This week, Jasper, Jarenth and Nagilum talk about the recent Diablo III beta. With the actual game only a few weeks away from launch, did the beta give a shining example of hope, or a gloomy pit of wasted money and despair?
Jarenth: So, the Diablo III Beta. What did we think?
Jasper: I was pleasantly surprised! I didn’t expect too much of it, to be honest, but it was a lot better than I’d have thought.
Nagilum: I enjoyed it a lot. It was better than I expected, as well, so I’m fairly positive.
Jarenth: Well, I already expected it to be fun, so it was… pretty much as good as I hoped it to be, really.
Jarenth: Diablo, for me, is all about the gameplay, and the core gameplay is still there. You click on monsters until they die, then drop the shiny loot that falls out, rinse, repeat, forever. That’s still there.
Jasper: Yeah, it feels really good. I liked that you don’t just kill the creeps, you’re actually able to destroy the environment as well. And I liked the new skill system, it works pretty well. I prefer the old one, but this one works.
Jarenth: And by ‘old one’ you mean Diablo II, right?
Jarenth: I point this out because many people seem to forget that Diablo I had a very different skill system from Diablo II, too. Every Diablo game has had a different skill system, in fact, and many people complaining that this new system ‘isn’t like Diablo’ seem to forget that. I liked this system too, just like I liked the previous two. It’s just different.
Jarenth: How much Diablo did each of us play, anyway? I played both Diablo I and II in singleplayer a lot, but almost no multiplayer.
Jasper: I played… the demo of Diablo I, not that much, but I do remember I really liked the atmosphere. I player II a lot, both in single- and multiplayer.
Nagilum: My Diablo experience is mainly the singleplayer of Diablo II.
Jarenth: So yeah, the skill system are different as mentioned. Now, I did like the system in II, but that was very… incremental. In this new system, every level is more direct, every level actually means something.
Jasper: Yeah, here, every level is meaningful, but the old system allowed a lot more specialization and min-maxing.
Jarenth: Well, I was a bit sceptical about this one, but I liked that it worked.
Jarenth: So how about that user interface?
Jasper: Again, compared to Diablo II, the interface of Diablo II is a little different. I think you get less skills to put on that new hotbar?
Jarenth: There’s less skill slots, yes.
Jasper: And switching spells with your mouse is very different now. In Diablo II, you could very easily switch skills in-combat, but in III, it feels like you’re not really supposed to switch around mid-combat. You have to plan ahead more.
Jarenth: It really emphasizes picking a build. For those of you who haven’t played the beta: in Diablo III, switching around your equipped skills incurs a cooldown.
Jasper: They don’t really want you to change your skills around mid-fight.
Nagilum: Well, here’s the thing: I played a Wizard, and every time I got a new skill, I could instantly decide whether I wanted to use that skill either all the time or never. Skills are always either much better than the others, or much worse. How was that for the other classes?
Jasper: It depends on your playstyle. I played Barbarian and Demon Hunter, and for those two, most of the skills were at least viable. I liked some skills better than others, personally: like how single-target skills were better for killing bosses.
Jarenth: I mostly played Demon Hunter. That class has some skills, like the hilarious Rapid Fire one, that are just better than any other skill (for that slot, ed.) you could get in the beta. But some of the other skills are totally switch-viable. Like the caltrops that give you an area slow, but it’s the same slot as the amazingly fun jump-around ability. This game does tempt you to just tough it out, however, to just pick a build and stick with it over switching.
Jasper: And don’t forget that runes do influence certain skills to be completely different.
Jasper: Bottom line, it works.
Jarenth: It’s Diablo, still. Click on monsters and get loot. And the loot is just the standard Diablo loot, with green items, blue items, stats, and sometimes it’d change your look.
Nagilum: I didn’t get bored, I was entertained. That was more than I expected.
Jarenth: Did anyone pay attention to the beta story?
Nagilum: I did.
Jarenth: Well, I did, too.
Jasper: I tried not to.
Nagilum: I liked the audio books. It gives you lore and knowledge, but you can still just keep playing.
Jarenth: And there’s something incredibly soothing about hearing Deckard Cain’s elderly wisdom voice as you’re out murdering everything.
Jasper: Anything else to say? I mean, this was just the first ten levels, basically an introduction.
Nagilum: It was a pretty basic horror scenario, yes. ‘Oh no, undead monsters are attacking, save our city!’ Then you go to a big dungeon, you fight the final boss, and you win.
Jarenth: Player 3 (who was in the room with us, but hadn’t actually played the beta, ed.) is saying the final boss was King Leoric, king of Tristram from Diablo I. And you do go into the Tristram Cathedral, which is another callback. But I didn’t pick up on that while playing because I was too busy clicking things to death.
Nagilum: I didn’t really play Diablo II for the story… if you put things like that, yeah, there’s a lot of story. But for new players, that won’t really be clear.
Jasper: Let’s talk about the vibe of the game. I remember that the vibe and the graphics of Diablo II made the story pretty engaging.
Jarenth: I remember that, when the game was first announced and screenshotted, there were so many complaints about the colours, that Diablo III was going to be much too colourful and happy. Those complaints were bullshit right out, really, because Diablo II was just as colourful, but… Diablo III really isn’t very chromatic. It’s really gloomy, actually.
Jasper: It feels less creepy than II, though. It might be that the graphics are more realistic, now. But this version of Old Tristram didn’t impact me like Tristram in Diablo II did.
Jarenth: That might just be because you’re older now.
Jasper: Could be, could be.
Jarenth: Thing is, Diablo II was never an all-around ‘creepy’ game, because the second act is a desert, where everything’s brightly lit and yellow. Third act, jungle, everything’s green. And furthermore, it’s not really creepy because I know I can kill anything and everything.
Jasper: Diablo II was really atmospheric, though.
Jarenth: Well, true, the first act was really atmospheric. They did the dark spooky forest vibe quite well.
Jasper: I did play the first act a lot, so many that’s influenced things.
Nagilum: So what did you guys think of the graphics?
Jarenth: I thought it was pretty neat.
Nagilum: It was nicely done, in Diablo-style. Especially the environmental effects.
Jarenth: Though I was disappointed you couldn’t be hit by your own environmental effects.
Jasper: You’re right, you can’t.
Nagilum: I used the chandeliers a lot, though.
Jasper: It was Oblivion all over again: it’s nice that these options are there, but why would I ever use them? It’s a lot more effort than simply shooting them.
Jarenth: I can kill five times as many skeletons as that falling wall in the same time frame.
Jasper: Well, that might just have been Demon Hunter. Right click, Rapid-Fire, win.
Nagilum: Ok, how about the difficulty?
Jasper: I forgot, can you choose that?
Jarenth: It’s the standard Diablo difficulty set. You start at Normal to unlock Nightmare and Hell. So no, you couldn’t choose.
Nagilum: I thought the start was really easy, as a Wizard. But it got a lot harder as I got farther. How about you?
Jarenth: Well, as mentioned, I was a Demon Hunter, so I right-clicked everything to death.
Jasper: So true.
Jarenth: It was probably harder for the other classes, I reckon.
Nagilum: Near the final boss, all I could do was throw two spirit bombs at him, then run around waiting for my mana to recharge.
Jarenth: Didn’t the templar do anything?
Nagilum: He got two-shot all the time.
Jasper: I lost mine.
Nagilum: So I just ran around, healing, shooting twice, then running away…
Jarenth: That’s exactly how I beat Diablo I! I had my little brother operate the potion keys while I ran in circles shooting at Diablo.
Jasper: That’s just how you play!
Nagilum: It was a little bit of a challenge in the end. It was very easy at first, but it got hard later on.
Jarenth: Well, it was all fairly easy for the two-resource Demon Hunter. Jump away with one resource, then shoot with the other. The templar wasn’t bad, either. Did you guys remember to equip him.
Jasper: I literally lost mine. He just disappeared.
Nagilum: I did equip mine, but he kept dying. He does respawn, but he kept dying anyway. So I ended up having to do a lot of fighting, which was a little annoying.
Jarenth: That’s typical.
Nagilum: I was a two-shot pony at the end.
Jarenth: So, the real question: is this a proper Diablo game?
Nagilum: I say yes. It was a limited experience, of course, but I enjoyed it a lot, and though I feared a lot of same-y hack-and-slash, I didn’t end up feeling that was. It was fun.
Jasper: It’s kind of hard to compare it to Diablo II, because they just do things differently. Is it a proper Diablo game? I don’t know. I probably still prefer Diablo II. But I had a good time playing, and it’s just a different game. I think I would’ve bought this game by now if I hadn’t already.
Nagilum: It’s the same for me. It’s worth the investment.
Jarenth: I like how we didn’t even mention the always-online thing and the real-money aucion house. There was a lot of hoohah when the game and those features got announced, but it doesn’t really influence the Diablo Experience once you get underway. I would still really prefer there to be an actual Offline Mode, but apart from that it’s just a fun Diablo game. Like I said, you kill monsters, you get loot, then you Town Portal and you talk to Deckard Cain. What more could you want?