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Diablo 3 Closed Beta Hands-On: Part 1

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 40 comments

This is how Diablo 3 runs on a mainstream laptop.

Two days ago, Blizzard finally launched the closed beta of its highly-anticipated action-RPG game, Diablo 3. Due to time constraints, I was only able to complete the entire beta over the course of two nights, the first of which I tooled around with the video settings to get an acceptable framerate. Because my gaming rig is currently out of commission, I'm currently testing the beta on my Toshiba laptop which in itself features a dual-core AMD Athlon II P340 clocked @ 2.20 GHz, an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. That said, we not only wanted to see what the game offers in regards to content, but how it plays on a mainstream, non-gaming laptop.

For starters, the game claims that my level 8 Wizard has been played for around 3 hours so far. I've seen videos on YouTube showing players charging through the game's ACT I scenario in just over an hour. I personally like to take my time and see the sights, and there's plenty of that here. It's not an open world by any means, but as with the prior two Diablo installments, there's enough loot and action spread out to entice players into exploring every inch of the virtual world. Barrels, crypts, graveyards, dead bodies... there's lots of virtual real estate to pillage and plunder.

But before I get into that aspect of the beta, let's cover a few basics. As seen in previous screenshots (and seen above), the main screen presents two options: Campaign and Versus (the latter disabled). Underneath those, players can switch a hero out, create a new hero, play around with the game's options, or exit out of the game. On the right side of the main screen are options to create a party banner, and to invite friends to the current campaign. Along the bottom of the screen is a chat window, a button leading to the auction house, a button leading to your achievements (not active in the beta) and a Social button which allows you to view info on friends, friend requests and recent players.

To be honest, there's one aspect about Diablo 3 that I’ll have to disagree with: the constant Internet connection. Sure, I get that the game offers features which require a constant connection, and I get that Blizzard doesn't want anyone hacking into the game. But as I’m sitting here typing out this first segment, the servers are down and I’m locked out of the game. There's no playing Diablo 3 whatsoever, not even the campaign itself. The only thing gamers can do is wait or tool around with the options. Is it not possible to allow gamers to play offline, and have the game re-sync the info once an Internet connection is re-established? That doesn't seem to be in the cards, unfortunately.

On a hardware aspect, I eventually found a sweet spot that offered nice visuals at an acceptable framerate. When I first loaded up Diablo 3, it warned me that my drivers were out of date. Naturally there’s nothing I can really do about that: OEMs like Toshiba are typically reluctant to release a driver set every time a GPU manufacturer spits out a revision. Forcing a laptop to accept drivers not released by OEMs can be bad news for the portable rig's overall performance -- been there, done that. So the only thing to do in this situation is to (reluctantly) use the outdated driver provided by Toshiba, tweak the settings to a satisfactory level, and hope for the best that the OEM will eventually offer an update. The only real problem I've seen with this beta so far (outside my laptop's lackluster specs) is the actual memory consumption: with the game currently loaded but disconnected from Battle.net, it's idling at 823 MB. That's a sizable chunk, but then again, this is a beta.

As previously stated, I chose the (male) Wizard as my introductory class. I'm a big fan of casting magic from afar, and this class is perfect for that kind of distanced assault. When starting a campaign, players can choose to keep it invite only, open it up to friends or open it to the entire Battle.net collective. To some degree, it's fun to explore on your own - you're not following behind other players who have stormed an area and chopped down every enemy in their path. Then again, having real players pop in and help you take down a horde of zombies is a great experience too. Blizzard gives you the option of playing either way, and you can even browse for games hosted by other players simply by clicking on "Public Games" and pulling up an in-game browser. And for those who don't care to play with loot hoarders, there's nothing to worry about here -- whatever falls on the ground is yours, and yours alone.

For now, this is where I have to close this initial installment, as Diablo 3 is still down and a lot of what I wanted to cover requires an internet connection. With that, more will come shortly.

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    klavis , September 23, 2011 5:08 AM
    It's going to get real annoying to have to be locked out of a single player game you bought just because some company's servers are down.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Sashmo99 , September 23, 2011 4:13 AM
    Post a video dude!
  • 25 Hide
    klavis , September 23, 2011 5:08 AM
    It's going to get real annoying to have to be locked out of a single player game you bought just because some company's servers are down.
  • Display all 40 comments.
  • 2 Hide
    buzznut , September 23, 2011 5:20 AM
    Looks like the Diablo stylke is intact.

    Who the hell uses oem drivers? I've always used nVidia or AMD drivers for my video chips, mobile or no. Even the generic WIN7 update drivers are better than using old, outdated oem crap. You must use the disc drivers when you do a fresh install too. :S
  • -4 Hide
    NuclearShadow , September 23, 2011 5:24 AM
    Isn't it generally in the TOS when it comes to closed beta's that you agree not to post pictures, game-play videos, or state experiences or opinions?
    Unless Diablo 3 is a rare exception to this?
  • 5 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , September 23, 2011 5:45 AM
    Sashmo99Post a video dude!

    IGN has an excellent four part video walk-through of the entire beta. There's a lot of great in depth info about the classes, combat, leveling, and more...

    http://pc.ign.com/articles/119/1195855p1.html

    It's looking pretty good so far.
  • 4 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , September 23, 2011 5:48 AM
    NuclearShadowIsn't it generally in the TOS when it comes to closed beta's that you agree not to post pictures, game-play videos, or state experiences or opinions?Unless Diablo 3 is a rare exception to this?

    ... I'm guessing this is an exception. There are a lot of videos, images, and first impressions already posted online.
  • 9 Hide
    sceen311 , September 23, 2011 6:12 AM
    It is likely I will allow this game to ruin my life...
  • 3 Hide
    aznguy0028 , September 23, 2011 6:17 AM
    NuclearShadowIsn't it generally in the TOS when it comes to closed beta's that you agree not to post pictures, game-play videos, or state experiences or opinions?Unless Diablo 3 is a rare exception to this?

    Blizzard has openly stated that there are no non-disclosure agreements enforced with D3, and everything in the public beta can be shared. But usually, with betas, most companies do have an NDA you have to agree to. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , September 23, 2011 6:37 AM
    Constant Internet Connection = prevent hacking. Thats the only reason why Blizzard wants fulltime internet connection. Of course there will be pirate servers, but this way the majority will buy the game. The game can be patched like wow, during game play or before starting the game.
  • 2 Hide
    sten_gn , September 23, 2011 8:08 AM
    Single with on-line sucks, sorry but that is so stupid it is like a car on chain ... If it stay this way, i will not buy it. They only help pirates to earn with this. Sure as hell there will be whole lot of cracks for D III.
    Only legal buyers will be in trouble ...
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 23, 2011 9:43 AM
    Unfortunately, having this game be online to play does not mean it wont be hacked. I've played lots of online games that have an abundance of cheaters. Nice try Blizzard, but your not going to stop the hackers. And you wont be getting my money for this game.
  • 5 Hide
    Onus , September 23, 2011 11:46 AM
    I said it on another article about D3, but as much as I've eagerly waited for this game, I will pass until I can play it in single-player mode without an internet connection. Sorry Blizzard, you don't get my money until you sell what I want.
  • 2 Hide
    Zeh , September 23, 2011 11:51 AM
    What's going to happen if I use a crack to play the game offline, considering I bought the game?
  • 0 Hide
    linford585 , September 23, 2011 12:22 PM
    ZehWhat's going to happen if I use a crack to play the game offline, considering I bought the game?

    sten_gnSingle with on-line sucks, sorry but that is so stupid it is like a car on chain ... If it stay this way, i will not buy it. They only help pirates to earn with this. Sure as hell there will be whole lot of cracks for D III.Only legal buyers will be in trouble ...


    You can't "crack" Diablo 3. The files needed to play it aren't stored locally. You'd have to emulate a server on your computer (create your own private server, like with WoW), and then connect to it.

    This wont completely completely stop piracy, but it will stop the vast majority of it.
  • -2 Hide
    Lavacon , September 23, 2011 12:56 PM
    Seriously, enough with the complaining about the online requirement. It's a non issue unless you are way out in the sticks on dial up. My guess is that if you are on dial up you are not on these boards complaining as it takes 5 minutes to load the main page via dial up...

    This is in the best interest of the players. Blizzard has nothing to gain by keeping all of its players connected to them. It costs them to do so. With the RMAH and heck, even the gold AH, they need to be extra vigilant to keep hacks & dupes out of this game. This constant connection system help with this tremendously. Now that there is money involved there is incentive to nab the few offenders that wish to press their luck and they will be dealt with swiftly(hopefully) before they can do too much damage. I'll take constant connection over constant roll backs any day.
  • -3 Hide
    reggieray , September 23, 2011 1:00 PM
    Yes yes, a pretty third person button masher, perfect for the kiddie consoles without LAN support.
  • -5 Hide
    reggieray , September 23, 2011 1:01 PM
    Constant connection required to play single player, NO freaking way Activision.
  • 0 Hide
    soccerplayer88 , September 23, 2011 1:01 PM
    Sashmo99Post a video dude!


    ForceStrategy has Let's Play videos on his youtube channel. Or look at any various streaming sites, twitch.tv, justin.tv, livestream, etc.
  • 1 Hide
    southernshark , September 23, 2011 1:08 PM
    Well the online play doesn't bother me now because I have high speed internet, but last year I was living in rural Alaska and while I had "DSL" my actual download speed was .... and I am not making this up..... right around 14kbs......

    Crazy I know... but the town had "shared" satellite set up by the phone company.

    Anyway I still managed to post on Toms, read Toms, and even talk about a few of the articles posted here at work. But as for playing online games.... didn't happen.

    The fact is that rural portions of the USA are still WAY behind when it comes to technology and this is not the fault of the people who live there, but rather the corporations and governments which have failed them.
  • 2 Hide
    toxin440 , September 23, 2011 1:15 PM
    How ironic things happen -- the only reason I was heavily into Diablo 2 was due to the fact that it was the only game I could play via our craptastic dialup modem 33.6 back in the day.

    Full circle it seems to today where my apartment is serviced by AT&T *ONLY* who is highly unreliable.

    I fail to see how Diablo 3 can possibly be worth the 60 dollars they are asking for it. In effect you don't own it, you are just renting it, all while being at the whim of their servers.

    It's been proven for 30 years, you can't stop pirates. All they are doing is pissing off people who yearn to buy this game. I'm all for online checks/keys/registration... because I do hate the hackers who destroy the online play aspect. However to the casual cheap ass who wants to play single player only, he's not going to shell out 60 bucks for something designed from the ground up to slap him in the face the instant he wants to use his PROPERTY.

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