Thanks to the wonderful people at Blizzard I was given access to the Diablo 3 beta, and while only being able to play through the first act, I can definitively say I will be purchasing this game when it is released. It is hard to give a review of a beta, simply because it is not the full game, and there isn’t much I can go on except for whatever Blizzard allows me to indulge in, but I managed to get at least a few good hours of play time, so that must count for something.
The game starts off like you would expect, you are whatever class you chose and the undead are attempting to attack the town of New Tristram, as the only competent fighter in the land, you rush to aid the town and left click your way through corpses of the undead until you reach a girl who explains that her uncle has gone to the chapel to find and defeat the skeleton king. Being the daring hero you are, you race to the chapel and find the elderly man being pushed back by the Skeleton King and his army of menacing skeletons. You bring the old man back to New Tristram and he explains in order to defeat the Skeleton King you need the crown of the late king, who just so happens to be the Skeleton King. You talk to the local blacksmith who asks you to help him kill his wife, to which you do (don’t worry, she was a zombie, she had it coming). He then tells you to run to the cemetery and search the catacombs for the crown. After finding and acquiring the crown you head back to the chapel, kill the Skeleton King and get a lovely message entitled ‘Congratulations, you have beaten the Diablo 3 Beta!”
The gameplay was smooth, by which I mean pointing and clicking is not a complicated mechanic and you don’t find yourself having trouble fighting because your character refuses to shoot straight or wont let you fire at an enemy. The levels were well designed and the animation and graphics were all a refreshing feel after looking back at Diablo 2 and wondering how ourselves in the past tolerated such graphics. I know it is a beta, but I had wished I could test the game on the max graphical settings (there is no anti-aliasing, or any ‘ultra’ quality options similar to Starcraft II), but I have faith in what I have seen in the Beta that it will look amazing with the settings turned to the max.
The voice acting was par, although they brought back some voices that were better left under the rug. I liked the automatic background talking by villagers as you passed by them, it added a nice touch. What made the game most impressive was how they handled the inventory system. As most of you remember, Diablo always had a ‘limited’ inventory system, which got to be quite burdensome over time when 5 levels down a dungeon you had to waste a warp scroll just to get back into town so you could sell off useless gear for money to make room for higher quality gear you might find later on. Diablo 3 fixed this by allowing you to scrap or sell items from your inventory at any point in time simply by using two options in your inventory screen. The scraps could be used later for blacksmithing or other trade you pick up. I never got a chance to play around with blacksmithing simply because I never found all the ‘Tome of Learning’ needed to make a skill book, but I can assure you it is really helpful.
The AI experience was rather exceptional, I was glad that AI that follow you can be leveled up, and can be equipped with better items. This means you can craft weapons to up your AI’s skills so they can better protect you, as well as themselves. There are also companion scrolls you can use to summon random animals/insects that really don’t do much but bother lower level enemies into beating them to death besides you. They brought back the ‘Scroll of Identification’ but I never found any items that needed it (which is opposite of the previous Diablo’s thankfully).
From what I can tell most of the complaints that people had with the Diablo series have been re-designed and implemented much better, as well as most things people liked with Diablo were just touched up to look better and run smoother. There isn’t much I have to say about the game in a negative manner besides I wish I had more to play. The combat system works fine, the inventory system is much more functional, teleportation plates are placed often enough to not be too easy or too hard, the AI is a useful ally, the enemies are difficult and enjoyable to keep killing, the graphics look great and the controls are simplistic. They give you plenty of characters to chose from; Barbarian, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Monk and Witch Doctor. The quests system is easy to use, the world is vast and always worth exploring. There just isn’t much I can say but buy Diablo 3 when it releases next year.
For those who were unable to get access to a beta key, I recorded myself playing through the entire beta as a Demon Hunter. It was a fun experience, and a good insight into what is in store for those who are on the fence about per-ordering or picking up the game.