We’ve seen a lot of news (and there’s a ton on the way — expect about 10 more posts today) about what was revealed at the media event. But what about the demo play? No one’s posted any Flux-style™ mega-reports, at least not in English, but there are some good details to be found here and there.

    G4TV’s Kevin Kelly covers all the skills (some of them new) shown off in the presentation, then goes into hands-on demo comments. He even mentions the cool new visual style of the intro cinematics, (which I struggled mightily to describe on the podcasts) that we’ve yet to see any visuals from.

    Each character has their own unique backstory in the game, and you’ll be introduced to those in brand-new cutscenes that feature an entirely new look for Blizzard. We watched the Demon Hunter backstory, which unfolds in a series of pen and ink drawings on a parchment background. Each scene details the background of the class you’ve selected, and how it relates to the fallen start. With the Demon Hunter, since the dead are coming to life and demons are involved, they’ve sought out the fallen star in order to continue carrying out their plan to destroy ever demon in the world. For the Monk, they’ve been sent to decipher the meaning of the star, and so on. When you play through the beta, you’re finding out what this event has done to New Tristam, eventually leading up to a conflict with the Skeleton King. King Leoric has been reanimated in skeletal form, and he’s all that stands between you and the fallen star.

    …Speaking of which, wands make an excellent ranged attack weapon for Wizards, so once I had collected enough pages, I formed a Tome of Training, upgraded the blacksmith, and then had him craft me a new, more powerful wand. No doubt that crafting and finding tomes and recipes for the crafters in the game will create another facet to the entire loot game. While it’s not an enormous part of the beta, it will probably become a bigger factor when you’re deeper in.

    There are four more hands-on reports so far, from The Escapist, PC Gamer, GameInformer, and Kotaku. Click through for quotes and links to all of them, and if you’ve seen any others share the links in comments.

    The Escapist offers a nice discussion by Gus Mastrapa. It covers some early game plot stuff, and then gets into a more detailed discussion of low level Barbarian play.

    My first run through the beta took less than two hours. My lady Barbarian Snu Snu talked to everyone. She sifted through loot, searching for the best axes and armor to equip. I spent a lot of time thinking about Snu Snu’s skills. Rolling through ten levels of progression there were lots of interesting decisions to make. And none of them involved trying to make sense of a skill tree. At Blizzcon less than a year ago Blizzard showed off a streamlined tech tree for Diablo III. This year they chopped the whole thing down.

    Every time Snu Snu leveled up she gained access to skills like “Cleave” and “Ground Stomp.” Soon I had four or five different abilities, but only three slots to equip them in. I put a lot of thought into which combo would work well for my warrior. I tried jumping into the midst of battle with “Leap Attack,” working my fury up with my spammable “Bash” then unleashing my rage with the “Rampage” buff. But when it came time for a big boss fight I found that I wasn’t mitigating damage enough to last long enough to down my foe. After death (and a ten percent durability penalty) I swapped out my skills for “Ignore Pain” to reduce hit point loss and “Ground Stomp” to slow the adds who were harassing me while I whaled on The Skeleton King.

    GameInformer’s Adam Biessener wrote about his play experience with a focus on the Wizard play.

    Carving my path through the outskirts of New Tristram on my way to the cathedral where mad king Leoric’s skeleton has been reanimated once again, I use five distinct ability loadouts. Each plays quite differently. Swapping out my single-target nuke for a chain lightning blast reduces my effectiveness against the disturbing minion-birthing mother zombies, but the ease with which it lets me wipe out entire groups is worth it. My defenses take a hit by flipping frost nova for wave of force, but it isn’t that hard to avoid being surrounded. Plus, having a long-cooldown spell that can one-shot a whole encampment of zombies is way more amusing.

    PCGamer’s report by Tom Francis touches on all five classes, and has some good details about all of them. A quote:

    The Witch Doctor was more immediately fun. I knew he had pets, but I hadn’t quite realised how many, and how many of his skills make animals happen. I was firing of squads of exploding frogs to join my zombie dogs, while pigmies danced around turning enemies into chickens, and pin-legged spiders stalked between them. It’s basically a class that fires a zoo.

    There are also some interesting direct attacks to play around with while your pretties do unthinkable things to people. A poison blow dart lets you snipe bosses, Grasping Dead slows crowds with subterranean zombie gropes, and I can cast a curse that spreads like a virus if the enemy dies before he can shake it.

    Over on Kotaku, Michael McWhertor wrote a thorough piece that’s clearly scaled to D3 newcomers, but there are some first hand play notes included:

    During my own sprint through the beta, which ends after the player dispatches the Skeleton King in a hard-fought battle, I enjoyed the thrill of using the Monk more than any other. Her quick, powerful strikes and melee combinations were a treat to use when disposing monsters. The Demon Hunter was almost equally as enjoyable, particularly during a four-player cooperative run against the former King Leoric, in which we were slicing through enemies like a hot knife through butter. That four-player co-op game was simple to set up and customize, with a trio of invites sent to my Battle.net buddies for the day, then a hasty meet up in Tristram near my customizable player banner.

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