Along with the new DiabloWikiDemon Hunter info, Diablo III’s PvP DiabloWikiArena debuted at this year’s Blizzcon. There’s an info page about it on Blizzard’s site, and eight screenshots as well.

    I was able to spend some time playing it this morning at the show, and have a few comments to add to the basic info Blizzard has revealed. We’ll have more later this weekend, after we get some more battle time in the Arena.

    The Arena, as presented at Blizzcon this year, is very much an arcade game. You join in two teams of three players, you each pick your class from the three available characters (Wizard, Witch Doctor, and Barbarian; no Monk or Demon Hunter options), give them a name, and you’re launched into the arena. One team is blue, one team is red, marked by circles under their feet, and you start on opposite ends of the roundish arena, with various obstacles and posts in the way. There are a few spots where health orbs can spawn, but most of the fights were over so quickly that orbs were hardly grabbed and didn’t make much difference when they were.

    In the final game you’ll presumably have more choice of skills, arena maps, equipment, and characters. The version at Blizzcon is just the start of the system, and it was meant to be a fun, arcade-style battle for fans to try out, without necessarily telling us that much about how the feature will be presented in the final game.

    Click through for more first hand details from my first play time session.

    The play sessions are very quick and brutal. There’s not much room for strategy, especially when everyone’s fairly new to the game. The characters are all pre-made; when you pick a wizard, male or female, you get the exact same build, equipment, skills, skill runes, etc. It’s like an arcade fighter, where everyone has the same tools to pick from and only the tactics differ.

    The games are very fast and chaotic. You get a single fall, and when your character dies, you’re done for the battle. You stay dead until everyone else on your team (or the other team) dies, and then all six of you start a new round at once. In the fifteen minute battle, the final score in my game was something like 14-5, which gives you an idea how quickly it goes.  While dead you can look over your menus; I spent the time looking at my skill hovers, equipment, skills, etc. You can follow the action if you want; clicking on the screen moves your “camera” so you can follow the action as the remaining contestants battle it out.

    Once you pick your class, you’re stuck with them for the duration. My team soon wished that was not so, since our group of two wizards and a witch doctor were getting destroyed by a barbarian and two wizards. Player skill seemed to have something to do with it; the Witch Doctor on my squad was clearly very new to the game and spent several rounds standing in a corner, throwing firebombs at a wall. This wasn’t an especially effective tactic, surprisingly. The barbarian was much better than our witch doctor though, since he was a tank and kept chasing our wizards around, while the other side’s wizards were able to hurl Meteors and keep up a constant death beam of Disintegrate non-stop.

    The character equipment was all plain stuff. Nothing on my wizard was even magical; it was just low level “white” plate mail type stuff. Nothing to boost my stats at all, and the weapon was a plain staff as well. I don’t know if the Barbarian had a magical weapon, but I doubt it. The skills were preset, and all had runestones as well; all of the damage spells were socketed to lower their Arcane Power cost, while my Diamond Skin defensive skill had a rune to increase the damage absorption from 100 to 150.

    All the characters had about 850 hit points to start with. You saw your own and everyone else’s hit points displayed over their heads when they were taking damage. There were no healing potions or ways to regain health other than from the occasionally spawning health orbs.

    The Wizard skills available:

    DiabloWikiSpectral Blades on the left click. This was not wise to use, since at melee range a Barbarian would destroy you, and other Wizards didn’t hold still at close range.

    DiabloWikiDisintegrate on the right click. The attack of choice. Long range, straight beam cooking laser attack with a slightly slowing/zapping effect. Negligible Arcane Power cost, so it could be used non-stop. The only danger was standing

    DiabloWikiMeteor on the #1 key. This works like it does in D2. Click a spot and a flaming rock falls down a moment later. Huge damage, around 220-250, and leaves an AoE burn zone.

    DiabloWikiHydra on the #2 key. This works like it did in D2, but the graphics are totally redone. The default Hydra is three-headed, purple, and slightly translucent, like an Arcane serpent. They work like minions, you can only have 2 of them at once; if you cast a third the first one vanishes. They did around 40 damage per shot.

    DiabloWikiTeleport on the #3 key. It works faster than you’d think from the screenshots; moving to another location is virtually instantaneous, as it was in D2.  There was a 6 second cool down between uses, so it was best used as an emergency escape.

    DiabloWikiSlow Time on the #4 key. This huge bubble of slow was very useful against enemies. It would block off entire pathways, and if used well, ideally stuck right on top of a Barbarian or Witch Doctor, they would get slaughtered by other attackers before they could get clear.

    DiabloWikiDiamond Skin on the #5 key. This was basically a new version of Stone Skin. It changed the Wizard’s appearance to a sort of protective shell, allowing her to absorb 150 damage. The duration was quite short, something like 8 seconds, and it had a long cool down between casts, like 20 seconds. Like teleport, best used when you were in imminent danger.

    We’l have more on the PvP later this weekend, after I get some more play time. I need to try out the WD and Barbarian, to see how the compare; especially since I’d already played the Wizard in the PvM game demo, though entirely different skills were available to the much lower level PvM character than in the PvP.

    See all eight PvP Arena screenshotsso far released.

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