Diablo III Previews

A handful of websites were able to go hands-on with Diablo III and its new Demon Hunter class at BlizzCon, so I thought I'd send you over to some of their articles.

The vault enables the demon hunter to perform cartwheels and other such speedy gymnastics maneuvers to evade enemies as well as any traps that might be present in a level. It's not a free skill, however--it takes quite a bit of mana, so you have to make a choice in some tough situations: Do you use your mana for some of your attack skills and try to fight your way out, or do you try to vault away, regroup, and potentially risk grabbing the attention of more foes? Thankfully, we discovered some new skills after gaining a level, so we didn't have to answer that question too often. Upon entering the skill menu, we saw options for grenades, a fan of knives, a spike trap, and a couple of others, but what caught our eye was the purchase-new-skill option, which opened up the multishot skill. Given how useful it was in Diablo II, we went with the multishot--an attack that showers a barrage of arrows in the general direction of a target. We initially started using it in combination with the entangling shot, but later found that the bola's ability to also slow down enemies made it a better partner.

We were using all of these skills and attacks in the context of a mission to confront King Leoric--a name that should sound immediately familiar to those who played the original Diablo, in which he was also known as the Skeleton King. But first, we had to travel through the Halls of Agony, a dungeon filled with numerous torture devices, fire pits, massive guillotines, and all kinds of enemies ready to do horrible things to you. In fact, there was quite a diverse range of creatures in this rather imposing dungeon, including hulking demon-like foes. But the ones that gave us the most trouble, at least initially, were the more powerful zealots that were capable of teleporting, making it difficult to completely evade them. We also encountered some zombie-like enemies, which--when we used our bola attack against them--caused them to burst into two, but the torso was still alive and attacking.

So, while I can't exactly compare and contrast the Demon Hunter against what's come before, I'm still fairly confident that it's my kind of class. The Demon Hunter is a bow-wielding ranger who packs explosive arrows and fanned multi-shots, decimating packs of foes from afar. I spent a good hour guiding Diablo III's dark archer through a catacomb full of zombies and mad monks, questing for as much loot as my pitiful pockets could hold. I can't put my finger on what's so enthralling about Diablo's gameplay, but it's something interesting and special; if you're a fan of fantasy role-playing games who's somehow never gotten into Diablo, well, your chance is coming.

The other big Diablo-related BlizzCon news is the advent of player-versus-player arenas -- three-on-three deathmatches, played in 15-minute bursts (after which the higher-scoring team wins). While I didn't get to take by precious Demon Hunter into the fray, I toyed around with the also-interesting Witch Doctor, whose spells consist of "Summon Exploding Dog," "Explode Dog," and some other crowd control-related stuff. Of course, I'm being a bit reductive (and I'm reasonably sure those aren't the real spell names), but I certainly had a lot of success sending endless combustible demon dogs into the fray and blowing my opponents to smithereens.

Another feature Blizzard mentioned is the talisman, which is a dedicated inventory for your charms. This inventory goes grow over time, but allows you to separate charms from your standard inventory. The charms themselves augment your core attributes like strength and whatever else you find your character is lacking. Skill runes were another feature being discussed, which drop off enemies and can be slotted into skills to modify the base functionality. The idea behind this, like the rest of the features, is to open up a lot of different class build possibilities. According to Blizzard, it's about 97 billion skills combinations you can have per class, purely dealing with active skills. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's a big number.

Right now there are five types of skill runes: Crimson, Indigo, Golden, Obsidian, and Alabaster. All skill runes can also be ranked up, and as they rank up they get crazier, according to Blizzard. If you use the Wizard's magic projectile, for instance, it gains additional projectiles as it's ranked up, and like many rune upgrades you'll see graphical changes in game. The Berserker can upgrade his weapon toss skill, for example, to throw stunning weapons, and even throw corpses. The Wizard can summon different types of magic Hydras that can shoot arcane, acid, fire, ice, and lightning, and also spit out fire walls. The Witch Doctor's Plague of Toads can be upgraded to unload fire frogs, give them a blinding gas effect, can create a rain of Toads, and can create a giant toad that eats monsters.

And IncGamers:
Grenades I enabled with a skill point from leveling up to 10, and they worked like nothing in Diablo 3. At level one it threw out 3 grenades, which spread out slightly, to where you very seldom hit the same monster with two of them. About 1 second after they were thrown, the grenades blew up, dealing decent splash damage to anything there. It was very hard to hit an individual monster though, since the grenades moved very quickly and bounced off of enemies and obstacles. Especially if the monster was nearby.

Grenades was best used against mobs, since you could throw them very quickly, scattering 9 or 12 of the grenades across the mid-range of the screen, dealing good AoE to everything in the vicinity. They could be thrown quite a distance also, well off the screen, though aiming that way was just about pure luck. It would have been awesome in the arena, though. The second level of the dungeon in the demo featured numerous jail cells, which often had half a dozen skeletons and skeletal shieldmen in them. They were lots of fun with Grenades, since the bombs would bounce off the walls and stay where you wanted them to, then detonate with great effect.