Friday, March 23, 2012

Diablo 3 beta impressions

Some of you already know that a benefactor passed me a beta key. I've been playing like crazy since then and now I can offer a few quick impressions, considering that I have completed the beta on all 5 classes. They are not level 13 yet but I have seen all that the beta has to offer. Here's the lineup:

Demon Hunter - level 11
Witch Doctor - level 10
Monk - level 10
Wizard - level 9
Barbarian - level 9

Probably the first question that springs to mind is which class I liked best. Well, I started with the Demon Hunter which I enjoyed a lot. I was convinced that in the final game I would pick this class as my main. Then I played with the Witch Doctor and doubts started creeping in. Now I like both equally but I'm leaning slightly towards the Witch Doctor, for reasons which you shall read about when I make an analysis of each class. Next, I found the Monk to be the most fun melee class, while the Wizard and Barbarian tie for last.

Here are my quick impressions.

To me (and I stress this), Diablo 3 truly feels like a continuation of the series. The moment I got into it I felt like home. There's a lot of attention to detail in the artwork and graphics, not to mention the sounds of gold or items falling, of chests opening or a myriad other small things.

The music was very good, suitably creepy in the wilds or the cathedral. I particularly appreciated the sounds of chains rattling. The occasional maniacal cackling of the skeletons in the cathedral didn't feel completely out of place.

The graphics aren't cutting edge like, say, Path of Exile. They're not even as gritty. But I'm okay with that. To tell the truth, I never thought Diablo 2 was particularly dark. D3 does seem to have a more cartoonish look to it but it doesn't bother me.

It took me almost 3 hours to beat the beta with the Demon Hunter but that's because I took my sweet time listening to all the dialogue and exploring every nook and cranny. With the other characters it was much quicker, under 2 hours.

The Skeleton King fight was kind of tough with all classes, at least at levels 9-10 and without the best equipment possible. I didn't die but I came close a few times. The trick is to pace yourself, kill the summons for health and avoid the King's whirlwind and teleport.

The Weeping Hollows is the largest outdoor zone and my favorite so far. It also seems the best zone for farming, especially if you visit the randomly appearing Den of the Fallen.

I love how Hungry Torsos crawl out of bushes unexpectedly and how skeletons pop out from coffins when you least expect it.

At about levels 8-9 you can finally unlock Town Portal after completing the Shattered Crown quest. Also, the Blacksmith opens up his services to you at this point, which only happens on your first run-through with your first character. This is important because it enables salvaging, which subsequent characters will have access to from level 1.

I like the Treasure Goblins a lot. When I see one I drop everything and follow him through the entire area until he's dead, other monsters be damned.

I like how achievements give XP bonuses. That's how they should work, otherwise they'd be useless to me.

Gold doesn't feel that scarce. By the end of my first run-through I had 16,000. Now, the account statistics tell me that I made over 70K. If it doesn't feel like a lot that's because I didn't attempt to play the Auction House or anything like that.

I love (who doesn't?) rare monsters and champions. I just wish there were more groups of them. Whenever I encounter them it's PARTY TIME!

The only yellow items (rare) I've seen drop were after killing the Skeleton King.

The game loads quickly and so do all the transitions. Grabbing a portal or a waypoint or entering a new zone is almost instant.

The interface is OK, nothing special about it, except...

The Auction House interface is a terrible mess. I truly hope they don't go live with this crap or else no one's gonna use it. OK, they will, but no one will be able to find anything on it. Searching is very bad, sorting doesn't work most of the time and some of the filters are completely broken. For example, the default search doesn't filter by item type. If I filter by rare (OK) and then change to magic, it won't show any items.

The skill interface could use a little bit of polish. It takes too much space and may seem confusing at first. It's hard to figure out what are all the spells/runes at your disposal.

I kept the guided spell system, which is default, to see how it feels and it does a good job grouping the skills. So far I haven't felt the need to switch to Elective Mode.

I haven't grouped yet and I've only used the Auction House briefly. Actually, I posted 8 items on the Gold AH and they haven't sold yet even though the prices were competitive. I had a lot more success on the Real Money AH where I managed to double my 50 beta bucks to over 100 in a short time. My secret? I just sold some gold. Oh and a yellow item I didn't need.

Being able to equip new characters with items found by older characters is priceless. It makes a huge difference and helps you to level them much quicker and safer. Kudos to Blizzard for allowing this.

Health potions are plentiful (though on a cooldown so you can't spam them) such that by the end of the beta I had about 50 of them on each class, having used much less than I found.

That's about it for first impressions. I will attempt to analyze each class in more detail in the days that follow. If you have any questions, fire away!

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