With a brand new beta build featuring mountains of updates and gameplay changes, Blizzcon 2011 attendees were in for a very nice treat. Although the campaign beta wasn't anything too exciting or new, (check below for our 5-part hands-on with the current beta build) the team deathmatch arena was quite impressive. At first glance it may look a bit like World of Warcraft's arena, but we can guarantee your Diablo 3 arena matches will be much more fast paced.
As with the rest of the beta, the gameplay quality was extremely responsive and equally entertaining. The only complaint we had about the death match beta was that we weren't able to choose our own skills and runestones, although we don't blame Blizzard seeing as how that could make the massively long lines even longer. This change was mostly due to a concern that was discussed during the Diablo 3 multiplayer panel, where devs stated that many beta users were switching active skills around during combat. The solution was to make active skills only swappable in town or out of combat. The nice part about the demo was that we were given premade characters with great looking armor at the maximum level of 60.
The game setup was pretty much identical to existing deathmatch style multiplayer games. Matchups were mostly comprised of 3v3 or 4v4 teams, and the goal was to rack up as many kills as possible in the limited amount of time provided. After a short practice period to get acquainted with all of our skills, the players were thrown into battle in a fairly small arena with several walls to hide behind.Last weekend we were able to try out three classes in the arena: the barbarian, demon hunter and wizard.
The Demon Hunter
Out of the three, our favorite would definitely have to be the demon hunter. At first the demon hunter's lack of massive critical strikes and damage output seemed to put our team at a disadvantage, but the hunter's survivability and utility certainly made up for that. As the demon hunter, our primary abilities that were chosen for us were Evasive Shot and Rapid Fire. Unlike the current Diablo 3 beta build, Blizzcon's demon hunter featured two types of primary skills, hatred generators and hatred spenders. Evasive Shot created hatred while Rapid Fire quickly depleted it. Between evasive shot's automatic backflip and the vault ability, killing the demon hunter definitely wasn't an easy task. Although we didn't see as many big numbers as we did playing the barbarian, the hit and run play style of the demon hunter was definitely an adrenaline pumper. Narrowly escaping death with well timed evasive shots and vaults must be quite frustrating to the enemy.
Like the demon hunter, the barbarian also wasn't too easy to kill, although that was primarily due to his massive amounts of damage and passive life steal abilities. Some of the abilities given to us as the barbarian were leap attack, frenzy and ancient spear. With ancient spear able to pull enemies to you and leap attack taking you directly to enemies, it became pretty clear that the barbarian can be a very dangerous opponent (or powerful ally). Coupled with a ranged class that can snare or root enemies such as the demon hunter, witch doctor or wizard, the barbarian will definitely shine.
The play style of the wizard was a lot like the demon hunter, quickly pouring arcane power into the enemy to deal massive amounts of energy while running around (or teleporting) to stay alive. Some of the abilities handed to us were magic missile, frost nova, diamond skin, teleport and arcane torrent. Magic missile was the skill to use while low on arcane power, and arcane torrent was for large bursts of damage at high arcane power. Frost nova worked great as an offensive or defensive ability while diamond skin provided just enough survivability for your teammates to rescue you. Compared to the demon hunter, it seemed like the wizard's burst damage was much higher, while the survivability suffered. Getting caught without diamond skin or teleport up often led to a very painful death. The general strategy that appeared to be most effective was fairly obvious: stick together and focus fire your opponents. Although such a strategy would seem only natural, the team deathmatch was extremely fast paced and your opponents will certainly be unforgiving if you take too much time to sit around and strategize. As a ranged class, getting caught by a wizard's frost nova followed by a barbarian's leap attack almost always led to certain death. Much like the current strategies in WoW arena, the tanky melee classes had to do their best to peel from the squishy ranged types.
Although we're assuming things will be much different when players get to choose their own abilities and play styles, the team deathmatch PvP at Blizzcon featured quite a bit of dying on both sides. Some of the scores we witnessed even reached over 70 kills in fifteen minutes. Unfortunately we weren't able to get any video footage of our matches, but you can see a little bit of the action in YouTube user Choogar595's videos here. No word was given on when we can expect deathmatch in the closed beta, but we'll be sure to give you all some more coverage once it gets patched in. Until then, let us know of any questions you have in the comments below!
If you missed them:Diablo 3 Closed Beta Hands-On: Part 5