It’s not every year that we get a new Diablo game—in fact, it’s been more than a decade since Diablo II and its expansion. So action-RPG fans are understandably stoked that Diablo III is only about a month away. Here’s what to expect when you return to Sanctuary to scour dungeons for loot, hack and slash through enemies, develop a character, and manage your inventory on May 15.
In the game world, twenty years have passed since the events of Diablo II, and two Lesser Evils who survived the previous assault—Azmodan and Belial—pose a serious threat to Sanctuary. A falling star destroys a cathedral, setting off what is apparently the End of Days; the dead are rising, and it’s time for you to make them dead again. Also, thanks to the events of the Diablo II expansion Lord of Destruction, the world’s geography has shifted, a development that allows the world to feel new and familiar at the same time.
Diablo III isn’t merely coming out in 2012 because, after many years, Blizzard finally decided to get to work on a new game. It’s coming out in 2012 because Blizzard has been working nonstop for a decade to create the perfect follow-up. This won’t be an HD remake of Diablo II. While the new title should feel like the Diablo you know and love, virtually everything about it will feature substantial adjustments.
The character system is almost entirely different from what came before. You’ll choose from five different classes: witch doctors specialize in summons and curses; barbarians are masters of brute force; wizards are experts in magic; monks excel at martial arts; and demon hunters attack with crossbows and bows. Each class has a resource they need in order to execute attacks, and characters need to do different things to make their resource regenerate.
As you level up your character, you’ll unlock new skills to use—but when you choose a skill, it’s not permanent. You can swap skills in and out at will, and in addition, you’ll find runes that you can use to modify your skills. If you master a large skill set, you can make every battle a completely different experience.
Further, the combat—which in the past has often consisted of finding an attack you like and sticking with it—should see a lot more variety this time around. In addition to standard attacks, each character will have “breakout abilities” they can use occasionally, as well as “escape abilities” they can use to get away from problematic situations.
While the campaign will have a basic arc that doesn’t change, the particulars of each playthrough should vary dramatically, giving Diablo III an unimaginable replay value. There will be class-specific quests, and much about the game will be random. Some of the dungeon layouts will be generated anew each time you play, you’ll encounter different instances when visiting certain areas of the world, and some quests are randomly generated as well. Future updates of the game may “sprinkle in” additional random content. In fact, the developers have cited the element of randomness as one of the most intriguing—and for them, difficult to manage—elements of Diablo III.
Blizzard’s Battle.net servers will host multiplayer, of course, but at launch, all that will be included is drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players. PvP battles will be coming, but not until a future patch.
There will be smaller changes as well. While the famous Diablo inventory-management system will return, you’ll be able to trade your loot in auction houses that run on both real-world and in-game currency. Enemies drop health, eliminating the need for a potion bar. You can simply touch gold to pick it up. If you’re masochistic, there’s a hardcore mode in which characters are gone for good when they die. And most interestingly, there’s reportedly a console version of the game in the works.
Diablo III—already the result of a huge investment on Blizzard’s part—will be only the beginning of a long process. Future updates and patches, in addition to adding more random content and PvP matches, will include massive expansions. You can expect to spend as much time in Sanctuary as you want to, encountering new things all the time.
With any game that hasn’t been released, there’s always the possibility that it won’t live up to expectations. But with Diablo, the expectations are sky-high, and the developers have spent an immense amount of time and energy to ensure their product is spectacular. No matter what happens, the launch of Diablo III will be fascinating to watch. We hope—and expect—that the game will be fascinating to play as well.
Back With a Vengeance
Confession time: I’m not much of a PC gamer. When my friends were busy killing hordes of Zerg and besting demonspawn, I was usually preoccupied playing through, say, Square’s current PS one line-up. As a result, my experience and exposure to Diablo is pretty limited, although in retrospect perhaps it’s because I secretly knew that I would have become hopelessly addicted to it. In any case, Blizzard is now hard at work on Diablo III, filling a ten-plus-year gap that fans of Blizzard’s bloodsoaked action-RPG series have been forced to occupy by simply playing Diablo II and its expansion ad infinitum. Although it’s still up in the air when Blizzard will actually release Diablo III—their standard “it’s done when it’s done” credo is in full effect here—the slew of announcements made at this year’s Blizzcon may be an indicator that the development cycle is reaching a later point. Here’s what we know so far.
Diablo has always been, of course, about randomness, and the third installment is no exception to this rule. Beginning life in the late ’90s as a 2D isometric dungeon crawler with randomly generated maps, the series has historically towed that line in terms of presentation, a tradition which Diablo III continues. Though the overworld outside of the dungeons is more static, the dungeons themselves are just the beginning of the game’s random element. Random enemy selection and placement are also in effect, as are randomized loot drops. But the biggest shift in terms of random encounters is randomly-scripted events. These can involve ambushes from enemies, encounters with NPCs, and other effects, theoretically keeping the game fresh even after repeated playthroughs.
There are other changes, as well. A strategic difference Blizzard is employing here is downplaying the importance of potion. In previous games, as long as you had the necessary apothecary-related items, you would never be a complete disadvantage in a battle, so long as you had your wits about you. When surrounded by enemies, you could just keep using potions and spamming attacks until everything around you was dead. Not so in Diablo III—the importance of health items is replaced by the appearance of health globes, which enemies drop upon death. You know how these work: picking up globes will replenish your health little by little, meaning that you have to use a greater degree of strategy and skill in order to survive. The choice was made for the sake of balance, according to Blizzard, because it takes agency away from the player in terms of when they can choose to heal themselves. With the game governing that aspect of play, surviving is a much trickier ordeal.
At this year’s Blizzcon, Blizzard took the veil from what they say is the final class for Diablo III: the demon hunter. Armed with detonating bolas, molten arrows, grenades, and throwing knives, she (all character classes in Diablo III can be played as either male or female) is a ranged-attack class fighter, one who can set traps for monsters before leaping away to safety. In addition to the demon hunter, Diablo III’s other classes—warrior, witch doctor, wizard, and monk—seem to make a good balance of close-range brute force, magical attacks, and effects-based classes. Interestingly, Blizzard is also implementing a revamped rune system that can be applied to any class’ various skills. By equipping various colored runes (alabaster, crimson, golden, obsidian, and indigo) to different skills, they take on different effects. For example, when using the warrior’s weapon throw ability, using an obsidian rune with the ability will make your character throw hammers that stun enemies, whereas a golden rune will turn the move into corpse throw, which can have disastrous effects on any nearby enemies. Essentially the rune system makes for deeper combat than you would get with just normal skills, and it’s obviously going to be a matter of experimentation, trial and error in order to find the best combinations for any given situation. Similarly, Blizzard is introducing a new system of traits—which basically provides secondary skills to complement your primary ones—into Diablo III’s combat as well. Traits are gained when you level up, and you can spend points on them accordingly to, say, bolster the strength of certain kinds of armor for the wizard.
Though Diablo III is still likely a long way from seeing its final release, the tweaks that Blizzard made with the game seem to be headed in the right direction, creating a more balanced, varied, and interesting (not to mention gorgeous) dungeon crawler experience. It probably goes without saying, but the drip-feed of information about the game will probably yield even more surprises before the game is finished, particularly since many elements of the game’s design, such as the trait system, are still in their testing stages. Even the number of players when playing co-op also still appears to be up in the air. At any rate, the developer’s pedigree is also more than enough of a guarantee that when all is said and done, Diablo will make for worthy competition to any takers, regardless of genre. Expect a release on PC sometime this generation, and, if we’re lucky, maybe even a console port afterwards. Now all that’s needed is a little bit of patience.
- Sequel to one of the most highly regarded action-RPGs of all time.
- Randomized events, items, monsters, and maps make each game different than the last.
- Rune system changes the effect of skills and abilities in battle.
- Sequel to one of the most highly regarded action-RPGs of all time.