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Diablo III Hands On Preview

Blizzard made some changes to Diablo III, but do they make a big difference to the gameplay?

I typically don’t like replaying sections of a game that I haven’t finished and yet I’ve played through the first act of Diablo III somewhere to the tune of ten times. That’s a ringing endorsement of how fun and addicting this game is and I’ve been ready to play the real thing for months now. But Blizzard has other plans in mind, having recently made some sweeping changes to the way stats affect character progression, among other things. With that in mind, I decided to roll a new Barbarian and take a look at these alterations to Blizzard’s long-gesticulating RPG.

The biggest changes to Diablo III have to do with the streamlining of stats. Now, there are just some core stats that directly influence each of the classes (Barbarian, Monk, Demon Hunter, Wizard and Witch doctor) with some crossover. These influential attributes are Strength, Dexterity, Intellect and Vitality.

Since I’ve played as a Barbarian the most, I’ll use that as my example. Strength is the bread and butter stat for Barbarians, directly influencing strength and thereby increasing damage per second (DPS). The Strength stat also governs armor ratings for all classes and is very important for Barbarians who like to leap into the fray. Dexterity is the main attribute for Monks and Demon Hunters, while Intellect directly affects Wizards and Witch Doctors. Vitality is important for all classes since it’s tied into health. You can now view a detailed breakdown of your character’s stats and modifiers via the inventory screen, which is sure to be important for hardcore PVP players.

Even though these sound like major changes—and probably will be more noticeable in the endgame—Diablo III doesn’t feel any different. The combat is still brutal and satisfying, the level progression is still smooth and the randomized areas still have the detail of a deliberate design. It’s an odd thing for a company to make such important changes to the way the numbers work on the backend for a game that is supposedly nearing completion. As it stands now, Diablo III feels more polished than most games sitting on store shelves at this very moment, although I did notice some lag and stuttering that wasn’t present on my previous run through of the first act.

Other changes to the game are likely to be much more noticeable to the average player. Gone are the Cauldron of Jordan, Nephalem Cube, and the Stone of Recall—items used to sell off junk from the field, transform items into crafting materials and warp back to town, respectively. In their place is the Town Portal which, once found, has its own button on the hotbar. The idea is that, item management in the field is unnecessary since you can easily get back to town. It’s an odd design decision and reminds me of the convoluted Sanctuary system from Fable III. If you want to free up inventory, you need to take the extra time to go back to town and visit multiple  NPCs. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but in a hectic multiplayer party it can really slow things down.

Crafting sees some major changes as well. Common  items can’t be turned into crafting materials anymore, which means they stack up in your inventory even faster now. To level up your blacksmith you no longer have to give him tomes of training, because those seem to be gone as well. It’s cold hard gold will now give you access to better equipment to craft and I can’t help but wonder if this ties into the controversial real money auction house.

If you haven’t heard, you can buy and sell gear on the auction house for real money, and there may even be an option to cash out your in-game gold for an actual payout. It’s an optional element to the game, but the new method for leveling up your blacksmith makes me wonder if there will be handy “Diablo III Cash” cards for sale, just like the kind you find for online games like Farmville and Freerealms.

While the changes to the inventory management and possible shady elements of the crafting system might normally give me pause, the truth is that I’m extremely excited for this game to finally ship. I rarely play demos more than once, but I’ve spent more time playing the Diablo III beta than some games I’ve reviewed lately. I can’t wait to see what comes after the Skeleton King and I can’t wait to deck out my Barbarian in purple gear from head to toe.

Diablo III will be available on May 15, so eager players need only to wait two more months to get their hands on the final product.


 

Comments

Anonymous

03/16/2012 at 09:37 AM

2 more months ;P but I will forgive you because we all have diablo fever right now!

Nick DiMola Director

03/16/2012 at 09:47 AM

Editor flub on my part! Sorry about that, I apparently can't add. I just fixed it up to read properly...

Anonymous

03/16/2012 at 09:42 AM

All the changes remind me of how WoW is played, which is fine with me.

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