Here's a quick and not entirely comprehensive review of the D3 Beta. Blizzard just last week sent out a big big wave of invites (about 100k) to the beta, so lots of people were able to get in. If you would like a shot, head on over to battle.net, and make sure to opt-in to the beta invites for the Diablo products.
Since Diablo 2 (and expansion I guess) came out, the landscape of dungeon crawlers/loot gatherers/etc. has changed somewhat. Even as late as the D2 era, I would say that it was still sort of D2 and then everything else that wasn't very good. There were a few other things out there, but they weren't necessarily on par, and they were a long way from noticeable in terms of presenting competition.
Times have changed somewhat though. In today's gaming world, it is so easy to get your hands on titles, be it from XBLA, PSN, Steam, etc. that one would probably expect there to be more in the way of competition. It's also been rather a few years since D2, so a lot of other titles have had the chance to get out there and really try their hand at the genre. There's been some that haven't really made a splash at all, but there has also been a lot of games that have done an awful lot of things right. Take Torchlight for instance. It is quite similar to Diablo in concept (the first, not the second, really), but does it in a new and interesting way. The game is fun, it's innovative, etc. (I recommend it highly, and definitely look forward to Torchlight 2.) This has two points of relevance here: 1) Blizzard has more competition out there now. Their game will sell, but it will sell because this is Blizzard that made it. 2) If they want their game to remain relevant then they need to innovate.
The last of these is really the thing that strikes me as important, and it is what I would really be focusing on if I was in charge of the D3 project. Something beyond fancy graphics is going to be necessary for the game to be great, Blizzard knows that. I suspect it's why there's been so many changes in the systems throughout the beta period. They are trying different things out, hoping to really get things right.
I'll skip the back story and such, and just tell you what I thought about the game, but in slightly less narrative fashion:
* It seems just about everything is voice acted. This is pretty spiffy, though the voice acting isn't really top notch. Still, nice touch. Definitely the way to go.
* The game is definitely more similar to D2 than D1, rightfully so. It seems clear we are going to see a good variety of exterior and interior environments.
* The outdoor stuff really shines in this game. The detail is really amazing, the art design is fantastic, and there are a lot of little touches that just really are great. Indoors wasn't quite as impressive.
* The effects are reasonably good. I have seen some detailed Lets Play streams/videos, and I went through on one class. So far I haven't been amazed, and I wanted more than what we've seen...but then again, the Beta tops out at Level 10, so there's a lot left to see.
* The enemies....are a mixed bag. Some stupid, some cool. I wish they'd done more for variety than they have so far, but some of the things are innovative.
* The game is super duper easy. Way too easy. Not even remotely challenging unless you crank the difficulty to the max.
* You get tons of loot. It's a real shame none of it is any good at ALL. Just about always finding things exclusive to other classes is a pain in the butt.
* Character detail is kind of meh, but your look does change as you equip things, and there are some nice touches like cloaks or capes or whatever that flap around as you move.
* Item salvaging (to craft new things) is annoying.
* Crafting system seems a little misleading, frustrating, very expensive.
* Battle.Net tie-ins will be both awesome, and super bad.
* Multiplayer through B.Net...yep.
That's it for now I think... I am not a huge fan of the Witch Doctor. I played the Demon Hunter, and I AM a huge fan of that. Very fun. Hand crossbows, pew pew!
So do I think now that D3 will be worth picking up? Yeah, I expect so.
Do I think that it'll be fairly similar to D2? Yes, actually, a lot. Strikes me as very similar, with lots of improvements.
Do I think it'll really crush the competition? Probably not. We've no real inkling of how the storytelling aspect will go, which is a big ? for the genre. I think it'll be a stand out entry in the genre that D1 and D2 defined. I think there are other studios that have it down now though, and that they will be able to put together things that are almost equally compelling, but in different ways and with minimal budgets and not 800 years in between releases.
Also, if anyone wants to Co-Op, let me know. =D
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