Last year, when Diablo III was still a dot on the horizon and I was looking for things to tide me over in between, I discovered 2 things. The first is that in the wake of D3’s announcement an entire genre seems to have sprung up around this point-and-click ‘action RPG’ concept. The second was Path of Exile by Grinding Gear Games.
Have a gander at the video above. As I said in my last post this seems to harken to a visual style and skill economy more like the first Diablo than its by-far more successful sequel Diablo II. That is to say the game is suitably dark and aspires to realism while having a system where each class can effectively acquire and use all the spells in the game. (And incidentally, isn’t there someone in particular the last video in this post reminds you of?)
I’ve now had access to the betas of both Path of Exile and its mammoth Blizzard-developed contemporary and if something strikes me more than anything else it is that the difference between the titles (budget aside) falls mostly along those lines I’d previously identified. While D3 is characterised by a strictly controlled experience to the point that it would like you to pick from subsets of skills when mapping buttons (denying the ability to map anything anywhere as its predecessor allowed), PoE seems a lot more free-form and less structured.
One stark design difference is that in PoE you’re not shepherded from area to area by quests. Indeed it’s often the case that you should explore new regions on your own before finding things to trigger new quests or open up new dialogue opportunities with the NPCs in town.
Wanderings in PoE are also less aimless simply for the increasingly interesting loot you can expect to drop. Yellows (rares) and third up the tree from whites and blues (magic) do actually drop occasionally off rare and unique monsters when in D3 they don’t even consistently drop from bosses. Also since skills are itemised and socketable, it’s not unlikely to clear out a group of mobs and find Frost Nova just dropped for you.
Funny thing to say against D3, the quintessential loot-driven game if there is one, and something that might not even be necessary later in the experience, but the loot itself was quite boring. The range of
I didn’t mean to ramble about Diablo in this post as much as I did since I fully intend to writeup that constantly-changing beta in its own article. But really, when comparing this games and others like Torchlight 2 there’s little sense in ignoring the gigantic elephant in the room that will steal players and press attention away from the smaller players however you slice it.
Anyway, next up for PoE will be my opinions of the 5 thus revealed character classes. So far I’ve been playing and liking the Marauder class as well, but to close off here are some more videos of my Witch.
Since the beginning of time we knew World of Warcraft would get heaps of expansions. A leaked blue post a while back, before Cataclysm leaked a ‘Maelstrom Set’ and a ‘Legion Set’ and in December a Blizzard roadmap all but confirmed XP4 and XP5.
So now is ‘Mists of Pandaria’ that new expansion? Blizzard has made a copyright application reportedly similar to those of previous XPs according to MMO-Champion who felt confident enough to plaster it across their front page. The image above was taken of a piece of concept art at Blizz HQ back in April- could it give us an idea of what to expect with Pandaria? Asian scenery and Chinese dragons?
On the one hand I think that an Asian influence is one of the few currently absent in WoW. So I’m all for that. On the other hand, I sure as hell hope they include some of the missing old world areas, like Kul Tiras and the Broken Isles along with this new continent. And I hope that recent events haven’t ruled out future includions of Azshara and the Emerald Dream either. Who knows though- Karazhan, a Burning Crusade feature, was located in the old world so there’s hope yet.
I always thought of pandas as the perennial Warcraft April Fools’ joke, but I’ve missed those kung fu panda antics since The Frozen Throne and will look forward to saying hi to Chen Stormstout in any case. Let’s see how this all pans out at Blizzcon.
Today’s panel, ‘Crafting Sanctuary’ continued Diablo III’s coverage at Blizzcon 2010. Design issues such as visual design, level layout, loot, AI, UI and the Artisans were all covered in some depth. Here are the videos;
For those who don’t recall, Artisans were revealed as travelling craftsmen earlier this year at GamesCon. Here’s Jay Wilson’s walkthrough from that event;
Diablo III’s first form of Player-Vs-Player competition was revealed today in the form of ‘Battle Arenas’. Described as small scale team PvP, Battle Arenas are progression- and rewards-based with a focus on teamwork overcoming individual class imbalances. It was also suggested that PvP would utilised the same gear as PvE, but different skill specialisations via Skill Runes would define specs differently. An Obsidian rune might add a stun effect to a skill that would be more useful in PvP than outside of it, for example. Also matches would be in rounds, so that players have time to understand the enemy team composition and formulate strategies.
Here’s a sample of a Battle Arena team deathmatch;
Blizzcon 2010 is underway at the moment and for Diablo III fans the first day of panels has been quite rewarding. The game’s fifth and final class has been revealed as the ‘Demon Hunter’, a ranged archetype. Here’s the class’ cinematic trailer;
The lore supporting Demon Hunters suggests they are a loose-knit, nomadic organisation bonded through a hatred of Demons. Most members, in fact, begin as victims of demonic attacks in search of vengeance. To this end they employ limited amounts of shadow magic, and wear cowls to hide their dark tendency and the glowing eyes that result.
Putting an edge on the Demon Hunter while not straying too far from its readability as a ranged class was the chief design problem. At various points in development, things like katar-based weapon combat, demon limbs and shapeshifting were all considered, but ultimately thrown out since they deviated too much from the core class identity. What are left with is a class that focuses on ranged weapons – specifically dual-wielded crossbows – traps and basic shadow magic.
As you can see in the below gameplay video, the key skills used by the Demon Hunter are Multishot, returning from D2’s Amazon, and Bolo, an attack with a delayed damage-dealing effect. Spike Trap emphasises the class’ focus on preparation and allows fights to be setup tactically. Finally Vault is the ‘shadow dash’ move that enable’s mobility, although designed mentioned all classes would receive similar attention.
Here are videos from today’s Diablo III gameplay panel at Blizzcon 2010. Topics covered include the game’s fifth class – the Demon Hunter – and its creation, Skill Trees, Traits, Skill Runes, the Talisman and the PvP Battle Arena.
To summarise, the Demon Hunter is the final class in D3, filling the ranged archetype. Skill Trees have been have been simplified to show only active skills; passive skills are now ‘Traits’ and on a separate interface. Runes affect skills, adding properties like Fire Damage or control elements like stuns and snares. The Talisman now holds charms that took up main inventory space in Diablo II and the Battle Arena is the first announced implementation of PvP in the game. Have a watch for all the details.