“Diablo III” beta

Glenn Harris

The first “Diablo” game was published in 1996 and the second in 2000, when I was eight. Seeing as my dear mother did not want my young, innocent mind to be tarnished by the M-rated game, I regretfully never played either of these storied installments. However, the promise of an open beta this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at “Diablo III,” one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the past few years since its announcement in 2008. Unfortunately, like with “Duke Nukem,” long waits can produce lofty, impossible-to-meet expectations. While the beta leaves much to be desired, much of this may be because it’s not a full game. Nonetheless, this preview has shown that “Diablo III” should be massively popular, if not perfect.

One of the most striking features of the game was the powerful and well-composed sound. Some touches are subtle: opening a wrought iron gate sounds far different from opening a wooden door. The attacks all have decent effect sounds, and even the game’s menu music is strikingly melodious. This helps make the atmosphere of New Tristram—a ruined town on the verge of being taken over by reanimated skeletons—more immersive. The entire beta took place at night, which added to the archetypical zombie theme, though it is also indicative of an unfortunate lack of variety in level design. This is not to say that the levels are all monotonous: Many are varied, but after running through a cathedral for an hour, everything begins to look the same.

“Diablo” builds on a fairly strong atmosphere by successfully intertwining lore into play. Instead of forcing the player to read a lengthy parchment in illegible writing, the game has it read as the player advances. I ended up paying more attention to the back story than I usually would have because of this. Similarly, there are few cut scenes, so the story can be explained unobtrusively. Kormac, who follows you through the depths of the dungeon, periodically adds in some of his own story while wandering. He has some interesting things to say but has the unfortunate tendency to repeat some lines of dialogue.

More hardcore role-playing game fans will be disappointed by the game’s leveling system, which gives no direction as to how a character is progressing. This does allow for those unfamiliar with the series, such as myself, to enter uninhibited, but may leave everyone asking for more challenge by the end of the game. Enemy design could also have been far more creative. I faced a variety of creatures, but I was left with three choices: click rapidly, click rapidly and use a skill, or actually think about when and how to attack. I only used this last option once: when fighting the boss.

The “Diablo III” beta left me wanting much more, but that may be the point. There’s a good deal of potential for the game, as long as the servers don’t crash (which they did repeatedly over the weekend). As such, I regretfully did not have enough time to try out the matchmaking or auction house features, neither of which has attracted much positive feedback. “Diablo III” should be a good game, but it is unlikely to become Blizzard Entertainment’s crown jewel.

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