A few of you might be familiar with a little game developed by Blizzard called Diablo III which had an open beat event this past weekend. I grabbed a friend and we plowed our way through the opening missions of the game. Then we went through it again. And again. And again. After spending almost ten hours with the beta, I can safely say that Diablo III is addictive, entertaining, and altogether satisfying experience.

Going into the beta, I had played neither Diablo I nor Diablo II. My friend chose to create a barbarian while I went with a wizard. The gameplay of Diablo III takes place in a top-down perspective and could best be described as a dungeon crawling action role-playing game. As you use your abilities and slay enemies you gain experience. Enemies will also drop armor or weapons which can be equipped to boost stats. As you level up you unlock new abilities that are mapped to the mouse and number keys. These abilities continue to change as you increase in level through the implementation of runes which can be applied to alter the effects of your abilities. The beta caps level progress at thirteen and ends the story progression after you defeat the main boss of the introductory mission. After you complete one run-through, you can start over with a new character or start over with the same character with all the gear and abilities.

This is close to what my wizard looked like

In your travels through the world of Sanctum you will find plenty of nooks and crannies that are available to explore. One really neat aspect of Diablo III that I noticed while playing through the beta multiple times is that each time through dungeons positions and layouts were different than the previous time we went through. A great example of this is the quest called Jar of Souls which only appears in some games. Our first time through it was not present, but the second time, we found it and were granted a couple of achievements. This brings me to a small aspect of the game which I enjoyed: achievements. Diablo III has an achievement system. It is a nice diversion to go for some of the achievements. For example, one achievement is awarded for killing twenty or more enemies in one blow. The game is fully voiced in a professional manner; although some of the voices came off as a bit melodramatic and laughable (like the voice of the NPC Deckard Cain who sounds like the stereotypical old man warning of evil).

The trademark loot drops of the series are still in place. I must admit that there is a certain thrill in looking through dropped gear and finding the next powerful weapon or armor. An interesting feature that differs from the previous entries in the series is that each player in a co-op game receives their own loot. If you drop your loot it appears in your allies games, but the initial drops from monsters or chests only appears in your personal game. This eliminates arguing over equipment and rare item drops.

Graphically, the game is beautifully dark. It seems like almost everything you can interact with has physics applied to it. Objects break apart and can be sent flying. Bodies can be picked up in magic tornadoes. Ruins collapse and books fall off of book shelves. Blood splatters across the ground in a satisfying manner giving new meaning to the phrase “paint the town red.” The dark, gritty representation of this torn world is very effectively conveyed through visual cues as you walk through the ruins of the town of Tristram, a centerpiece of the Diablo universe.

Prior to playing through the beta, my experience with this type of gameplay was limited to Torchlight, which I liked, but didn’t find groundbreaking or particularly intriguing. Diablo III changed my outlook on this sort of game. The story was much more engaging and interesting than the one found in Torchlight, as were the skill progressions of the different classes. The ability to play Diablo III cooperatively definitely improved the experience. It is one of those games where bringing your laptop over to a friend’s house and playing makes things very enjoyable. Overall, the Diablo III beta was a great experience and has me seriously considering purchasing it.

Are you excited for Diablo III?

How do you feel about gritty dungeon crawlers?

Thoughts on the beta?