Blizzard Entertainment put Diablo III into open beta to stress test the servers over the past weekend, giving everyone an opportunity to play the new game for the first time before being released on May 15, 2012. I wasn’t impressed. If you played Diablo I and/or Diablo II, you’re playing the same game.
As a male player, I like to take on a female persona. When I was testing Unreal Tournament 2003 multiplayer at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis), all the testers—including the few women testers—went with the generic male avatars. I went with the slim Asian female avatar. That made me stand out in the game as I extensively tested the sniper rifle from various hiding spots throughout the levels. My coworkers howled for my head from their cubicles. They ganged up to flush me out and chase me into open space, finding out that I was just as good with the rocket launcher and flak cannon.
When I fired up Diablo III to create my avatar, clicked on the female gender button and was disappointed by the style of female avatars available. The Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard were all skinny young things that look like plague victims—or fashion models. Only the Barbarian was a good solid woman, reminding me of Aviendha in Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, whom someone else pointedly told her: “Those hips are made for babies.”
I was somewhat surprised to find that my Level 1 Barbarian started off in bikini underwear. I can’t imagine any women—barbarian or not—going into a demon-infested hellhole wearing nothing more than two pieces of leather to cover her privates. But this is the video game industry, where little boys like to play with their joysticks and imaginary women. All the other female avatars also starts off in bikini underwear. This is only a temporary condition. As you pick up more equipment to cover up your bikini-clad avatar, the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz will become more recognizable than your avatar.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the female Barbarian’s voice has an Ahnold-like accent (think Schwarzenegger with a strawberry-blond wig).
As for the rest of the game, the new user interface takes advantage of today’s video graphics and wide-screen monitors. Rats scurrying from dead bodies, ravens flying from trees, and abandoned houses collapsing as your avatar walks by are nice little touches. Alas, being beta software, the transparency effect for torches and other “flashy” items were pixelated blocks on my ATI Radeon 3780 512MB video card—well above the minimum video card specs—that made gameplay difficult at times.
Without a doubt, Blizzard has another solid winner here. Now if they can only drop the price down to $20 USD from the outrageously high $60 USD that they are planning to charge for the game. Otherwise, I’ll finish off Diablo II that I picked up last year when Blizzard dropped the price.