Well i've been a member here for half a decade or so, so i thought it must be time for my first review and what awaited me this morning when i woke was perfect.
So i wake up this morning with an e-mail inviting me to the Diablo 3 Beta. After a quick (but intense) nerdgasm and picking up the broken pieces of my jaw when it hit the computer desk, i proceeded to immediately download it. This impression may be a little spoilerish but i'll avoid story-line bits and pieces and keep it factual rather than spoilerrific.
The client downloaded a total of about 2.6gb which i thought was a good size. Getting into the game presented a nice menu screen and the game had already perfectly optimised for full HD with setting maxed out. The Beta lacks AA options which i wasn't happy with, but obviously being a Beta release, it wouldn't be fully-featured. I picked a male barbarian as i did when i first played Diablo 2, and in i went (with instantaneous loading, a nice surprise).
The first impression i got, obvious a graphical impression, was 'foggy'. I suppose since the general area at the start is a graveyard-ish area around Tristram and its meant to be foggy but it was more than that. The lack of AA hurt a lot and honestly, Titan Quest with its settings maxed looks better. I noticed statues and other things that looked like they weren't made of enough polygons and the ground didnt seem detailed enough. To be fair tho, the game looks great, 99% of everything looks amazing, and it runs perfectly smooth no matter what your doing. I'm sure full-screen AA will help with the small amount of blurriness.
1 thing i really did love though, graphically, is the destructability of almost everything. It gives you a large sense of power as well. Cracking open a log to find some loot actually send the pieces of log off-screen which is an overpowering and amusing touch. Flipping switches can drop chandeliers and other things onto the enemies which is a nice touch and its well animated. Doing so sets a record for most kills in a single environmental kill which is really cool and set up a record to try and beat later. Killing enemies in quick succession does the same thing, if there isn't too much of a break between killing enemies, you'll gradually build up something like an 'Unreal Tournament' style 'M-M-M-M-MONSTER KILL' which gives you bonus experience. Its a nice way of rewarding the player for taking the risk of taking on many enemies in quick succession.
Leveling up. Well, for the time being i don't have the best impression of the leveling-up system. As a huge fan of Diablo 2 and Titan Quest, someone who's put more than 500 hours into each game, i got accustomed to the ability to customize what you want to do. In Diablo 3, when you level up, if there is a skill that's made available at that specific level, you automatically learn it. You then have up to 6 skill-slots in the skill-tree section so you can have 6 skills active at once. Those skills are divided up between number 1-4 (5 is the default for Health Potions) and then 2 skill slots for left and right click. Stats are also automatically assigned and i believe it really takes away from the ability to make your character the way you like it. No more can you take the Necromancer from D2 for example and choose between Bone/Spirit skills, Curses or Poison Skills, Diablo 3 forces you to learn everything, then choose what you want from everything.
In saying that though, the customization comes in the form of Runes you can apply to your skills. 5 different runes to change the way the skill acts or behaves in dramatic ways. I'm yet to play around with this in the Beta and i'm looking forward to it since they took away the normal way of customizing your character. I will also add there are 3 passive-skill slots that are unlocked at level 10, 20 and 30 to give you a little more variety.
The thing that really made me smile, was how powerful i felt. Being the Barbarian, they don't have a mana pool. Meaning skills like Leap Attack and the 180 degree wide attack can be used infinitely without pause. Its rather cool to be able to leap into a large wandering group of zombies with leap-attack, do a 180 degree slice in 2 directions, and half the group is dead. I'm only level 8 and i feel immensely powerful, waltzing around with a special scythe i got in a quest and a fiery sword i bought from the blacksmith. These skills of the Barbarian even build up your Fury meter, which is a golden orb on the opposite side of the screen from your health orb and obviously in place of the mana orb. This Fury can then be used to perform even bigger attacks, beefing your stats or damage resistance and other thing. Enemies are full of surprises. Think you've just cut that zombie in half? Oh no my friend his torso still comes at you while he bites your ankles. Think that fat boomer-style zombie is going to fall over and die? Heck no! He's going to explode and the worms bursting forth will attack you and become new enemies. This really added a lot of depth to how enemies behave and are to be conquered and its very welcomed.
They've added in these, small, floating health orbs, that are picked up automatically with money and i have to say they really are kinda needed. Only because they've made Health potions take much longer to recharge, and without them you would likely die more often. Another nice touch is how things like shrines and other time-limit based skills are shown just above your bar down the bottom of the screen with a clock-style shaded part over the skill so you know how long each has left. I also like how, when you hit an enemy with a hard-impacting skill, even the corpses of already dead enemies will skid away from the impact, and any destructible terrain caught too close to the attack will also be annihilated.
Sound-wise the music is lovely and suits very well. Each character now talks on your behalf and they have a realistic and personable voice that really matches the class and sex you choose at the start. My personal biggest smiling moment was talking to the guy who sells weapons in Tristram. He is voiced by the person who does the English voice for Jiraya from the anime Naruto and Kenpachi from Bleach. His voice is instantly recognizable to me and it made the whole experience stand out for me personally.
Overall. As someone who has played hundreds of hours of Diablo 2 and more recently Titan Quest, this game stands up against those two as a worthy successor and addition to the genre. Even in Beta form its immensely fun to play, runs perfectly, not a hiccup to be found. I'm sure by the time it's released, they'll have the game running with Anti-Aliasing so to make the appearance a little more crisp, but really that's the only gripe i have with the game. The leveling system will take some getting used to but i'm sure the runic modification of skills will allow for much more variety. I've only put 4 hours into this game and it surely is a treat, and a definitely must-buy day-1 for anyone who's even remotely a fan of this style of game. I'll leave other things like crafting and such for you to discover on your own. If you're lucky enough to get into the Beta, then enjoy. Otherwise i'll think of you while i'm playing :P