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Diablo III

 

(It's been a couple of years since our first preview of Diablo III, so it seemed high time we revisited this game to explore all of the new features that have been announced for the game since that article was published)

 

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We all knew it would come sooner or later, so when Blizzard finally announced that they were indeed working on a new Diablo game, most people's response was, "Finally!" more than, "Really? What a pleasant surprise!" So now it's been almost three years since the initial unveiling (and our initial coverage of the game), followed by tiny morsels of new information at regular intervals. We're at the other big activity so closely associated with Blizzard games: waiting for the thing to finally come out. That in mind, lets take some time to look at what we know about the game so far.

 

At this point , five classes are known to be available in the game: a monk, a barbarian, a witch doctor, a wizard, and a demon hunter. As we can see, Blizzard is trying to bring a new set of classes by the looks of these characters. Only the barbarian is making a return from Diablo II, while everyone else is wholly unique.

So, what can we expect from this jolly quintet of adventurers? Well, the barbarian is straightforward enough, continuing with his brute force approach to combat, players should have no problem sorting out his play style as they proceed to crack skulls on an epic scale. The witch doctor prefers a less direct approach to battle, focusing on various forms of magic and potions to attack with, while occasionally summoning a minion to help him out. Not surprisingly, the wizard is also magic-based (who knew!). An interesting twist to her mechanics is that it seems mana pools will work a little bit differently for her. Instead of mana, she'll have something called arcane power, whereby she doesn't get any more mana points when leveling up, the amount of arcane power remains constant, but gets used more efficiently as the wizard goes up in levels. The monk is another melee oriented fighter, though he uses a lot more finesse and speed than the barbarian does. Since this class can't really take a beating, players will need to cast debuffs on enemies to soften up their attacks a bit. With the monk, Blizzard wants a class that's a little tougher to learn out of the gates compared to other classes, but evens out with everyone else at higher levels. Finally, there is the demon hunter, who will specialize in ranged combat. She was only announced at last year's Blizzcon, and it looks like the development team are still hammering out a lot of what they want to do with her. From what we can see so far, though, she seems to focus mostly on bows and arrows, and there is no word yet on whether she'll even be capable of melee combat in any meaningful way.

 

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A very interesting new feature coming in Diablo III is the runes system. While the last game used gems that could be socketed into gear, this time around players will be able to use runes that can be socketed into skills to augment their abilities. How they go about this depends on the color of the rune. Just like the colored gems, these runes each do different things depending on their color. This isn't to say that gems are

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gone, in fact they're still there thanks to a jewel crafter that you'll meet in your travels, and there are even a group of artisans specializing in other types of items that will join your caravan over the course of the game to make you new, fancy gear. At the start of the game, these artisans are still apprentices, but over the course of the game they become better and better at their craft. There's even a mystic that will eventually join you who can enchant items.

 

One area that was a nagging concern for gamers in Diablo II was the inventory, as it tended to get filled up pretty fast, especially if you were a pack rat, requiring players to constantly warp back to town to unload all of their goods at the vendor. In this game, Blizzard appears to be taking some steps to remedy the problem. The main inventory doesn't look vastly bigger than its predecessor, but there is now something called a talisman, where players can hold up to 13 charms. I remember constantly getting bogged down by these charms in Diablo II, so this will be a very welcome change being able to shunt quite a few to another area entirely. It's important to note, also, that players only receive the stat bonuses of charms when they are placed in the talisman. They have no effect when just sitting in inventory. Finally there is the stash, adventurers' trusty chest for dumping heaps of goodies and gold into. We don't know just how much we'll be able to fit into them yet, but Blizzard does promise it'll be "huge".

 

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While everything appears to be going along swimmingly in the gameplay department, the game is also shaping up to look quite good aesthetically. There's not much that I really need to say. You're just as capable of looking at the screens or the movies as the I, and it's obvious that Blizzard has really put in the effort here given how detailed, and alive all of the environments and denizens of this game world look.

 

With all of this said, the big question on everyone's mind will be "When does Diablo III come out?" To that the only viable answer is Blizzard's time honored response to such queries: When it's done. Just like all of their other games, Diablo III will stay in development until its developers are completely satisfied with it. Even if a release date is announced at some point, there'll probably be a nudge and a wink to go along side it, because even that could change if Blizzard felt more tweaks were necessary. In the end, all we can do is wait, and day dream about what it'll be like playing the game when it finally does get released.

 

Mr. Nash
February 4, 2011

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