We told you stuff would be happening on August 1st, and that “stuff” was Blizzard letting a select group of folks go hands-on with the Diablo 3 beta. While they’ve yet to say when everyone else can get their hands on the beta, we’re here to break it down for you and tell you exactly what you’ll be playing when they finally do.
Essentially, the beta consists of the game’s entire 1st act. It includes all five character classes, as well as a good chunk of quests and side quests that encompass the first act of the game, ending with a battle with the Skeleton King. The beta will include full-blown online co-op, as well as the complete implementation of the skill system and crafting system.
The skill system is different than it was in Diablo II. There are no skill trees. Instead, every time you level up you will gain a new skill, which are broken down into active and passive skills. However, you won’t be able to use all of them at the same time as you will have a limited number of available “slots” based on what level you are. For instance, if you’re at level 9, you may have five active skills and four passive skills at your disposal, but only two active skill slots and two passive skill slots to slot them in. That means the rest of your skills will sit quietly by in your inventory. You can further modify these skills with runes, which unfortunately you cannot really dig deeply into during the beta, since that really picks up after Act 1 ends. The good news about the limited skill slots is that you can adjust your skills on the fly, meaning you can experiment with different skill combinations to your heart’s content.
Speaking of switching things out on the fly, gone are the days of having to trudge back to town in order to sell off or break down all those excess items you’ve got taking up space in your inventory. Taking a page out of Torchlight’s playbook, Diablo 3 will allow you to exchange your items for gold straight from your inventory via the Cauldron of Jordan, without needing to be near a shop. Additionally, you can break down the items into raw crafting materials straight from your inventory using the Nephalim Cube, though you will need to venture into town to actually use those crafting materials.
Crafting materials cannot be spent to build specific items like you see in most RPGs. Diablo 3′s loot system is completely random, and the craft system follows that same lead. Wyatt Cheng, a technical game designer at Blizzard, likens it to having another chance to get a cool piece of loot. If you pick up 50 pieces of loot, you may only find four or five that are useful to your character. You can break the rest down to crafting materials, run them through a random loot creation, and maybe you’ll get another four or five that you find useful.
As you read this post, the idea of customization should not be lost on you. That is one of the primary focuses of Blizzard with Diablo 3. Just because two players are playing the same class does not mean their heroes need even resemble each other in any way. Through the combination of the game’s many skills and runes, a Wizard, traditionally thought of as a ranged support class, can be a melee tank for one player and the aforementioned ranged support unit for another. The combinations in the full game will be nearly endless, though in the beta they’re a bit limited with runes not getting their full implementation yet.
We mentioned earlier that the skill tree is gone in Diablo 3. It’s not the only thing getting the axe. Also gone is a generalized concept of “mana”. Sure, mana is still there…but only for the Witch Doctor class. Wizards run on Arcane Power, Monks run on Spirit, and the Demon Hunter runs on a pair of resources – Hatred for offense, and Discipline for defense. Each class is meant to be as unique from the others as possible, all the way down to what resources they use to power their attacks, ability, and both offensive and defensive prowess.
That should give you a glimpse into the Diablo 3 beta that you’ll all be able to get your hands on soon, and hopefully it will tide you over. Keep checking back regularly for updates on when the beta will be released openly for you to get your own hands on!