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    Diablo III features in a couple of new online previews that you may find worth a look. Both are just reports on the game from the beta, without any new info or Blue quotes.

    HotHardware.com has a Diablo III preview that gets interesting on pages 3-5, when the author (an old school Diablo 2 modder) moves past the basic game details and goes into detail about game elements he thinks are handled better in D3 than they were in D2. These include the skills/runes system, the experience curve (though he states incorrectly that players get an exp bonus for playing in D3 parties), the removal of health potions, and more.

    In Diablo 3, all of these are jettisoned, save for health pots — and the latter are on a significant cooldown timer. The gap is somewhat filled by the existence of “Health Globes;” potion-like orbs that are dropped by dying mobs and automatically heal you when you pass near. Town portals aren’t instant-cast any more, there’s now a casting time attached.

    These three changes have a huge impact on gameplay. Instant rejuvenation pots and immediate TPs made it genuinely hard to create a consistent atmosphere of challenge in Diablo 2, without resorting to cheap one-shot kill tactics (something we absolutely loathed and sought to avoid). The game now offers boosts to health/mana regeneration via gear attributes and through LAEK (Life After Each Kill) modifiers.

    Unfortunately, life leech is still present and readily available, at least in the beta. This is something we very much hope Blizzard changes. The central problem with life leech is that it’s a percentage modifier that can be stacked on gear and is dependent on weapon damage — not base HP. It becomes an overwhelming heal that forces developers to assume everyone has tons of it, and to build the game accordingly. D3 was supposed to avoid this problem — as of this late date, life leech is still hanging around.

    Elsewhere, there’s a decent preview from GearBurn:

    The first noticeable aspect of Diablo 3 (D3) as it stands is its simplicity. Blizzard has refined everything from the skills system to the menus, to such an extent that the result is uncluttered and unadulterated fun.

    The graphics won’t blow you away at first, but the gloomy watercolours presented show off an art design that is both dark (as the fans wanted) and cartoonish. The end product is enhanced by really impressive physics, with a mostly destructible environment, and thoroughly entertaining ragdoll effects — the world of D3 comes alive. There is nothing more satisfying than your final blow throwing a creature’s body across the screen while wood and stone fly up around you.

    The interface is bold, clean and efficient. With most RPGs these days cluttering your screen with information crammed into little text boxes; it’s refreshing to see the king of hack and slash do just the opposite.

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