Diablo II was a great game, but I don’t think anyone can argue the combat model was really deep or engaging. People played because they wanted awesome characters, not because it felt really cool to spam blessed hammer millions of times and kite monsters around. For Diablo III we think we can have awesome characters and deep and engaging combat, and we’re not going to get there by just copying the previous game.
I’ve played quite a bit of the Diablo 3 beta, plus dozens of hours of the PvM demos at Blizzcon 2008, 2009, and 2010, (the only public showings of non-beta content) and while I’ve written many thousands of words about those (very enjoyable) play experiences, I’m fairly certain that “deep” and “engaging” were not amongst the adjectives used to describe the combat. Ever. About any version of the game.
I played a fair amount of D2C some months ago, refreshing my memory of what the base game was like, and I have no hesitation in saying that the first Fallen Shaman boss pack you encounter in D2 requires considerably more strategy and tactics than any monster or situation that’s ever been presented in a Diablo III demo. All the demos of D3 have been a lot of fun, but “click until dead” is the extent of the strategy and tactics required, with the number of clicks steadily decreasing over the years.
Combat in the D3 beta has never been deep or engaging, (the fun comes from the skills and the overall experience; the monsters are stupid exp and gold pinatas) but it was a bit closer to that during the early weeks of the beta, when the potential for death from various boss mods was non-negligible. You’d never know it from playing today, but early on you actually had to get out of the way before Molten and Frozen bosses blew up, and when you got the first version of Arcane Enchanted, you ran or you died.
Obviously we can’t judge the whole thing from the beta or Blizzcon demos, and we know the Beta is supposed to be this easy in order to make it more “accessible,” etc, etc. That said, the full game better have some pretty damn engaging and tactical and challenging scenarios. Seriously, I do not want to spend my first month of D3 posting news about yet another fifteen page “Dumbed down and disappointing!” forum thread.