Diablo III Hands-on Preview
Start saving for hand braces.
While there are plenty of great video game developers out there, if someone asked me to pick one that I think would rank on top, it would be Blizzard. My decision to chose Blizzard is solely based on the number of hours I have spent playing games developed by them. And though, I might have clocked in more hours playing World of Warcraft, it is their Diablo franchise that is closer to my heart. The clickfest had me hooked right from the start and the sequel to it was the first game for which I bought a Collectors Edition. Almost ten years after the second game, Blizzard is finally releasing the third installment and I was one of the lucky souls to try out the beta.
Like the previous games, Diablo III starts out with character selection and this time around you have five characters to chose from. The traditional grunt the is played by the Barbarian and joining him are Demon Hunter (Ranger), a Monk that relies on swift and fast attacks, a Witch Doctor that can summon creatures and finally a Wizard that can take advantage of elements to destroy its foes. When you have chosen your character, you once again commence your journey from Tristram where a fallen star has created a crater in the Cathedral and the undead are rising from it.
I played the game as a Barbarian for the first time around (and then the Monk) and if you just go from start to end, the beta can probably be completed within a couple of hours- but where is the fun in that. Like the previous games, Diablo is best when you try and explore every corner of dungeon or crypt that you come across that may or may not reward you with an awesome piece of armor, a weapon or a magical item.
Combing through the map, I defeated the Skeleton King, which is when the beta stops, in about six hours, although my longest single session was about an hour and a half after which point my hand gave up and I was cursing every imaginable profanity I could think of. Yes, at it’s heart, Diablo 3 is still a clickfest that shows absolutely no mercy. However, there are so many improvements/ additions to the game that are not necessarily related to the core of it that make it so much better than its predecessors.
For example, within the demo, I had two NPCs that helped me in my quest at different times. In fact, defeating the final boss, the Skeleton King, would have been insanely hard if I did not have the Templar helping me. Your Blacksmith can now be leveled up as well, in the sense, that you can find training manuals for him to learn how to do new things. One interesting addition is socketing Runestones into your skills. Previously you were able to socket your weapons and armour but now, even your skills can be socketed.
Also, at least during the course of the beta, all journals you find lying around are read to you while you are playing so you don’t have to pause and read the sometimes lengthy texts found in previous games. Blizzard has also made some things easier such as converting inventory into gold. Previously you would have to take items to a merchant to see them in town which took over a large chunk of your inventory but with the Cauldron of Jordan, you can instantly convert your junk to gold from anywhere at all. You also have a Nephalem cube that turns items into crafting materials and a Stone of Recall that creates a two way portal to the town. There is a cool down period for the Stone of Recall so you can’t use it all the time. Similarly health potions have a cool down time now as well so you can’t continuously keep upping your health.
Other than the tweaks in the gameplay, graphics have been updated since the original and Blizzard has managed to create an extremely atmospheric game that never looks out of place. The game plays incredibly smooth- I was running it on my 30” display on the Mac with a 2560×1600 resolution with medium settings on an 8800GT which is a fairly old graphics card. Don’t let the video in the post fool you- the choppiness is purely because of the video capturing software. The background score is generally subtle and haunting, increasing in volume when you are close to something big giving a very dramatic effect. Voice acting is Blizzard quality- top notch.
As far as playability goes, what else can I tell you except to expect the finest Diablo experience. If you liked the first couple of games, then you’ll love this one but if the original and the sequel didn’t do much for you, chances are that this might not either. I am a big fan of the original two so I enjoyed every minute of playing it. Blizzard has put just the right amount of everything in Diablo 3 and I noticed that when I tried defeating the Skeleton King on my fifth attempt- his health bar was near it’s end, so was mine and I was all out of health potions. And my heart was pounding. That is pure Blizzard magic.