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So then, Diablo III. Some of you saw it coming, some of you are happy it came and probably a fair few are thinking "so what?". To all but the very latter, I present for you a round up of the information so far. The main aim for the development team of Diablo III seems to be very similar to the aim of the StarCraft II development team, to retain the feel and core gameplay of the original while allowing the series to develop along a modern line. Thusly, it was confirmed at the WWI that the emphasis is still very much on kicking a rather major amount of ass with a singular character or small group of friends. This group will most probably not exceed five members, although final numbers are yet to be decided. Talking of groups, there is a new focus in the development of Diablo III, as there has been in other recently announced titles such as Red Alert III, on co-operative play. This will, one would assume, bare a striking resemblance to the original games' way of doing things, making enemies harder to kill. While encounters and general gameplay will obviously vary from a single player game, the loot and content available will not. However, the focus will not be exclusively on multiplayer co-op, a system for competitive play is also being developed. All of these multiplayer modes will be available via the new battle.net, which is being kept strictly under wraps at this point, although a fan question revealed that it would include anti-cheat systems which already significantly outrank those employed on the current battle.net.

The most interesting phrase so far attributed to the character creation and development system were the words "Crazy, cool, awesome" used by Jay Wilson while introducing it. Focus will be on massive battles, overpowered abilities and a ridiculously large amount of what can only be described as "win". The development team also wishes to create strong and unique archetypes for each character, where the instant image one gets when a class is named, for instance Barbarian, will be the type of art used in game. For our example, merely glance at any of the many, many screenshots which are circulating the web of the pure carnage displayed by the Barbarian and his variety of highly painful maneuvers.

There is also a focus on maintaining the random aspect of the original Diablo games. This includes, in addition to random loot, dungeons and monsters, a new feature called "Adventures". This is a system in which the developers have managed, via a clever piece of programming wizardry, to create completely random scripted events within a game world. For instance, were you passing through a forest, you may happen upon a clearing where evil cultists had begun to summon particularly deadly foes. This wandering, and thus finding of these random events, encounters and delicious loot, will be assisted by an "opt-in" style of storyline, where a player can avoid or participate in the storyline as much as he wishes.

The major change from the original Diablo games to this new iteration seems to be the issue of health. Jay Wilson described the situation often encountered in the original game where, to win against a particularly vicious monster or group, a player would merely have to set up a drip-feed of potions to his character, rendering him neigh invulnerable. This has been replaced with a system of "health orbs" which are dropped by destroyed creatures. Those of you who have played the Devil May Cry series of games are thinking exactly the right thing. The most original thing about these orbs is that they heal the entire party, no matter who picks them up. This means that there will be no mad scrambles between bleeding friends, and no hogging by he with the fastest movement, lowest lag or best mouse hand. Jay Wilson mentioned at the WWI that they had tried the current FPS standard of regenerating health, but had decided that they massively preferred forcing the player into combat as much as possible, so health-dropping enemies seemed the right direction to go.

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There was a question asked about map editing and modding that gave up an interesting answer. As opposed to StarCraft II, where the current joke is "Can the map edit-?" "Yes it can!", the Diablo 3 editing tools are not a big focus and the game itself will not be open to easy modding. This strikes me as a little restrictive, as the capacity to, for instance, create new units, bosses, adventures, character classes, NPCs or the like would be one that would allow D3 to extend its legacy as far as possible. However, no exact specifics on this side of the development have been released, so it is possible that these ideas will be either changed or expanded on in the future.

Of lore released and tales spun, there is not much, except that which is available at the official website. There you can find information on the two character classes released thus far, monster types, environments and general information on the world itself. Plus a frankly awesome picture of the Arch-Angel Tyreal. I particularly recommend the class pages, as the videos of their various spells and abilities are exceedingly cool. Unfortunately, not included is the "Wall of Zombies" ability showcased at the WWI, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

So there you have it, my impressions of Diablo III. I have to say I'm excited. Once again, Blizzard makes me happy I'm a gamer.

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