As Bashiok informed us not that long ago, it was about due time for another Diablo II Ladder reset, but that had "things to figure out."
Official Blizzard Quote:
We're holding off on a reset to figure out some things. We'll let you know as soon as we do.
It seems as if whatever Blizzard had to figure out has just been figured and a ladder reset has been announced for October 25th, making this the 9th Ladder Season. Nothing else (patch?) was announced with the Ladder reset, so exactly what it is they were doing has gone completely unknown, though I am sure we'll find out soon enough.
Official Blizzard Quote:
We will be resetting the Diablo II ladder the morning of October 25.
We anticipate all Diablo II realms to be down for approximately six hours during the reset. More specific information on realm availability on the day of the reset will be posted in the Battle.net Status forum. When the ladder is reset all existing ladder characters will be converted to non-ladder. All characters and items being converted to non-ladder will remain intact, but once converted these characters will no longer have access to ladder content such as creating ladder-only rune words. For more information on ladder characters please visit the Arreat Summit Realm Character Types page.
If you're looking for some class builds, i'd recommend using Magistrate's Firebolt utility, which indexes guides simply for you.
Ragdoll physics are all the rage with next-gen titles, but maybe Diablo III has taken the concept too far. Don't get me wrong: imp soccer is probably the "in" thing in some countries, but is it right for Diablo?
A user at the Diablo III community forum asked as much, professing that "the forces of both gravity and friction are way too weak to look right."
While Bashiok did say that there are "some straight up issues that [the team] intend[s] to correct," he also explained that much of what is seen in-game is a faithful rendering of their vision of the game:
Official Blizzard Quote:
I don't want anyone to get the impression that we're shooting for realism here, because our goal is absolutely to make it feel like you're an over-the-top human god laying waste to the demonic masses and setting their carcasses flying free like so much loosed meat.
The moon physics, as trend followers have come to call the phenomenon, isn't limited to the Barbarian. The effect is common among many skills, such as the Wizard's Energy Twister. Dead bodies behave more like toy dolls in a hurricane than anything of a like scale in our world. But most of this is intended:
Official Blizzard Quote:
It is absolutely intentional that the barbarian's skills have crazier impact physics than other classes, because we think that fits with the visual and feel of the character - huge impactful strikes that send dudes flying, whereas the monk might be more of a 'thousand cuts' kind of fighter.
Or perhaps this is all really the work of Gravitablo, the Lord of Gravitational and Frictional Disruption, and Bashiok is merely an unwitting pawn in the nefarious Demon Lord's dastardly work.
If you haven't had the chance to observe the controversial physics yourself, or you haven't been invited into the beta quite yet, Force Strategy Gaming has an excellent video that shows just how out-of-this-world the force of gravity behaves in the world of Sanctuary:
The bad news is that everything "news" about the beta was covered during the Friends and Family testing period, before we were even allowed in. The good news is that I finally had the time to sit down and write about my experiences playing with the Wizard, the casting archetype of Diablo III. Along the way, we'll explore some interesting aspects of this decade's iteration of the series, up to the epic battle with the Skeleton King and including skills ranging from the powerful to the mundane.
Disclaimer: If you decide to read further than this line, you accept that I may divulge certain bits of information that some may view as spoilers. Beyond this line, I will make no effort, whatsoever, to hide this information, since that is counterproductive to the intent of an informative article.
The Wizard approaches
The beginning has always carried a certain sentimental value to me as a Diablo player. Your character wanders onto the screen, wearing naught but minimum grade armor, a crappy weapon, and a single skill. It's only up from here!
Not much has changed in that regard except, perhaps, that our characters now have motives. Yes, my friends, our heroes have reasons to be where they are! Hoping to find the Fallen Star that landed in the ruins of Old Tristram, my male Wizard strode boldly down the path towards New Tristram, with nothing but Magic Missile and Frost Nova (Diablo III) at his disposal, ready to take on the hordes of the Undead and the legions of the Burning Hells. How very bold of him.
One of the cooler changes from Diablo III's predecessors is that it's not long before you're in the heat of battle. My Wizard took not ten steps before a Risen appeared, feasting on a festering pile of human carrion (take that you Diablo-III-isn't-gory-enough crazies!). Body parts flew in majestic arcs through the night air as I slammed the unwitting zombie with Magic Missile, trailing the purple light indicative of arcane-elemental spells. Before I had entered the village proper, a veritable pile of the Undead was mounded before the gate. Diablo magic, I'd say.
Here I would like to note something of ghastly interest: Frequently enough, the Risen, as their name implies, rise again after they are slaughtered. Crawling forward with bloodthirsty intent, they drag their abdomens through the earth as their severed spines leak out vital fluids, nearing the unaware adventurer handhold by handhold. Moral of the story: When you kill a zombie, make sure it's dead.
News of the dead rising from their graves has not made every denizen of Sanctuary hop out of bed in the middle of the night and sprint out the door with an axe at the ready. Entering the village of Old Tristram, another neat new feature of Diablo III comes to light: Brother Malachi the Healer, a pious, fire-and-brimstone preaching ex-zealot of the Zakarum faith, is already screaming damnation for the world before I even had the presence of mind to click on him.
The sky is falling! The
sky is falling!
Gossip in the game manifests itself in two primary mediums: the player opting for various discussion topics when interfacing an NPC, much like in the older games, and when passing NPC's. Some even have discussions with each other. While not necessarily a breakthrough in storytelling (games have had this kind of thing for years), it is new to the series and adds a certain level of authenticity to the social vibe.
Waypoints: Functional and
Reaching town center, a welcome design change is present: no more wandering all over creation trying to find that accursed waypoint! ( Kurast Docks, anyone?) Located in scenic downtown New Tristram, the waypoint is surrounded by all the most useful features of the fledgling village: the Blacksmith, a merchant to the upper right (not pictured), the location to hire your hireling, the entrance to the tavern (whose proprietor peddles potions and other odds and ends), and, eventually, the man himself: Deckard Cain.
The waypoint interface is also more useful, if somewhat cluttered. Collapsible menus now offer categorized destinations, as well as recent destinations. And, if you for some reason can't read your location off your mini-map in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, it even tells you where you are! Nifty.
Not every NPC in
Sanctuary stands outside all
day waiting to dish out quests.
But not all the action is outside. Indeed, one of the great new aspects of Diablo III that, in my opinion, is a bit down-played is that you can actually go inside multiple structures in towns, with even more NPC's to interact with. While in Diablo II this was evidenced rather minimally, in Diablo III we see full-blown quest points and NPC interaction. The moment my Wizard walked into the inn, the injured gathered there immediately began to rise as the Undead. Leah and myself had to jump into the fray to smooth the situation over. These aren't simply buildings with their roofs fading away, as we saw in Diablo II, but entire new mini-dungeons stuffed with homeliness and NPC goodies. In New Tristram, enterable buildings include the Slaughtered Calf Inn and Deckard Cain's home.
Nearly all of the NPC's in New Tristram share one trait that makes them an improvement over the previous games: they don't just stand there all day waiting to give out a quest to whatever lucky adventurer wanders along the road. One can only wonder how much smithing Griswoldactually did.
But enough of New Tristram. What about the rest of the game?
Despite all the cool things there are to take in when visiting the barely-hanging-on village of New Tristram, I was sent on my way nearly the instant I walked into the Slaughtered Calf Inn. Zombie syndrome seemed to spread like a disease, even among those in the village, and one impromptu battle later I was on my way from the inn and down the eerie Old Tristram Road. Murders of crows flapping dramatically off into the night? Check. Creaking wagon wheels moving all on their own? Check. Ruined homes with a murderous history? Check.
And some of them have nice little dungeons underneath. Oh, and Blizzard wasn't kidding when they said their random dungeons would be cool.
I must have been through ten random dungeons (sorry folks, I have other time commitments, too) in my various play-throughs of the beta, and each time they feel new and exciting. Entering one Musty Cellar below the ghostly ruins of an old farm home, I see a Quill Fiend poking around near the steps. Approaching it, and readying my Wizard to blast it to Hells with my l33t Adventuring Oak Wand of the Oracle, the little critters scuttled off into the darkness. I ran after him, spamming all kinds of flashy stuff, wondering where the rest of the monsters were, until the little guy scurried under a pile of debris in the center of a room down a hall.
The junk exploded and out poured the entire mob of the dungeon in one instant. Quill Fiends ran everywhere, doing that thing they do (shooting quills, if you haven't figured that part out yet.) One Frost Nova and a quick recovery later, I realized that the @#$%er had tricked me into following him to a whole nest of ravenous, twitchy little scoundrels.
Of course, there are other variations of the dungeon. Several times, my Wizard entered one such cellar, openly wondering where all the loot was. Rounding a corner, I saw that the Quill Fiends--those fiends!--had already broken open my chest and sacked the place. However, killing their leader dropped the loot that would have generated in the chest. And it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Two birds with one stone.
Trivia: Zombies reproduce with
Further along the Old Tristram Road, zombie hordes were made even more annoying (but awesome, since zombies are awesome) with the addition of Wretched Mothers. These puketastic baddies seem to be stuck on a perpetual hangover, vomiting their guts out--maybe in a literal sense. Not only is it disgusting, but the vomitus propagates another zombie. Until the Wretched Mother is killed, the process continues. TLDR: Kill the Wretched Mother first and save yourself some time and effort.
A little family gossip...
A few dead (well, re-dead) Wretched Mothers later, I was heading out with Leah in pursuit of her mother's old hut. Yes, Diablo I's witch, Adria, returns. Or at least her house does. And she's got a nice little piece of real estate out in that forsaken sixteenth of an acre of no-man's land. But one of the coolest things about this encounter is that Leah follows you, chats with you, kills monsters with you, and interacts with game world objects. Some of the Wizard's characteristic scholarly mindset sparks up here and other places. It's amazing how fixated the guy is on the Fallen Star.
The journey from here on out is something of a trip down memory lane.
(Note: The Wizard likes to point out the obvious.)
Ah, the Cathedral, how I've missed thee! Kael Rills is long gone, of course, and I do miss the blood-red light knifing through the dark. But maybe the deceptive serenity surrounding the Cathedral is what makes it most unsettling. Its depths are anything but serene.
The Fallen Star finally makes its reappearance. In its wake, it's left a tell-tale trail of otherwordly blue flames and a crater big enough to stuff over nine thousand McDonald's regulars. The journey down the old Horadrim bastion is crawling with the Undead. Ravenous Dead prowl the halls, often in groups. Carrion Bats stalk in clouds, swarming my Wizard with their annoying little zaps (reminiscent of Diablo II's Bat Demon (Diablo II)s.) And, of course, the Grotesque (Diablo III).
While not particularly the most dangerous of enemies, the Grotesque sported a few elements that might prove tricky, especially in later difficulties: a reasonably large amount of health, a corpse explosion guaranteed on death, and a mobile army inside its stomach. Okay, a handful of killer Lampreys (eels) wasn't really that dangerous, either, but it was just freakin' weird. Later in the game, the Grotesque was more likely to expel a number of Imps, though these, for the most part, ran off in random directions until I sniped them down with Electrocute.
Oh, the ceiling caves in just in time to kill Cain's pursuers! How convenient for him.
Eventually--inevitably--Cain popped up. Uncle Deckard had decided to go dumpster diving in the Cathedral for some esoteric lore in his never-ending battle against the forces of the Burning Hells. What a harmless idea.
Cain's addition to the mix brings another cool feature with Diablo III's take on story-telling: NPC's that talk with each other. Back in town, Cain and Leah catch up on old times: doomsday prophecy, demonic lore, the usual. Their interaction occasionally mixed in the haughty attitude of the Wizard. Were any other character to be the hero in the discussion, he, too, would add his character's flavor to the discussion.
But Diablo III isn't all idle chatter and zombie pounding. The climax of the beta culminates in the battle with the Skeleton King, a point which Bashiok has specified as a third of the way through the first act.
While the battle was not really that difficult (this is, basically, "easy" mode for testing purposes), King Leoric's ghostly remains had a few tricks up its sleeves.
The battle is initiated by clicking on the King. I started every battle by popping a few Diablo III Potions to boost my resistances, attack, and defense. The buffs are minimal and last only several minutes, but every little bit helped.
Leoric has three primary modes: a whirlwind attack similar to the Barbarian crossed with a I-don't-know-how-to-swing-my-weapon frenzy mode, a teleportation spell, and a simple swing attack with his massive mace. Periodically, he disappears from the fray, leaving a rabble of Undead minions in his wake. Of particular use during the skeleton waves was the Wizard's Wave of Force.
Wave of Force works great in mobs due to its large area of effect and massive knockback. The damage isn't bad, either, often decimating low-level mobs in a single hit. For my purposes, the wave blew gathering swarms of Returned and Forgotten Soldiers away from me, the fragile caster, and off into my patient comrades. Oh, and did I mention the +50% speed impediment?
Defensively, the battle can be fought with two skills: either Ice Armor or Diamond Skin (we're not even going to talk about Storm Armor, since it lacks any defensive buffs.) While Diamond Skin is better for straight damage reduction, its relatively short duration (five seconds) makes it more of a cast-in-the-moment-of-need spell. Frozen Armor, while not a big damage absorber, does increase the Wizard's armor significantly (50%), lasts for two glorious minutes, and chills every enemy that attacks you--including the Skeleton King! This also works great in mobs, allowing the unwary Wizard to escape with his skin intact in certain sticky situations.
From a safe distance, I could then spam them with Electrocute, which works exactly like Diablo II's Chain Lightning, or Energy Twister. (Oh, clever hint: Energy Twister is perfect for kiting. Cast and run, baby!)
And that about wraps things up. If any of you were fortunate enough to have played the beta yet, we'd love to hear about your experiences playing with the Wizard--any crafty spell tips, survival scenarios, or witty lines the Wizard is so prone to imparting.
And, if you still can't get enough Wizard (*cough sign of addict cough*), we prescribe Force Gaming Strategy's excellent Wizard playthrough videos on YouTube. Here's one to get you started:
As most of you are already aware, a few of the various Blizzard Influencers and fansites have been given beta keys (see our beta key image above?) to give away to our dearest fans, ;). Since we know that you're all hungering for the Beta, we're going to keep it short, sweet, and to the point! Each week, we're going to have a screenshot to show and your job is to add a caption. Whether the caption be epic or completely for the lulz, we don't care! We'll choose the best one or two entries each week and they'll be granted a Diablo III Beta Key.
To edit in your caption, you can just toss this image into MSPaint or any other photo editing program, add a few thought or speech bubbles, and go to town! You can then upload your screenshot to your Gallery here on DiabloFans, or any other image sharing service you choose. This week's screenshot is...
Submissions can just be posted here and you are allowed more than one entry if you like! These will run Saturday to Saturday, every week for the next few weeks. Winners will be picked on Saturday and the next screenshot will go up.
With the release of the item page on the Diablo III official site, questions were raised about how the rune system will work once the game is released. The presence of unattuned runes on the item page seemed to suggest that the team was going ahead with the implementation of the system Jay Wilson explained at the late July press event (be sure to check out Force's video of the explanation, along with many questions on the system from our own Sixen here). However, in response to a thread on the Diablo III forums, Bashiok was sure to point out that the system is not fully implemented yet, and is still very much up in the air.
Official Blizzard Quote:
We have no idea how the unattuned system is going to work. Or if it'll end up working at all. We're trying out some different options, but we're not likely to reveal much until we're more certain. Maybe it'll be something we feel comfortable discussing at BlizzCon? ... maybe not.
So fingers crossed for a full on explanation at the upcoming BlizzCon. If there are any updates on the runestone system at Blizzard's annual convention you can be sure we'll let you know.
In the same post, Bashiok went on to explain a potential change to the skill swapping system currently in place that would prevent people from swapping skills in the middle of combat.
Official Blizzard Quote:
On a slightly related (?) note we're playing around with having skill swapping locked to being in-town only. We're definitely not sold on it, but it could appear at some time in a beta patch, so FYI. Just be aware it's only something we're trying, and not a permanent solution.
Obviously this town-only restriction, if implemented, would still allow people to switch skills before a boss fight, which has been a point of much contention. However, it would still force players to be bound to a certain build during their time in a dungeon, unless they wanted to go back and forth from town in order to switch skills.
The second half of Bashiok's post caused a shift in the discussion occurring in the topic towards Diablo III's skill swapping system. Many people asked why the team simply would make it impossible to switch skills in combat, which led to this response from Bashiok:
Official Blizzard Quote:
As a follow up, there's no concept of 'in combat' or 'out of combat' in the game, so that's not something we can just hook in to. There could be. We could take programming time dedicated to other features and design and build out a 'combat state' system, but that's programming time away from something else.
As a result, it seems as though restricting skill swapping to town may be the simplest option. However, this obviously leads to some problems with experimentation seeing as in order to test out a skill after leveling you'd have to go back to town, and if you don't like the skill you'd have to switch it back in town once more. However, some people may see this restriction on the current ease of skill swapping as a good thing, and I think we can all agree that there needs to be a solution to swapping skills while in combat.