Mark May 15 down on your calendars, people, because that’s when the Lord of Terror walks the earth once more. Yes, I’m talking about the launch of Diablo III (D3), and it’s been a long time coming.
12 years have passed since we last saw the big D’s second incarnation, and like many a fan, I’ve been dying to give the game a spin.
Thanks to the good folks at Asiasoft, we got to do just that.
Diablo III takes place some 20 years after the events of Diablo II, with your hero hot on the heels of a mythical fallen star. The star’s landed somewhere in Tristram, and with the town being the undead magnet that it is, you just know it’s all going to pot from there.
The games top-down view and point-click-kill gameplay is a real trip through memory lane. It’s a style fans will find familiar, though Blizzard’s also manged to beef things up a bit.
You’ll discover that there’s a whole lot more you can do to the environment now, including, including nifty things like dropping walls and chandeliers on the approaching zombie hordes. Naturally, scaling difficulty levels make a return, as does the punishing Hardcore mode, which ups the ante a fair bit by giving your hero only ONE chance to survive.
Artisans and advanced followers are new features in D3.
Artisans are craftsmen who can forge equipment for you in your quest, if you’re willing to donate part of your take to helping them brush up their crafting skills. They’re also an easy way for you to dispose of redundant magic items clogging up your inventory, by deconstructing them into magical reagents that they can use to create new weapon and armor pieces.
Followers, too, now come with an inventory and skill interface, allowing you to take better charge of the way they assist you in solo play. The Templar, for example, can be taught either to Heal, or Taunt an enemy, giving you new strategy options. You can also beef up their damage, health and other parameters by passing them your hand-me-downs, or loot you don’t particularly need.
Classes in D3 have undergone a massive revamp, and the five archetypes you can choose from include the melee oriented barbarian, the crossbow-toting demon hunter, the kungfu-fighting monk, the spell-slinging wizard, and the witch doctor, which utilizes a variety of damage-over-time (DoT) effects and summons.
Unlike it’s predecessors, D3’s taken the bulk of the number crunching out of your hands, and character creation’s now a breeze. You don’t have to worry about stat growth and allocation anymore, and the skill system, which unlocks new powers as you level up, is a breeze.
Each class gains a plethora of active skills, as well as passive boons that you can switch out at any time using the interface, as well as glyphs that modify your skills in a variety of ways, such as increasing the damage inflicted, the number of targets affected, or converting the damage type from one to another.
Map features and monsters are, of course, randomly generated, as is the bulk of in-game items. No single playthrough (whether on Battle.net or otherwise) is quite like another, which makes the game something of a new experience every time (though if you’ve played through story mode at least once, the plot wears a little thin).
Part of the fun though has always been the leveling and treasure-hunting, and the cute snippets of in-game trivia that you discover as you go along. It’s exactly what makes the game so addictive, and D3 reprises that.
Sadly, the Beta only takes you through Act 1 up to the fall of the Skeleton King, but from the looks of it, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s an overarching meta-plot out there waiting to be uncovered, and my crossbow trigger finger’s itching for some real demon hunter action.
Now, it’s just a simple matter of waiting another month or so for Hell to be officially unleashed.
Check out some of our Beta screenies: