Diablo 3 Beta Impressions
No Rainbows, No Unicorns, Not Even a Pony
Diablo 3. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever be playing this game. 10 years is a long time to wait for a sequel, and technically, it’s still not here yet. After putting years of my life into Diablo 2, firing up the beta for 3 seemed surreal, but it definitely wasn’t all that unfamiliar.
The Diablo 3 Beta gives players the choice between the five character classes: Monk, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Barbarian and Witch Doctor. While these are all new character classes, for the most part, they have their roots in classes from the previous games. The Witch Doctor is an extension of the Necromancer while the Demon Hunter is kind of a hybrid between the Amazon and the Assassin. I chose a Monk for my main character, who’s like a mix of the Druid and Assassin, and off I went into New Tristam.
That’s right, you’re back at Tristam, or at least, the town next to it. Old Tristam is left in shambles and the dead are rising. So there’s only one thing to do - click click click your way through them. The corpses explode in glorious fashion, geysers of blood and body parts litter the landscape. The mood is grim, the colors are muted with the exception of my Monk’s yellow tunic and the rich red blood of the undead. There’s no rainbows, no unicorns, not even a pony to be seen. It all looks and feels familiar, but it’s also very fresh.
The sounds are familiar too, the bubbles of a dropped potion the clank of gold hitting the ground - the twang of a guitar in the background music. I’m home again and I can already see the years of time I’m going to be putting into this game.
Skill trees behave a bit different, something that might take some getting used to. As you level up you unlock skills and abilities at almost every level, but initially you only have the ability to equip two at a time. By the time you reach level 6 you can use three, level 12 you can use four. It’s almost jarring to be given all these new toys but forced to only choose two to play with.
Combat mechanics differ from character to character as well. The Monk must balance his attacks between Spirit Generating attacks and Spirit Draining attacks. Using him I danced around creatures, warping on all sides of them, and unleashing devastating fist based attacks that built up combos for bonus XP. It felt like a gentle blend of a console action game like God of War mixed with the classic Diablo mouse clicking.
Health comes in two forms now as well - some enemies will drop health globes to immediately refill your health bar, while potions are secondary and have a timed cool down to use. This definitely adds to the strategy and pace of combat - and forces players to rely on their friends’ abilities for healing in time of need.
In terms of co-op the game allows four players to team up. When creating a game you can leave it open to friends (along with a short message to your friends) or if you choose you can open it up completely public as well. If you join a lower level game you’ll still be able to repeat quests and earn XP for what you’ve already done. You can even join a higher level game and get credit for the quests, though it's unclear once the game launches how exactly this will effect story progress.