Joy, beautiful spark of gods, daughter of Elysium.
We enter, fire-imbided, heavenly, thy sanctuary.
Today in the early morning hours it arrived – the invite the currently most sought-after betatest – the Family & Friends Beta of Diablo 3. After downloading the client (aprox. 3gb) I delved right into the game. Something positive to point out right from the start is that Blizzard is once again using the incremental patcher that they first implemented in World of Warcraft – which means one doesn’t have to download the whole client but rather only the most important gamefiles before starting the game. The rest will be downloaded and installed while one is playing.
The game so far is without render videos, which off course would be unnecessary for a beta, so it is downloaded and installed rather quickly and allows you to jump right into the action. All five character classes are already avaliable and the character creation is as simple as it’s always been: class, gender, name – done.
As my first character I chose a monk named Karathon – simple because that’s what I play in my current Dungeons & Dragons game. So far I really like the game – it is entertaining as ever. When a game is started one can chose to create a public game, join a game or create a private game which others can only join upon invitation.
A couple of nice changes one runs into over the course of the game are the implementation of the “Cauldron of Jordan” and the “Nephalem Cube”. To me at least those were new – no idea if they’ve been in D2 at the end, I never had’em.
The cauldron allows it to sell items at any time in the game, making town portals unnecessary, as one won’t run into a cluttered up inventory anymore.
The Nephalem Cube gives the player the ability to salvage items rather than selling them, splitting them up into materials used in crafting. As I am currently only level 6 I don’t have any crafting skills yet – so I didn’t get to test that yet.
Also new, at leat to my knowledge, are the records. The game keeps score about all the heroic deeds the player achieves. Those include things like the number of destroyed objects one destroyes with one attack or a series of attacks, the number of enemies killed at once and so on and so forth.
I have so far not yet found out where the player can look those records up in game – maybe the function’s not yet implemented, after all it’s still a beta.
So far I really like the game. I will not yet give it a final verdict, as the game is not gold yet, but will try to post updates every once in a while.
Here we are with the promised update of my beta experiences.
Diablo 3 pretty much feels like its predecessors – the design stayed pretty much the same and one very quickly gets that good old Diablo feeling again. As originally stated, all five character classes are avaliable, which are the Barbarian, the Demon Hunter, the Monk, the Witch Doctor and the Wizard, who are all avaliable in male and female variation.
All of the characters are very charismatic with a lot of personality making them come alive. While the wizard is very arrogant and narcissistic the monk believes in the righteousness and importance of his actions and the barbarian is stoic-pragmatic, well, except for combat situations off course (qel surprise!). All characters’ voice overs are done really great, which shines especially during their interactions with other NPCs, be they merchants, followers or artisans (more to the latter two in a few moments) and makes you realize just how much love into detail Blizzard actually puts into their games. The characters feel alive and very vividly, making it easy to feel with them.
When played all characters feel similar but yet quite different. While the wizard uses arcane power as a ressource, that recharges rather fast by itself, the barbarian relies on fury, which he builds up with his attacks and when taking damage and channels into devastating special attacks. A noticable change to Diablo 2 is the skill system. In total each character has six skill slots avaliable, in which attacks, heals, buffs or other skills can be prepared to be used in combat. In the beginning a character has two of these slots unlocked with the rest becoming accessible at levels 6, 12, 18, and 24 – and two of those prepared abilites can be assigned to the mousebuttons while the rest is activated by keyboard (or addition mouse buttons if one has a multi-button-mouse). Additionally there are three passive slots with enhancements, that are always active and unlock at levels 10, 20, and 30.
Now let’s take a look at the skills themself. Every character starts the game with two already known skills. Over the course of the game roughly 20 additional skills can be learned. The skills one has prepared (and one can activate in combat) will be interchangable according to Blizzard (though it is not yet clear wether or not this will be doable in combat – in the current phase of the beta test it is possible). Once reaching level 10 two passive skills are avaliable, the number of those rises to 13 avaliable at level 30.
Another new feature is the fact, that one no longer needs to pack a gazillion of town portal scrolls. After finishing the third quest one receives the Stone of Recall, which works just like a town portal scroll but doesn’t consume inventory space. To activate the stone one needs to channel a cast for five seconds, making it impossible to use during combat.
In the beta it is only possible to play the first act (or maybe even just part of the first act) in normal mode, Nightmare and Hell mode as well as the Hardcore mode are not yet avaliable. After finishing the fourth quest on is being “rewarded” with the following screen:
While I was surprised at first I can understand the decision behind this. After all Diablo is a game that, if so whished, can be played in single player mode – and offering the full game during beta would be a bad idea and take away alot of surprises come release. After the first playthrough one can replay the game with his character just as is common for Diablo games to further increase in level. Starting with the second playthrough, it is possible to jump right to one of the four quests. As usually the dungeons in Diablo are created dynamically – and upon creation it is possible for sidequests to pop up (during all of my playthroughs I had three different sidequests if I remember correctly).
As promised we’ll now take a look at the followers and artisans. In Diablo 3 there will be three kinds of followers, who will help the player in single player mode if so wished (and in single player mode only!) – the Enchantress, the Scoundrel and the Templar. In the beta only the Templar is avaliable. The followers are supposed to be avaliable rather early in the game, each one after completing a specific quest unlocking them. The followers have four skillslots which unlock at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20. Furthermore they have inventory slots for main and offhand, two rings, a necklace and a special slot for follower specific items that unlocks at level 18. The skills of a follower can, once learned, be retrained for gold. Only one follower cann aid a character at a time.
There are also going to be three artisans in the game: the Blacksmith, the Jeweler and the Mystic. Currently, only the Blacksmith is avaliable upon completing the third quest. The Blacksmith as usually allowes the player to repair their items and, as of D3, also crafts weapons and armor for the player. To do so (magical) items have to be broken down with the Nephalem Cube into their components, which the Blacksmith uses to make new items. For starters the Smith only knows a frew recipies, but the list of those can be increased in two ways. Firstly one can find recipies in the game for specific weapons or armor. While having the craft window open one rightclicks the recipie and the Blacksmith has learned a new trick of his trade. Secondly one can find “Pages of Training” of which five can be combined into a “Tome of Training”. With this tome in the inventory one visits the Blacksmith and combined with some gold and a few ressources raises the level of the Blacksmith, teaching him another couple of recipies. Something I particularly like is the fact, that the artisans’ level is account bound, meaning if I use my Monk to level the Blacksmith and later on roll up a Witch Doctor, I can get some shiny new weapons and armor for him that he can use as soon as he meets the level requirements – without the need to farm the Tomes of Training all over again.
Another thing worth mentioning is the Auction House. As of now only the “Gold Auction House” is avaliable, which allows the player to trade items for ingame gold. In the final version there will also be a real money auction house, because players back in the bygone days of the old Diablo games already used platforms like Ebay to purchase items for real money. Because those platforms were not maintained by Blizzard however one could never be sure wether or not one would actually receive the item one purchased and many a players were ripped off and never got their money back after a faux trade. Also Blizzard wants to cash in on the transaction fees of such sales and is not willing to once again give the winnings to Ebay and other platforms – a decision that is understandable from a company’s point of view.
The AH is simple and well-arranged. Purchased items are be sent to the stash, the storage space shared by all characters that can be increased for gold.
That about sums up my review. I’d not have thought that a relativelly short beta would keep me entertained that well and am rather sure that D3 is going to be a must buy. As Blizzard already announced however the release will be pushed from “end of 2011″ to “early 2012″. One hears it through the grapevine that alot of testers were displeased with the Demon Hunter so there might be some changes on the horizon for this class.