Blizzard's playable Diablo 3 demo at this year's BlizzCon felt like a step backwards from last year's, mostly because the Rune system was removed completely. It'll be in the final game, but since Blizzard is still working on the Skills that the Runes enhance / rely on, the company said it didn't make sense to have the Runes in this time around. Bummer. It makes sense, but we still missed the bouncing, flaming skulls the Witch Doctor once issued.
Also, last year's area included a lot more dialogue, and had moodier lighting. This time we were smack dab in the middle of a giant desert, which didn't offer many chances to encounter spooky, candlelit chambers. There were a couple of dungeons you could drop down into this year, via swirling sands, but for the most part you were hoofing it around under the bright sun.
Some of the spells and skills for all classes were upgraded or new. Still, it was very frustrating to see them listed above empty slots blaring "RUNE SYSTEM NOT IMPLEMENTED FOR BLIZZCON" upon mouseover.
The Wizard underwent a few changes, the most useful new Skill in the arsenal (besides the wand's ranged attack) being the Mirror Image spell, which creates a duplicate of your character onscreen for 8 seconds. It doesn't appear to do damage, but it does take the heat off of you so you can kick some distracted monster butt. The Chain Lightning spell from last year wasn't in the build this time (or at least we didn't level up enough to get it), nor was the laser-beam favorite from last year, Disintegrate.
The Barbarian is still the workhorse of the group, getting in close to smash and pummel. The Whirlwind attack has been upgraded, since Blizzard worried that the Dune Dervish monster was stealing some of the Barb's thunder. In a video shown during the Monsters panel, the Barbarian spun his way through a level filled with bovines, each one exploding into gouts of blood on contact. "There's your cow level," quipped Jay Wilson.
The Barbarian uses a Fury system instead of mana to trigger his Skills, similar to the "Rage" system Warriors employ in World of Warcraft. He has a Fury meter that will build up as he kills enemies, represented by a curved, orange meter rather than a blue mana globe.
Blizzard changed up some of the Witch Doctor's skills here as well. In the last build of D3, for instance, you could summon Zombie Dogs, then light them on fire or cast a plague on them, so they'd deal the corresponding elemental damage. Blizzard took that out -- but not for fear of upsetting the ASPCA.
Wyatt Cheng explained, "We weren't really sure why you would want to burn or plague your own dog, and it was difficult for players to know that they could do that. We like the dynamic, and we're trying to figure out how you can customize your dog through additional Skills, or possibly with the Rune system." Don't overthink things, Blizzard. It's a Zombie Dog. It's okay if we set him on fire. Blizzard also altered the Doctor's Corpse Spiders: now, instead of a swarm of little spiders appearing, an actual corpse erupts from the ground and barfs out some arachnids.
A few more bits and bobs:
- The fifth and final Diablo 3 class won't be revealed until next year. We're hoping it's something with a ranged projectile attack. Blizzard didn't drop any clues, but did say that it likes the way choosing different projectiles affects play styles -- a slow projectile, an instant projectile, an arcing projectile, and so on.
- The loot system has been radically changed, and now different players in a party see different loot. Now one player won't hoard everything, nor will a complete noob join your party and make off with the good stuff. You can put something in your inventory and drop it again, and then all players can see it.
- There won't be any sort of a map editor whatsoever. "Diablo 3 doesn't really cater to any kind of a map editor," Leonard Boyarsky told us.
- The monsters all have full skeletal systems -- in some cases if you hit a baddie hard enough, you'll see its skeleton fly out of its body.
- Hero characters have a lot more dialogue in D3, and there's a big emphasis on class quests.
- The Horadric Cube won't be returning in its exact form. Wyatt Cheng said, "We want to keep the essence of that mechanic, but the implementation will probably be different."
- Jay Wilson strongly hinted that there will some sort of Crafting system in D3, but we won't hear more about that for a long while. It might be related to Runes.
- Gambling will probably be returning, but with some changes. Players were too confused by the way gambling worked in D2, and Blizzard wants to make it more robust.
- There will be class-specific items. For instance, the Barbarian won't just get some belt, he'll get a crazy, giant axe that only he can wield.
- There's a new monster coming called a Fallen Lunatic who runs up to you and stabs himself in the belly until he explodes. That's family-friendly, right there.
- The female Barbarian sports boob jiggle when she's running. We kid you not.