Diablo III Public Beta Impressions

 

Disclaimer: This is an impression based on the current beta in development and are merely thoughts of what it offers at the moment. It does not accurately describe the final version of the game.

Ever since Blizzard announced Diablo III, I’ve been waiting for the day to get my hands on the game. Well, Blizzard has just launched its first closed beta and I was able to jump back into world of Sanctuary! Read on to find out how the game’s iconic dungeon crawling hack’n’slash stacks up today.

I had some initial trouble logging on to the Blizzard website to download my game. Apparently they had some server problems briefly, but that was taken care of quickly. The download took me about a little under 2 hours. Installation was straightforward as well, as the game installed it as it was downloading.

So far, I’ve played 3 of the 5 classes offered: Monk, Wizard, and Demon Hunter. Because this is a beta, there was no fancy opening cinematic nor was there any sort of tutorial in-game. It plopped me right at the beginning at near the entrance of New Trisham. The isometric view and status bar instantly recalled my D2 days. The controls felt the same as they were 10 years ago. Much of the game is controlled through mouse clicks such as movement, attacks, and interaction. your various info windows are mapped to the keyboard, but they can also be accessed by clicking on the respective button on the GUI. Speaking of the GUI, the hotkeys are capped to 5 slots.  My character, the demon hunter, starts out with 2 skills, a powerful arrow that can pierce and a trap that can slow down mobs. My first task was to assist the town’s militia fend off the incoming undead. With that out of the way, I was tasked to find the whereabouts of Deckard Cain, a character familiar to those who played previous games. Here comes one of my favorite aspects of Diablo, the exploring.

As I made my way to the quest point, I slayed various forms of undead monsters, from the slow braindead Risens to slightly more powerful wretches that puked out Risens. Each time I rolled with a different character, the map layout was changed around as the dungeons are randomly generated. Meaning memorizing map paths won’t get you far. But you can map out the dungeon and check it on using the TAB key. Scattered are all destructible objects you can use to take out large mobs. Keeping an eye for these will certainly make your dungeon fights easier. Many of the environment are intractable, like bookshelves, tree stumps, piles of bones,  and in typical Diablo fashion are corpses littered throughout a landscape waiting to be looted.

I was slightly annoyed that I was restricted to use only 2 skills at a time despite having unlocked 3 new skills. This leads people to travel with a sort of specialized skill set. You can freely change them however you may please, but there is no quick option to swap between Skill A to B and vice versa. For most of the time I was mainly using the Snare Arrow and the Hungering Arrow, I tried the other skills but they were not that great. We did not have access to the runestones that altered these abilities yet so at this time, they are very underwhelming. Also, the Demon Hunter’s Mana Pool is divided in half, one is called the hatred gauge which fuels many of the offensive arrow skills and the discipline gauge that powers the utility skills such as the trap and backflips. On the other hand, Wizard seemed very powerful in both farming and sustained damage. Her mana pool is self-charging at a ridiculous rate. Again, these is merely from the initial playthroughs and does not reflect what will be on the final product. That was betas are for!

In terms of looks, I was able to crank all my settings on High on my HD4670, which is a fairly old video card from 2 generations ago. Even on high however, the character models seemed rather underwhelming, while some movements on screen seemed awkward for the demon hunter. However, I can see why as you are mostly viewing the characters from the far top down view. That being said, the game’s environment looks fantastic. Many complained how vibrant it was for a dark game, but I think it adds to the fantasy of it.

The public beta did not offer any more content beyond Act 1, as Blizzard is mainly looking for bugs and kinks to iron out. During my experience, I only encountered one real problem during my run with the game. After closing the game, I was unable to launch the game again due to the Agent.exe not restarting properly, forcing me to restart to reset it. I tried several workarounds such as closing the current Agent via Task Manager or booting the game in Compatibility mode, but none of them seemed to fix the problem. Occasionally the monsters will seem stuck in place and magically reappear next to you. Blizzard if you’re reading this, I hope you can fix this before the next beta!

 

So far my time with the beta was a trip back to the Year 2000. Despite the lack of in-game tutorials, I instantly felt at home with the control scheme. It was like visiting a long friend from days gone by. However, I did not find anything particularly groundbreaking about the game. It merely “felt” like Diablo. I expect the game to open up much more once we have access to much of the new content Diablo 3 has to offer. At the moment, I really don’t feel like there is particularly mind-blowing yet. Till then, I’m keeping hopeful watch over the development.

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