Up until now my opinions on D3 have been based on secondhand information and a healthy disrespect for forum posters. Thanks to tmiv I now have actual beta access and can give you informed feedback instead of guesswork and extrapolation. I was very positive on D3 up to this point and little has changed now that I have played it - I have a few small criticisms but I expect they will be addressed.
First off the game looks great. The D3 world is 3D and they have done a great job of making the scenery look good while keeping the focus on constant action just like the previous incarnations of the series. Even when moving through dungeons with arches, pillars and other decorations the game smoothly adds and removes elements to keep a clean fighting view and a pretty background. The skills are visually appealing and the character's movements have the right mix of fantastical and realistic. Looking good is something I expected though and I don't think it was ever in any real doubt. There are plenty of forum posters whining about how the game is too cartoony and not dark enough and I say phooey to them - the monsters sit feasting on corpses awaiting the arrival of the hero and there is plenty of horror and gore.
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the balancing of the skills. I assumed it would be better than D2 but the skill balance was really excellent on the Witch Doctor which I played up to level 12 - I used all the skills and found the skills with cooldowns to be superb (which is what you want!) and all the spammable skills were different yet useful. The one skill I didn't find much use for was Plague of Toads because it was somewhat random - the toads wander around and you can't control what or if they hit anything. It does do a lot of damage though so as long as you are okay with it being somewhat random it seems okay. When I got a new rune for an ability I definitely wanted to use that ability on my bar but I can see that once you get multiple runes for all of your abilities it would become very challenging to find the best possible skill setup.
Which brings me to the part of the beta which is bad - the skill UI. Right now swapping skills in and out is a pain in the ass. Instead of having all the skills available to just drag and drop into the 6 skill slots you have to swap each out individually and if a skill is on slot1 you can't add it to slot2; you have to remove it from slot1 first and then add it to slot2. This is an incredibly clunky and irritating setup particularly when it is so easy to imagine a really slick and simple alternative. However, the new skill UI is the most recent thing added after the big skill change so I expect them to get it fixed before launch. I could certainly play with it as it is but it falls far short of Blizzard's standards.
I will say that I love the new quest system so far. Rather than scrolling through a wall of text like in WOW you get the quest info very quickly and the characters give the backstory in audio dialogue as you go. If you want to sit and absorb all of the lore you can but if you want to get straight back into the action you still get much of the quest information while you fight. Crafting items seems like a lot of fun too and certainly provides a great gold sink to make sure that gold always stays relevant. I wanted to craft all kinds of gear as I levelled up and I think this will be a blast.
Overall the beta looks fantastic. As long as Blizzard fixes the skill UI and makes sure that the later difficulties are brutally difficult the game will be bloody awesome.