Diablo 3 beta – or: Why I preordered Torchlight 2 instead

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed what I’ve seen about Diablo 3 per se. Neither bookahnerk nor I have found any bugs so far which just seems to be typical for Blizzard. Their betas are usually rather polished already (at least, from what I’ve heard and seen so far). One flaw, however, is that we didn’t see the intro video. I looked for it and then played it and it does help explain a few things. For example, why they’re talking about a fallen star. ;) I hadn’t read too much about Diablo 3 before starting the open beta. I’d seen a few screenshots and read about a few changes but that’s nothing compared to what I’ve read and seen about Guild Wars 2 so far. ;)

What I really liked about Diablo 3 so far is some of the game’s sounds. Not the music (although I like the soundtrack as well) but rather the sounds that are familiar from Diablo 2 like the coins that are dropped from dead mobs. It just adds enough nostalgic flavour. And Deckard Cain, of course! Another thing I really liked were the book cases that you can click on. They usually don’t seem to drop anything at all and if they do, it’s a few coins or a healing potion. However, the animation when clicking on a bookcase shows stuff falling out of the bookcase – including a few scrolls that have red and blue bands around them. Oooh, they look vaguely familiar. If only I knew where I’ve seen them before. ;) Unfortunately, those scrolls aren’t in the game. At a certain point in your storyline, you get a teleport skill that you can use whenever you want. And while there are items that need to be identified, it’s just done by right-clicking and waiting until the cast bar went through. I mentioned the music a few moments ago and if you’re looking for songs that sound like Diablo 2, you have to go play Torchlight (1 and 2) because Matt Uelmen who composed the soundtrack for Diablo and Diablo 2 is working for RunicGames now and has composed the Torchlight 1 and 2 soundtracks. Russell Brower apparently composed the soundtrack for Diablo 3 (among others).

The graphics are similar to Torchlight and not what I would expect from a Diablo game. I actually like the gothic look that Diablo 2 had and I would have preferred to have this graphic style again instead of the more comic-looking style that we have now. I don’t think it’s too bright and colourful but… well, a bit more dark/grey would have been great. ;) Despite its not so good graphics quality (and the too tiny resolution for today’s monitors), I found them fitting for the game as everything seemed more mysterious and serious in a way. I don’t mind WoW’s comic graphics but in Diablo, I’d prefer the old Diablo style. Oh well, it’s not like Diablo 3 really had WoW’s comic style. It’s just closer to it. And at the same time, I don’t mind it at all in Torchlight (or Torchlight 2 for that matter). It’s just the different expectations here based on the previous Diablo game. I did upload a few screenshots and I’m sure that if you’re interested in Diablo 3, you’ve had a look at videos and screenshots, etc. already, so this is nothing new for you. ;)

I’ve played the Demon Hunter class and it was lots of fun. At first, I feared that you really just unlock a new skill every few levels and then choose which ones you want to use but the system is a bit more complex than that. You have your left-click and right-mouseclick skill. You’ll get to choose between four different ones for left-clicking and four different ones for right-clicking. They’re unlocked one after another, depending on your level. Each of those skills can also have one active rune (out of 5 each) which again get unlocked the higher your level is. The different runes give its skill an added effect: more damage, a higher number of enemies hit, longer duration, etc. Then you have four action bar skills which in the demon hunter’s case use a different resource than her mouse-clicking abilities. They work the same way than your mouse-clicking abilities: You can choose out of several ones that you unlock the higher your level gets. And then you unlock 5 runes for each of those skills (also more the higher your level is) and can choose which rune you want for which skill and then you choose which skills you want to use. It seems that there’s no respeccing necessary. You can switch skills around whenever you want. Starting with level 10, you also unlock passive abilities (again, you don’t need to do anything. You unlock the first two with level 10 and choose one. With level 13, you get an additional choice etc. up to 15 different passive skills to choose from at level 50. With level 20 and 30, you get an additional slot for a passive skill which means that you can have three passive skills with level 30. All in all, that’s a lot to choose from! And since you can switch whenever you want (I didn’t see any limits here), you don’t need to be afraid to do something wrong. That was one of the problems I had with Diablo 2. While I loved the game, I was too afraid to mess up and having to start over again, so I ended up just not playing much at all after a while. ;)

The storyline seems interesting and I’d certainly want to find out more and play through the story. The classes also seem interesting even though I’ve only played one so far. I wanted to concentrate on one and see what this game has to offer. If I had decided to buy it, I would have had enough time to figure out which class I want to play.

Unfortunately, and now we come to the one big point that makes me stay away from this game for now, it was rather difficult to actually start playing the beta on Friday. The servers were busy and I didn’t get to play at all. I didn’t even realise the “flaw” in this “logic” here, at first. Yesterday morning, I finally succeeded and got online. I played for a bit and reached level 6. Then it happened: I got disconnected and after half an hour, I got back online… to find myself back at level 5. Yay for rollbacks! I get it, they’re basically stress-testing and things like that can happen. But then it dawned on me: This isn’t an MMO, nor is it an online game. I was playing the single-player game. Once upon a time, those were offline games. Once upon a time, there were no server issues and rollbacks with single-player offline games. I remember clearly how I could play Diablo 2 in my room with no problems even though the internet wasn’t reliable in that room, because I didn’t need the internet for the single-player part!

And this very thing is what will hold me back from buying the game (unless… maybe… its cost is reduced to something like 10€ in the distant future). I want to be able to play single player games whenever I feel like it and not rely on the game servers to be accessible. Especially as I don’t see a reason for why they should do this. Diablo 2 already had the single player part and the coop, the multiplayer and online part. It also had LAN-mode. In that regard, it offered more. But now they took that back and force me to be online all the time even if I just play the “offline” part. And I guess they can’t give me a guarantee that rollbacks won’t happen again or that I’m suddenly disconnected or that I can’t even start the game because I regularly play on weekend evenings when a zillion other players decide to play as well and the servers get overloaded… or maybe I’ll get to stare at a waiting queue until there’s a free spot on the servers for me… to play the single-player game.

We will have one copy of Diablo 3 in this household, though, because I gave bookahnerk a 6 months subscription for a gaming magazine for Christmas and as a special, they added a bonus of our choice (the decision fell on a copy of Diablo 3 once it’s released). And as I said, I’ve really enjoyed the game per se. But I dislike this always-online part of the game enough to not buy the game for 50€ or whatever they want for it on release.

So why did I preorder Torchlight 2 instead? Diablo 3 showed me that I really want a game like Torchlight and Diablo. Torchlight 1 has the problemt that it lacks multiplayer (I don’t use it often but I do like playing with bookahnerk once in a while) and the story… oooh, the story. Not so good. Hopefully, Torchlight 2 will be better. They will have a LAN mode and I can play the game offline. It will also just cost 20€ which is a lot cheaper than Diablo 3. And what I really love is that you have pet companions. Tell me how you can top a ferret companion (watch the video with the pets here)! Of course, the game doesn’t have the gothic graphics. ;) And I do find it odd how often the release date has been pushed back so far. But I’ve only preordered the game, not prepurchased it. So there’s no harm done yet. ;) Of course, there’s also no need for deciding only for one and not the other. If you like both, you can play both. However, I don’t think I would need two such games. Especially if one is considerably more expensive.

I wonder how many other people will decide not to get Diablo 3 because of its policy of forcing you to be online and connected to a server at all times? And how many will not care just because it’s Blizzard and Diablo. In the end, if you do decide to get the game, I think you’ll get a good and solid game… and let’s just hope their servers will be stable (and more stable than Ubisoft’s servers ^^).