While at BlizzCon, we had the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the Diablo IV demo and compile some of our thoughts and feedback on those play sessions. Below are my thoughts on the demo, and Zenkiki will contribute his later this week.
Quick shoutout for those of you interested in Hearthstone: Our sister site HearthPwn has you covered with the full list of Descent of Dragons Cards, and a Hearthstone Battlegrounds Hero Tier List for the brand new game mode!
General Thoughts and Experiences
For being so early in development, I think it needs to be said how fluid the game felt. Skills felt powerful, combat was visceral, animations were flawless. The developers said this game is quite some time from release and to me that means it'll only get better from here. The game felt incredibly familiar, but different. The demo felt like it was the natural extension of Diablo III's combat system, but a tad bit slower which made positioning and skill animation lengths more meaningful. The Barbarian in particular had a skill with a minor wind-up, but had high damage that felt rewarding when you connected with it. The overall gameplay felt like it struck a great balance between Diablo III's fluidity of combat and Diablo II's speed and pacing.
The demo itself was beautiful rendered, but maintained a muted, gritty feel that was missing in Diablo III. You start the demo on a cliff-side and have clear view of the surrounding areas to the north that really drive home how massive this game is going to be. You could spend the majority of your 20 minute play session just exploring the map and we saw in one of the panels that the demo area is tiny compared to the rest of the planned game. The world in Diablo IV is going to be massive. Hundreds of unique dungeons, hundreds of villages, landmarks from previous games will be explore-able.
The Sorceress was my least favorite of the three classes available in the demo. The class felt powerful and fun, but it felt like it hadn't evolved much from Diablo II or Diablo III's Wizard. The Sorceress was also the only class in the demo without a generator+spender skill setup and when you ran our of Arcane Power, you just had to stand there and spam the basic free Frost Bolt while waiting until you had enough resource to use one of your other abilities. I feel that the Sorceress would have played better if it had another cooldown based spell that didn't require Arcane Power or at least a way of on-demand resource generation. All-in-all, it felt very much like a non-max level class in the caster archetype.
The Barbarian has undergone quite a few changes from it's Diablo III counterpart. In Diablo IV the Barbarian has access to four separate weapon slots that allow you can bind to different skills. While this feature was predetermined in the beta, from developer discussions they intend to allow the player full control over binding which weapons will be used by different skills. So while some skills may require a two-handed weapon or that you're dual wielding, you'll have free range to determine which specific sets of you four weapons can be used allowing tons of player customization.
The Barbarian felt very smooth in practice and the skill selection showed some new mechanics. Rupture for instance was a cooldown based skill that did massive damage over a couple of seconds, but if it killed an enemy the cooldown was instantly reset. It made gameplay very rewarding if you could hit smaller enemies and elites/bosses at the same time as it allowed longer uptime of the damage on the nastier monsters. I think the Barbarian showed a lot of potential in future skill design by making things such as positioning or timing the use of skills more important. If this is a hint of things to come from this early in development, I think the players will feel far more rewarded when they master certain elements of gameplay than in any of the prior entries in the series.
To me, the druid was far and away the best class in the beta. The shape-shifting animations were incredibly smooth and wonderfully showcased the possibilities of the new engine that was built from the ground up for Diablo IV. The druid had an excellent selection of skills with a couple of power skills on short cooldowns, a fast generator, an area of effect spender, with a little bit of crowd control thrown in. The druid really had that "Aha!" moment when you landed a Boulder skill into an elite that pushed them out of combat and gave you some breathing room to finish off other enemies around you. The druid also had the best legendary item in the demo that hit a random enemy with a lightning bolt every time you shape-shifted and you could shape-shift a lot.
There were two bosses in the demo you could fight: Ashava, the world boss, and the Sea Witch that you encountered if you played through the questline offered in the demo.
Ashava was a truly massive boss. The camera had to pull out to full show the scope of the encounter. This encounter felt akin to a raid boss in WoW, with telegraphed attacks that were absolutely devastating if you didn't dodge or position accordingly. Ashava also showcased a new mechanic referred to as the Stagger System that is represented by a second bar under the boss's health that filled as you used crowd control effects against it instead of actually subjecting the boss to the control effects. When the bar filled Ashava was briefly stunned and one of her giant talons broke off, drastically lowering the damage and range of her attacks made with that claw. The system basically made it so that bosses couldn't be cheesed by chaining crowd control effects, but still made control effects have meaning. All bosses will have different responses to the Stagger mechanic and it will be very interesting to see it in action against more bosses.
The Sea Witch also had the interaction and feelings of a boss that would be at home in a MMO. She would spawn area of effect circles all over the ground that did damage and summoned smaller mobs to try and bury you under their numbers. Sadly the boss was tuned to be easy to defeat as she was the showcase of the demo story and I always killed her before being able to Stagger her to see what the effect was. I was told that her Stagger would clear the room of the damaging pools, but also stun the player briefly while any minions that were still alive would become enraged. This sounded awesome and I wish I could have experienced it because it would give players a real choice in fighting the boss. Deal with the damaging pools continually covering the area and summoning more and more mobs or Stagger the boss and risk the stun, but clear the pools. This demo's bosses are already a couple steps ahead of any rift guardian and will offer far more fulfilling gameplay for players if this is just the starting point.
What are your thoughts on Diablo IV so far? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to ask us any burning questions you may have about the demo!