“Two decades have passed since the demonic lords, Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal, set out across the world of Sanctuary on a vicious rampage, twisting humanity to their unholy will. Yet for those who battled the Prime Evils, the memory fades slowly.
When Deckard Cain returns to the ruins of Tristram Cathedral seeking clues to defeat new stirrings of evil, a fiery harbinger of doom falls from the heavens, striking the very ground where Diablo once entered the world. This fire from the sky reawakens ancient evils and calls the heroes of Sanctuary to defend the mortal world against the rising powers of the Burning Hells once again.” ~Diablo 3 Official Website
Diablo 3 is one of the most anticipated game titles to come out in a very long time. It was first announced as being under development in 2008. Since then fans of the franchise have been eagerly awaiting an official release date. After years of keeping fans in suspense, Blizzard Entertainment has finally set a release date of May 15, 2012.
One of the more controversial issues surrounding the game is Blizzard’s decision to make Diablo 3 an online game. Playing the game requires a BattleNet User ID and password. While reaction to this news from the gaming community at large has been tepid at best, Blizzard is standing by the decision. Their reasoning is that by storing character information on the cloud players who start in the single player campaign then switch to online play won’t be required to create separate characters to convert. In addition, it prevents the use of cheats or hacks to artificially level up the character. Experience from the beta testing shows that aside from the minor irritation at having to log into the game, there is little or no impact to game-play although it remains to be seen what happens if a player loses network connectivity while playing.
Once players log in the first thing they see is the character selection screen. Players may choose from one of five classes: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Sorcerer. Like Diablo 2, character creation consists mostly of selecting a class and giving the character a name, however unlike Diablo 2 players may also choose the character's gender. A character’s gender is strictly aesthetic and there is no benefit to being either male or female, but the different classes each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Characters are not customizable beyond their name and gender which might disappoint some players, however this is consistent with the game’s previous iterations.
The game-play mechanics are very similar to Diablo and Diablo 2. Players coming from the previous games in the franchise will find the familiar top down third person perspective, point and click movement, and basic layout they’re already used to. Players new to the game will have no problem picking up the nuts and bolts of game-play. The game provides tool tips and tutorials to help the truly lost. Combat is swift, exciting, and modern graphics processors give game developers a much broader palette to work with for spell and ability effects.
A new concept in the Diablo franchise is crafting. Once a player completes certain quests an NPC (Non Player Character) will become available to craft items for you. As the game progresses these NPC’s can be upgraded (for a cost) to craft better and more powerful items There are two types of crafters, the blacksmith and the jeweler. The blacksmith can “salvage” a magic item which breaks it down into raw materials which can then be used to make new weapons and armor. Players familiar with World of Warcraft will note that crafting in Diablo 3 works much like the Enchanting profession; salvaging irrecoverably destroys the item in the process.
The Jeweler, however, can make gems, etch gem slots into items, and recover gems for reuse. The latter is particularly useful as it means you no longer lose the gem when you upgrade your armor, and indeed can reapply the gem to the new armor or weapon thus keeping whatever benefit the gem bestows.
Another improved feature is the new Stash. As in previous games the Stash is a place to store items for later use. It follows you from place to place as you progress through the game as it did in Diablo 2, however in Diablo 3 characters share the stash. Players are likely to applaud this feature since sharing the stash means items unusable by one character can now be passed off to a secondary character.
The Auction House
In addition to crafting and the new Stash, Blizzard has added an auction house to the game. players can opt to sell items to other players via the auction house. In an unprecedented move, Blizzard is allowing the sale of items for real world money. In past games this has been strictly forbidden by Blizzard's Terms of Service with non-compliance resulting in having one's account banned. Sales are only permitted via the in-game auction house, and Blizzard takes a small cut of auction proceeds, however it will add an interesting dimension to the game.
Other New Features
Some other new features are:
No more scrolls of Teleport and Identify - players instead get abilities that take the place of the scrolls at certain levels or after completing certain quest chains. Once learned these abilities never go away.
Skill Runes - Players can get runes to alter their character’s abilities.
Improved combat and controls - Hotbar and controls are highly customizable. Additionally, each class has its own resource system moving away from the shared mana resource from the past.
PvP Arenas - Players can compete against each other in special areas designed to ensure a level playing field in terms of player level and ability.
Achievements - Players will receive a battle standard on their BattleNet account to show off various achievements from the game.
Nightmare, Hell, and new Inferno difficulty levels.
It has been four long years of anticipation but Diablo 3 is finally ready to hit store shelves. If the final version is even half as exciting as the public beta it will be well worth the wait. With improved graphics, a familiar interface, and a wealth of improved features the game is certain to win over even the most hardened gamer.