Diablo III Updated Hands-On: Beta

We get a head start with the upcoming open beta of the long-awaited action role-playing game, slated to be out "very shortly."

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With its many years of production, developer Blizzard Entertainment has finally shown concrete signs of fruition that its most anticipated action role-playing game, Diablo III, is close to being finished. Sadly, while no release date announcements were made (Blizzard loves being coy about this subject matter, if gaming history serves), we nonetheless braved through the demon-filled lands of the game by way of the beta at the company's Irvine, California, campus. While a preview of the game is already up, this is a more in-depth look at what we've played.

In this recent version, which will be available to try out on a later-albeit-unannounced date, players get to pick one of the five classes: the closed-ranged hard-hitting barbarian; the companion-reliant witch doctor; the spellcentric wizard; the speedy melee-focused monk; and the ranged combat specialist demon hunter. Each class starts out with two active skills at level one. As players progress and earn experience via killing hordes of demons and completing quests, they can unlock up to a total of six active and three passive skills. The former are class-specific abilities that use up a class's resources while the latter are permanent skill and stat boosters that affects that particular character in the long run.

Laser beats rotting flesh any day of the week.

When the beta starts, you will head down to New Tristram, which is under the invasion of the living dead awakened by falling stars around the vicinity. You will eventually meet prominent main character Leah, Deckard Cain's niece who happens to also be the daughter of Adria (the magic-selling witch from the first Diablo). A short quest later, you will then be tasked to find Deckard Cain who's wandering below the abandoned cathedral ruins filled with all manner of undead beasts. You will also get to participate in a main quest to summon past Diablo villain the Skeleton King (the former King Leoric in Diablo lore) by searching for his crown tucked away in the cemetery and defiled crypt areas. You'll then put him to rest once again in the royal crypts just a few stages below in the cathedral ruins. The beta's inclusion of the first chunk of what obviously represents act one of the game not only helps set the game's narrative tone but also puts action RPG enthusiasts into the fray as the underworld genocide never lets up.

Speaking of which, the plethora of demons we faced were no slouches. The grotesque demons are obese monstrosities that explode upon death and shoot out either corpse worms or imps in their demise. The unburied undead were burly spike-filled powerhouses that took quite a bit of pounding before they fell; ideally, the wizard, demon hunter, and witch doctor need to stay far away from these giants and pelt their long-ranged options. The wretched mothers not only have projectile attacks, but they can also vomit out minor zombies to overrun players. Armor-clad skeletons with staffs in the deeper parts of the cathedral can summon other minor skeletons and sic them on players.

The beta's star, however, was the Skeleton King. After completing the final quest in which we needed to attach his crown onto his skeleton, the boss sprang to life and immediately pelted us with damaging sword swings and a three-hit attack that took a second to wind up, thus making it easy to telegraph. The king can also summon a trio of shield-bearing and melee-focused skeletons while dashing around the screen either to avoid you temporarily or home in onto you. While not as challenging as his first Diablo counterpart, we still had to use a few potions just to survive his onslaught.

The monk has a lot of mantras and fast moves up his arsenal; it's only a matter of how you wish to use it.

It also helped that the main classes we focused on were more than enough to handle the mob-heavy threats. The classes we enjoyed tinkering around with were the witch doctor and the monk. The former was effective because he started off with one of the best skills a constitution-light spellcaster could ask for: the ability to summon three permanent zombie dogs that hit fast and served primarily as distractions. Our witch doctor was content in blowing poison darts using his pipe, shooting out "haunt" bolts that could spread to other targets after killing its previous target, summoning poison frogs that bounced randomly and exploded onto a demon's face, and casting a grasp of death area-of-effect spell that slowed down an enemy's walking speed by 30 percent and damaged him over time. His later moves allowed him to summon an army of tiny fetish monsters and a golem-like gargantuan, as well as cast buffs like the attack speed-increasing big bad voodoo aura. Still, we were content in using our zombie hounds, poison frogs, and grasp of death skill to deal with the majority of enemies.

The latter relied more on building up his spirit meter using spirit-refilling three-part attacks because unlike other classes, the monk's spirit meter does not regenerate slowly by itself. A number of his spirit-using abilities either act as buffs or status-inflicting moves that affect the area. Other times, they're just hard-hitting area-of-effect attacks. We didn't really see much of a point as his sole spirit-using attack, a high-swing kick move, paled in comparison with his combination of the far-hitting deadly reach; small area-of-effect attack electric fist; and ranged tackle move dashing strike, which also served as a quick and cheap way to maneuver around the screen during fights.

Even if we didn't unlock all of his moves, since the beta would be over by the time we reached close to level nine, his high-level attacks and passive skills colored us impressed. His inner sanctuary skill created circular barriers that helped create choke points to funnel enemies for our attacks, while tempest rush created an aura around the monk that made him run faster and knock back nearby enemies, enabling him to flee from a tough situation. While using the monk requires a more active approach, anyone who wishes to see a more diverse version of a standard melee character should experiment with this potentially awesome class.

One would think the town of New Tristram would invest in a cremation business to prevent the undead from rising.

The wizard has a lot of tricks up her sleeves. In addition to casting a slew of projectiles, she can cast buffs like diamond skin, which lets her absorb more damage than her frail defense can handle. She can slow time as well, which projects a wide bubble that slows down opponents and enemy projectiles within it. She also has the ability to temporarily transform into an archon, which gives her a new set of moves, a much more powerful disintegration spell, and an ice-based area-of-effect attack. The catch is that she has to consistently kill foes to sustain the ethereal form. When she reaches level 19, she has the ability to summon a three-headed hydra as a potent companion.

The barbarian forgoes all tricks and goes straight for the jugular while also shrugging off damage. While his melee attacks and special moves, which use the fury meter, are great, his best tools for us were his ancient spear and wrath of the berserker. The former attack reels a target enemy in closer a la Scorpion's harpoon attack from the Mortal Kombat series, while the latter boosts his attack and durability further for a huge amount of fury meter. Because he gains fury from dealing and receiving damage, it's not that hard to build up enough meter to unleash a torrent of moves onto foes. Chasing them, however, is another story for him.

Last but not least, the demon hunter established herself as the class with crossbows and arrows. Her resource meter is split into two: hatred and discipline. The former is for her offensive ranged attacks and recharges really fast, while the latter is for defensive maneuvers and replenishes slowly. Her passive abilities sounded interesting; when killing spree is unlocked, it gives her a 30 percent chance to do critical damage to an opponent after previously slaughtering a demon for the duration of five seconds.

Our favorite setup for demon slaying was using a combination of entangling shot, which slowed down enemies by 50 percent and also affected an extra opponent standing close to the target, and bola shot, which wrapped a projectile on a target and exploded within seven yards for fire and weapon damage. Late-game abilities include strafe, which lets her auto-attack with arrows when surrounded by enemies until her hatred meter becomes empty, and rain of arrows, which lets her shoot eight waves of arrow volleys in any direction. We personally felt that among all the classes, the demon hunter's plethora of talents showed off more interest when she got past level 20. There also wasn't much oomph from the damage and attacks dealt by the demon hunter when compared to the monk and witch hunter.

All this beta action can be yours to experience "very shortly" according to Blizzard.

One could argue that the "streamlined" approach to skill allocation may seem "consolified" (a popular derogatory term thrown by PC elitists in this day and age). The fact that some action RPG tropes from consoles like health blobs from dead enemies and fewer hotkeys made their way for the third game could also reinforce that argument, not to mention past news involving console lead designer job applications on Blizzard's site. However, all of these changes from parts one and two are more of a refined evolution of the genre than anything else and do feel necessary in the scheme of things.

If gamers were to remove their rose-tinted glasses, they may recall some cores of the past titles (commitment-heavy skill-building, no respec options) not aging well, thanks to the appearances of the aforementioned conveniences offered from previous action RPGs. The addition of an official auction house also helps lessen the Wild West mentality of the item-trading economy in past games (stones of Jordan economy, anyone?). One of Blizzard's core philosophies has always been about doing reiterations for its titles, and the current results of the polishing really show in the beta.

For recent updates on Diablo III, head down to GameSpot's gamespace for more coverage.

Discussion

41 comments
Assassino84
Assassino84

Anyone remember the spectres in Diablo2 how frustrating they were?Hope i don't meet them here.But release the goddamn game finally!

alibour85
alibour85

Isn't this game loosing TONS n TONS of fans couse of Blizzard's lies on realse dates??? i guess i'll wait to buy it anyway...but many thing of the game, like engine, grafs, gamestyle, among others might be off-date or look old... just saying... hope they end with a good game anyway.

oldmanweldon
oldmanweldon

I'm anticipating this game so much, it feels like I have to go to the bathroom.

TheMrBlackfloyd
TheMrBlackfloyd

Gonna buy that for my mac... but release it please.! hope more class will come out.. can't believe that they removed amazons and necromancers... and please blizzard STOP to put wow related stuffs inside.. diablo must remain like diablo 2 style ... PLEASE......

rorohaddad
rorohaddad

how i can j know if i am ready for beta? waiting too

spawny_spawny
spawny_spawny

soon ye right they r saying that for years now

vadagar1
vadagar1

Blizzard the Graphics are starting to look dated release the God damn game in Q4 THIS YEAR if you push the release another year, then your just F retards.

madg23
madg23

very shortly, uhhhhhhhhhhhhh i CANT WAIIIIIITTTT!!!!!

mungofatkid
mungofatkid

2011 is almost gone, no release date yet..... really?

Rivenearth
Rivenearth

"rose-tinted glasses" would imply the past wasn't good. The commitment-heavy skill-building and no respecing meant that your choices had weight. Nothing wrong with a consequence based system and the fact that games are removing it is more a consolification. Now those that cry get what they want and those seeking a challenged are screwed once again. I will still get Diablo, but now I will be reading this person's articles with a bit more of a biased ridicule than before. Perhaps this writer should learn what consoles have actually done to video games before posting; assaholic achievements anyone? Yes I know they didn't start on consoles but they were popularized on them!

Aravos
Aravos

Sick graphics... can't wait for a release date!!!

jedikevin2
jedikevin2

@Illuve You may feel that but its not true. Whenever a article is made, it should be heard to journalistic standards. There is no reason to attempt to generalize in a article like this. There is absolutely no way to try to throw person opinion on what this journallist feels as "consolized". There are fanboys etc everywhere but to classify someone who feels a game as consolized as "elitist" is just subjective trash. When did anyone speaking about consolization automatically depict elitism? Thats what happens when you categorize and generalize as this "journalist" did. Its even worst that its annotated in. I will agree that there is no reason to be condescending sadly this journalist approached it in that way. The "one could argue" would come off way better if it was stated as a clear opposition but instead the journalist went with a mocking aspect as if someone would having a issue is trivial. That comes off as if the journalist is very fanboyish and does not want to present both sides of the story. There are many that do not like the idea of no lan, constant internet connection, auction houses, or whatever "streamlining" he is depicting. Regardless, the fact he did such a great article depicting the game then spent the last 2 paragraphs to generalize and cancell of any issues people are having is a sad journalistic approach that sadly many have come to enjoy in the world media.

Illuve
Illuve

@jedikevin2 I feel you are taking this guy's article as a personal attack. There really ARE pc gamers that are crazy fanatical about this kinda thing. you make it seem as if he forcing this opinion down our throats, but in fact the guy says, "One could argue" at the start of the 2nd to last paragraph. I am both a PC and Console player myself and I can see how one side might look down at the other side but really, it's just people playing games. I like this, he likes that, there's no need for anyone to be condescending.

VanDammFan
VanDammFan

so...you will have to have internet just to play this game? I was actually going to try it and see if I liked it, but I wont be held down by internet connections..Can someone clarify things for me?

aidanboyd
aidanboyd

great article. get the net if you dont already have it... this is gonna be hectic. Haters keep hating.

Beltezzar
Beltezzar

What really sucks is that Diablo 3 now is an online rpg due to its DRM which will affect many of the gamers that enjoyed playing the previous titles without an internet connection. Also the absence of Skill & Stat points is a bummer. It'll be better if they change the title of the game to something else coz of the many of the changes, if it was a different game then i would have been all up for it but now it simply does not feel like a Diablo game anymore!!!!

jedikevin2
jedikevin2

Poor journalism here. When a article begins to annotate out personal beliefs and feelings, its a insult to professionalism, the readers, and company for whole the maker represents. Why would someone state "consolified is from PC "elitist"? Consolization has many levels. You could speak on the graphical content decreasing like say Supreme commander 1 to Supreme Commander 2 textures, colors etc, lack of abilities, no map editors etc. One could speak of consolization in terms of content. For example, games not adding any graphical options, lack of pure keyboard mouse support, etc etc. If someone talks about consolization how does that equate to them being "elitist"? I don't personally care for or against diablo 3's new moves but when I read a article like this that generalizes so much and degrades a type of gamer as being this or that, its sickening to see especially from a website like gamespot. The whole last 2 paragraphs were to attack pc gamers, try to defend the game, and generalize heavily... Very sad. This article was in bad taste and I can easily see why the writer is not specifically part of the gamespot company.

drokmore
drokmore

the consolidated skills really isnt that big a deal. Most builds only used a few spells anyway and the complexity runes will add should be interesting. Blizzard alwasy puts out refined/polished products this should be the same. The auction house is a good idea, however the second AH with real money...I guess blizzard wanted in on the gold selling too or just didn't want to have to police it anymore. Not to mention the economy of the first AH will be a mess.

taikanatur
taikanatur

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

minty_cbo
minty_cbo

The Beast from East chiming in. (useast d2....zzz) half of it astonishes me..other half still calls this game WoD - World of Diablo..to this day I play diablo 2 like some kind of freak.. Blizz.. Don't let me down now.. *waves to martyt.support@blizzard.com* lmao

Ardain
Ardain

@kmoore2005 Well that was a crappy Christmas.

kmoore2005
kmoore2005

i was supposed to get this for chrismas last year! :(

tyrosxps
tyrosxps

If Diablo 3 will be consolified I will quit playing RPGs (I know nobody gives a s***). I'm not even talking about Skyrim, that one is already consolized. But I will quit...

Kirintar
Kirintar

I'm a-quiver in anticipation.

arabanak
arabanak

Im not sure, I'm devoted to II LOD, alot of these character skills sound like a rehash of ones I've seen in other games. Same with the monsters. Some things I recognize from hellgate london, which was originated by some of the Diablo II crew. To bad, I liked hellgate. I'm not a Monk player with their finishing moves also Rage Meters are from WOW which I never liked. The thing I want to know most is what kind of death penalty is there going to be. That will determine if I buy it or not. I dont like the auction house, I used it in WOW and was disappointed. Too much time spent running around finding things to sell, not enough game time. I hope they get the different characters well defined and don't end up ruining everyones characters like they did in WOW when Cata was launched. Is there an off-line version being offered? I guess from what I read, I will stick with Diablo II LOD. Blizzard has a tendency to take an award winning game and ruin it. I'll wait and see. I still have my Diablo II LOD disk set.

n8b1979
n8b1979

I don't care what anyone says, DIABLO rules and this looks awsome!

Liliroots
Liliroots

Lol on the "cremation" caption.

Atheosis
Atheosis

Open beta? That's very surprising. Good news though.

kos_maverik
kos_maverik

@angry_roman1011 n∈N* note the * :D

angry_roman1011
angry_roman1011

Open beta? Good. "n" more years to go... *kindly specify the value of "n"

iamian87
iamian87

Diablo is always better when played online anyway. Even when I played alone in Diablo 2, I did so on ladder. Online requirement is not really an issue for this game imo.

kaem79
kaem79

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Neosword
Neosword

It looks good content-wise, but they've made some dubious decisions.

R3FURBISHED
R3FURBISHED

Anyone who thinks that Blizzard is taking the easy road, especially with Diablo is a true fool. Diablo 3 is going to absolutely awesome in absolutely every way.