Not even a decade could save you from me.
After hearing that Blizzard would open the gates of Diablo III to the public for a couple of days, I knew that my weekend was going to vanish in the blink of an eye. Sure enough, three days and about 5,000 thrilling kills later, here I am with a big smile on my face—along with a dash of sleep deprivation. But it was all worth it; this is Diablo III we're talking about after all.
The first thing I noticed is that the visual style wasn't what I was expecting. It is more reminiscent of Warcraft III than it is the original two Diablo titles. While the setting is dark, the character models, UI, and lighting effects give it the personality of World of Warcraft, where it aims for a more artistic, painting style of approach as opposed to something that would scare away schoolchildren. However, this is a Blizzard game, and as such, it is extremely polished with clean animations, a highly-intuitive UI, and an arsenal of great-looking gear to reward you for hours spent slaying enemies.
Gameplay is extremely simple and hasn't evolved much from the days of Diablo II. Point-and-click is all I needed and in that regard it felt like nothing I've played in years. While that might sound negative, I must emphasize just how satisfying the abilities are to use. Each of the five classes have many skills that can be thrown into your arsenal on the fly, and most of them are badass. The Monk kicks enemies across the room, the Barbarian whirlwinds groups of enemies into pulp, while the Witch Doctor makes sure they die a miserable death.
One major gripe I had about the beta was its difficulty. It's hard to tell if the challenge, or lack thereof, will translate directly into the full experience, but the beta was easy... too easy. I never had to use a single potion, and for the most part I was able to goof around against enemies since they posed no real threat. Granted, the difficulty was locked on Normal during the beta, but still, Blizzard needs to introduce some challenge or many Diablo fans will be let down. There is a lot of handholding in Diablo III which is sure to introduce some new fans to the series, but there's so much of it that the hardcore crowd might feel annoyed quickly.
Multiplayer is where Diablo III truly shines, and I had a lot more fun when there was someone else to enjoy the game with. Unlike previous games, multiplayer will be locked with a four-player capacity, which is somewhat disappointing, but after spending some time in four-player co-op, I think it just might be the sweet spot for a game like this. Blasting through a dungeon with three other fellows makes for some great fun, and the way Diablo handles multiplayer with its lobbies and chat functionality will bring back some of the classic online interactions many people have forgotten over the years.
As far as PvP goes, it won't be supported at launch but is supposed to be added through a patch at a later date (similar to what World of Warcraft did). This is the kind of game that many people will spend hours upon hours decking out a character intentfully to compete against other players, so I feel this is doing the game a great disservice. Hopefully, it comes in one of the first major patches rather than down the road.
Make no mistake, Diablo III is going to be a very popular game when it releases. The lack of a subscription model, the auction house, the energy-packed classes, and the stacks of loot will ensure that millions of PC gamers are sucked into the depths of hell the moment Blizzard releases the game. Many people will become deeply invested and play for months on end with no qualms. Since it has Battle.net functionality, players will also be able to communicate with their friends who are playing World of Warcraft and StarCraft II, and that along with the inherit value of Blizzard's forums and online profiles means it'll carry a lot of features that take the award-winning formula of Diablo and introduce it to the modern world.
I would also like to mention to the console gamers out there that, after playing the beta, I am 100% sure that Diablo III will be coming to consoles sooner rather than later. This is a simple game that will translate into the console environment perfectly. I have a feeling that Blizzard are just trying to get the game out the door right now, and the only real trouble lies in bringing Battle.net to consoles. Once they figure that all out, Diablo III is going multi-platform—there's no doubt in my mind.
If you had a chance to play the Diablo III beta, let us know what you carried away from it in the comments below.