Is Diablo 3 Ready for Release - Observations and Potential Controversies
Diablo 3 appears to be more or less ready for release, following the lastest news of the final playable character class: the demon hunter. The demon hunter looks and plays an awful lot like World of Warcraft's hunter class, minus the pet support. The demon hunter attacks her prey from range using a variety of assault weapons including enchanted crossbows and grenades.
Diablo 3 game designers themselves admitted a certain degree of trepidation surrounding this class, saying the class had been with them for the longest time ( a reference to the original Diablo's rogue and Diablo 2's Amazon and Assassin classes, which the demon hunter seems to equally comprise). Their duty, they felt, from a gameplay perspective was to breathe sufficient new life and functionality into the class so as to make it feel fresh enough to be included in the latest iteration of the Diablo franchise.
What Can the Demon Hunter DO? New Demon Hunter Capabilities
By way of this rejuvenation effort, we see a number of unique and new capabilities and functionalities being added to this well-known ranged archetype. Grenades are one of the most impressive new offerings: the demon hunter can lob a rapid stream of grenades toward her enemies, which will bounce around walls and slip between gates in order to blast and scorch demons beyond the immediate reach of the demon hunter.
This highlights one of Diablo 3's premiere evolutions over its predecessors: the environment will become a factor in gameplay like never before. Demons can crawl up the sides of structures in order to assault unsuspecting heroes, and, likewise, heroes can use the environment to their advantage by destroying bridges to cut off enemy reinforcements. The demon hunter's grenades are slightly unpredictable in their bounce patterns, which adds a degree of excitement (and nuance) to their correct usage.
Grenades are most powerfully deployed into the center of a cluster of enemies, as they will inflict area-of-effect damage in every direction. They also open up the door to new kiting opportunities and strategies. A fleeing demon hunter can leave a cluster of grenades in his wake that will devastate any foes foolish enough to pursue him.
In terms of fresh functionalty, the demon hunter also receives a couple of new abilities like bolo, which is a special shot that ensnarls the feet of affected enemies, slowing their movement speeds. Gameplay videos for Diablo 3 have shown us that many enemies pursue the player's character with alarming speed, adding an element of twitch-gameplay to the entire Diablo 3 experience.
Bolo will be one of the skills that will allow players to buy themselves some time to better dispatch large groups of enemies, and it can be used in conjunction with abilities like grenades to stack up nasty kiting combos capable of eradicating entire hordes of demons from a considerable distance.
Why is the Demon Hunter so Upsetting to Some Diehard Diablo Fans?
The reveal of the final playable character class is exciting to most - it signals that the release date for Diablo 3 draws closer and closer. It has also been very frustrating for some diablo fans, as the possibilities and hopes that were circulating the internet regarding the final playable class are now definitively closed out - at least until the first expansion re-introduces the possibilities of a new and exciting playable character class.
Some diablo fans were upset to learn that the demon hunter would be the final character class - especially those that were holding out hope for a somewhat more unusual departure from the usual Diablo line-up. Some fans were rabidly anticipating a healer class, a druid or something totally out of the blue and unique to Diablo 3.
Now, speaking historically, the Diablo franchise has not subscribed to the traditional party make-up rules that are so essential to many successful MMORPG's. Whereas games like everquest and world of warcraft are absolutely predicated upon the necessity of diverse class roles working in harmony to support one another and survive encounters, Diablo has been more about the all-out mob-style beat down action of running up on monsters and making them dead before they make you dead. Obviously, given Diablo's staggering success, this concept has sufficiently resonated with gamers, but many RPG fans enjoy, and expect, the depth of gameplay and combat supplied by the typical dungeon crawler party arrangement.
Why Diablo 3 is, at Heart, an Action Game
Deeper party-based MMORPGs, though they do allow for soloing in certain instances and circumstances, are inherently designed for concerted play by many contributing players. Each class is designed with an archetypal party role in mind. A role whose absence will make progression through a serious dungeon nigh impossible.
Perhaps the best known role in such deep party-play games is the tank. The tank is typically a warrior, barbarian, paladin or even a monk in certain instances. In World of Warcraft, the Druid can take his bear form in order to become a tank.
A tank is a giant heavily-armored meat shield that stands between the vicious monster and the more fragile party members that are playing their various roles. The tank is there to absorb damage and keep the attention of the monster so that the casters, rogues, hunters and enchanter types can do their thing.
If you don't have a tank, you'dbetter have an airtight alternative plan, like nuking the crap out of the monster immediately or kiting him around and trading him off between party members so that no one fragile player takes too many blows.
Other important party roles include the healer, damage dealers like rogues or wizards that cannot themselves soak up much damage but are nevertheless essential to the success of the party because they help to kill the monster before the healer's mana runs out and the tank dies, and specialty casters like enchanters or warlocks that add their own functionality.
The basic point is that many gamers have found this type of gameplay to be very compelling for a very long time. Diablo has obviously done well for itself even without requiring that a party be balanced and highly individually specialized, but its action intensive nature does lead to a number of gameplay realities.
If you want to play a healer because you love the support role and frantically dodging monsters so you can toss of game-saving heals at the last minute, you won't really be able to do that. You can roll a witch doctor, who has his own voodoo based heal, but you won't be sheilding people, casting renew, buffing up stamina, or queuing up complete heals.
Blizzard doesn't seem to concerned about this - previous Diablo games have done very very well for themselves without any dedicated healer class, but the fact of the matter is that Diablo will be more appealing to action fans and slightly less appealing to the die hard dungeon crawlers that appreciate the air-traffic-controller poetry of playing with a talented enchanter, healer, and glass canon.
Blizzard has been vocal in their design intentions for Diablo 3 - the game will be simple enough to play with a mouse, allowing casual players to hop onto battlenet or a solo dungeon for a couple moments of satisying smash and grab, but also deep enough to satisfy seasoned role playing game enthusiasts.
It will be interesting to see how the playable character line-up evolves along with the expansions to come. Will the newest features like destructable environments and never before seen player skills make the gameplay radically different from even previous diablo games? What do you think?