For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Diablo series the game is an iso-metric dungeon scroller which allows us to navigate our character through a series of dungeons and crypts, facing an ever increasingly difficult stream of monsters and bosses along the way.
The setting is Sanctuary a dark fantasy world the history of which has been examined in the previous games and Diablo 3 is set some 20 years since the last game, giving Blizzard plenty of scope to change up the world as they see fit.
We pick a character from one of the available classes and head off on our adventures in Sanctuary and these options include types which will appeal to a wide range of gamers such as Barbarian and Wizard. Navigating our new hero through Sanctuary will give us experience and killing as much as possible along the way will help our empty gold bag and provide us with a constant stream of upgradable equipment.
Diablo 3 will allow us to play either a single player game, in a number of different difficulty modes (including the insane Inferno mode, only available after we've completed the game on Hell mode) or an online multiplayer game managed through Blizzards successful Battle.net system which has been used for StarCraft 2 online matches.
As well as the player vs. environment Diablo 3 will offer player vs. player (PvP) content and customised arenas will be made available to players who want to settle their differences on the field of battle.
Like the previous Diablo games Blizzard have taken the opportunity to refresh the available classes for Diablo 3. In this latest version of the game we have the chance to pick a Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor or Wizard.
The Barbarian is the brute force character in Diablo 3 and a class that has survived from the previous versions of Diablo. The Barbarian is the master of close quarter melee combat, able to absorb a high level of punishment and deal out a deadly number of attacks. With dual wielding massive bladed weapons or mighty hammers the Barbarian is the ideal class for those of us who like gaming combat up close and personal.
The Demon Hunter is a ranged class using crossbows and thrown bombs. A mixture of Diablo 2's Amazon and Assassin classes the Demon Hunter is a relentless vigilante whose sole purpose is to kill as many infernal demon spawn as they can. The Demon Hunter can tap into shadow magic to cloak themselves in darkness as well as setting up traps for the more unaware demons out there.
The Monk is another close quarters combat character however unlike the Barbarian the Monk prefers to rely on their fists and inner spirit of iron to vanquish their foes. Well trained in martial arts the Monk is able to unleash a devastating number of blows at huge speed against their enemies. The Monk is also able to call on their spiritual power to aid them, as well as using mantras to heal or strengthen them during combat.
The Witch Doctor is a brand new class for Diablo 3 and is able to call on their voodoo enhanced powers during combat. The Witch Doctor is able to call on the souls of the dead to aid him, as well as being able to summon crawling creatures to do his bidding. They can cast fear into their enemy, either slowing their attacks or making them flee in terror. The Witch Doctor is also able to cast curses or hexes against those who stand against them.
Finally we have the Wizard which is much like the Sorceress class from Diablo 2. A ranged magic class the Wizard is the classic glass cannon. Able to call on hugely powerful arcane powers the Wizard is a formidable caster, able to cast damage over a wide area though it's never a good idea to let enemies get too close.
Each class has both a male and female model.
What's new in Diablo 3
In previous versions of Diablo the amount of skills that our character could use at any one time was limited to 2, bound to the left and right mouse buttons. In Diablo 3 however Blizzard has allowed us to bind 5 skills to the 1 through 5 keys. This will give us much more flexibility during our dungeon adventures.
Also new in Diablo 3 are followers. Throughout our dungeon adventures we'll come across 3 types of followers that will travel with us and assist us in our endeavours. The followers include a Templar, Scoundrel and Enchantress. Although we can only have 1 follower at any time our companion will level with us and gain new skills and abilities which we can customise to ensure they best suit our own game play style.
Crafting and artisans also feature heavily in Diablo 3. The artisans are available once we have completed a quest for each type during the normal single player game. They include a blacksmith, a mystic and a jeweller. Once we have access to these artisans they will help us level our crafting skills and give us access to more powerful equipment.
Achievements have also been added to Diablo 3 and players who earn certain achievements will be able to show of their efforts through a battle standard that will be awarded to them. The battle standard will be visible through the Battle.net platform.
Perhaps one of the biggest new developments in Diablo 3 is the Auction House and like the Auction House in World of WarCraft it allows players to trade items for in game gold that they find through their dungeon adventures. However unlike the WarCraft Auction House the Diablo version will also have a section where items can be bought and sold for real money. That's right, hard currency on the table. When this was announced in August this year it caused quite a bit of commotion in the Blizzard universe.
Currently the beta limits us in our progression by only offering up the first few starter dungeons to play through. These cover the introductory storyline that sets up the tale which we will go through in the single player game. We've played through the beta and have to say that we thoroughly enjoyed it. One key aspect is that the combat is fast paced and hectic, especially when we have to start dealing with the larger groups of monsters.
The graphical detail of the dungeons is also impressive but thankfully Diablo 3 is very forgiving on PC hardware; players won't need a top of the end machine to get this game looking great. Additionally the isometric layout works really well and the depth of the dungeons is impressive further enhanced by the fact that Diablo 3 will feature Blizzards custom in-house physics engine, a change from the Havok physics engine used in previous games.
More To Come
That concludes our initial look at the basics of Diablo 3. Really we have only just scratched the surface of what the game has to offer so join us in advance of the release for additional blogs as the beta continues.