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Diablo 3 Beta Playtest: Will It Be Worth The Wait?

Adam Barnes

Features


Blizzard's Diablo 3 beta is live, so get our looting mouse ready.

Published on Sep 27, 2011

Ten years, eleven if you factor in Diablo’s just announced release date of 2012; that’s how long Diablo 3 has been in development. ‘It’s ready when it’s ready’ Blizzard has proclaimed throughout Diablo 3’s development, so surely this means we’re guaranteed the World Of Warcraft developer’s very best game to date?

So with interest we delve into Diablo 3’s recent beta: will it live up to the hype or even – dare we say it – compare to the classic Diablo 2? Let’s have a look.

The beta doesn't last too long, but it's a great insight into the quality of Diablo 3.

The Graphics

There’s already been a ruckus on the visuals, with petitions from fans and unicorn-infused April Fools jokes from Blizzard, but stepping into Diablo 3 for the first time was surprisingly disappointing.

Obviously this is just a beta, and to keep file size down to a minimum then something’s got to give, but with the lofty expectations that have been thrown onto Diablo 3 as a gorgeous game, the fairly basic character models were something of a letdown.

But we’re willing to forgive this – it is a beta after all – and as exploration gave way to new locales and new dungeons, it was clear that Blizzard has put some effort into making it as atmospheric as it can yet with the necessary flourishes of colour. So it’s not as dark and ominous as Diablo 2, but everything is detailed, well-crafted and extremely foreboding. 

Corner a Treasure Goblin and you'll have no trouble grabbing its loot.

The Treasure Goblin

If the diehard fans don’t like Diablo 3’s more ‘colourful’ appearance, then they’re really not going to like the Treasure Goblin. This unique enemy appeared a handful of times throughout the beta and, as his name suggests, can offer a bounty of reward for those willing – and dextrous enough – to take it on.

Reminiscent of Golden Axe’s blue and green thieves, the Treasure Goblin will scurry away almost immediately after being spotted. Dropping a trail of gold as it disappears, there’s a brief window where this creature can be hunted and, for those quick enough, slaughtered.

Doing so drops a ton of gold as well as a couple of shiny blue items to collect, but if you don’t act quickly enough the goblin will vanish into a portal – and with him the chance of claiming his bounty.

There's a lot of detail in everything, which makes combat all the more spectacular.

The Combat

Trying to explain Diablo’s combat to the uninitiated is like trying to tell a cat it can’t drink milk. Often it’ll result in a glazed expression as you try to convince them there’s more to it than clicking on skeletons and watching them explode. Except, of course, there isn’t really any more to it than that: and that’s fantastic.

The same engrossing click-click-click of Diablo combat returns and is as more-ish as ever. Blizzard’s obviously been keen to increase this compulsive nature of combat, since there’s always so much to click on.

More than just enemies and movement, there’s loot, environmental objects, chests and empty bookcases. You’ll gladly click your way through a dungeon as various beasties explode into bits. And you’ll love it.

Our favourite class was the wizard, but each is as well-crafted as the next.

The Followers

Much has been said about Diablo 3’s Followers – a continuation of the hirelings from Diablo 2 – that has an AI-controlled character team up to dole out damage to your enemies. The beta only offers up the same Follower – the Templar – regardless of class, though additional classes have already been confirmed. 

The Templar keeps pace perfectly, though he can stick on some scenery. Abilities can be chosen for each Follower too – in this case, a beneficial Heal spell or the crowd-control ‘Intervene’ ability.

Followers are a great addition for those looking to solo the game, and a sign that Blizzard aren’t totally ignoring half of its fanbase, but if you’re into multiplayer it’s likely these poor guys will be forgotten.

Look hard enough and you'll see the repeated tiles, but these random sections never feel that way.

The Dungeons

It wouldn’t be a Diablo game without its dungeons. Diablo 3 still uses the randomly generated dungeons that popularised the series, but here Blizzard has crafted something so much more subtle. The seams between randomly-generated and set locations are blended fantastically.

While the majority of the beta’s dungeons lead through a set of underground crypts, the variety means it never felt as though there was a set of preset dungeon tiles underpinning it all.

Certain sections of the dungeons feed into story-specific or notable areas – whether that is a quest location or just battles against rare spawning enemies – but each environment felt natural. It wasn’t until a second playthrough with a different class that we even realised the random tech was still in play.

It starts off easy, but as the beta reaches its end the enemies begin to become a challenge.

The Sound

One of the most overlooked aspects of gaming is sound, and here Blizzard has really gone to town. Atmospheric cues littered the beta, dynamically shifting to combat tunes when required and back to more ominous tones when calmly exploring the dungeons and sifting through rubble for loot.

Then there are the cackles of skeletons off in the distance or the satisfying sound of metal clashing on metal as you pulverise your foes. It all combines with the colourful spell effects to make an absorbing experience. It’s clear the many years in development has helped Blizzard craft a Diablo game even more compulsive than any previous entry.

Rare spawns are always tougher to kill, but worth the loot drops if should you manage.

So, Is It Worth The Wait?

Was it ever going to be in doubt? So Diablo 3 isn’t going to change the opinions of those who only see the constant mouse clicking, but to everyone else this is exactly what was wanted. Not a renovation or even an overhaul, this is as Diablo as it could be.

There are tweaks, upgrades and new additions – but they don’t detract from the fact that this is still a Diablo game through and through. And that, ultimately, is all the fans ever wanted.

 

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