The lights are on
It's been a busy BlizzCon, but amid all the live blogs, costume contests, and Tenacious D concerts, I also got to check out a few video games. Easily the most exciting thing on display at this year's show was the latest build of Diablo III, complete with a playable version of the game's fifth and final class, the Demon Hunter.
I got to take the female version of the Demon Hunter -- currently the only one available -- on a runthrough of a dungeon known as Leoric's Halls of Agony. This happy-sounding place was full of cultists and the horrifying zombie-like creatures they were summoning, all out for my blood and all ready to drop mountains of loot for me.
The Demon Hunter I was playing was already leveled up enough to have three major skills unlocked. In addition to just shooting off the crossbow, Entangling Shot sent out a shadowy bolt that tied together three enemies. In addition to producing a cool shadowy chain linking the bad guys, they also are slowed down, giving you more distance, which is clearly a bonus for a ranged class.
The explosive Bola Shot skill is a perfect follow-up to Entangling Shot. This sent out a bola that wrapped around a single enemy and then exploded, causing area-of-effect damage to any nearby foes. My main strategy for most groups involved tying enemies together with Entangling Shot, hitting the one in the middle with a bola, and then watching a whole bunch of demons explode at once.
The Demon Hunter also had access to the Vault ability, which allowed her to skillfully leap across the room, picking up any gold or health globes that she passed. In addition to leaping past groups of enemies to get some distance, Vault proved necessary to get past traps, such as one room where large areas of the floor bursted into flame every 10 seconds.
Environmental traps are actually one of the most interesting parts of Diablo III's dungeon design. Areas such as the aforementioned fire floor and another spot where giant cleavers came swinging down from the wall harmed my Demon Hunter, but I was also able to use them against the less intelligent enemies. The mindless zombies I fought walked right into the fire as I used Vault to get over it, draining some of their health with no effort from me.
Some of the Demon Hunter's most impressive skills weren't usable on the build I played, but had been shown off previously during BlizzCon. Multishot, a returning favorite from Diablo II, does an impressive spread attack, harming a whole group of enemies at once. The Demon Hunter will also set traps and use Grenades, an ability that shows off the new fully 3D maps in Diablo III. You'll be able to bounce grenades off walls and around corners using realistic physics to get the jump on unsuspecting enemies.
I must admit that I don't normally play a ranged class in Diablo games, but I was really impressed with how the Demon Hunter played. Figuring out the best way to mix Entangling Shot and Bola Shot had me thinking more strategically than I expected, and throwing traps into that equation will increase the number of options.
As you might expect, the Demon Hunter is also extremely good at killing enemies. I was able to kill one large, presumably powerful boss without taking any damage by making him follow me back and forth around the same corner and using Bola Shot every time he appeared.
Then again, I was also frequently surprised by how some enemies worked around the Demon Hunter's strengths. Enemies dynamically spawned from unexpected areas in the environment, crawling up from pits and out of cracks in the walls, and cornering me before I realized they were there. One group of "disentombed hulks," had the bonus power of teleporting. Every time I hit them with an Entangling Shot and ran away, they would teleport right next to me.
Whether or not Demon Hunter was the class that people expected or wanted as the fifth choice in Diablo III, I think it's safe to say that most gamers won't be disappointed when they get to play as this dark ranger. The variety and utility of skills already on display show how deadly this class will be in the right hands. And most importantly, playing as the Demon hunter and taking down hordes of hellish creatures from afar just feels bad ass.