The first game that I got the chance to play at Blizzcon also turned out to be my favorite. While I knew all about the Diablo series and the countless imitators that it inspired, I hadn't really spent much time with the series before. So in effect, this was my first real time with a Diablo game, and I can clearly see what I have been missing all these years. Before I go into specific details on each class individually, I thought I'd mention a few things about the game as a whole. The game was an all around treat to play. The graphics were very impressive thanks to highly detailed characters, enemies, and environments, all rich with fluid animation. Even better was the fact that even though I had little experience with the series, the game's controls were so intuitive that I felt like an expert within seconds. I really liked that all I had to use was my mouse and its scroll wheel to quickly switch between my attacks and skills. Speaking of skills, the four classes that I got to try out had a good mix of attacks and skills. Blizzard only gave us a preset load-out for each class, but it was enough to get a real feel for what each is capable of.
The level that I played during the demo was a dusty desert city with a lot of dilapidated and abandoned structures. The setting and music did a good job of capturing a desert feel, with sand sharks and the occasional sandstorm livening things up. From what I learned from a few of the panels during Blizzcon, this is just a taste of what's to come. The geography of this world plays a bigger role than in previous Diablo games as Blizzard wants you to explore a diverse set of locations and cultures within the world.
Of course, what good would all of that land be if there weren't some cool monsters to kill and crazy gear to loot. As Blizzard said in one of the panels, monsters are best when they are simple. Their complexity and depth comes from combining different monster types together in different situations. There was always a good mix of enemies on the screen and the constant variations kept things from getting boring. The monsters were all easily identifiable so I was never confused with what I was fighting. With roughly a hundred monsters in the game, ranging from weak swarmers to one-of-a-kind monsters, things are sure to stay interesting and lively, which is great when you are loot hunting.
Even though this was just a demo, a ton of loot dropped during my sessions. By the time I finished playing each class, I had fully upgraded all of its gear, which is very rewarding even in a demo. It's also good that Diablo III has such an easy and clean inventory system and skill tree to use and manage your character. An important thing to note is that item drops are on a per player basis so that means nobody else will be stealing your hard-earned loot like in the other Diablo games. Oh, and Blizzard is also going to allow for item trading between your characters so no worries there. One final note is that during my four gameplay sessions, I accumulated quite a bit of gold. Blizzard has assured us that gold will actually be really useful in this game and that there will be meaningful ways to spend it. So unlike previous Diablo games, you won't have loads of cash and nothing to do with it.
Now that I gave a pretty good rundown of the game as a whole, I'm sure you are wondering how the individual classes feel, especially the newly announced Monk class. So to make things easy, I broke down each class into little sections below:
"Diablo III is going to be one hell of a game."
On the first day of Blizzcon, I had some time to kill before the opening ceremony started, so I thought that I'd be clever and rush over to the Diablo booth first to get ahead of the crowds. I spent about 40 minutes playing with the Barbarian and Witch Doctor classes and really had a lot of fun digging into the game. Once I was done playing, I rushed to find a seat during the opening ceremony and guess what happened. Blizzard revealed the brand new Monk class, and I thought "great, I have to get in line again." But given how cool the new Monk class is, I didn't hesitate to run back over once the opening ceremony was done.
In case you aren't familiar with the new class, the Monk is a class heavily influenced by fighting games and fast combo systems. Sure enough, Blizzard was right about the Monk having speed, power, and flashy attacks. Unfortunately, all of that speed and power comes with a price: the Monk is a far more fragile class than, say, the Barbarian. The Monk depends on his speed, combos, and skills to avoid attacks and kill his enemies before they kill him.
The cool combos come from three stage attacks that can be mixed and matched on the left and right mouse buttons. Combined with a quick attack switch using the scroll wheel, you can easily mix and match combo attacks with area of effect skills. I found myself unleashing large "Hundred Fists" AoE skills and finishing enemies off with a combo that made everyone's heart explode with my exploding palm attack and stylish staff. The skills I had at my disposal were just as cool. They included a deflective stance that can block enemy attacks and projectiles, and a blinding flash of light that can impair your enemy's vision so that you can get the first strike or escape.
The Monk itself is really cool to look at. He is a clear mix between Asian and European Monks. This East meets West aesthetic makes the Monk really stand out on-screen and sets him apart from his fellow classes. His attacks and animations are also just as cool and flashy, and like I mentioned above, one attack makes your enemies' chests explode in giant bursts of blood while another has him unleashing lighting-quick punches and attacks all across the screen like a ninja surrounded by a holy aura. His entire look and move-set convey a lot of character and show that the Monk is a part of structured religion and is highly educated and deadly.
Blizzard said that the Monk emphasized speed and power over toughness. I ended up dying a few times playing as the Monk, but fragile or not, the Monk is still cool and fun. I have to say that I enjoyed playing the Monk a lot more in co-op than I did in single player mode because I wasn't the primary focus of enemy aggression, I didn't die at all and was able to lend great support. I really helped out the Witch Doctor I was playing with by zipping in and out of combat to take some heat off of him and make as many hearts explode as I could. Co-op is definitely the way to go with this class; even Blizzard admitted this is a hardcore class for experienced players and those who want a challenge.
All in all, I had a lot of fun playing as the Monk. I even discovered a new area while playing with him: an underground catacomb full of snake people and skeletons. It seemed like a completely optional area, and it is nice to see that there is that much variety even in the same level. Still, when all is said and done, the Monk was my second favorite class to play as in the demo. Number one easily goes to the Witch Doctor.
The class that I had the most fun playing with had to be the Witch Doctor. What made the Witch Doctor so fun was the set of skills and attacks that I had at my disposal. My primary attacks were a melee dagger attack, summoning several large spiders, and my favorite, hurling flaming skull bombs. The bombs made short work of all of my attackers, and at one point I killed thirteen monsters with one attack. But I think the best part of the Witch Doctor was summoning my zombie dogs to kill off hordes of monsters. Even though I was playing solo, the amount of creatures that I could summon at any given time made it feel like I was never in a fight alone, plus I really liked having zombie dogs following me around on screen. All in all, the Witch Doctor had the right combination of magic, skills, attack strength, and durability for my play style.
The Barbarian was the first class I played at Blizzcon, and I found it to be very strong and powerful. The Barbarian is a straightforward and brutal class. It was so easy to chop down monsters with the two weapons I tried out: the twin maces for the first half of the demo followed by a large two-handed axe. The secondary skills also proved to be very useful in a pinch and included a stomp attack that stunned all the enemies surrounding me and a battle cry that boosted my attack power. If you just want a class that can take a beating as good as he can give one, then this is the class for you. Very hands on and very bloody.
I'm not sure how I feel about the Wizard class. I really like all of the ranged and magic attacks, but I found him to be very slow and fragile. I died way too easily while playing the Wizard, and I definitely could have used a few co-op buddies for that one. But I'm not ready to count out this class just yet. During one of the Diablo panels, Blizzard mentioned that predetermined load-outs were made for Blizzcon attendees because of time constraints and that these were just one example of how to develop a character. They said that there is more than one possible way to have a fast-paced and tough Wizard, depending on the skills and gear you choose for your character. It's nice to know that these classes have such flexibility.
So that was my experience with Diablo III at Blizzcon. I went into the game as a novice and left a convert to the series. Diablo III is going to be one hell of a game. With each class being so unique, both visually and gameplay wise, and combined with a large world, achievements, the new Battle.net integration, and of course co-op, the amount of replay value in this game is almost staggering to think about. This is going to be one massive game, which is good since if Diablo III is any indication, you won't be getting a Diablo IV for a very long, long time.