With less than about five weeks until Diablo 3 hits our shelves, it seems like the perfect time to have a look at the most recent version of the beta - a true treat with a bag of tricks.
Descending into the world of Diablo 3
The first noticeable aspect of Diablo 3 (D3) as it stands is its simplicity. Blizzard has refined many techniques from the skills system to the menus, to such an extent the fact that result is uncluttered and unadulterated fun.
The graphics aren't astounding at first, but the gloominess and dark presence flaunt a form of art design that is both dark (since the fans wanted) and cartoonish. The final product is enhanced by really impressive physics, which has a mostly destructible environment, and thoroughly entertaining ragdoll effects - the world of D3 comes alive. There isn't anything as pleasing than your final blow throwing a creature's body across the screen while wood and stone fly up around you.
The interface is bold, neat and efficient. With many RPGs these days cluttering your screen with information crammed into little text boxes; it's refreshing to discover the king of hack and slash do exactly the exact opposite.
From Diablo 2 (D2) to D3 you'll note that the inventory and character screen has become merged. Now you can equip your hero, manage your inventory and see your attributes and damage all-in-one neat location. As well as the skills tree has been done away with and has been substituted with much more of a 'perk progression' style.
The mini map and camera angle from where you play seem perfect in their design. The mini map guides the way without disturbing your precious screen space, and important info only appears once you get near it physically. Your quests have already been restructured to only show your present objective. This console-esque design actually works perfectly for a game like Diablo. After all what more would you like to know besides what you need to be doing right this moment.
The sound and music are so very critical in this version. They seamlessly aid the climate, and that's the sign of something working well. The monsters sound unique, all of the important NPCs are voiced and in some cases your character is vocal this time around. This can help to find the character classes a lot more as it's already a part of the narrative and not simply the gameplay.
Progressive Play: But how does Diablo 3 play?
Well the experience holds all of the core mechanics of earlier Diablo titles. You are still clicking to kill yet still using hotkeys to engage powers, the difference is your alternatives aren't punished as heavily when levelling up. This indicates variety and flexibility is given extreme importance.
The designers have scrapped the popular skill tree system found in D2 to get a 'perk progression'. The best way to appreciate this system is to consider it like pizza. Yes pizza. The five character classes: Barbarian, Monk, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor plus the Wizard are the pizza bases. Each character class has six active skills (and three passive), assigned to both mouse buttons and the numbers 1-4. These skills are your tomato and cheese for this Diablo pizza of death. They can be important to each character, and make them all unique.
Furthermore, you can augment each skill using Skill Runes (five per skill). These are typically your toppings. They're what provide assortment and individualisation to your characters. There are rumours that gems will also play a part inside the skill system, adding a bit of spice to this already delicious meal. The most important thing to say about the new skill system is that it encourages experimentation because you can change abilities at will, and vary which active Rune you select any time. You are likely to alter your form of play throughout the game, or at the minimum fool around with a lot of different skills and varying mixtures of these skills rather than centering on only a few. Should you order a Hawaiin, and then want a Regina, no one's intending to hold you back; just change your toppings and away you go.
The inventory and gear changes make certain another element of surprise. The blacksmith can now be trained, which unlocks more items and upgrades for you. He is able to 'Craft' too, and that is basically breaking down magical and rare items into their raw essences. These essences are useful to build unique items. Once gems come up it's almost a sure thing that this new gameplay mechanic will shine.
The story isn't revealed that much within the beta. However the way the storyline is presented is interesting. There's a lot less text now; the designers have made use of audio clips by means of lore that explain enemies and also history of the world to you. This means you can listen whilst you play, discovering the world as you happily slash away.
This keeps up the trademark Diablo pacing without having to sacrifice an engaging storyline. Additionally, there are in-game cutscenes which, as a result of new technology, still look really good but retain the pacing. However everyone knows how amazingly Blizzard do full motion videos, so here's hoping they haven't dropped them completely.
Battling the Web:
Finally a mention needs to be made regarding the Battle.net experience. Using an auction house (similar to Wow) included in the game and a frontend experience very similar to Starcraft 2, it ought to be a pleasure playing this game. The auction house will spot items bought and sold for in-game gold along with actual money.
The online-only signifies that you have to be online to start up D3, no two ways about it. This will make plenty of sense for Blizzard as it can combat piracy; patch versions easily, run the auction house and obviously provide the servers for online gaming. From a gamer's perspective: so long as it provide a good service, meaning you are able to invite friends and constantly find servers to play on there shouldn't be a big uproar. It is actually 2012 after all, and games are heading in this particular direction whether you want it or not.
And so that's the D3 beta in a nutshell. Together with the final game being released in under 6 weeks, it is safe to say that this version should be quite similar to the final product. Nevertheless with 70% more items coming, together with the entire storyline, and the fact that your characters can go above level 13 it is a lot left to be pumped up about.
Blizzard has added enough that's new, it's refined the golden oldies and left the rubbish behind. From its dark atmosphere to its deceptively engaging new skill system, from saving Deckhard Cain to click click clicking away, this is a Diablo game through and thru. So do not worry purists, Destruction is coming.
Diablo 3 should be an epic addition to the videogaming world and there is an insane amount of information to be learned to achieve success in the Diablo 3 world. Luckily there are several Diablo 3 Guides to help you in your quest for domination. Thank You for reading and Happy Hunting!