Diablo III Beta Diary Part 3 – What's Different In Diablo III? Everything.

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[Guest Column by Daniel de Bruyne – Introduction by Nick de Bruyne]

Before we start, if you haven’t already — catch Part 1 where we look at emo characters and an intro to Diablo III for an old fan — and Part 2 where we look at what sort of performance is needed to run the game.

Part 3 of the Diablo 3 diary is a guest column coming to you from someone who knows Diablo far better than most of us. This person, is in fact my brother Daniel de Bruyne, who, together with his fiancee have clocked the whole of Diablo II around 12-13 times (some including the expansion packs as well) and logged countless hours squeezing every little piece of value out of the series.

He takes a look at all of the changes from Diablo II to Diablo III as well as talks us through his experience playing through the beta with the Wizard class.

by Daniel de bruyne

What’s with all the clicking noises?

It was fifteen years ago, in the middle of a sublime Saturday afternoon snooze that I was awakened by weird sounds coming from the study, which on further inspection turned out to be my younger brother staring very intently at the PC monitor in front of him which displayed a rather small female character with a pony tail wearing a little brown outfit and walking around in what looked like the inside of a church holding a hunting bow. After just a few steps, this little character encountered a small group of undead skeletons standing in a dark corner which she immediately and rather effectively dispatched in seconds with a few well aimed strokes of her bow string.

As the skeletons collapsed in to a pixellated pile of bones, they also dropped a small jingly pile of gold coins followed by a little bow which fell with a single clunky wooden sound. The little female character picked up the gold coins and the bow which had a little blue name hovering above it and my brother was very excited to exclaim that the bow his character just picked up was a magical bow that was more powerful than one being currently used, and was also infused with magical fire so that each shot now inflicted physical damage as well as fire damage to lurking enemies.

Without realising it at the time, these few moments introduced, invited and enticed me into a world that fifteen years and thousands of hours later, have left me with an unforgettable experience of adventure, fighting, treasure hunting and exploration through fantastical levels and surroundings that always had new surprises waiting to pounce around the next corner. It was like watching a favourite TV series that never came to an end, and best of all, if my mates wanted to play along, we could network our PCs and embark on epic journeys of battle and treasure plundering to our hearts delight.

Now, after waiting many, many years for the folks at Blizzard to once again throw a little love in the direction of the thousands upon thousands of fans that have supported and followed the Diablo franchise, whispers started sailing the winds of the world and carried news of a new and dark evil rising in the West, an evil which has it’s dark heart set on consuming all who dare engage it. Whispers turned to rumours that were eventually and finally confirmed when the statement was released officially that work had indeed begun on the third epic installment of the hell bound adventure series in the form of Diablo III.

Soon enough the Diablo III website was implemented and we were able to start reading up about the new installment as well as the new characters that would be available to play in the game. It was clear right from the start that these few early ingredients were going to form part of a fantastic final recipe. Before long there were videos made available of the new characters in action inside their new environments and showcasing the new look and feel of the game which is in my opinion and for lack of an entire descriptive paragraph, perfect. The graphics, mood and style of the game we witnessed in the teaser videos were the most perfect improvement I could have imagined over the older versions of the game, and I was already able to picture myself plunged into marathon of hours immersed in this newly created world, and it would not be too long before I got the chance.

I received an e-mail the other day from my brother Nick de Bruyne, who is a very accomplished gamer and a gaming journalist who often gets to test out new games for review and beta versions before release. The e-mail had no title, but simply had an embedded photo of his computer screen, and on the screen was no other than the title screen of the recently installed beta release of Diablo III. Joy is me! Even more exciting, he asked me to give it a try and give him feedback as a bit of a Diablo guru, so he brought it over during our family holiday at the coast, and I gave it a whirl.

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Welcome Back, Dear Friend

The game starts up and I am immediately greeted by the somber graphical delight that is the new look and feel of Diablo. I am not one of those people that was sitting here hoping that Diablo III was going to be Diablo II with slightly better graphics, I was hoping for a whole new interface, a whole new experience and that’s exactly what you get. Almost everything has been revamped and modified from the foundations all the way up. I am a little concerned that at this stage of development it still looks like normal internet-less LAN multiplayer is not available at all in the game menus, I really hope Blizzard are not going play the fool here, not everyone has internet, especially when you want to take your games with you to remote holiday destinations where internet is a word nobody knows.

Anyway, just so you know, selecting your character is just as mammoth a task as before, the characters look awesome and all have fantastic differences that all need to be explored. They are shown to you in full armament when you are selecting them so you know what they will start to look like once you start picking up all the weird and wonderful armor and weapons that are undoubtedly waiting to be discovered. On the same note, you soon notice as you play through the game that your character’s appearance changes a lot more dramatically in-game when applying new clothing or weaponry as opposed to the previous versions. Even more impressive is that when you take on a companion for your battles, you will find that they are much more involved and dynamic in their abilities and functions and they now also change appearance when you start decking them out with fancy fashion items.

Back to character selection, I finally decided to kick off my first adventure using the Wizard, and it was a good choice, I named him Hammer after my very first Diablo character and off we go. The game begins and I can’t help but follow one of the most well recognised gestures in the game before running off, to just stay a while and listen, I really had to just stand there a while and listen to the new opening sounds and music that I will be getting used to over the next few hours, and I loved it! Unlike previous installments, you don’t start out inside a camp but in a section of pathway leading up to New Tristram, the new village built after the total demise of the original Tristram witnessed in Diablo II. Just a few steps into this new world and you are immediately faced with your first undead insurgents, Hammer to the rescue!

The Wizard starts out with the most elementary of wands, but packs a few magical skills off the bat. For starters, a magical blast of energy that destroys your enemies at a very healthy distance from the wand, which is quite useful when you are an over-educated academic that couldn’t win a pillow fight. You are also endowed with the ability to set free the newer version of the classic “Charged Bolt” spell, which is pretty powerful at the base level and really makes the perfect monster tazer by sending three random and large creeping bolts of buzz-crackling electricity towards your enemies. Toasty! Now, top that off with your first utility skill which is an ice-class spell that blasts a fair distance outwards from your character and ensnares your enemies giving you time to dispatch them, especially useful if you are being surrounded by hoards of baddies, which happens quicker than you’d expect, even early in the game. With my Wizard being so interesting right form the start, I can’t wait to get to grips with all the other characters and their abilities.

After dealing with your first close encounters of the III’rd kind, you approach the entrance to the town where you must help the town guard get rid of a few more dead beats before you are told to go and meet with a young lady named Leah, the niece of legendary Deckard Cain and the daughter of Adria, remember Adria? Let me remind you… “I sense a soul in search of answers…”, that’s right the kind Witch from the first Diablo has interestingly become a part of the story again and you soon find out that Leah did not know or believe that her mom was truly a Witch. The story thickens quickly and you soon find yourself off on quests and completing tasks in order to level up and stuffing your pockets with loot in the process.

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Well This Is New

Many mechanisms have changed which have affected the work-flow of the game. For example you no longer pick up gold, you just run into it, or activate a scroll of companion which gives you a little minion that collects loot for you. You no longer have health and mana globes that you can top up with only health, mana or rejuvenation potions. Now you collect health orbs that are dropped by enemies as you fight. You cannot just run into a fight and hope to consecutively drink up potions from your utility belt to keep the health flowing while you take on a brutal beating. Potions are slightly hard to come by and you cannot drink more than one in rapid succession as they are controlled by a cool down period, healing is also not instant, so if you are in the thick of a serious fight, you better be fleet footed and have an escape route or your health globe will soon be finished, and so will you.

Another interesting mechanism is that quite early on, you are given a “Cauldron of Jordan”, which allows you to sell items no matter where you are. This has proved to be VERY useful especially in the beginning of the game when you are gathering as much loot as possible to sell and you find your inventory getting full rather quickly. Now you simply click on the Cauldron, and then click on the item you want to sell and it’s like having a “Cash Crusaders” store in your pocket. Convert stash to cash and in a flash your inventory has space again, which saves time on all the town trips to sell excess loot. Travelling back to town has also changed, you don’t have to keep books full of town portal scrolls, instead you will be using a fixed inventory item which is earned during an early quest called a “Stone of Recall” which quickly whisks you off to town and then brings you back to where you originally activated it.

You are also presented with another very useful item which has brought and works with a whole new dynamic in the game called a Nephalem Cube, which lets you destroy items and break them down into simple materials that are needed later on to build and craft custom and special items, I will just say there are plans, designs, formulas, potions, scrolls, tomes, dyes, gems and rune stones that are all going to come in very useful in very different ways.

Moving on, if there are items you find on your journeys that are not useful to you right now, but might be awesome later on or for a different character, you can place them into your shared stash, so when you log in as a different character you just use your shared stash as a loot drive-through. I like this, but I haven’t had a chance to really get far into the game and see where space becomes an issue. In Diablo II, we used to create characters and bring them into a multiplayer game so we could dump all our extra loot into his stash and inventory, and then save and back-up the save-game file so we could open and import the character if we needed special items for a specific character. I hope there is some sort of ability to prevent having to go to crazy lengths to keep all of the awesome loot that is waiting to be discovered. I mean we had separate characters for gems, runes, green weaponry and armor sets for each of the different character classes at all the different levels. It was quite a task but well worth it if you found a really awesome set of armor for example that you don’t want to lose just because you don’t have any room left. Maybe the Diablo III developers should build in the ability to buy property that you can use to store all your major stocks of loot or just build in a comprehensive tabbing system in the stash? Anyway, back to the game.

No stamina! This is something I will not miss, having to stop every now and then to build up stamina before you can run off again, in Diablo III you are running all the time, and it’s all good, who has time to walk when everyone’s world is at stake anyway. However, if you are wondering about in a dungeon and you encounter a bunch of monsters, a click in the wrong direction will send you running right into them, and a weak Wizard does not do well in close quarters, which brings me to dying. When you die in Diablo III, you don’t leave your body behind, drop all your stash and lose tons of gold, but you do get sent back to the last checkpoint and lose a percentage of the durability of everything you own, so be careful because if you get all head strong and get straight back in to the fight, you might suddenly find one or some of your items have completely broken because the durability was reduced to zero while you were fighting the good fight.

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Who Do I Give My Money To?

From what I have encountered on the Beta version all I can say is that I am very excited to see what else is in store, everything is far more dynamic than what we were used to. For example, the way your character and monsters move, react and interact with their environment is fantastic. You can blow monsters out of the scene with powerful skills, drop chandeliers on them or break a wall down that collapses and crushes them to mention just a few nice aspects. You no longer click on buttons to add skill points to spells and character attributes, instead you automatically level up in attributes and different spells are automatically unlocked when you reach the required level and get stronger as you level up. You also earn a few extra freebies when completing quests and everyone like a freebie.

I’ve only experienced the Beta play-through so far, but It’s clear that Diablo III is being very well thought through, changes have been made to many aspects of the game and risks taken that I believe are going to make the game better in every way, I simply cannot wait for an official release date, because I need to plan around how I am going to spend the rest of my days on earth playing Diablo III.

Last Updated: October 6, 2011

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