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Diablo Preview: Part Two

 

We take a look at the second chapter of the Beta with the Demon Hunter.

Last time I waged bloody-fisted war with Raven the Russian monk. Now the baton has been passed to the Demon Hunter, Shadow. In contrast to the menacing title he’s actually a rather well spoken, polite character. With long locks of dark hair and impeccable manners he agrees to join forces with Leah to find her Uncle Deckard. He was last seen at the Cathedral, also the location of the fallen star. However the local militia sealed the doors of the church when the comet roused the undead fiends from their sleep. Leah informs me that before we can gain entry we’ll need to find the key, in possession of Captain Daltyn, who is believed to have fled an ambush and is seeking sanctuary in a nearby cottage.

Diablo 3’s waypoint systems means that retracing one’s steps isn’t necessary, instead Leah and Shadow are transported to the cemetery, from which we make our way towards the hut. As a companion Leah follows my lead, assisting me in battle, but never wondering too far. Passing a tree we fall silent at the sight of the dead left hanging on its branches. Was that a punishment or escape from the horrors around them? Changing the topic, Leah tells me about her parents who passed away some years ago and her mother’s interest in magic. However before much of a relationship is developed we arrive at the cottage. Dead militia lie on the floor, but all is quiet. Discovering a cellar we venture down. Captain Daltyn lies dead, a victim of an earlier attack, I approach to recover the key, but as I do he rises, no longer the captain, but an undead warrior intent on ending my life.

The Demon Hunter is equipped with a one handed crossbow used to pierce his enemies with bolts. But at this stage it’s more of a peashooter. Zombies have a habit of getting close and personal, and the Demon Hunter’s lack of melee abilities means the undead have the upper hand. The hungering arrow skill seeks out targets, but when they are a foot in front of me there isn’t much seeking to do. Much more useful is impale, a deadly knife throw to the head. These offensive skills spend one of the Demon Hunter’s two resources, Hatred. This is a resource pool that quickly regenerates, much like the monk’s spirit, however it restores naturally rather than on killing foes. The second recourse is Discipline, a slower regenerating pool that is used in defensive situations. As the rotting captain heads towards me I lay down the defensive caltrops trap to slow him. I take aim for Daltyn’s head, but before I fire Leah makes the finishing blow and takes the glory. Thanks, I guess.

I could really use her assistance again in the Cathedral, but rather than help save her old feeble uncle who raised her from birth, she decides to chill out in the cellar. Of course she does. As I enter the nearby Cathedral the camera peers through the battered roof and follows me into the depths. Darkness, the echo of the stone floor and winding corridors: now I know I’m playing a Diablo game. I’m taken back to my first experience of edging towards the initial boss in Diablo: the Butcher. The anticipation of what fiend will greet me. The sense that I’m being watches. The fear of being surrounded in the underground cavern. A fear that is soon realised. Having equipped a shield along with my one-handed crossbow to make up for Leah’s absence, I kid myself that I can handle things alone. Oh no. I’m quickly surrounded. I try running, but giant bats cut off my escape and cut me to pieces. As I fall the undead surround to feed on the fresh meat.

I’m revived at the start of the level. This time I take things slower, picking off enemies with arrows and using my throwing knifes to finish them. I take advantage of the Demon Hunter’s traps to slow down the approaching enemies. The combat is slower and more careful than the monk, and to be honest not nearly as much fun. That is until my patience is rewarded with a two-handed magic crossbow.

The loot is what pulls so many players in, the random rewards for finishing a tough battle or exploring a wayward room. That chest might contain six gold and a pair of battered gloves, or maybe, just maybe an ancient holy sword lays waiting to cut down Diablo. Well it’s no Excalibur, but this magic crossbow certainly turns the tide. Rather than peas, I’m dealing out headshots. Let the bodies hit floor. I unlock the rapid fire ability that turns my crossbow into a Gatling gun. When I started I felt like a Demon Avoider, now we’re certainly a few steps closer to Hunter.

With experience gained Shadow will be able to utilize his stealth skills, darting out of trouble or using smoke bombs to fade from sight. An arsenal of weaponry includes grenades and the explosive Bola shot. It’s empowering to see the blood of your attackers spatter across the room.

I see Leah’s Uncle, Deckard Cain, running for the Skeleton King: An eight foot menace, once the generous lord Leoric, who was corrupted by Diablo’s evil. The power from the fallen star has awoken him, and he’s angry. He sends his skeleton guards after Cain, but like Robin Hood mixed with Max Payne I run in, snipe the front-runners and grenade the rest. Cain and I run to the surface and back to New Tristram.

This offers me a perfect opportunity to sell my loot. There are several merchants in the town, but none offer anything particularly exciting. Some basic weapons and armour are on offer, but it doesn’t set the heart racing. More interesting is the rumour of a local blacksmith, Haedrig, who can forge weapons and armour for me, and even help to destroy the Skeleton King. He stands outside his house imploring me for help: his wife, Mira, has turned and he can’t face killing her. With Paragon kindness Shadow offers his assistance in ending Mira’s struggle. I don’t employ the same sensitivity when I mow the undead Mira down with a piercing arrow through the head. Regardless I’ve gained the help of Haedrig, who tells me that I’ll need Leoric’s crown, which is buried in the crypts of Weeping Willow Cemetry. Sounds like a perfect picnic scene doesn’t it.

With Deckard Cain saved and Haedrig on side I head out to Weeping Willow, crossbow in hand. The Demon Hunter has offered a vastly different experience from the monk. Rather than rushing in fists flying, I’ve learnt to set down traps, plan attacks and prioritise targets. It can make for slower gameplay, but just as exciting. And when all else fails, unleashing the rapid fire is a spectacle. The next preview will continue the story with a new class and explore Haedrig’s crafting abilities.

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