The Diablo series of games is what I like to call social glue. While there are many games that you can enjoy in a group, there have been few that level up to the kind of fun times that Diablo has given me and a wide group of my friends.
There’s a lot of reasons for this. Playing co-operatively is of course a big one, arguably the biggest, but there’s also the stat-sharing side. I’ve been playing solo, next to another pal playing solo, and we’ve had a great time comparing gear, stat-progression, and so on. Then of course there were those old school challenge modes, like Iron Man Diablo, which used to form the backdrop for many a weekend spent at one particular mates place, as we all took turns seeing how deep we could get into Diablo’s lair before succumbing to some bloody, lonely death.
Then there’s also the fact that when you get entire households pretty much living the game, it just becomes a part of the shared vernacular of friendship. To this day, anyone in my group of friends can yell ‘Barbarian CHEMISSSSST!’ and be guaranteed a laugh.
So, with that in mind, Diablo III – the beta for which has just started has a lot to live up to, at a very personal level. Plus, apparently, other people really dig it too – who knew?!
Where are my stat points?!
The beta features the first major quest chain – killing some skanky Skeleton King – from the game, and excludes the Versus arena play that’s got a lot of people curious, but is otherwise unlimited. All classes are open, and you can play publically, solo, or invite friends to keep you company on your racially motivated home invasions (“Goblins? Goblins ain’t got no rights!”).
Character creation is typically fast, slowed down only by the new ability to choose the gender of your adventurer. That bomb-shell dealth with, we picked a male Demon Hunter (we would have chosen Wogue Demon Hunter, but couldn’t find the drop-down) and dove into the game.
Blizzard is great at creating a streamlined early-game experience, and that’s pretty much what you’ve got here. It might be a little boring for those of you who are still re-rolling toons to plow through Diablo II (you’re out there!), but for those who haven’t played in years (guilty as charged), or those who are new to the franchise, the learning curve is nice and gentle. However, it only takes a you few levels to realise that while the core of the game has really not changed at all, the underlying game mechanic of skills and customisation has undergone a huge overhaul.
Previous Diablo games let you distribute points to your four main stats (Strength, Vitality, Agility and the other one – we never play mage classes!), and pick your way through a talent tree. Diablo III, on the other hand, auto-levels your stats as you level up – horror! So if you’re want to play around with a hyper-agile Barbarian, or a super-tough Wizard, you’re out of luck. No doubt the thinking is that most players would simply buff up the stat that was most relevant to them anyway, so why waste player time with making obvious choices, but making those off-spec builds was always a lot of fun.