BlizzCon 2008 - Diablo III Hands-On Gameplay Impressions

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, BlizzPlanet Articles, Diablo 3 News, Event Coverage

I am fortunate to be one of the lucky people who played the Diablo III demo showcased at Blizzcon 2008 in Anaheim. Not only was it a pleasure to play it, but left me craving for more. I decided to create a female Wizard. She spawns in the outskirts of the Tristram Woods where Captain Rumford and an armored warrior are piling up a bonfire of corpses. The warrior can be seen transporting the corpses off a wagon and into the bonfire.

Captain Rumford says they are burning the corpses to prevent them from rising as undead. NPCs that have something to say have a black oval with dots hovering above them when you place the cursor over them.  A popup window displays the “introduction” option, feature that remains a constant from Diablo II. However, not only does each NPC talk to you.  Your very own character talks back, interacting with the NPCs.  By saying talk, I mean both: the NPC and your character have voice over actors adding emotion and life to the Action / RPG.

Read below a lengthy preview on various features observed in the Diablo III hands-on demo

I started pressing keys to see what options were available.  Pressing (C) opens the Character window, Inventory (I), Quest (Q), Skill trees (S), and mini-map toogle (N), Game Menu (ESCAPE button)

CHARACTER STATS

At level 5, these were the stats I found on my Wizard character. Hope these stats offer you a better scope of how the Wizard stats and abilities work:

Melee damage: 2-8 |  Spell damage: 12-23 |  Armor: 34

  • 16 Strength – Physical damage bonus: 16%  |  Armor Bonus 26%

  • 28 Dexterity – Crit chance 7.0%  |  Dodge chance: 7.0
  • 18 Vitality – Life: 56 |  Mana Regen: 0.9 sec.
  • 94 Willpower – Spell damage bonus: 52.8%  |  Health globe bonus: 0.0%

In Diablo II, you get points after leveling to spend on these four stats. In Diablo III, thus far, these stats increase automatically. You no longer have control over where these points are spent into. At the bottom of the Character (C) window, you can find a table with two columns displaying the following data:

Physical Offense Defense
1.20 Attacks per second
70% Physical crit chance
150.0% Physical crit damage
0.0% Block amount
6.0% Block chance
34.0 Armor
2.5% Physical damage reduction

At the bottom left of the Character (C) window you will find your character resistances. These can be determined by icons:

Blue snowflake = Frost
Red Flame = Fire
Purple Thunder = Lightning
Green Skull = Poison
Yellow icon = Arcane

INVENTORY

The Inventory window shows a lot of visual information. It has a simple and intuitive UI frame with colorful gradients of orange and dark brown, and stylized symbols that highlight a gothic-like feeling. You can see your character model viewer which allows you to rotate your character. Around the viewer, you have 12 gear slots: helm, medallion, chest, sash, 2 rings, weapon, shield, boots, pants, gloves, and shoulder. Between the weapon and the shield is a strange circle. When clicking it, a new window pops forward. Based on the demo observation and loot, this window with 9 circles resembles the Glyphs window from World of Warcraft. In the case of Diablo 3, these 9 circles are reserved for Runes.  Thus far in the Blizzcon demo, only the Wizard can equip runes. (i.e. certain monsters may randomly drop a minor power rune).

Beneath the character viewer and gear slots can be seen the bag inventory—all in the same window.  There are 30 slots, but only a few are enabled. You can expand to the full 30 slots by adding bags into the bag slots.  On the bottom-right you can see four slots. There is where you drag the bags into. By dropping the bag item into that slot, you increase the amount of slots enabled.  Eventually your goal is to enable all 30 slots.  Each slot is thin and tall, and certain items can stack in the same slot. Doesn’t look like there is a special slot bar for potions, but mini-health potions have been seen, as well as elixir of dexterity and elixir of vitality which may have durations of up to 300 seconds (5 minutes).

RUNES

Not much was revealed about [WIKI]Runes[/WIKI]. [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Witchdoctor[/WIKI] classes don’t have runes enabled in the Blizzcon demo, so it looks like it is something still in the works. In a press panel, [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] revealed these runes will change the visual effects of your character and its spells/abilities. Imagine your lightning spell increasing its glow making it look more powerful and actually increasing your damage output.

MINI-MAP

You may toggle the mini-map by pressing (N).  It is more effective than the old Diablo II map overlay (tab). The mini-map is located on the upper-right corner.  It has no frame like the World of Warcraft circle framed mini-map.  It has an unframed tall rectangular area. By pressing the arrow keys you can move the mini-map in any direction. To reset simply press (N) twice, or escape.

How is this new mini-map more effective?  Diablo II’s overlay map would take the whole screen, and would interfere your line of sight affecting what you could see on-screen.  By placing the overlay map to the upper-right corner, your whole screen is visible for gameplay purposes.  Each [WIKI]NPC[/WIKI] is displayed as a tiny yellow dot. Place your mouse cursor over the yellow dots, and automatically a window pops up above the dot displaying the name of the NPC.  You can see and identify NPCs ahead of you, not yet within visual range. Update: Monsters are not displayed by the mini-map. You will still have the element of surprise. The mini-map helps you locate NPCs that might have a quest for you, or some interaction options to learn some lore.

RARE MONSTERS /  BOSS

In Diablo II, it was hard sometimes to notice a rare [WIKI]monster[/WIKI] among a bunch of mobs. Sometimes you would even get killed before noticing a rare was behind that bunch of mobs. In Diablo III, before the rare monster or boss enters into view, a name tag pops at the top-center with a health bar.  The health bar is divided into a few rectangles.  The health bar / name tag window displays the special attributes of the monster (i.e. a rare named Head of Grief had three attributes beneath its name tag: Vampiric, Froze, Fast.

QUESTS

While exploring the world, you will find NPCs with a yellow exclamation sign floating above their head.  When you accept the [WIKI]quest[/WIKI], the title and objectives are displayed onscreen at the right-center for few seconds, then fades out.  You can access the quest window by pressing (Q). It’s very similar to World of Warcraft.  After walking away from the bonefire of corpses at the Tristram Woods, you enter the Ruins of Tristram. There are a few destroyed buildings. You can see the Physix engine in action when randomly some debris of the ruins crumble down. Placing your mouse cursor over some of the door signs you will find Griswold’s Blacksmith Shop. While exploring, you find a well. It can be highlighted if you place your cursor on.  A quest starts and it is automatically displayed onscreen to the right: Little Girl Lost. Objective: Find a way to free the little girl’s spirit from the old well in Tristram.

When you stand near the well you can hear the girl’s voice over and weeping. She is trapped inside the well. Something funny … some of her quotes resemble that of the girl in the Poltergeist film.  Exploring further into the Tristram ruins you find a female ghost and listen to her voice over which is repeated over and over randomly: Where has gone my girl?  She must be so lonely.  She never goes away without her doll.  She’s lost without it!

Not far from the ghost you will find a chest on the ground. Within lies the doll. Loot it and return to the well. The quest is completed as you return the doll.  The spirit of the girl ascends from within the deep well and thank you. A reward is automatically placed in your inventory.  You will read a message onscreen saying how much XP (experience) you gained, and the name of the looted item. In my case, a Socketed Boots of Brawn (+9 armor, 1 socket, + 2 strength).

Before reaching the Cathedral of Tristram entrance, you will find [WIKI]zombies[/WIKI] kneeled on the ground as if eating from a body. Once you kill them, the body on the ground – tagged Dying Adventurer – automatically highlights a yellow exclamation sign enabling a new quest: The Return of the Skeleton King.

The voice over says something along these lines: “Please … listen to me!  The fire, somehow … it awoke him. The Skeleton King’s evil haunts the cathedral once more.”

Your character’s voice over says: “Skeleton King, huh?  Sounds interesting. Rest easy. I will show him the err of his ways.”

Enter the cathedral. Eventually you will find an NPC with a yellow sign on his head. Take the quest. Guess who the NPC is? If you have played Diablo 1 or have visited DiabloWiki.net the name Lachdanan will ring a bell. He was the loyal friend of King Leoric in Diablo 1.  Lachdanan killed King Leoric, who cursed him on his last dying breath.

SCROLLS & BOOKS

This is probably the most lovely lore source feature for players who decide to immerse themselves into the world of Sanctuary.  Let’s say you enter a dungeon, and find a pedestal. When you highlight the pedestal, by moving your mouse cursor over it and clicking it, you loot the book.  Open your Inventory (I) and click the book or scroll.  A sound clip pops up at the bottom-right of the screen. Underneath the clip are three buttons: play, stop, close. It is a voice over recording telling the story within the book.

For example, in the Cathedral of Tristram, the Journal of King Leoric tells his story during the time Diablo possessed his son Albrecht (Diablo I).

BUTTONS

The three buttons to the right of the main UI correspond to the Left Mouse button, Right Mouse button and an alternate Right button that switches those last two by pressing TAB button.

  • Click the left mouse button to move and attack enemies.

  • Click right mouse button to use the assigned skill
  • Press the alt key to show all dropped items
  • Use the 1-4 keys to activate assigned hot bar skills
  • Right-click on a hot bar, or mouse button slot to assign a new skill.
  • Press TAB or scroll the mouse wheel to swap between right mouse and alternate right mouse skills.

SKELETON KING

The Skeleton King appears at the third level of the Tristram Cathedral. Former King Leoric has a large axe. As told by Jay Wilson in the past, boss events can feel epic without the town portal escape trick or the heal potion spam mechanic. Once the Skeleton King engages in combat, dozens of zombies enter the room to attack you. The boss has an animation that alerts you when he is about to slam his long axe toward you. The idea here is to attack him a few times, and run away before he slams the axe in front of him. It can be avoided. Kill a few mobs for health orbs, and attack the Skeleton King again. Rinse and repeat. I was able to kill King Leoric without dying by doing these steps. Sadly, the Diablo III demo finished after killing this first boss, with a message from Blizzard congratulating me for killing the Skeleton King in this BlizzCon 2008 demo.

THOUGHTS

After playing the demo at Blizzcon, I can only say—hopefully not sounding heretic – that I loved Diablo III, and look forward for the announcement of the remaining two classes. No release date for Diablo III unfortunately, but personally I wish this game was on stores around October 2009. Gameplay mechanics are very similar to Diablo II,  except much better. The graphics are vibrant and colorful, without taking away the epic and dark feel of the previous games. The Physix engine honors the [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] class pretty well, smashing stuff and debris in all directions.

You can click emblems on the walls, that activate a mechanism that drops a candelabrum. If timed correctly, it could smash onto a group of mobs. If you move your character quickly into the area the candelabrum drops on, your character gains daze effect for a few seconds (funny). It would be cool to interact more with objects and traps using the Physix engine to benefit you on bosses and monster encounters. For those who asked me recently if [WIKI]Stashes[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Waypoints[/WIKI] are returning in Diablo III, I asked [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] and the answer is yes.  Waypoints however will play a different function this time around.  Upon death you respawn at the [WIKI]check point[/WIKI].  Check points I observed in the BlizzCon demo happen by the door toward the next catacomb (for example).  Some objects spawn near you at the check point. You need to equip them again.  This means no more running back to your corpse which is surrounded by 15 monsters. Diablo III is enhancing everything that was broken in Diablo II.

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