is highlighted as you across all your characters. It seemed a little odd to see my husband’s BattleTag floating above his character rather than his character name. But that’s just nitpicking really.
Basically it’s exactly what Travis is looking for every time he loads up Diablo and realizes he’s played it a thousand too many hours already and is looking for something a little different while still kind of more of the same — a fresh take on an old friend, basically. If you’re looking for another Diablo game, that’s what this seems to be. If you’re looking for something fresh or dynamic, you might be out of luck.