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Diablo 3 - First Impressions
First the Beta
Diablo 3 has just been released (May 15, 2012) to the teeming masses, and it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride as far as game releases go, I guess you could say. There have been bugs that were captured after release, and a few server issues that have the community griefing endlessly, but it was also a success in terms of the game and its underlying story - at least in my opinion!
I did not play a long-term version of the Beta of Diablo 3, as some did. I only played in the open beta weekend - which was a server overloading test, as I understand it - and played two characters up to the Skeleton King, which was as far as the Beta went.
The gameplay was smooth and the skills and runes that were available were fun to play with. The story elements brought back some old characters, and even some information about what happened to some others. All of these things only made me more excited to get into the game in full when it was released.
I did notice a discrepancy in the ease-of-play between the Demon Hunter and the Barbarian that I played, but I still liked the Demon Hunter's skills and was looking forward to my first character "SlydeDraco" being a Demon Hunter!
Although I was only able to play the Beta for a couple of days before my beta key was revoked (not because I did something wrong, but because the Open state of the beta ended), I did enjoy it immensely, and was ready to start playing right away! Unfortunately, there was a still a month to go before I would receive my open invitation to the Burning Hells!
Installing Diablo 3
While the majority of people probably bought a copy of Diablo 3 from a brick-and-mortar location, there were options to download the game electronically, or to pre-order from some stores, as well. If the copy was received ahead of time, it was possible to install fully as of approximately 8:01 a.m. PDT on May 14th (the game went "live" just after midnight on the 15th). After that, it was just patience required in order to await the live launch of the server. For North American customers, this meant waiting until 12:01 a.m. PDT on May 15th.
For myself, I had pre-ordered the game from Future Shop back in January, and was pleased to receive my copy of Diablo 3 Collector's Edition in the early afternoon of the 14th. I had seen some unboxings online already, so knew what to expect, but was a little confused at the "Diablo 3 skull and soulstone USB Key" that came with it, expecting that it would connect to the computer somehow, to be a USB connection you could access from atop the desk. Instead, while the soulstone does light up when plugged into the computer, the skull itself is merely a magnetic holder for the soulstone when it is not in use! That was not terribly clear in the literature I had read on the subject.
Installation was mostly a snap. I inserted the DVD that came with my Collector's Edition and it ran a downloader that retrieved the neccessary files. It did give me an error at one point, but I just restarted the computer, restarted the installation, and it ran through without a single issue after that.
During installation, it did ask to register the copy if you had not already done so. It connected me to the website, where I entered my login information - if you don't already have a BattleNet account, you will need to make one to connect with your License Key - and the license was connected to my account in a matter of minutes.
The next part was the hardest: WAITING!!! It was nearing 7 p.m. EST and I would not be able to login until 3 a.m., so I decided to spend my last few hours with the family and even try to get a little sleep...
Onward Into Hell!
There will be articles everywhere talking about how the servers were not up as expected, or people couldn't get on right at midnight; even talk about the server issues that occurred through the first day, and the lost achievements fiasco that is currently under investigation. This hub is not about any of these things. They happened; sure! And I experienced them, definitely. But they in no way detracted from the overall gameplay, when I look at the fact that I have only played it for 2 days out of the more than 4000 that are ahead - if Diablo II's 12 years of activity are any indication of it's potential longevity!
I have been a fan of the Demon Hunter since I first saw the videos of this new class back in the summer of last year. I determined before I had even purchased the game, that when I did, the Demon Hunter would be my first choice. So, once I was logged in and brought to the character creation screen, I created SlydeDraco: Demon Hunter!
The first bit of the game was no surprise, as I had already played the Demon Hunter through to the first "boss" character, the Skeleton King. Everything played as I remembered, and as I slowly levelled up, adding more concurrent abilities, and finally a passive ability to my roster of talents, I battled through and found that I was still smiling as I saw little things that just made the immersion into the atmosphere more palpable, such as areas of the maps that are clearly unreachable, but are still beautifully rendered for aesthetic's sake, only. The sounds of squishy things and body parts flying around in the spaces is both creepy and satisfying. I have not enjoyed such gameplay in a very long time, possibly since I became so entranced with the same things in Diablo II, which were - at the time - also quite remarkable and enchanting!
As I progressed to new areas, I found that my character seemed a little lackluster, and not quite strong enough to survive the onslaught of the coming foes. I upgraded armour and weapons to improve, but felt that it was not enough! They were stronger than I was, and were starting to kick my butt! I found it was harder to move forward, then I met the second "boss" character (which I managed to defeat with moderate ease by using the terrain to my advantage), and somewhere between the level up, new skills and new items dropped or created by the blacksmith, I found that the proceeding areas were much less difficult, and it started to feel like, even when surrounded by all manner of terrifying and powerful creatures, I was able to do some serious damage and remain healthy enough to continue the fight! This is not to say that I could just plough on through without a care in the world, but it did seem that it was a little easier for a while.
Until I met the act boss...
The act boss was... well, BIG! And very hard to defeat. I died once in the attempt and had to try again. The strategy is a little challenging to determine, but once you do - hopefully without dying to do so - you will be able to wear them down while trying to avoid being chewed up and spit out!
I made it through to Act II and felt a slight sense of deja vu as I ended up in a desert area. It seemed very much like Diablo II in that, but the graphics were greatly updated and the area was fun to explore! Sandstorms raged at times, and added to the ambience of the level. It was shortly into this act that I defeated the boss I had chased out of Act I, and I ended my journey for the time being at Level 18.
In general, I can't say too much about the technical aspects of the game. My computer is several years old (read: more than 5) with a better video card than it had when I purchased it, but still nothing to get excited about, considering my love of gaming. For this reason, much of the graphics are muted as I must turn down the settings on everything to a level that my computer can handle. It will still run with higher settings, but there is a noticeable stutter to things when i do. From what I understand, any moderately recent computer should be able to handle all of the graphics of Diablo 3 with little difficulty.
The only issues I encountered were the occasional lag spike which would cause me to suddenly jump back several yards on the map, and a strange issue that seemed to come and go, in which shadows became extremely pixelated - I didn't have AA on, so some pixelation was expected, but this was like zooming into the shadows so that large square edges were blatantly obvious! I have not seen anything quite like this before, but it was an issue. I was unable to make it go away by changing the shadow settings, however after logging out for a while, and then starting up again, it had disappeared. Later in that gaming session, though, it did come back.
Having not even finished the game on the easiest setting, nor participated in the forthcoming PvP battles, or gone through the grind to make my character Inferno-survivable, or even tried another character class beyond the confines of the Skeleton King - I think it is far too early to draw any type of conclusion that would be based on anything more than initial impressions and hope for the future.
What I can say, is that I am thoroughly enjoying Diablo 3, and am more than satisfied that all of the waits, delays, and different things getting pulled from the game were all worthwhile to create the fun and immersive game that I have been playing for the last 36 hours! And I can't wait to play more... and more... and more!!
Have an opinion on Diablo 3? Please share it! I would love to hear others' impressions of the game so far in the early going!