Diablo III was the third of the three major Blizzard games that was being shown off at this year's BlizzCon - and we were lucky enough to check it out, close-up and personal like. The in-game skill classes are being announced bit-by-bit, and this time around we got our first glimpse at the newest: The Monk, even though he wasn't quite in a playable state yet.
The other three announced classes - Witch Doctor, Barbarian and last year's Wizard - all made it into the demo build, as did the freshly-enhanced combat and a handful of new zones.
To remind you of who's who, the Barbarian is basically back from Diablo II, complete with dual-wielding goodness, a bunch of powerful new moves and abilities (and some pretty scary-looking weapons that he can use to wreak havok on the multitude of monsters threatening Sanctuary).
Then there's the Witch Doctor, from the Tribe of the Five Hills - he's going to be a favourite, I think. Not just because he’s been revamped so he can attack you with a swarm of spiders spilling out of a zombie, but because he's generally kinda awesome.
The Wizard also received a design revamp - her stoneskin
ability was considered to be too clumsy to read, as she blended a bit into the background. The artists have worked their magic, and she's now sparkly and crystalline... which is great, but also means they'll need a new name for that skill. Hmm.
Finally, the newly revealed Monk has been inspired by seemingly equal parts pen and paper RPG characters and someone you might find in a traditional arcade-style fighting game. He's been designed to favour speed over toughness; presented as a counter-point to the thuggish Barbarian. If you want to know more about just what he's capable of (and the reasonings behind the decision), stick around for our interview with two of the Diablo III developers.
If you've been paying attention, there were a few major changes to last year's game - the devs are really putting in the hours to make sure this game is as instinctive and easy to play as it can be. The mentality of the old-school "pick-up-and-play" games is still here, strong as ever. We saw how designers had toned down various monsters to make them less confusing, while toning others up in order to make them more scary.
For those of you who loved the earlier games in the series, you won't be disappointed visually - there's eye-candy galore here, if you can see past all of the bright, sparkly colours... (seriously, there are people still
complaining about the lack of doom and darkness). Reflecting the fact it's been nearly ten years since the release of Diablo II, we're pleased to confirm that D3 will support a range of resolutions to match your rig - the demo machines at the event were running very happily at the maximum res demanded by a 24" LCD. The UI has also been significantly tweaked, taking some cues from World of WarCraft in terms of placing shortcuts to skills next to the relevant potions, and splitting the (largely un-implemented) skill-tree into categories. Before you throw your hands up in horror, it actually worked pretty well and made the whole thing very intuitive.
While the developers are currently working on removing the town portal from the game completely (too many people using it to escape nasty situations), they have implemented a checkpoint system, where each checkpoint is then a resurrection area. Obviously these weren't in their final positions on the map, but from what we saw, they're generally only a couple of minutes apart and pretty easy to get to.
If you were concerned it would be any less intense, or that there would be fewer monsters for you to smack down: in the closing ceremony, Blizzard Chief Operating Officer Paul Sams announced that more than 3.2 million Diablo III monsters had been killed over the two days BlizzCon was held. I'm taking that to mean Wii-elbow will be out as the gaming injury of choice, replaced quite conclusively by Diablo-finger. Ow.
As mentioned earlier, we sat down and asked a host of gritty Diablo III specific questions, so stay tuned for the full transcript that will further shed light on Blizzard’s forthcoming dungeon-crawling action/RPG romp.
As always, for all related media and info for Diablo III, be sure to check out the AusGamers game page