Joystiq hands-on: Diablo 3 and the Wizard class

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That's right, Diablo III. We jumped on one of the machines made available to the press, and hacked and blasted away until the intense stares stabbing daggers of "GIVE ME A TURN" forced us back. We'll spend a lot more time with this over the weekend, but for now here's the skinny.

First up was the "Choose Your Class" screen, which made us pee our pants when we first saw it. Six classes! Right?! Well, no. That's a male and a female of each class. The male wizard was ghosted out and nonselectable for some reason, leaving (from left to right) female wizard, female Barbarian, male Barbarian, male Witch Doctor, and female Witch Doctor. The other classes will be revealed (we hope) this weekend, and they seem to look like (we think) an Amazon and an Assassin for the other two unrevealed classes.

"You can talk to the NPC characters, and guess what ... your character talks back!"

Dropping into the game in Tristram, you notice that it's a foggy, devastated wasteland. Whoops. You can talk to the NPC characters, and guess what ... your character talks back! It's a full-on, audio conversation between you and whoever you're chatting up. No longer is it a one-sided rant from an angry Deckard Cain, who we didn't run into. We talked to a Captain Rumsford who gave us a mouthful of sass.

Tristram is overrun with the undead, and there are plenty of horror-movie moments. You spot a struggling villager in the dark background, and he gets pulled underground by something unseen. Then blood spurts out of the hole and his dismembered arm flies out. Pretty darn cool. The zombies are very low level and easy to take down with our female Wizard, who has a very nice ranged magic missile sort of attack (spell names forthcoming from us when we aren't hurried), and she has a close-range lightning attack that can save your butt when you're in the thick of it.

We encountered a sad and wailing ghost who was looking for her daughter, and we found her daughter's doll in a nearby chest. It didn't activate a quest, so it's possibly a side quest or simple task. The one quest we did encounter was to check out a ruined cathedral nearby, which has an enormous glowing blue vortex swirling out of the middle of it. Plus tons of bad guys, including some that were easily five times our size. That's where we left our adventurer, and we promise a lot more Diablo news will be coming, stay tuned.

Bottom line? Diablo has never, ever looked so good, especially when combined with the incredible in-game audio. We didn't have time to check out the menu screens, but your belt at the bottom of the screen had three slots on the right-hand side, one for the left mouse button, one for the right mouse button, and one for the tab key, and you could change these on the fly for different weapons, attacks, and a hotkey for your delicious red health potions. More goodies as we find 'em.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.