It’s been over15 years since the original Diablo enthralled gamers across the globe, over 10 years since it’s sequel Diablo 2 came out to do the same, and three since Diablo 3 was first announced – a long time to get to where we are now.  A long time, but within five minutes of turning the game on, you’ll be taken back those fifteen (sixteen when the game releases next year) odd years.  This is the vindication that PC gamers have been asking for – an exclusive game that’s good, and that’s not an MMO.  While the console might have Torchlight, it’s like the song says – ain’t nothing like the real thing.

I was given a code for the closed beta, and have been loving it since I started.  Upon starting it up, you have to pick a character class from the ones available – there’s the Witch Doctor, a class that’s reminiscent of Diablo 2′s Necromancer.  He has a good number of summoning skills and he has mostly DoT (damage over time) attacks like poison.  Then there’s the standard Barbarian – much like he was in Diablo 2, the Barbarian is back with a totally revamped skill set.  The third class is that of the Wizard – much like the sorceress from Diablo 2, the Wizard flings offensive spells like no one’s business.

Fourth on the list is the interesting Monk class – the Monk is more of a hybrid class, combining some aspects of Diablo 2′s Paladin and the Assassin from Diablo 2′s expansion.  He’s melee with some sweet martial art attacks designed to cause status effects on enemies.  Last but certainly not least comes my favorite class, the Demon Hunter.  Another hybrid class, the Demon Hunter pulls from the Amazon and the Assassin to make an extremely brutal ranged character.  The Demon Hunter is deadly with any ranged weapon, and has skills to back those weapons up.

One thing that’s really nice is the redesigned hot bar.  You start out with only two slots to put skills to, meaning you’ll have to make some difficult choices when starting up on what you want to be available.  You get your third slot at level 6 (you unlock the rest at levels 12, 18, and 24 respectively), and it really forces you to know what skills do what so you’re properly equipped for any situation.  Another really interesting change, is the fact that no longer does everyone use the standard “mana”.  Now, different classes have different resources to spend for skills, and different ways of regenerating them.

The Barbarian being based on beating the crap out of everything, uses Fury, which is then regained by damaging things.  This really helps the Barbarian keep some big combos going by alternating regular attacks with Fury infused specials.  The Wizard uses what’s called Arcane Power, and while it behaves similarly to how mana used to, it regenerates extremely quickly.  I never had any issues of being short on Arcane Power while in a fight.  Spirit is the Monk’s forte, and is built up similarly to the Barbarian – but rather than actual damage done, it’s generated by switching between attacks and combos.  The Witch Doctor uses the old school Mana, however it works a bit different in Diablo 3.  Rather than use potions to refiill it, Mana comes back slowly – or you can use one of the Witch Doctor’s skills to bring it back faster.  The Demon Hunter is the most complex class when it comes to skill resources, as it actually uses two different kinds.  Hatred is used for the standard attacks, and it regenerates really fast, while Discipline is much slower in it’s regeneration, and is used for setting traps and other defensive measures.

These changes don’t detract anything from the magic that made the Diablo franchise a money printing machine, and if anything makes the third installment seem completely fresh.  While change is good though, people know what they want in a Diablo game – a retarded amount of loot, and Diablo 3 delivers this in spades.  You’ll be madly clicking to pick up an immense amount of “stuff” within minutes of starting the game, and won’t stop unless you’re in town.  If your inventory gets too full, you can break the items down to basic parts to use in crafting, or you can sell items outright for gold anywhere in the world.  These two features are great for keeping things organized.

Something else great for organization, is that your Hero Chest is now shared between all of your Heroes.  No more making a “mule character” to ferry items from one to another.  Only problem is it starts out with virtually no space, and it somewhat useless until you spend the gold to upgrade it, making saving money a bit of a priority.  Another thing you’ll like to save money for, is the Auction House.  Taking a cue from World of Warcraft on this one, the Auction House is a great way to get some really prized equipment.

Multiplayer is pretty much a constant thing in the world of Diablo 3.  Yes, you can play single player, but why would you?  In multiplayer games the loot is better, the experience rewards are greater, and the experience is a lot more fun.  With people being able to drop in and out of games at any given time, you might think that there would be a large number of people “ninja looting” to grief (ninja looters would jump in and take premium loot before you could, then drop out), Blizzard apparently thought of that as well, and made it so that won’t happen.  The items you see on your screen are only seen by you.  That means that you will never be able to steal someone else’s loot, and they likewise won’t be able to steal yours.

While the Beta isn’t very long (only about two hours of constant play), it has me desperately salivating for the full game.  I’ve played the Beta missions so much that I could probably recite the dialogue (which is surprisingly good, with great voice actors) verbatim, and that’s saying quite a lot.  While I can’t comment on the final product yet, I can say that from all I’ve seen and played so far, this will be played as religiously as Diablo 2 still is.

The release date just can’t come fast enough!