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.
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.
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.