Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Diablo III Beta Impression

Playing Blizzard's Diablo III beta is easily one of the most fun things I have done on the Personal Computer this year but it comes with one huge problem: It makes me crave for the game even more. The campaign that you are given access to play in is extremely short - if you don't do much exploration, it's around the one hour mark - but the good news here is that at least you can keep replaying it over and over again as your heroes continue to grow. The beta sees you arriving in a town plagued by the undead. You will soon receive a quest line that will have you travelling through cemeteries and ancient tombs and everything culminates into a boss fight with the Skeleton King.

Be very, very quiet... I am hunting demons.

There are five classes to choose from: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Wizard, and my personal favorite, the Witch Doctor. You can select a male or female version of each class and their personal appearances, though not customizable, differ by class. I like the Witch Doctor the best because of the whole voodoo vibe and that he or she is definitely the most interesting looking of the bunch. The Doc can summon creatures to do his/her bidding that ranges from exploding frogs to hounds of hell on top of being able to apply the fun curses and hexes on the enemies. The game is set at "normal" difficulty level and so far, it's on the very easy side. Until I reached the Skeleton King, I never had to worry about using health potions and the mana pool regenerates so fast that it never goes down below 90% even when I was wildly spamming out spells. The difficulty level is supposed to rise up with more people playing with you but I didn't notice it while joining an online game because we were basically owning everything that comes into view. Bear in mind that this is expected however since the gameplay here is only limited to the beginning area of the game.

I am a level up addict for sure.

The 3D models of your heroes are not that detailed, as you can see from the character creation, but they are animated beautifully. The same can be said about the non player characters and the evil creatures that you have to destroy. During the gameplay, you can't even zoom in on your hero which I am sure was done to hide the graphical blemishes but at the fixed angle of the camera, the game is certainly beautiful to look at. The dark, muted tone of the environments create that dark, sinister feel to the adventure but then you get the very flashy spell effects to visually brighten things up. The game features fully-voiced non player character interactions, something that should be a must in all games these days, and even the heroes themselves are voiced. The voice acting is pretty good but the racially characterized accents are a bit annoying.

More! We want more!

One interesting aspect of the gameplay at the moment is the way the skills are learned by the heroes. There is no skill tree where you can customize how you want to develop your heroes. Instead, the skills are automatically unlocked as you level up but you can only equip some of them with you at a time with a maximum of 5 active abilities and 3 passive abilities. This system provides a great amount of flexibility in how you play your heroes but it does take away some level of complexity in your character building. Overall though, I find the game to be quite polished in both its presentation and gameplay. That shouldn't be a surprise however knowing how long the game has been in development. I did find one strange graphics bug where a spell effect ended up looking boxy but other than that, it seems like the game is just about ready for the big release. With the latest World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria being recently announced, I have a feeling that this game is probably going to be released months after that expansion. Because you know that once Diablo III comes out, people would stop playing WoW which is making a lot of money for the company. And that is, of course, Blizzard's dilemma and the reason why this game is being stuck in an eternity of development hell. This is even more evident now that they are offering a free copy of Diablo III to those who will commit to a one year subscription of WoW. Yes, we can see right through you, Blizzy. Just man up and release this game already.

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