Last weekend we were given a treat by Blizzard. From April 20 - 22, Diablo 3's beta was open to the public. I of course did not hesitate and started downloading the client. When I finished downloading, I already knew what my plans were for the weekend. Does Diablo 3 deserve all the hype it's getting? Well let's just say after playing the Beta for one whole day, the wait for its release just got a lot harder. Here's what I thought of Blizzards crazy popular RPG lootfest.
I am a huge fan of the Diablo series. I rarely play a game more than two times after finishing it, but Diablo is one of those special games that I play over and over again. Don't ask me why, I just love playing it. I've finished both Diablo games with each character multiple times and for some reason I see myself still coming back for more. It's definitely a game I've been waiting for, and the fact that I was able to give the game a try before it's release placed a huge smile in my face that lasted the whole weekend.
Short but Satisfying
After downloading the client and when servers started going live to the public, I started the game. All I felt was sheer joy as I saw Diablo 3's login screen. Just like all Blizzard games nowadays, you are required a battlenet account and internet connection in order to play. Since I've already had an account, no problem. I logged in and bam, I see myself in the character creation. Based on videos and trailers of Diablo 3, the Demon Hunter was the class that was the most appealing to me. I created my character(Only character customization was picking your gender) and off I go to click like a mad man.
The whole beta was just a small tease. Blizzard says it was around one-third of Act 1, and they weren't kidding. Even with me exploring each part of the map and listening/reading the story and lore, in around just an hour I finished the beta. I played how I would play the game. When I defeated the Skeleton King(last part of the Beta), I was level 8, and I did the whole playthrough alone. It was short but satisfying. The max level for each character was 13, but the beta was short and easy enough for even a lone level 7 to finish the content. But of course I did not stop there, the urge to play more was still around.
My whole Saturday was pretty much invested into the Diablo 3 beta. Even though it was around an hour-long, I took this chance to try everything the game will offer, so I played each character.
Diablo 3 goes deep in class customization
Let's talk about the gameplay for a bit - The gameplay is just what you'd expect from a Diablo game, and I felt right at home. While the core gameplay is still intact, how you manage your skills are now deeper than before. Just like in past games, you spam the hell out of the left or right-click in order to attack/use skills, only this time you now have keys 1, 2, 3, and 4 to use, this are called action bars. The catch is, skills are binded to specific bars. This is where it get's interesting.
For example - The Barbarian's Bash and Cleave are both placed on the left click. You can't bind those skills on other keys, so you'll have to decide which skills is more useful in your current situation. This also goes for the skills on the action bar, so you'll have to think what set of skills you need before engaging. That example alone gives you an idea that each class can be played differently depending on what skills you pick and you get more skills as you progress.
But if you feel that your being limited to the number of builds you can turn on elective mode which pretty much gives you the option to assign any skill to any slot. Elective mode on default is turned off, so you must head over to options to enable it. I Have no idea why Blizzard has this off in the first place. One advantage in turning off this mode is to challenge yourself. Think of it as a way to handicap yourself if you have the urge to make the game a bit harder for you. That's the only reason I can think off to why we have the option to turn it off or on.
You want deeper customization? Well each skill in each class have five runes you can unlock, and each rune applies a different effect to the skill. So you have a handful of choices on how you want play your character. So expect to see classes being played completely different each time. No more skill trees. And the beauty of this change is that you can change how your skills work and which skills you need anytime. If you want to start making class builds, blizzard already has a skill calculator to plan out how you want to set up your character.
With the beta having a level 13 cap, I was only able to unlock a few skills for my left and right-click and unlocked skills for action bars one and two. But it was enough to give me an idea on how each class work. With each class having different resources now instead of all classes having mana in past games, it was a welcome change since that alone makes each character feel different.
You can really tell the difference of each class. Making the game's huge replay value even bigger. But the class that stood out in the end was the Monk. It felt like this class can be set up to play a supportive role in Diablo 3, which is weird to see in a game like this. A class that could heal allies near him? Plus tons of push backs and buffs to strengthen your group? It's going to be interesting to see how Monk's will be played online. It might be a good addition since Blizzard prefers this game to be played in a group. Don't worry, with its quick drop-in drop-out feature, if you turn on your game into public, you will instantly get a full group in seconds. So I have a feeling a Monk will be in high demand when forming groups.
I live in the Philippines, and I was connected on an US server(Asian servers was not available during beta). I was concerned with latency issues, but it was a smooth experience most of the time. Lag spikes do happens from time to time, but it was minimal that it did not wreck the experience. Still, it's a bit unusual to get lag issues when playing the game by yourself. What's impressive though is that with a group, I'd expect lag to get worse, but it didn't. The quality was just like when I played the game alone. A huge plus.
But issues still occur, this was the beta after all. The public do get access to the beta, but the real purpose for this Open Beta was to do a stress test on the game's servers. To Blizzard's surprise, the servers actual did crash. Leaving some players unable to connect for a couple of hours. Blizzard eventually did adjustments and the servers went back up. Hopefully Blizzard now knows what needs to be done. They want a smooth day one release, and so do we.
The game needs you to be online in order to play
That is currently my biggest gripe about the game - The fact that you need to be online at all times in order to run the game. There is no offline feature whatsoever. So if your ISP conks out on you, or you simply don't have internet connect, Diablo 3 is unplayable . It's a real shame, but this is what Blizzard is going for now with they're big three. All they're games require internet connect and are connected together. Blizzard is hiding the excuse that Diablo 3 will be better played with friends etc. thus the having no offline mode, but I really think it's because of the added Auction House, which gives you the ability to sell/buy items with in-game money or real money. Yes, actual money. I sense controversy in Blizzard's future.
Well, what can you do, at least they are finally releasing the game.
Loot will still be as crazy as before
Just like the old days, each monster you kill has a chance of dropping lots of loot, and you'll see yourself once again going back to town every now and then to get all those loot sold and sorted out. For Diablo 3, Blizzard made the looting system a bit more interesting now with crafting. During the beta, you get to try out the crafting system in the game. Diablo 3 will have two kinds: The Blacksmith and The Jeweler but for the beta we only had access to The blacksmith.
With the Blacksmith, you may create gear using certain materials. In order to get these materials, you need to salvage your magic or rare quality loot. In order to get more recipes to create different weapons and armor, you will need to spend gold to give The Blacksmith experience in order to level. Each time you spend gold to give experience, you are rewarded with new recipes for your blacksmith. In the beta, it was said that you can only level up the Blacksmith up to level 4. I was only able to bring it up to level 2, but at level 2 I was given recipes to create blue items for characters past the beta level cap. The crafting looks like a lot of fun and I have a feeling grinding will be needed to gather the necessary materials in higher levels. Let's not forget The jeweler, which will obviously give us the ability to create our own gems to customize our gear. This game's customization is going to be crazy.
All in all - I can't wait to get my hands on the full version. I'm quite satisfied with what I saw in the beta and the wait for the official release just got a lot harder. Even though the beta provided only 40 minutes to an hour of Diablo 3 content, playing each class and the fact that loot, certain dungeons, and maps are randomized(Just like past games) was enough to kept me invested. What more with the full game plus the added difficulty available after finish the game for the first time. A social killer? Definitely. Just like Diablo 2, it feels like this game will be around for years to come.
Diablo 3 is out on May 15, 2012 for the PC.