by Davneet Minhas
previewed on PC
From the Heavens
Released in 2000, Diablo II met with massive success, becoming the fastest-selling computer game at the time and winning multiple Game of the Year awards. Its addictive gameplay and innovative online component spawned a devoted following and served as inspirations for Blizzard’s currently reigning MMORPG. The developer is still releasing patches for the game, ten years after its initial release. So it’s no surprise that Diablo III is sticking close to the overall experience that made its predecessor so popular, while instituting only minor tweaks. But can Blizzard really recapture everything that made Diablo II so engaging by following this formula?
Return to Tristram
Diablo III is set twenty years after the defeat of Mephisto, Diablo, and Baal in Diablo II and its expansion, Lord of Destruction. A comet heralding a horrible demonic invasion falls upon Tristram, striking the same ground where Diablo once entered Sanctuary. It is up to a new generation of heroes to discover and repel this new threat.
In Diablo II, the story was consistent across all acts. Every time the hero entered a new town, the townspeople directed him towards the demon. The entire experience was essentially one drawn out hunt. Diablo III’s story promises to be more complex. The first act is a mystery – a cult has been operating around Tristram and the player must discover its purpose. Act II maintains themes of intrigue and deception thanks to its main antagonist, Belial, the Lord of Lies.
To combat the cult, Belial, and all other threats, players can choose from five different character classes, four of which Blizzard has revealed: Witch Doctor, Wizard, Monk, and Barbarian. All classes are available in both male and female forms.
The Witch Doctor is a brand new class and practitioner of voodoo, combining elements from previous character classes – namely the Sorceress, Necromancer, and Druid. He specializes in altering the minds of enemies, and summoning spirits and zombies. His Horrify ability calls forth a spirit that sends enemies running in fear, while Corpse Spiders creates a zombie that releases poisonous spiders which attack nearby enemies.
The Wizard is much more similar to Diablo II’s Sorceress than the Witch Doctor, despite also being a new class. The Wizard focuses on elemental attacks – Electrocute and Ray of Frost deal lightning and cold damage, respectively – but can also conjure objects to aid him in battle. Spectral Blade produces airborne blades that attack enemies and Conjured Armor surrounds the Wizard with an aura that increases his chance to block an attack.
The Monk is perhaps the most original class in Diablo III. He eschews heavy weapons, armor, and overt displays of magic, instead utilizing his body and mind in some supernatural form of kung fu. Following the kung fu conventions of speed and flow, some of the Monk’s abilities incorporate a combo system – each relevant ability is made up of three stages. Between each stage, the player has a little over half a second to initiate the subsequent stage. The first stage of the Way of the Hundred Fists ability is a dashing attack that deals 100% weapon damage. The second stage is six quick punches that each deals 8% damage. And the third stage is a final blast that deals 85% weapon damage to all nearby enemies.
The Barbarian should be familiar to anyone with experience in Diablo or Diablo II – he’s the only announced class to return from Diablo III’s predecessors. Shunning long-range or guerilla tactics, the Barbarian is and always has been the quintessential tank, buried in heavy armor and wielding devastating melee weapons. His skills serve to add to his already substantial strength, dealing increased damage to a larger number of enemies or fortifying his defenses against an onslaught of enemies. The Barbarian’s Frenzy ability increases weapon damage and attack speed for a certain amount of time, while Iron Skin increases his armor by 10% per rank.
The Witch Doctor uses conventional mana to power his abilities, whereas the Barbarian makes use of fury, which provides a slightly different gameplay dynamic. Fury is spent just like mana, but it builds up every time the Barbarian attacks and depletes when the Barbarian is idle, thus encouraging Barbarians to press the attack and constantly seek enemies. Blizzard is developing two additional energy systems for both the Wizard and Monk, and possibly a third for the final class, but the developer has yet to reveal any of them.