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    What better way to spend some of your (approaching) holiday time than by playing the DiabloWikiDiablo III beta? As additional testers are gaining entrance, more and more first timers are getting their feet wet, and it’s always interesting to hear what they think of playing, after so long just watching and waiting.

    One such tester sent us his first time report, which you can read below. People who have not played at all should find this useful, as the author touches on a lot of practical issues and details; all the picky little things that people who have played D3 before don’t really notice. In this article Stuart gets his first reaction to numerous general game issues, makes comparisons of the interface to Diablo 2, and describes his play-throughs with the DiabloWikiBarbarian and DiabloWikiDemon Hunter. Here’s the start; click through to read the whole thing.

    I just started playing the beta last night, so these are just my first impressions. Picking up DiabloWikigold by running over it, item descriptions appearing for 10 seconds without hitting ALT, and destructable environments are all a big win. The voice acting seems good. The graphics in general are very good, and they are very smooth even with all settings maxxed, anti-aliasing on, and resolution set to 1920 x 1200. The falling, burning candelabra and the DiabloWikiTown Portal look especially good, as do most of the skills. Ice Armor was not very exciting, visually.

    The dungeons looked good, and the flickering torches did a lot to make me feel like I was seeing a living, breathing world. It was very cool when a DiabloWikiskeleton shield spun like a top before falling. The outside world graphics looked much too static. I’m a bit spoiled by Titan Quest, where the outdoor environments felt more alive. Tall grasses rustled as monsters or players waded through them, flowers and other plants swayed in the wind, etc. There is a little of this in Diablo 3, but the plant movement is scarce and subtle. The outside really only felt alive if I was crossing a stream.

    The map gives good visuals, though I’m not sure that I like that I can’t initiate any movement with it open. Occasionally when you are entering an archway, there is a moment where you can’t see much of anything at all right next to you, and I found myself blindly guessing where to aim my attacks, so that I could safely continue on until the archway became transparent. It was less of a problem at the top of a stairway. Seeing skills travel down the stairs was cool.

    As far as I noticed, there is no way to look over all the DiabloWikiskills, unless you are at the DiabloWikiNephalem Altar or filling a new skill slot, and I missed that. I wish there was an in-game option to disable the left Windows key.

    As far as I could tell, you can’t identify an item while you are talking to a merchant, which is a step backwards from D2. I’m not sure that I’m a fan of the close buttons on the conversation windows. Visually, they are anti-immersive, and I think I’d rather be able to just click anywhere to go on to the next conversation. I think auto-equip should be ON by default — even those low quality pants are better than none, right? I turned the option on, but the game didn’t seem to save the option. If I left the game, when I came back it was set back to off.

    So far, I’ve watched the beta being completed with the DiabloWikiWizard, and I’ve played through with the Barbarian and the Demon Hunter. DiabloWikiDisintegrate looked better in person, than I noticed previously from the videos.

    The Barbarian felt tough and powerful. His attacks are loud, and it was very satisfying to see the bodies fly. DiabloWikiBash was good, though I eventually settled on DiabloWikiCleave for my main attack. DiabloWikiThreatening Shout looked great visually and was useful throughout the game. Sometimes monsters seemed to run away — I’m not sure if it was from the shout, because there isn’t anything about that in the description. DiabloWikiLeap Attack was pretty underwhelming. In D2 Leap Attack gave +100%-670% damage AND +50%-335% attack AND knockback with no cooldown. Was Leap Attack so OP in D2 that you saw leaping Barbarians everywhere? In D3, you can cast it once every 10 seconds, and it reduces your damage by 30%. I didn’t really notice the 8-yard range, because it didn’t seem to do much, and I quickly changed it for another skill. Maybe it should just be called Leap.

    DiabloWikiHammer of the Ancients was fun and satisfying, but I settled on DiabloWikiWeapon Throw for my secondary attack. DiabloWikiFury was pretty easy to generate, though I would definitely like the DiabloWikiUnforgiving passive skill. I was able to cast Threatening Shout as often as needed, except for the beginning of battles. For the most part, I didn’t really feel threatened until I got to the DiabloWikiSkeleton King, as long as I shouted. Weapon Throw consumed so much rage that I could only use it about 3 times, but that felt fine. It was satisfying to be able to hit a ranged attacker from a distance, but I couldn’t use it often enough that it really changed the Barbarian from a brawler.

    Initially, the DiabloWikiDemon Hunter seemed stronger, because I was killing monsters before they could touch me. Maybe it was because I started out gifted with 2 crossbows from my Barbarian. DiabloWikiHungering Arrow was a great starting skill with its seeking and its chance to pierce. It was fun, it felt good, and it was my primary skill until I unlocked DiabloWikiEntangling Shot.

    After my early success, I quickly found that my Demon Hunter was using more health potions than my Barbarian had ever needed. Most of the time I felt less powerful and more vulnerable, and I had to use a lot more strategy. My Barbarian just went it with Cleave and hacked away. With the DH, I had to lay DiabloWikiCaltrops, retreat behind my trap, fire arrows, then repeat until the monsters were killed. At other times, like when I faced DiabloWikiManglemaw, I was able to pick him off at a distance before he could touch me — that battle was an easier win for the DH.

    DiabloWikiImpale does an impressive amount of damage, but it drained my hatred quickly. DiabloWikiRapid Fire was a quick drain, too. DiabloWikiBola Shot seemed slower to kill, since it doesn’t actually do any damage for the first second. It only seemed useful for tight crowds. DiabloWikiChakram was fun and powerful but hard to aim. I struggled between choosing this or Caltrops, but I finally decided that I liked being able to slow down tough bosses more.

    Even after I got Entangling Shot, I still found Caltrops useful for slowing down crowds. It has no cooldown, it doesn’t cost that much, and you can never have too many monsters slowed. Elemental Arrow was great, and I quickly switched out Impale for this as my secondary attack. It felt powerful, it looked great, gave me great crowd control, and it was still useful for attacking individuals. It eventually drained my Hatred, but not before destroying almost everything in a room.

    I never died once with either character, though I was definitely threatened, and I had to use health potions to stay alive. I think the difficulty was probably about right for the beginning of Act 1.

    –Stuart Pierce

    Other beta testers, new or old, should feel free to submit their own write ups about the whole beta or various aspects of special interest. You can use the Send News button atop the news page, or aim them right to me at [email protected]

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