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Diablo 3 Preview ( First look)

Diablo 3 Preview

In the middle of the opening ceremony for Blizzard's 2008 Worldwide Invitational, an unmistakable refrain of guitar-and-flute notes began to play. A few string plucks were enough to send the entire audience into a frenzy. It was the aural confirmation of what everyone was hoping for: Blizzard is, indeed, working on Diablo III. And while it still looks the same in many ways (it's still isometric, and it's still mouse-driven), Diablo III also showed off some new features. In lead designer Jay Wilson's gameplay demonstration, the first playable class shown was the returning Barbarian. Pretty much everything you remember from the Barbarian remains: a lightly clothed melee badass who can wield two weapons at once. He still spins around with his weapons for the Whirlwind attack, and he can still jump up and land with the mighty Ground Stomp. He remains the most immediately accessible character class. Blizzard senior vice president of game design Rob Pardo admits that the Barbarian is their way of showing the newness of Diablo III through the familiar lens of a Diablo II character class.

For instance, the Barbarian serves as the perfect example of the tweaks made to Diablo II's health system -- adjustments that encourage the player to engage in conflict instead of just running away or repeatedly pressing the health-potion button. "A lot of battles in Diablo II were ones of attrition. Sometimes you can beat a boss simply by repeatedly drinking potions during battle," says Wilson. Many types of health systems were tested (in fact, even Halo's regenerative shields and WOW's "sit down and eat 'n' drink" system came up), but they almost all had a degree of nonaggression. The new system adds red orbs that heal you on contact as common drops from slain enemies. "With the red orbs, players are encouraged to fight, because now the best way to heal is to engage in conflict," says Wilson.

Two new gameplay systems -- destructible environments and scripted encounters -- also made their debut through the Barbarian. Since he's such a tough and burly dude, the Barbarian can straight-up smash walls apart. In Wilson's demonstration, the Barbarian smacked a wall hard enough to collapse it onto a hapless group of zombies. Environmental destruction can also be used against you, though, since monsters can grab you through a wall or you can accidentally trigger a trap with your cave-ins. Scripted events where walls are knocked down raised the concern that this might mean the end of randomized dungeons. Not so. Wilson says that much of the game, from dungeons and monster types to loot drops, is still random. Pardo adds that in general, the dungeons remain randomly generated while the outdoor areas have a bit more of a "sculpted feel." In fact, not only are dungeons, loot, and items still randomized -- but with this new system, even quests and events can be randomized as well.

After a few minutes of the Barbarian smashing up zombies and ghouls, Wilson debuted a new class for Diablo III: the Witch Doctor. If you like to use the language of previous games, he seems to resemble the Necromancer but has some additional skills. There even was a bit of the Sorceress' flavor. Like the Necromancer, the Witch Doctor specializes in pets and disease-based spells. Locust Swarm is one early spell that Wilson demonstrated. It basically conjures up little plague pockets that tear apart whatever enemies they encounter. Then he summoned the mongrel, a beast that performs the pretty typical "go claw at things and also be my meat shield on occasion" task. The Witch Doctor can also combine these two disciplines by casting Locust Swarm on his mongrels for a nasty effect -- instead of being torn apart, his mongrels gain additional disease-based damage for their attacks.

Besides his use of disease and pets, the Witch Doctor also has some nice crowd-control spells. Horrify conjures up an ooky-spooky ghost above his head that will scare the bejesus out of most enemies, and Mass Confusion creates a spirit that drives the baddies crazy enough to attack each other. Firebomb brings a heavy-damage option to the Witch Doctor's arsenal with a straightforward fire-based ranged-attack spell that seems to be influenced by Diablo II's Sorceress. Finally, the Witch Doctor's ability to create a wall of zombies is easily one of his most impressive skills; there's nothing like propping up a mass of flailing zombies as a defensive obstacle.
Diablo III looks to have the same visual philosophy of
StarCraft II (it looks modern and better but not radically different) when down in the dungeon, but when the two players step outside, the look changes more significantly. Once out of the cave and into the jungle, the outdoors suddenly look much brighter and more vibrant than we remember. Pardo says, "We're aiming for the art to be somewhere between WOW and Diablo, where there's color but still that dark edge. We actually went through two art passes with the original look of the previous Diablos, but it just didn't work for us. Adding the colors, like you see in the outdoor environment, was a big decision that I think will pay off."
One color that that frequently shows up during gameplay is red. From the way zombies get torn apart to how virgins (well, I'm assuming they're virgins, because don't all demonic sacrifices call for virgins?) are sacrificed to form a boss monster, there is quite a lot of blood and guts. "We want it to feel more visceral. We actually took a lot of influence from
God of War in having intense, visceral, action-heavy combat," says Pardo. Hence, you get moments such as when the Siegebreaker Assault Beast picks up one of the barbarian players and takes a big bloody (and crunchy) bite out of him à la the rancor eating the Gamorrean Guard in Return of the Jedi.

In fact, the two bosses shown not only demonstrated the abundance of blood and gore but also the larger-than-life battles that you'd expect from God of War. The dungeon boss, a grotesque, dual-mace-wielding fatty, is simply called the Thousand Pounder (with the descriptor "Gluttony Incarnate"). He somewhat echoes the Butcher from the first Diablo in that he's a big intimidating dude that chases you around a dungeon. The second boss (the aforementioned Siegebreaker) reinforces the epic-combat feel by virtue of being freakin' huge. Taking up most of the screen, he charges around or attempts to grab and maim the party (Wilson conjured two additional party members for this bout), killing one party member before finally being put down. Even his death is an epic moment -- the hulking corpse sizzles, bubbles, and then splits open to ooze heated, glowing blood before disintegrating into a nice pile of loot. One nice touch: The loot will be somewhat individualized; each party member sees a pile of loot that only they can take -- no more putting up with one player who clicks fast enough to grab everything before the rest of the party.
Even with all the visceral combat, the new/tweaked classes, and the spiffy looking graphics, there was one moment that instantly made me want to play through the previous Diablos as preparation: a cut-scene where Deckard Cain attempts to say "stay awhile, and listen?" before being cut off by the player, who quips that there's no time to listen to idle tales. Little nostalgia-based jokes like that, along with modern aesthetics and combat, make me want Diablo a whole damn lot -- and leaves me even more bummed out because, knowing Blizzard, it could take a while before Diablo III actually gets released.

Source: www.1up.com

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