I don’t know, I’ve never Diablled

diablologo

So it’s Diablo 3 weekend (sorry, any other game that was having free trial/ open beta weekends this week) and although unsurprisingly the servers were full last night, it’s a bit quieter this morning. Let’s hope they’re going to be able to cope with the rush on May 15th when the game is released.

D3classes

The picture above shows the five classes, in female versions.  I don’t want to pull the race card straight out of the gates, but you will notice that four of these characters are very pale (like: vampiric pale) and the witch doctor is very dark skinned. That makes me a little uncomfortable. I do like that the barbarian is a chunky-looking chick who has an appropriate wrestler’s build, especially in comparison with the skinny everyone else. Also, the demon hunter has stupid heels on her boots, but the male demon hunter is prettier anyway so there is that. Just as an aside, I like how they have the witch doctor and monk in a good, powerful stance on that login screen too.

I’ve played through it once on a Wizard (about as explody as you’d hope) and basically, it’s Diablo with some tweaks. So if you were hoping that Diablo 3 was going to be more of the same, you’ll likely be very happy with it.  The game feels more linear and prone to sending you running down corridors of mobs than Diablo 2, at least in this initial section.

I couldn’t tell you a lot about the storyline because I wasn’t very clear as to why my character was there in the first place. Presumably there will be a video intro in the final game to explain this.

D3barrel

As you can see from the screenshot above, you still get to explode barrels. And this brings me to the eternal ethical paradox of Diablo – if it is wrong to destroy bookshelves, why do they drop loot?

They have done some nice tweaks with the achievements, which are awarded for the sorts of things you’d probably expect. Such as killing lots of mobs, exploding things, finishing bits of the storyline etc. You can also sometimes destroy bits of the scenery, bringing chandeliers or walls crashing down, and there are achievements for destroying monsters with scenery also.

I wonder if the devs have taken some inspiration from Torchlight as well, because they seem quite keen on having mobs pour through holes in the wall at some points. The short cut scenes in the story are nicely integrated, and you can also meet and pick up heroes as companions. The only hero I found in the beta was the templar, but sadly you cannot murder your own companion for being bloody annoying so I gave him a better sword and shield and hoped silently that he’d commit suicide by mob. Templars are apparently like cockroaches though  …

Some of the other tweaks are around crafting, where you can level up your game’s blacksmith by throwing money at him. The blacksmith can also ‘disenchant’ magic items for you into components that you can use to have him craft new stuff. The new stuff I saw has randomly assigned magic abilities, so this is effectively letting you recycle unwanted magic items into ones that may or may not be better.  Gathering gold is going to be quite important in this game if you want to craft any of the higher level stuff. The powers and how the talents work have been described quite thoroughly elsewhere – basically it’s quite linear and you don’t even get to swap which powers are assigned to your left and right mouse buttons. As you level up you will get more choices around powers and how to tweak them, and I imagine it gets deeper and more involved, but you don’t really see much of that in the demo.

Arb and I played in co-op for a short while and that was fine. You are able to teleport from the town to wherever the other person you are grouped with is, and you can earn co-op achievements together. The loot drops in co-op are completely separate for each character and I couldn’t even see what drops she was getting. Also, you get to use your own blacksmith in the co-op game, you don’t have to jointly level a new one. Once you add someone to your friends list, you will also get to see their achievements pop up in the same way you see your guildies achievements in WoW.

Anyhow, short form: it’s fun, if you liked Diablo 2 and Torchlight and wanted a game like that then go for it.

I don’t feel Blizzard have really been pushing the boat out here too much. So while I do look forwards to playing Diablo 3, I’m going to be intrigued also at what Runic have in the pipeline for Torchlight 2 because I think you could do more with this genre.

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14 thoughts on “I don’t know, I’ve never Diablled

  1. Playing through the beta, I’ve been surprised at the lessons they chose not to learn from other games in the genre, like setting a visibility threshold on loot quality.

      • And those grey items cost 2g gold… with white SOMETIMES getting to 4-5g… complete waste of space really, time is better spent running to next monster pack then picking them up.

  2. In keeping with your title. I’ve never played any of the Diablo games. I was idly thinking about downloading the beta today but having read this (the first hands-on report I’ve read) I’m not sure it’s worth the bother.

  3. It’s interesting to me that while players have been screaming for innovation for years most of the significant innovations in the last five years are not design innovations but marketing ones. DDO’s free to play launch really shook up the genre, D3’s real money for grinding gold model may also prove transformative.

    If instead of looking at what’s changed inside the game (woot! aoe looting!) you look at what’s changed in the metagame you could see the last five years as a period of radical and daring revolutionary changes with some actors falling on their arse (eg Allods) and some players changing the way everyone else approaches the hobby.

    For me the big change might be control of cheating (if they succeed in this). I didn’t trade in Diablo 2 because the public channels were full of people with dupes. Indeed there were effectively two games – one played by Enigma-wearing aristos buying upgrades in bucketloads of unique Stone of Jordan rings and one played by the legit community where a gold or a green drop was a moment of play-stopping excitement. I would love to play a game that is basically D2 without cheating.

    • I think there have been more gameplay innovations than you are giving credit for, what with dynamic events/ public quests, achievements, companions, and the way cut scenes are used. Bioware’s conversation mechanics feel quite innovative in multiplayer scenes too.

      But there has undoubtedly been a lot of effort spent in marketing innovations also, especially for older games with a solid core player base.

      I have a soft spot for Diablo and will definitely be playing it, I’m happy with my preorder and I know I’ll have people to play with. But for all that, this is going to be one of those huge selling games that doesn’t come anywhere NEAR being anyone’s game of the year. And that’s a shame because Blizzard could have done better.

      I also think there was a third gameplay to add to the two you have listed, which is people like me who didn’t play on battle.net at all. I played a lot of Diablo 2 and it was all either single player or LAN play with friends. The whole hardcore scene is very alien to me, I knew people did it, but I couldn’t really figure out why. With Diablo 3, the question in my mind is whether this is really a game that large numbers of people will want to grind into the ground or not. My gut says not. Maybe if Blizzard bring the PvP stuff out promptly and support the game assertively via ladders and contests to encourage people to compare their gear a lot.

      • I agree with Stabs when he says that combatting cheating is going to be huge for D3. Mainly because it has a HUGE impact on the economy, which in turn has a HUGE impact on the game. Also, cheating was an enormous problem in D2, which essentially changed the dynamics of how the majority of the multiplayer community in D2 played the game. As long as the feeling of item scarcity remains and is not tarnished by cheating, then I feel that people WILL want to grind this game into the ground. Cheating ruins any game, whether it is D3 or soccer.

        My second point plays off of what Spinks said with respect to the “Hardcore scene”, which I am guessing she means the “online” scene. Being an online game, especially in 2012, means you need to establish connections between players…aka communities. This is something that I feel D3 is failing at and Blizzard is really underestimating the importance of. Perhaps it is because they wanted to preserve the “pickup” nature of the game, but we all know that games with staying power have communities. We don’t ONLY play games for the gameplay. The same way I don’t play beach volleyball during the summer only because I like the game, I play it because I like meeting new people and establishing connections with them.

  4. I’m just hoping it’s harder than Torchlight. Which made me a little sad when I could kill everything in the game without even getting hurt by holding my hand laser. I’m not downloading a 15 gig file to find out, however.

    On the subject of race, I also find it weird that the Bro-iest game genres are also the only ones that actually seem to have non-white characters who aren’t immediately defined by their otherness. Some of them may even have more than one black person in the cast.

    • It’s easy on normal mode, although it varies with class (the wizard felt a bit fragile at the start) and I don’t know if they make you play all the way through on normal before you’re allowed to select a harder mode (ie. the way they did in D2). I think in modern games, players expect to be able to use the difficulty selector from the start.

      It has about 4 difficulty settings, I think, so I assume the difficulty ramps up steeply by the time you get to the last one.

      • One of the blues (Bashiok, I think) made a public bet that beating the highest difficulty cleanly (i.e. not through an exploit, but just pure character power and skill) will take months.

        The rest of the forum thought he was overly confident and underestimating the community, but it’s a good sign if you’re worried about difficulty.

  5. One thing to remember on difficulty – we are only seeing up to the firest mini-boss on the first of four difficulty levels. Making game challenge decisions on this is somewhat like deciding that WoW heroic raiding is simple because you can just destroy the level 1 boars in the starting zone.

    There is a lot of simplification in the D3 systems, some of which may be good though I’d still prefer having to find rune drops and build the runes rather than the current system. On the skill display, you can go into the options and select ‘elective mode’. It’s not the most elegent system but it does let you assign skills as you wish. This is really and entry-level mode for the game. I’m not a fan of hand-holding in general but it seems to be necessary in the modern market.

    D3 is still and action RPG and that’s all it’s trying to be, which is a victory of sorts. There was a great deal of concern that Blizz was going to go ‘WoW light’ and it looks like they avoided the problem. The actual test of the game will be Hell and Inferno levels, which we aren’t going to see until a few weeks after release.

  6. I’m defintiely waiting for TL2. I mean, I might be a sucker for piddly crap, but I like the idea of mods and being able to customize my character. Sure, D1 or 2 didn’t have character customization, but really, your character was so tiny anyway it didn’t much matter.

    What I think in the end is that D3 is going to end up the more polished game of the two, but TL2 is going to have lots more customization and longevity overall.

  7. You can freely assign your skills to whatever button you want. It may have been in one of the option menus but I was certainly able to move stuff around.

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