Diablo III Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Blizzard Entertainment
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date:2012-05-15
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
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The Whole Gang's Here

Where Diablo III is really worth talking about, though, is in how it differentiates itself from its predecessors, primarily in its game mechanics and character system. On the most basic level, there are five character classes: Wizard, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Barbarian, which, roughly, correlate to Diablo II's Sorceress, Amazon, Assassin, Necromancer, and, er, Barbarian, though are they by no means identical, and in general are a good deal more versatile. All classes can be played as either male or female this time around, which is a nice touch.

The Barbarian is the most straightforward of the classes, unleashing a tide of slaughter on foes with ease; skills such as Cleave, which does 115% of weapon damage to all nearby enemies, and the stupidly fun Leap Attack, returned from the last game, reinforce his massive killing potential. Like in Diablo II, the Barbarian can also improve himself and party members through various war cries and shouts, but other high-level abilities even allow him to summon minions and transform for a limited time to deal even more damage.

The Wizard resembles the Diablo II Sorceress more than the classic Wizard of the first game, focusing on a mix of powerful offensive spells designed to be cast quickly and frequently, many of which can be sustained over time at the cost of Arcane Power. The Wizard also has some other old favorites, like Teleport and Hydra for more tactical choices. The more passive support abilities have been mostly stripped away in favor of greater variety of offensive output, and many spells have temporary effects that can help out allies, such as freezing enemies solid.

The Demon Hunter is the primary ranged class, dealing in bows and crossbows almost exclusively. Quick and lithe, the Demon Hunter has a range of abilities that are geared more towards crowd control in Spike Trap and Entangling Shot, and assassination with Impale and Marked for Death; Vault and Evasive Fire round things out by providing some acrobatic and traversal options. Of the characters, the Demon Hunter is probably one of the most party-friendly due to his ranged support style and crowd control skills, and has some of the greatest variety in terms of character build potential.

The Witch Doctor, though portrayed by many as a Necromancer replacement, is actually much closer to a battlemage than anything else. Though a summoner and controller, the Witch Doctor is also no stranger to direct combat, and in fact, most damage comes from either offensive spells or melee attacks, with the Zombie Dogs and other pets existing more to distract enemies than damage them. I found the Witch Doctor much more involved than the Necromancer, and was probably the most fun of all the classes for me, though he/she also lacks a bit of the build potential of other classes due to reliance on so many different skills.

Last comes the Monk, who is probably the most unconventional class and bears a close resemblance to a melee-dedicated Assassin from Diablo II, though also takes inspiration from the Paladin. The Monk largely revolves around three-strike combos - Fists of Thunder adds increasing electric damage and an area effect on the final hit, for instance, while Exploding Palm does low damage but "marks" an enemy, causing them to explode upon death. The Spirit Spender abilities, meanwhile, have both offensive and defensive effects, from powerful melee attacks to creating decoy images. Mantras, finally, are passive auras that provide bonuses to the whole party. The Monk is probably the most tactical of the classes, and requires the most concentration to play to its fullest.

Overall, all classes in Diablo III are a blast to play and have unique hooks that ensure they feel distinct. Though they don't all have the same level of diversity available in outfitting them, each one is powerful in its own way, and none of them are left feeling incapable and weak as some characters could be in Diablo II at times. There are games with greater class variety and distinction, but even in its beta state, most players should be able to find a character they enjoy, and can be fit out both for solo slaughter or co-op party support.