Everyone knows how long this game has been in production, and how long it has been since Lord of Destruction came out, so I won't waste any time discussing that. Instead, I want to just briefly go over my thoughts of the beta after being able to play it this past weekend.
The beta differs from the demo Diablo 2 had in that you can play through all of the content with all 5 character classes. I've played through the demo now with three characters, the Wizard, Witch Doctor, and Demon Hunter. The length of the beta is surprisingly long, clocking in somewhere around 2-2.5 hours depending on how quickly you work through it. Overall, I really like what I've seen but there are a few changes I'm not thrilled about.
First, the good. I felt right at home starting up the game with my wizard, killing monsters, and gathering loot. The visuals work very well for the style of game it is, and most people should be able to run it on fairly high settings. I love the simple inclusion of the zoom feature, especially when decking out your character in shiny new equipment. There seems to be much more dialogue, and some of it is spread throughout the game world in the form of journals. Even some pointless NPC's in New Tristram have dialogues with each other, and while not the most stimulating script you'll ever read, it really enhances the overall experience.
The 5 classes are very unique in both gameplay, and visuals. Some skills serve similar purposes (such as the Grasp of the Dead and Caltrops skills) but I know that beyond the level 13 cap, the characters will become even more unique. As a former sorceress user, I'm anxiously looking forward to starting up my first wizard character and blasting through as many difficulty levels as possible.
There seems to be a greater emphasis on storytelling this time around, which really wasn't necessary for this style of game, yet I'm really glad they decided to focus more on the actual plot details. I can't wait to go beyond New Tristram and see what other regions are waiting to be explored.
The inclusion of artisans seems very interesting, although I really don't know too much yet about how they will work long term. The items I crafted at the blacksmith in New Tristram though served me very well.
Something else I liked was the ability to modify the different skills, and even the first unlock for each skill modifier made the skills infinitely more useful (especially the splinter modification for the Witch Doctor's blow dart). I can't wait to go through and unlock each modification for each skill and see all the different builds that will be possible.
Now there are a few things I was not big on. The first was the limited amount of skills you can use at a time. Each skill falls into a category, and only one skill is allowed per category at any given time. While the moves tend to serve similar functions, it would have been very nice to be able to freely choose which skills you could have equipped at a given time, ala the F keys in diablo 2 (whereby I had about 9 or 10 skill hotkeyed at any given time). I do understand why the system works the way it does though, as it forces you to make some tough decisions as to how you want your character to perform. The good news is that changing your skills is incredibly easy, with only a cooldown meter to deter you from abusing the system.
My biggest gripe with the game is the new weapons system. I remember how exciting getting new weapons was in Diablo 2, more so than shields or armor or anything else, but weapons are mostly useless in Diablo 3. Each character can use almost any weapon (though some cannot be used and some are unique to each character) but skill damage is modified by the dps of each weapon. This essentially means that you will never attack with your weapon (which is fine) and that you will use nonsensical items with your character in an attempt to max out your dps stat. There are magical enhancements on some weapons, but at least from what I've seen in the beta, these effects are almost always less effective than a simple increase in the dps stat. I was walking around with a huge two-handed axe as a Witch Doctor to maximize the damage on my blow dart, and something just didn't quite feel right about it.
I miss a lot of things from Diablo 2, but eventually I'll get over my nostalgia, and Diablo 3 feels like a really solid game. It definitely caters more to the casual crowd than Diablo 2 did, but for the most part these changes serve to streamline the experience and do away with some of the frustrations of the 10 year old game. I'm most excited to see the new bosses, to play online with my friends, and obtain the rarest loot possible. Overall, the beta left a good taste in my mouth and helped hold me over until its full release date.