Diablo III Beta Diary Part 2 – A Bad Apple Spoils The Bunch

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In my previous (and first) Diablo III diary, I rambled on a bit about my new metro-sexual hero, some story elements and also somehow managed to compare Diablo to ex-girlfriends.

In part 2 I take a bit of a look into the visual and performance side of things, including what kind of machine you will need to run it as well as drooling over some of the visuals, because Diablo III is one sexy looking piece of video game.

Come and join me on my mystical adventure of fantasy, intrigue and err… RAM.

I really mean it too, Diablo III is one heck of a good looking game, granted I haven’t been witness to the marvel of PC gaming graphics for some time though, but Diablo III is easily as gorgeous as I was hoping it was going to be.

Once upon a time, when the first screenshots of Diablo III were released, die-hard fans had mild hernias because they thought that Blizzard was changing the art style look more colorful and therefore look more like the incredibly popular, money-making World of Warcraft. Fear not, dear fanboy… because that’s not the case at all. Sure the game looks vibrant and has some good color to it, but it looks absolutely great. Goodness knows that we have had our fair share of dull looking brown and grey games. Again, that’s not to say that the game is super colorful, it just has some color to it, and I wouldn’t want it to look any other way.

Now, if you didn’t know, I’m playing Diablo III on a MacBook Pro running OS X Lion. Well actually two different Macs but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

I decided to tinker around with the graphics settings for, I dunno, about three or twelve hours and see what I could squeeze out of this little thing. The first machine that I tested it on is a little mid-2009 Macbook Pro 13 inch, 2.26Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, with 8GB (upgraded from 2GB) of 1067MHz DDR3 RAM and an onboard GeForce 256MB 9400M graphics chipset/card thing. The hardware is mostly solid but that graphics card is the let down.

No matter what I did with the settings, I couldn’t get the game to run as smooth as I’d like, without having to play the game in a tiny little 1024×768 window on my desktop. That’s to be expected though, because it’s a Mac, it’s a small laptop and it definitely wasn’t created with serious gaming in mind, although it manages to handle Torchlight and Portal OK on Steam.

That aside, the real reason that I couldn’t get it to run like a French soldier is because the game doesn’t actually have the ability to look bad at all. If you take Diablo III and put everything on low, off, zero whatever… you are still left with a very good looking game. So, yeah… even though my machine wasn’t great, it seemed obvious to me that a little more customization could be chucked in, in terms of visual scaling. There were no options to lower poly count, or get the environments a little less detailed, although there are other options, just maybe not enough. I reckon, considering how decently it ran on this machine, they could get this game to still look very acceptable and still run like a dream on much less powerful machines than mine.

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Click to see the full size image comparison between graphics settings set to minimum and maximum. No FSAA capabilities on the MacBook Pro.

Usually, 13 Inches Are More Than Enough

I later changed over from the 13” Macbook Pro to one of our older 2007 17 inch Macbook Pros. This one may be older, but besides it being a monster in its day, its still pretty decent for a laptop (I played Crysis 1 on it on medium settings on a Windows dual-boot back when it came out).

This machine packs a 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 DDR2 RAM (upgraded from 2GB) but more importantly, has the good ol’ 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600GT M. While the specs may seem very similar or even worse in places, it’s that graphics card that really made the difference in a big way.

The Macbook Pro 17” is able to run the game in its native 1680 x 1050 resolution, look good and still run well too. There is a bit of a balance though, but I found that you mostly have two options when running Diablo III on a machine with these specs. I could either run the game with everything on (please note that my beta didn’t give the option for any FSAA, probably due to the graphics cards) and it ran fairly low in the frame-rate department, but still playable, considering everything was set to max. Then I could set it to have everything off and the framerate difference was enough to get everything running that much smoother (super smooth inside little dungeons) and as I said earlier, the game still looks really great at low settings.

The point I am trying to make is… your crappy PC can probably play this game decently enough and will still probably look pretty good at the same time. If you have a remotely good PC gaming rig, then you are all but set, because I don’t see this game having much issue on anything geared for gaming in any way ( I saw a video of a guy even having a decent time playing on a Macbook Air, and that’s about as low spec as you are gonna get for anyone trying to run a game).

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Look out for our next Diablo diary soon as I will look into the changes made from Diablo II to Diablo III and explore how it all feels when its put to the test.

Last Updated: October 3, 2011

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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