Monsters have Flavor!

A Monster's Life
Diablo in its most simple form is loot, skills, and monsters. Slaying monsters allows the player to level their skills, and gives them loot so they can kill more monsters. Developers have only three opportunities to showcase a monster in a game such as Diablo. First is during spawn, when the monster appears on screen. Secondly in combat, where the player interacts with the monster. Then finally in death, when the player receives their loot, and moves onto the next target. We'll be visiting each one of these stages with numerous examples to get an idea of how Diablo III's development team is flavoring each monster; having it tell a story through the brief time it's on screen. Throughout this article I will note encounters of all three types from 5 rich gameplay footage sources, the 2008 Barb/Witch Doctor Gameplay Trailer, 2010 Demon Hunter Gameplay Trailer Part one/Part two, the 2010 Monk Gameplay Trailer, and the 2010 Wizard Gameplay Trailer. Click the time stamp to skip to the time relating to the corresponding encounter. Open the time stamp in a new tab, then close after the example is over to navigate the article smoothly. Lets begin our tour through the lives of monsters in Diablo III.

Spawning, first impressions

In 00:25). Shortly after we see a Grotesque, which itself doesn't have a unique spawn, but the Grotesque about to burst2:29). Next we see a 4:06). After slashing through those encounters the Barbarian comes across a 4:41). After acquiring a scripted full set of gear from the chest, the Barb leaps over a break in a bridge and uses 6:37), reinforcing the fact that these are indeed undead creatures we are dealing with. Later on we see a Dark Vessel transform into an Activated Vessel, who attacks the player viciously until destroyed (9:30). They have a nice death animation also, more on this later.

10:19). After slaying the mini boss, outside the dungeon we see some run-of-the-mill Zombies rising from the ground; still a nice touch (12:10). Next we see a Skeletal Summoner bring a Skeleton to life via a purple mist of energy (13:27). Thereafter we witness a slew of 13:43). Come (16:29) we see the huge Gnarled Walkers creek and rattle into combat. Finally the players encounter certainly the biggest creature seen thus far, the 18:50).

The 3 Bosses we've seen in game so far; Thousand Pounder, Siegebreaker, and Skeleton King
Dark BerserkerMoving along to the 0:29). Right after, the Treasure Seeker is encountered, more on him in the combat segment. (2:39) Ghouls once again surround the player via climbing up from below, and a large unnamed skeleton jumps from the ground wielding a large one handed mace. While not mini boss status, he is certainly unique. Next, though not a creature, we see a ghostly scene playing out of 3:00). Later we see Walking Corpses climbing out from an underground chamber at the top left of the screen (4:55). Lastly three 7:29).

Dune ThresherNow on the 0:31). Also in the mix at this encounter is a Lacuni Huntress who also can teleport, and is noted to have a lightning aura around her hinting that she is a lieutenant class creature. (1:38) marks our first encounter with three Dune Threshers. One dives under the sand and swims near the player. Following, the Monk is surrounded by Lacunis popping from the sand triggered by a chest (2:27). Next a Dune Dervish makes its first appearance, launching from the sand in a spinning fury alongside a few others, which seem to be spawning around a suiting large tornado (5:14). Come 7:47 the Tomb Vipers are spotted to the upper right. At a distance they are invisible, as they approach the player they appear as a glowing orb, and only when in close range they're seen in their true form.

During the first 1:30 of the Wizard Gameplay Trailer, 3:44). Most notable in this video though, we see the 4:50).

Combat, a role to play

First impressions over you want it dead, combat will get you there. Diablo 2 had a good variation of monster blends, keeping the player on their feet. As with most everything though, the D3 team is taking this a step farther, adding new monster types, each of them having different roles to play in battle.

During the 2009 Heroes & Monsters Blizzcon Panel, 28:34).

Advance to 28:34 for monster archetypes
Monster Archetypes

  • Swarmers - Weak, Typically Melee
  • Ranged - Prjectile Speed, Arc, Direct
  • Lieutenant - Resurrect, Buff, Spawners
  • Elite - Tough, Stronger Attacks, or Both
  • AOE - Point Blank, Line, Radial, Cone
  • Weakener - Debuff, Slow, Drainer
  • One Offs: Sleeper, Alarm, Bee Hive, Linked, Sapper, Thief

Through many combinations of those functions, different groups of monsters form different challenges, which each class has to approach suiting to their play style. During the 2010 Blizzcon Crafting Sanctuary Panel 2/4, 6:16). As you roll through the examples below, give some thought to the archetypes listed, and what one the monster is fulfilling.

Skeletal ShieldmenTo note some of these mechanics in action, starting in the 2008 Gameplay Video, Jay Wilson elaborates on how to properly approach a Dark Berserker. "These Berserkers have a powerful attack that does massive damage, it's best to avoid it, then retaliate while he recovers" (3:07). Jay goes on to describe the Dark Cultist and their threat on the field, "The Cultist that are joining the fight are weak and easy to kill, but the demon spawn the summon are not. The Barbarian must dispatch the Cultist quickly before he is overrun" (3:18). He goes onto explain how these two monsters complement each other, "Working together the Berserkers provide a tough obstacle, allowing the Cultist time to stack the odds against our hero." Next the Barb triggers the four 4:41). Afterward the player runs across a mass of 8:40). Also notice how the Skeletal Shieldman make a barrier between the player and the less resilient - Skeleton Archer Skeleton Archers in the back.

BeastOur next encounter marks where two groups of Dark Vessels are seen; these monsters are high priority targets. In this case there are no other creatures around to distract the player, though even if there were, killing as many of the vessels as possible before they transform into Activated Vessels would likely be the best game plan (9:24). Soon after during the mini boss battle the Thousand Pounder reaches half heath, which sends him into a frenzy. This increases his movement speed, attack speed, and likely attack damage (10:52). These type of monster mechanics can make longer combat encounters more diverse and difficult. At 12:56 we see an example of a enemy charge attack by the 13:27). This I suspect is purposeful, and implemented into the AI of the Summoner to better surround the player. Next at (13:42) the Witch Doctor gets jumped by many Scavengers. Falling under the "Swarmers" archetype, these creatures attack in numbers, are melee, and rather easy to kill. Lastly in the 2008 Gameplay Video from 16:30 on we see an example of a multi tiered fight, beginning with the the Gnarled Walkers, climaxing with the Siegebreaker Assault Beast, and ending with the mass of Skeletons.

Male Demon Hunter During the Demon Hunter Gameplay footage, a strange creature is noted. This is the Treasure Seeker, this monster doesn't attack the player, instead it will run away in attempts to keep its stolen loot. With each hit the Treasure Seeker will drop gold, loot, or both (0:39). The next encounter introduces environmental hazards, note the huge metal grate on the ground, periodically bursting into a huge inferno which would most definitely harm the player (0:43). Next is something reminiscent of Diablo 2, when a Skeleton Archer fires upon the player from behind a barred cell wall (1:21). I remember that being extra annoying as a Barbarian in D2. Afterward marks an Elite class creature encounter, as the player reaches the center of a four way walk bridge, an event is triggered as Ghouls climb up from every direction surrounding the player, then a huge Skeleton jumps up from the ground, becoming a top priority target (1:21). Note how the Demon Hunter volts over the fiery grates to avoid taking unnecessary damage (3:43). Shortly after another environmental hazard is seen in the form of giant falling blades (4:42). Next we stumble upon an interesting mixture of monsters. A 5:58). Lastly three Dark Berserkers under command of an Dark Cultist make for a dangerous encounter (7:28).

Activated Vessel Concept Art, Treasure Seeker Reward Poster, Tomb Viper Concept Art Fallen shaman Right off the bat in the Monk Gameplay Video a few 0:05). These kind of choke points can make it hard to avoid from casters, thus why the Monk uses a damage reflection skill. At 1:28 as before we see the three 2:09). Shortly after the Monk sets off a sabotaged chest, causing multiple Lacuni Huntresses to spring from the sand (2:27). Following that, we see a melting pot of creatures including Lacuni Warriors, Lacuni Huntresses, 2:41). Next marks my favorite part of the video, where multiple clans of Fallen attack the four players at a choke point. Masses of fallen charge in as the front lines get mowed down while the players break through and finish off the few left behind (4:22). It's times like that where you feel the power of your character. At 5:13 a strange tornado coming from a rocky hole in the ground is seen. Around this tornado are swirling symbols on the ground, soon after the players enter the area multiple Dune Dervish leap from the sand. From 5:59 to 7:29 we see chaotic battles break out as the players enter an overtaken desert city now inhabited by the forces of Hell. Afterward are the 7:47). This could make for quick surrounds when venturing through dark tombs.

Unburied Lastly the Wizard Gameplay Video, while few mentions of intricate combat exist in this video, the ones that do are very interesting. After being threatened by the Skeleton King, the Wizard is attacked by Skeleton Shieldmen, that have excellent attack resistance, 1:53). Secondly we see a large lumbering 3:31). Lastly during the battle with the Skeleton King, the player has their large objective target (Skeleton King), yet all the while has to keep the Skeletons around her at bay (4:53).

Aside from regular foreseeable encounters as listed, there are also random events. As Jason Bender explains to us during the Crafting Sanctuary Panel, random encounters can occur in many places throughout the world, which are themselves randomized. "You could just be walking thought a swamp and boom, 500 Zombies pop up." Surely an overstatement, though the In Game Example gives us a realistic idea.

Death, the most important part of a Monster's Life

"One of the most important stages of any monster's life, is really, death." - - Jill Harrington Jill Harrington
Often times the most exciting part of an encounter with a monster is indeed its death. In Diablo 2 we had a handful of unique death animations. Many of you remember Epic Death Experiences (10:04)."

Advance video to 10:04 for Monster Deaths
Wraith and Ghostly OrbStarting with the 2008 Gameplay Footage, as mentioned in the Spawning segment we come across a 2:28). Next a defeated Wraith implodes before degenerating into a mist of ghostly energy (4:51). Third we have the death animation for the Activated Vessel, twitching as the demonic energy which brought it to life escapes upward until its body finally explodes, bits fly everywhere (9:45). Afterwards the player witnesses the death of the Thousand Pounder, his innards spray out and up, leaving just his skeleton laying lifeless (11:06). Following the mini boss we see how the Witch Doctor's Locust Swarm attack eats the flesh right down to the bone, more on these type of skill caused death animations soon (12:14). Next marks the death of an Skeleton Summoner, flickering for a split second, then bones and all degenerating upward into a purple mist (13:33). Later on the 16:35).

On the topic of deaths, special player deaths are in the game. At 17:28 we see the Siegebreaker Assault Beast, pick up the Female Which Doctor, roar in her face, and chuck her at the ground killing her instantly. Soon after, the Male 18:05). Shortly after the Siegebreaker falls, its body smoldering. It then catches on fire, falling apart as a demonic force flies out of it, opening 5 portals around the players where massive amount of Skeletons emerge (18:36).

In the Demon Hunter Gameplay footage we see the death of the large skeleton mentioned in all 3 segments of this article. Sadly his death isn't very interesting, as his body just goes limp, and falls off the ledge (0:37). I feel a giant explosion of bone would have been much more suiting. Secondly something neat happens. Due to the physics in the game the Dark Cultist's body flies past the camera (5:27).

Female MonkOnto the notable death animations in the Monk Gameplay video. Seeing as the Monk often uses combo moves, causing the monster to violently explode, sometimes what appears to be a unique monster death is just the end result of combination of attacks from the Monk, and not to be confused with the explosions of higher class monsters. Firstly the death of a Frozen Mage, its limbs fly outward falling and scatting nicely due to the in house physics engine (1:32).

Lastly for our Gameplay videos, during the Wizard footage, we have an Unburied's death animation. Falling backward and decomposing down to its rib cage (3:45). Suiting since after all it is just a multitude of corpses bound together by demonic forces. We don't get to witness the death of the Skeleton King, that is left to our imaginations.

Aside from standard death animations, there are also critical kill deaths which have their own effects. During a 2008 D3 Blizzcon Panel, Monster Deaths were showcased. Jay Wilson goes on to talk about how during a critical hit kill the monster will explode, and also show which primary damage type ended its life. He then talks about what you've just seem through a multitude of examples, how certain monsters have unique specialty deaths. Lastly he showcases how skills with specific damage types effect monsters differently. We see how the Witch Doctor's Locust Swarm eats the flesh off its victims, how Burst of Acid melts the flesh off, and how rare monsters are filled with a lot of energy, so they obviously have to explode upon death.

Diablo 3 Monster Deaths - BlizzCon 2008
Another great example of how different damage types effect the death animation of monsters is at 50:10 in the Diablo III Gameplay Panel, Blizzcon 2010; where the Wizard's Hydra skill is showcased, showing how each of the five - Runestone Runestones effect it, and the effect it has on its victim's death animations.

The Diablo universe would be nothing without the monsters which inhabit it. Blizzard is going the extra mile to make sure our experiences with them this time round are varied, and challenging. I hope you enjoyed our journey through the life and death of monsters in Diablo 3. Thank you for reading, see you next time!

More Diablo you say? Ophion also covered creature encounters, in the Diablo Chronicles. Further into the chronicles he details the randomization of these encounters through the Diablo series, some new creature behaviors in Diablo 3, Boss mechanics, and discussion of some character/follower mechanic evolution. Swing by the article and get your read on.

It's not too late to vote in our most recent poll, Cooling Down with Cooldowns, or listen to Force's DiabloCast XVIII, The Armory Will Expose You! where the Trio talks about skill cooldowns, beta speculation, and much more.

Also be sure to check out ScyberDragon's How Soon is Soon™ article where Diablo 3's unknown release date is discussed.

Dying for more? Check out Don_guillotine's Editorial on death, and the toll it could take in Diablo 3.


  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.
Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes