Diablo 3 Beta: The Crack is Back!

So, over the weekend I got to get in a little time with the Diablo 3 Open Beta. To get to the point quickly… if you loved Diablo 1 and/or Diablo 2, you will definitely love Diablo 3. It is a fun hack’n’slash dungeon crawler with a sprinkling of RPG.

For my first character, I recreated an old Shadowbane character… Spjorn Skullcleaver; also known as Spjorn, Son of Spork (I fear it is an old Jeff Toney joke). Spjorn was a dual-wielding Barbarian in Shadowbane (on the War server) and he kept those attributes in the Diablo 3 beta. I quickly started to fight my way through the various areas and levels, picking up some pieces of armor and weapons here and there. Soon enough, I was dual wielding life draining weapons and carving my way through entire swaths of demonic underlings and the undead.

One of the first differences I noticed between this and Diablo 2 was the character skill customization. I thought I would miss the old system, but I didn’t and found the Rune System to be a good replacement for it. If you’re unsure what this is, you can read the official blog entry, or read Dontinquire’s post, or since we all love video, Hunter Starcraft’s video. End of the day, it gave me some choices and I could specialize but it made me make choices on what abilities I would have accessible during combat (a little bit like Guild Wars).

After a time, I picked up a sidekick – a Templar of all things (funny enough, another class in Shadowbane). I felt a little bad for my sidekick because he seemed to be there more as a distraction than a threat to the evil hordes before us. He would slash and stab and slash and stab and his enemy would be maybe half dead. Meanwhile, I’m next to him and littering the floor with bones and corpses… only to walk up to his enemy and kill him in a single blow. Spjorn the Killstealer!

It took me a few hours to get to the Skeleton King. He gave me a decent fight but I think I had a better one earlier on (or at least a harder one) with the fat spikey demons that can knockback and fear you. The Skeleton King just had too many minions around and Spjorn was stealing the life right out of them while causing massive explosions due to one of the Runes on his powers. It took no time at all for the Skeleton King to explode like a pinata and fill my screen with loot… and the message that I beat the Diablo 3 beta!

At first I thought to try out some of the other character classes (which I did later)… but Spjorn decided to jump into some multiplayer action to see how that was going. Note to everyone since it seems like a common misconception… multiplayer is there for launch; it is PvP that won’t be. While you need multiplayer to have PvP, you don’t need PvP to have multiplayer. Now, I do like some great PvP but I don’t need it to enjoy a hack’n’slash – I have plenty of other games to feed my PvP itch. And for those of us who do enjoy it, it will be there. Just later.

Multiplayer was fun – more of the same but in party-mode. I imagine I’ll enjoy it more when playing with friends and in the harder levels. The fight up to the Skeleton King, while enjoyable, was more like a good job than a hard run. Enough to get your heart pumping and endorphins going… but nothing that you’re sitting at the edge of your seat about.

What didn’t I like about my short time in beta? Believe it or not, I missed not getting scrolls. I probably wouldn’t have but there were always scrolls dropping that you couldn’t pick up when you knocked down shelves that kept on reminding me of the old teleport and identification scrolls! My biggest complaint has been probably my oldest one – always having the internet on to play.

Now, before anyone jumps in to remind me you need it for so many other games and even Steam which I am in love with (and discounting the fact you don’t always need internet on for Steam)… this is, at its heart, a single-player game. It’s great that I can group with friends and I can understand needing a connection for that. But you know what wasn’t fun? I woke up at a decent hour on Saturday and tried to get into Diablo 3. It was down. In fact, it was down for about the next three (3) hours. This was a free beta and that annoyed me. I would be much more annoyed had it been a game I paid for and couldn’t play it solely because the servers were down when I just wanted to get into some single-player mindless slaughterfests. I understand the reasons they have it in there… I just don’t personally like that it is a necessity.

Will it keep me from buying it? Hell no (pun intended)! While it might be RPG-lite when compared to games like The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age, it has enough story to keep me hooked. But the truth is, I don’t play Diablo for the story, that’s just the nice etching on the icing. I play Diablo for the great combat that lets me wade through the blood and guts of hordes of creatures while I look to get that next item. That is what Diablo is for me and Diablo 3 has that in spades. The combat is intensely fun; so much that in my play session there wasn’t really a point where I was bored… I kill a group of monsters and hear a group right off-screen that gets me running, weapons raised and ready to strike!

So yes, I will be playing on Day 1. This is a Blizzard game and it has Blizzard’s attention to detail all over it. Fantastic music and sounds, great combat to include some destructible environment, didn’t have a single bug (not saying they aren’t there, just I didn’t get any), performed well on my PC (with FRAPs running.. y’know, when the game servers were actually up), seemed to have plenty of achievements, and the most important thing… it was just plain ol’ fun.

So, that is my short preview of Diablo 3.

See Also: Diablo 3 Beta (album)

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