Cody: I’ve been patiently awaiting the arrival of Diablo 3 for longer than I care to remember; though, to be perfectly honest, when it comes to Blizzard, the Warcraft and Starcraft licences have always appealed more to my style. I did play Diablo I and II quite a lot ‘back in the day’, but they never made it into my Hall of Memories in the way StarCraft and Warcraft did – chiefly due to the multiplayer style, and lack of connectivity.
So, beginning a new game of Diablo 3 with Daniel Owens this weekend and learning that the new Battle.net integration made for a genuinely simple and effective party-based gameplay experience peeked my curiosity immediately. We were, quite literally, preventing an onslaught of undead in true, action-packed co-op style within 2 minutes of logging into the game.
Dan: Drop-in, drop-out. It really is as simple as clicking “join game” under your friend’s bnet id and you’re instantly playing with that friend in what is a big kick in the face by Mr. Nostalgia. Much like Cody, I played a lot of Diablo in my younger years, even though it wasn’t a title I held as highly as other Blizzard games. Stepping into Diablo 3 however didn’t feel like a new game, it felt like Diablo 2 in HD. Is this a bad thing? Not in my opinion. It’s a relief to hear Deckard Cain’s voice again as I stroll proudly through New Tristam.
It’s a great feeling, stretching those fingers as you prepare for a barrage of mouse clicks that will lay waste to armies of undead. Muscle memory must have kicked in because as soon as I created my Monk, my fingers kicked in and it was like I never stopped playing. Effortlessly we began slaying whatever the game could throw at us, although this could be attributed to the fact that normal difficulty is an absolute cakewalk.
Cody: The lack of any real challenge in the beta, attributed to the fixed normal mode setting, was something of a disappointment. Even with 2 players fighting solo, making for a +200% increase in difficulty, quickly became monotonous, adding considerably to the ‘grind’. That said, come release I imagine we’ll be crawling back to normal difficulty with our swords between our legs before long.
The beta was also limited in other areas; chiefly, a level cap at 13 and progression cap after the defeat of the the first boss encounter, the Skeleton King. Fortunately, Blizzard countered this potential disappointment by adding Beta Achievements to the tune of ‘complete the beta with every character’, and various others, serving both to keep the gameplay fresh, and moreover, reward those players who played the beta to its fullest.
Dan: It’s true that the offering of only what amounted to 1-2 hours gameplay was something of a disappointment, especially so close to release. On the other hand, it’s not really a game you want to indulge yourself with to a great extent because in reality, what would be the point in buying the game if you already finished it during the beta? But enough of potential disappointments, what’s really important here is that Blizzard appear to be delivering on their promises. The gameplay feels smooth, polished and filled to the brim with brilliant voice-acting and scenery.
Each new area we entered had a distinct atmosphere to it, and while it may not be as dark and grungy as I would have liked, it does have that cartoon-style Blizzard seems to adore. From dark, quiet forests to deadly ruins, the art style of Diablo 3 is something to be marvelled at. It’s not next-gen, it’s not overly dated but it looks fantastic and that’s just the environment; combat is something else entirely.
Cody: Combat feels like a combination of old and new – old, in that it hasn’t changed much in 16 years, and new thanks to the inclusion of a revamped skill and progression system. Simply put, increasing your level will reward you with new skills; however, those skills can only be assigned to the skill-slot in which they are housed.
Skills can be assigned to [Left-Click], [Right-Click], , ,  and , with [Q] reserved for potions – and as there are multiple skills per slot, choosing the right combination for the right situation will be a key element in success. That said, the core gameplay will still require you to click your mouse a thousand times a minute – so it’s new, but definitely old, too.
Dan: One of the key rewards for clicking one thousand times a minute is ph4t loot, which you will be running around collecting pretty regularly. This isn’t to say all of it will be useful to your class, but these items do have a use. Crafting is an activity that kept me quite busy during the beta, even with the limited items available for crafting. Crafting in Diablo 3 is performed at NPC Artisans who will salvage your unwanted equipment to make new, more relevant pieces of gear.
All-in-all the Diablo 3 beta felt more like a demo than an actual beta, but it was an exciting beta to say the least. Many questions still remain unanswered, some may have been answered if it weren’t for the 300,000 concurrent users blocking up the servers, but hey, at least we only have to wait until May 15th to discover what Diablo 3 is really about.
Visit the official Diablo 3 site to find out more!