What Makes Diablo 3 Special?
Diablo 3's graphic engine has received a complete overhaul, and it's this fundamental advancement that players will notice first and keep returning for. In some of the initial demo reels and hands-on-play experiences, we've seen the barbarian enter an early dungeon and make his way across a long elevated bridge, only to find ghouls clambering up the sides of the structure to immediately surround him. This three dimensional aspect of gameplay is some of the newest territory for Diablo 3, as the previous two iterations have been decidedly 2D affairs.
This added spatial dimension will have a profound impact on gameplay in a couple of ways. For one, players will be able to take advantage of positioning and destructible environments in order to cut off or outright destroy their foes in non-traditional ways. For example, we've seen a barbarian destroy a flimsy bridge with a strong ground attack, thereby cutting off his enemies means of approach. We've also seen a barbarian smash an unbalanced pillar, which took several enemies with it as it crashed to the ground.
In a separate gameplay video centered around the newest character class, the demon hunter, we saw the player feed a cluster of grenades through prison bars to reach and shred enemies on the other side. Ideally, a ranged character could take refuge behind such semi-permeable barriers and strike from relative safety, while large or clumsy demons are kept back by their own bulk.
Obviously, this three dimensional game world will also present new and unique challenges for Diablo 3 players. Escape will no longer be as simple as flying fast enough and far enough in any one linear direction. Fleeing players will have to struggle with the environment to ensure their egress is free of monsters on the horizontal as well as the vertical planes. We will likely see the best and most creative players mastering the use of the environment very early on, giving themselves the most protected ground to attack from and keeping enemies at a distance. Time will tell if such strategies will mostly benefit characters with ranged abilities like the demon hunter, witch doctor and wizard.
Diablo 3 Features -Gameplay - Health orbs
Gamers familiar with Diablo 1 and 2 will either fondly or somewhat dispassionately recall one of the most essential skills for survival of their dungeons - the potion spam. Players would trapse through outdoor environments and dungeons with one or two fingers on their ability hotkeys, and their other fingers resting permanently on the health and mana potion hotkeys. There were little or no health management skills that would allow a player to extend their longevity in a fight - instead, you either hit the health potion in time or you died.
While Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 were compelling games that successfully captured gamers' attentions the world over and held them for years, Blizzard nevertheless wants to remove this dynamic in Diablo 3 in an effort to make combat more exciting and seamless. Therefore, gone are the days of potion spamming, and in their place emerges the health orb. Correlative to a secretive but generally understandable algorithm, enemies will drop small or large health orbs as they are killed.
Players can simply make contact with these health or mana orbs to immediately replenish their life forces and keep themselves in the fight. For one thing, this new health system will totally remove the somewhat unsatisfying need to spam potions throughout an encounter or duel. It will also add a new element of uncertainty and excitement thanks to its certain degree of randomness. Many a player will fretfully ask themselves if they should continue in the fray of a highly damaging fight, in the hopes that a needed health orb will present itself soon, or draw back to retreat and find an alternative means of rejuvenation before a couple more blows from their enemies put them down.
Will this new health orb system also shape the way in which party play takes shape? Will we see wounded players dropping back while healthier party members struggle to gain the monster's attention and allow their comrade a chance to breathe? Will we see some alternative means of in-combat healing emerge through the use of special skills? We know the witch doctor has at least one makeshift sort of healing spell, which is voodoo based, but will it only be used as an afterthought or will it become a major party skill?
Crafting in Diablo 3
Diablo fans have come to expect some crafting functionality, especially since the Horadric cube item in Diablo 2 opened up an entire world of arcane fashioning that resulted in some of the game's most powerful items. What we're seeing so far with Diablo 3 again reflect's Blizzard's intent to pay homage to many of the most popular elements of previous diablo games, those aspects which have come to be judged essential to the franchise, while also innovating and streamlining game elements in order to present something fresh and never-before-played.
To this end, crafting will indeed have a place in Diablo 3, but it will function differently from crafting systems in Diablo 1 and 2. During their quest, each player will eventually stumble upon a blacksmith character, with whom they will build a steady rapport via supporting quests that provide this NPC with help. As the player assists the blacksmith, the craftsman will grow in power and skill. When the blacksmith reaches a certain level, he will require additional materials, found out in the world and in dungeons, to practice with and improve his skill. Over time, the blacksmith's shop will grow in visual appearance and complexity, and the range and quality of items the blacksmith offers players will also scale up.
This adjunct system will allow players to get the crafting in that they crave, while also allowing players that are not so interested in the item arms race to concentrate on the main quest line, advancing the story and bashing on demons. Situating the crafting game in such a parallel track also allows players to return after wrapping up the central storyline for countless additional hours of replay as they fine tune their equipment loadouts and participate in online pvp events.
Blizzard made great waves when the first adventurers in World of Warcraft started stumbling across the highly complex and entertaining yet totally seamlessly integrated scripted events in dungeons and out in the world. Non-player characters sprang to life, bellowed out spoken lines via rich voice acting talent, and interacted with the party to both menace and assist according to their inclination.
Diablo 3 will also see many similar scripted events in dungeons and otherwise, adding a new layer of excitement and imaginative absorption to a franchise that has previously been characterized by frenetic action sequences and sometimes mindless bashing. Early gameplay demos and videos have shown the impressive levels of detail achieved by designers scripting major boss encounters and dungeon events such as demonic summoning rituals, structural failures, cultist mobs and gigantic beasts bursting through stone walls to begin assaulting players.
One particularly impressive example is found in the skeleton king, which players will encounter as a dungeon boss. On approach, players find an empty throne around which various worn pieces of armor, and a sword and shield, are scattered. However, as they draw closer, a ghostly presence makes itself known in the form of a spectral swath of light that begins circling the chamber with mounting vigor, before plunging into the pile of armor to emerge as a now heavily armed skeleton king.
If Blizzard's previous portfolio can serve as any indication, several such encounters are in store for adventurers once Diablo 3 is up and running. The abilities of the game engine that have already been demonstrated also speak volumes for the potential of Diablo 3 to evolve over time by way of high quality content expansions (which have become another hallmark of Blizzard's over the years) and additional content patches. Could we see some highly scripted arena-type pvp events over battlenet? Massive multi-sided wars on blood drenched battlefields? The possibilities are nearly endless, and it will be exciting to watch the progress as Diablo 3 ages and matures as a game over the next few years.