Mists of Pandaria beta:
After much anticipation, Blizzard has sent beta invites to the last 400,000 annual pass holders, including yours truly, and I’ve set to work testing the new changes.
As I planned, I have largely avoided the new zones, aside from five minutes spent checking out Pandaren emotes and animations on the Wandering Isle. I won’t post a screenshot for fear of spoiling those who haven’t seen it, but the Pandaren male sleep animation is almost certainly the Best Thing Ever.
I then left, as the crowds in that zone were making it virtually unplayable.
Otherwise, I’ve mostly been trying out the changes to the classes I currently play, especially warlock.
The new destruction spec is insanely fun. It reminds me of playing a combat rogue — never a dull moment — but with lots of fire and blood sacrifice and craziness.
There are still some parts of it that need tweaks (like how hard it is to build an infernal ember in short fights, like trash and questing), but I’m honestly dreading going back to the live version of destro. The new version is just that much better.
Demonology has not fared so well, but it’s still a work in progress, so I won’t worry too much. As of now, though, it’s buggy, clunky, and just all kinds of awkward. Ground target AoEs have no place in a single target rotation, and why the hell does metamorphosis — my big, bad, beast mode ability — leave me with fewer abilities to deal damage with?
Aside from that, I’ve been trying some new things. I was always curious how hunters played at high levels, so I got myself a premade Troll huntard. Marksmanship spec put me to sleep, but survival is decently fun, though I still think using cast time abilities to regenerate focus is completely back asswards.
I’ve also tried retribution spec on my paladin for the first time, since I’ve heard it’s been improved in Mists of Pandaria. The rotation is a little counter-intuitive (especially the way you want to bank holy power instead of spending as you get it), but it’s not too bad.
But PandaLand is not the only beta I’m playing this weekend…
Dios mio! El Diablo!
Funny, just a few days ago, I’d never played a beta test in my life. Now I’m juggling two.
For this weekend only, Blizzard is holding a “stress test” of the Diablo III servers, allowing anyone to join in the beta. “Why not?” I figured.
So a surprisingly short download later, I was back in the world of Sanctuary for the first time in what must be a decade. I didn’t want to spoil myself for live too much, so I made a monk — a class that interested me enough to want to play it, but not enough that it’s likely to be what I play when the game is released.
Based on initial impressions, I like D3, but I don’t love it.
My main thought so far is that this really feels like Diablo, which is both a positive and a negative. It does have the dark, haunting ambiance I remember fondly from Diablo II, but on the other hand, it’s still a game where virtually everything can be accomplished by left-clicking.
The combat is a little more varied and dynamic than in Diablo II… but that doesn’t really say much. It’s still quite mindless, and not nearly as fluid or exciting as Dungeon Siege III’s combat system.
Although to be fair, it will probably improve once I can use more than two offensive abilities at a time.
It also still contains mind-bogglingly stupid mechanics, like the need to sacrifice stats on your gear to make it easier to pick up gold (which is a surprisingly annoying process for a game so focused on loot). I’m reminded of the +illumination gear from Diablo II. Needing gear for quality of life improvements sucked then, and it sucks now.
Between things like that and the oddly crude graphics, I can’t escape the feeling that I’m playing a game that’s several years old, not due for release next month.
But I’m being too harsh. The game’s simplicity is addictive, and the absurd gore and ragdoll physics making tearing through the hordes of zombies plenty entertaining. Every time I literally kick an enemy out of its skin, my heart smiles.
Honestly, the thing that most impresses me so far is the story. Not so much for the story itself (although it is good thus far), but because of the way it’s told.
As with past Diablo games, you can talk to characters in town for more info on lore and events, but in Diablo III, you can also find a lot of lore from books scavenged in the field or just random pop-ups that appear as you fight.
The cool thing, though, is that this lore is presented in the form of audio that continues to play as you fight. You can absorb a huge amount of lore without interrupting your adventuring for a second.
This is one of those brilliantly simple ideas I can’t believe no one’s thought of before.
Weird Worm has posted yet another of my articles, Five Odd Sports. I know I said this last time, but I’m pretty sure this is the last one I did for them.