It was during the Blizzcon of 2008 when we first had official word that evil was returning to our PC screens. For some the time has flown by while others have felt that the wait has been too excruciating to bear.
Yet finally we're here, Diablo 3 has been released and a global increase of left mouse clicks can be heard resonating throughout the populace. The story sets you two decades past the events of the battle with Baal in Lords of Destruction, taking the role of either Barbarian, Wizard, Witch Doctor, Monk or Demon Hunter in the search of the fallen star which shattered through the walls of a cathedral in Tristram where Deckard Cain was predicting the resurgence of evil throughout the land of Sanctuary.
From the moment you fire up this you just know that you're about to be swallowed whole by the pit of atmosphere, this game is so good at immersing you into the storyline, dropping little books of lore for you to learn more about the world, what's happening in Tristram and about the monsters you're slaying. Having a dark and brooding start to your playtime will get those hairs on the back of your neck standing straight and the goosebumps rising; with the guitar playing in the background, you're finally set to unravel the mystery of the fallen star and save Sanctuary.
As I've stated earlier there are five classes in total for players to use. Monk and Barbarian are your melee combatants, Demon Hunter, Wizard and Witch Doctor are ranged classes. There is something for every play style going with the selection of classes, those with a penchant for destruction will go for the brutal raw strength of the Barbarian, while those looking for a little more finesse will choose Monk and their lightning reflexes.
A fan of bows or crossbows? Then Demon Hunter is for you while those preferring the mystical arcane arts will no doubt choose Wizard. This leaves us with the Witch Doctor, firing deadly darts from their blowpipe and summoning minions of pure evil to go into melee for the player.
While there are a number of difficulty levels for the player to utilise, they only become unlocked after you've played through all four chapters on the previous difficulty, for example, starting at Normal will unlock Nightmare. Finish Nightmare to unlock Hell and finally complete Hell to unlock Inferno. Doing it this way is intended to prepare your character with the appropriate level and gear to take on the increased number of higher level mobs you will encounter in the next difficulty.
As of writing, no one in Blizzard's own internal test team has completed Inferno difficulty level so this will ultimately be the most challenging aspect of the game, while those who are simply bat s**t crazy may run this in Hardcore mode where the death of your character is permanent, no respawn, no 2nd chance, that's it and all your shiny loot has gone. The will also adjust the strength and health of all the mobs you encounter proportionate to the number of people you team up with, to the maximum party cap of four, so you can imagine that four people going through Inferno difficulty will be getting an unmeasurable challenge that will last for ages on end.
The controls of the really couldn't be any simpler, just left click where you want to run to, left click or right click on an enemy to use an attack while you have 1 through 4 as skill buttons and that's it really, nothing else really needed. This simplistic control system would translate well to a console port of the game, which Blizzard have hinted at but nothing concrete has emerged, also hope still lives for this to materialise as the possibility of this happening has not been totally written off either.
While playing through the world of Sanctuary, you'll find the environments you encounter simply stunning, from the distressed village of Tristram, the random caverns and dens you encounter in your travels, Leoric's mansion and torture chambers to the even more exotic locations, you're just bombarded by beauty and detail. Blizzard certainly have worked wonders with the new engine powering this title. The characters aren't greatly detailed themselves but they are functional yet wonderfully animated.
The in-game cutscenes will not differ on what class you choose at all except for the voice that narrates them, any scene narrated by your protagonist will be voiced by the avatar you selected at the beginning of the game, so if you rolled a female Barbarian, it is she who will talk you through the intermission. Additionally in co-op, each player will have their scenes narrated by their character instead of all having to listen to one certain toon. Alongside this, those who initiate quests first will have their character talking in the conversations.
Feel like running solo then never fear as the will supply you with NPC companions for your adventures through Sanctuary. You get introduced to these at certain points during the game and you may only hire one of these at a time so do choose what would be best for your playstyle. Like yourself, the companion will require you to play a part in their levelling structure and rely on you to give them gear in order to deal more damage.
Speaking of gear, Blizzard have brought into play an auction house for those pieces of loot you deem a bit too valuable to simply vendor or shard at your blacksmith. Here you can select the loot you want to sell, whack it on the auction house and hope to get some gold, or in extreme cases, cold hard cash.
The introduction of a real money auction house seems like a bold move for Blizzard, particularly to stem the inevitable flow of third party trading sites or ebay sales of legendary loots before they even begin. Nice idea in theory but in practice, it remains to be seen if this is a viable method of profiting from your adventures. to begin with there are fees involved with each auction, 15% or $1, which will of course vary depending on territory and due to legal reasons not every territory will be able to access a real money auction house.
If you strike it rich then the funds will be sitting in your Blizzard Wallet which then can be used in the Blizz store if you so wish, however even more fees will apply if you want to withdraw that via PayPal in applicable countries. This means your shiny discovery may not be as worthwhile to sell via official means than it first seemed, however it is early days and things may change over the course of the next few months when a steady chunk of data is available to analyse by the developers.
So has this been worth the wait? In our opinion, yes it bloody well has, we love Diablo 3 here and will no doubt be playing it for hours on end, maybe one day we can tell our grandchildren that we defeated Diablo 3 on Inferno difficulty.... though rocking in the corner going insane, chanting to ourselves will be a more likely outcome after trying that difficulty level out.