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Hands-On Preview: Quests and Dungeons

Posted 17 Dec 2010 by

Taking a break from the character reports, with only the Demon Hunter to go, here’s an absurdly-lengthy discussion of the Levels and Quests that made up the PvM demo at this year’s Blizzcon.  This one covers the lighting, atmosphere, mood, theme, and layout of the dungeons, and goes into great detail about the minimalistic quests presented therein. It’s copiously illustrated with interesting tidbits from screenshots and the huge gameplay movie, and should teach you a thing or two that you didn’t already know about Diablo III.

Other mega Blizzcon game reports.

  • Battle Arena Report: Covers all 3 chars, their skills, and much general Arena info.
  • Quests and Dungeons: Lengthy illustrated discussion of the quests and various dungeons (their layout, theme, graphics, play style effects, and more) in the Blizzcon 2010 PvM demo.
  • Monk PvM: The Monk, his skills, and general PvM demo info.
  • Wizard PvM: The Wizard, her skills, Blizzcon demo info, and skills and skill tiers explained.
  • Barbarian PvM: The Barbarian, his skills in the demo, class long term variety, and more.
  • Witch Doctor PvM: The Witch Doctor, his skills in the demo, massive skill rune improvements, potential build variety, and more.
  • Demon Hunter PvM: Coming soon: The Demon Hunter, her skills in the demo, D3 archery play style.

Full Blizzcon 2010 media coverage.

Blizzcon 2010: Quests and Dungeons

There were three dungeons in the PvM demo at Blizzcon 2010, The DiabloWikiHalls of Agony, the DiabloWikiHighlands Passage, and DiabloWikiKing Leoric’s Torture Chambers, each of which had one quest contained within it. There were no random events (as far as I noticed) and no variety in the quests; the same ones were in the same place every time you played through the demo, though the location of the quest objects in the first and third dungeon varied each game along with the randomized dungeon layout.

This was a surprise to me, since the Blizzcon 2008 demo had several quests/random events spread throughout the upper two levels of the dungeon, mixed in with the main plot line quest which culminated in a battle against the DiabloWikiSkeleton King on the third level, which was entirely scripted and non-random. The Blizzcon 2009 demo had one main quest but lots of random events/mini-quests spread throughout the desert, before the anticlimax of reaching Alcarnus.

The quests in those past two demos were not the same as they’ll be in the final game (all were simplified for the demos, and stripped of their story/plot elements to preserve secrets), but they gave a representative preview of the sorts of random events, NPC escort missions, adventures, and various randomly occurring and located mini-quests we’ll see in the final game. This year’s demo did not.

Why not? There’s no telling; none of the Blizzard devs talked about the contents of this year’s PvM demo in any interviews or panel discussions. My guess is that with so much new stuff—redesigned DiabloWikiskill trees, DiabloWikitraits, five playable classes, functional DiabloWikirunestones, the DiabloWikitalisman and DiabloWikicharms, many more item types, new boss monster abilities—plus a shorter play time per session (15 minutes rather than 20 as in the past two years) they thought that lots of quests and random events would overstuff the demo with content. This way players were more concentrated on the combat and action and dungeons, rather than distracted by having to run errands on top of everything else.

As for the quests that were in the demo, they were very simple. The first dungeon’s quest was simply to exit the level, with a bonus non-quest goal of killing a SuperUnique boss. The second dungeon was tiny, and the escort mission quest was impossible not to complete within about two minutes. Only the third dungeon had a proper quest; in it you had to find six prisoner ghost, click to free them, then find the dungeon boss and take the key he dropped to open a magical gate which granted you access to… a black room that was a dead end and the end of the dungeon.

Much more detail on all of those quests later in this article, but the point is that the Blizzcon 2010 demo was not about solving quests or completing complicated missions. The quest were very short/simple missions stripped down from the full versions in the final game, inserted into the demo just to give players some overarching objective while 99% of our attention was focused on the simple (and yet glorious) acts of killing monsters and scoring loot.

Demo Details

Some general demo details.

When you began the demo, you were at the class selection screen.  All five classes were available; you clicked the male/female icon to see them sorted by gender, with every option available except for the male Demon Hunter. Once you made your selection and entered a name, the game screen went black, and your next sight was of your character in the Burning Halls of Agony.

There was no town to start in or return to, no NPCs to speak with, no Waypoint, and the only Checkpoints were at the start of the three dungeons and inside the final demo-end bonus room. Like the other Blizzcon PvM demos, this was not a portion of the game; not a chunk scooped out and presented as was. It was an area specially-constructed for the demo, using some levels and quests we’ll see in the final game, but all with numerous modifications made. This differs a lot from the demos presented of Diablo II, back at E3 in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Those demos featured entire acts, presented almost exactly as theywere in the final game. Players began each demo at the start of the act with a pre-made character, and worked through it just like playing the game.

(I still remember playing furiously on a demo machine with a Bowazon in 2000 and nearly making it through all of Act 3 at Blizzcon 2000, giving a couple of the devs who were watching the booth a thrill/worry. (Nothing of Act Four had ever been revealed, at that point.) I made it all the way to Travincal and killed off the Council, but had missed one part of Khalim, so couldn’t break the Compelling Orb with the Will. I probably wouldn’t have had time to get through the entire Durance anyway, since I was racing to finish before the show closed for the day and the machines got turned off.)

The Horadric Dumpster DiabloWikiSalvage Cube was usable in the demo, but with no Caravan/Artisans to return to, there was nothing to do with the materials you created. Which made salvaging pretty pointless. Finally, this demo seemed to be a very recent build, showing pretty well how far along the development was. Evidence/examples: The Demon Hunter was
very newly added to the game. The male DH’s graphics weren’t done yet. There were only nine Demon Hunter skills, eight attacks plus Vault. There were only five Demon Hunter traits, and one of them (Lightning Reflexes) was identical in function to Quickness, which the other four characters have. (Making me think Lightning Reflexes is the new name for the trait and it hadn’t been migrated through the game to the other class trait lists yet.)

The Monk still isn’t done; the class only had 20 skills, compared to more than 25 for the WD, Wiz, and Barb, and only 21 traits, compared to more than 30 for the other three classes. Runestones were not enabled for the Monk or Demon Hunter yet, since their skills aren’t really finalized yet, and the devs don’t want to start tinkering with skill runes too much until they know exactly what the skills will do.

Lots of skills and traits still have old descriptions that make reference to removed skills or traits, or other skills as prerequisites. Graphics for inventory items weren’t very polished yet, with the small items; charms, gems, materials, jewelry, etc, still quite rough and hard to tell apart from just the icon. The Lore window was brand new and almost unpopulated except for very brief
blurbs about the demo quests.

These and many other things show that the game is still under heavy development and what we were playing at Blizzcon was a very recent build. Either that or the devs went to a ton of effort to make the demo *look* like it was brand new, including putting in errors and old skill/trait descriptions. A possibility I find very unlikely.

I’m not offering this as a complaint; I think it’s great that they showed us something as recent as they did. I just bring it up since I’ve seen occasional comments along the lines of, “The game’s almost done and they’re just showing early areas in demos to fool us!” I’m sure they could have give us a demo from anywhere in Act Two, and maybe even some early portions of Act Three, but they didn’t want to show later game content, or give players higher level characters to play with, or make the demo too hard. So we got another chunk of the early Act One, pre-Skeleton King dungeons. The characters in this demo were actually the lowest level yet, of an Blizzcon demo; a fact that I think pairs nicely with my theory that they kept quests and other complications out of this demo to avoid overcomplicating things for players.

The Halls of Agony

The first dungeon in the demo, where new characters appeared immediately after the character selection screen, was called the Halls of Agony. Though I’ve typed the name of the level about 500 times since Blizzcon, I continue to want to write “Burning Halls” each time, since the main visual of the level, and my main memory from playing it is the blood-red lighting and the BBQ grates set in the floor, through which burning coals and flames were constantly glowing. (That and “Halls of Agony” sounds like one of the levels in Nihlathak’s dungeon in Act Five of D2, so I think I’m having a prequel flashback.)

The Halls technically had a quest, but not really. You can see the full in-game description in the image to the right. Here’s what it said: The Torture Chambers of the Mad King

  • Battle through Leoric’s Halls of Agony.
  • Bonus: Kill the Cultist Grand Inquisitor.

There’s some level name confusion there, since the third level in the demo was actually called “The Torture Chambers of the Mad King.” I won’t be surprised if these dungeons have different names and locations in the the final game, since the “Halls” was full of torture devices, while the “Torture Chambers” had no torture; just jail cells and lots of skeletons.  Probably this whole section of the game, the multi-level expanse of dungeons, will be called The Torture Chambers of the Mad King, and these will be two levels from within the complex.

The Halls of Agony lived up to their name. The entire large dungeon was like a
scene from a horror movie set during the Inquisition. You can instantly recognize shots from this area (vs. the other two) in our Act One Screenshots gallery or in the Gameplay Movie gallery, since they are so color coded, compared to the bluish outdoor Highlands Passage, and the greenish jail level. That’s what it was like to play through this area too; you constantly saw fire or blood, and felt scalded and ensanguined as you worked through the level.

I don’t mean that purely as a metaphor, either. Thinking about the levels in the demo on Friday night, after the first day of Blizzcon, I had very strong mental impressions of them. The Halls were red and bloody. They felt hot and crowded and gruesome, with fire and zombies and blood and torture. I enjoyed the breakables there, since there are dozens of torture devices to smash apart, including ones still in use and others with hunks of rotting bodies strapped to them.

Since there wasn’t really a quest in the Halls, playing through it was all about exploration. You can see a lot of the dungeon in the gameplay movie and the screenshots, though the action is chopped up into short sequences which deny you a sense of the size or flow of events. The theme of the dungeon was that of a huge torture chamber, and aside from various small stone-walled rooms like something out of a castle, and a few winding or zig-zagging narrow hallways, most of the level was comprised of large torture rooms, or areas of flame.

The fires raging below the floors and inside the walls are unpleasant to behold or contemplate, and though none of the monsters were really torture-specific (It needed a Butcher!), they felt appropriate to the area. They had cleavers, sort of. Three of them in a row along one long hallway (this was always towards the end of the dungeon, so I was always happy to locate it) for a nifty chopping dodge and duck obstacle. They were more a cool visual than an actual danger, since getting chopped didn’t even one-hit the monsters, much less imperil your character.

The bonus quest in the Halls of Agony was to kill the Cultist Grand Inquisitor, who was just a regular Cultist mage, with a different colored cloak. I killed him three times and didn’t even realize I was fighting him twice, when I was playing a Demon Hunter and it seemed like another ranged attack battle against some Cultists.

Beside the numerous Cultists (there were no Berserkers in the Halls of Agony; just the mage-type Vessels and Summoners) there were huge Unburied (boss packs of Unburied were the most dangerous monsters in the demo), Razorbacks, and lots and lots of zombies. Undead galore, often emerging from various monster generators, which was a nice touch.

Iron Maidens issued forth a steady stream of zombies, flaming zombies staggered out of fiery alcoves in the walls (imagine what they must smell like?), other zombies were standing around the burning braziers in the floor and often catching on fire from them (they lost DoT from the flames), and plenty more zombies climbing out of spike pits and blood pits.

The spike pits were fun; they were basically a bed of nails hung on a chain, with the sharp ends down. Like bloody spiky chandeliers. You clicked the wall switch and they descended with a creak and a rattle, smashing shut and closing off the pit the zombies were climbing out of.  The blood pit was a huge red well, out of which fat zombies climbed perpetually. There was no way to close it off, and though I never lingered near one for too long, on several occasions I was there long enough to see four or five zombies emerge, with no signs that the flow would cease.

The
only other curiosity encountered in the Halls of Agony was a new monster, the Treasure Seeker. See the wiki article for more details, but this guy was basically a running transcendent chest with a steady leak.

He was found somewhere in the Halls, and once sighted he started making amusing goblin-like noises, and dropping gleaming stacks of gold. When describing him in one of the panels, Jay Wilson advised players to “beat the candy out of him.” That about sums it up; when you hit him he dropped gold and ran very quickly, but he’d always stop once he was off the screen to let you catch up. He took a fair amount of damage, and was hard to kill for melee characters, (since he always led you into more monsters, and then tended to scurry away while you were busy) but easy enough.

The Highlands Passage

The second area in the demo was a small one, included simply to give some outdoor scenery as a palate-cleanser between the two large dungeons. About 95% of it is shown in a minute of action during the the gameplay movie, and clicking
here
will show you a jigsaw image of the entire area, taken from that movie.

It’s set entirely outdoors, in a pretty, sun-dappled stretch of wilderness, over which a long stone walkway has been constructed. Much of the length is comprised by two narrow bridges over pretty, rainbow-intensive waterfalls, and if not for the constant intrusion of monstrous demons intent of unzipping your viscera, it would be a scenic spot for a picnic. Like most (all?) outdoor areas in Diablo III, the look doesn’t translate well through screenshots, since the atmospheric disturbances make the shot look blurry. There seems to always be blowing dust or fog or smoke or hazy sun-dappled light, and while these elements work nicely in the game, adding mood and atmosphere, they just make screenshots look fuzzy.

I continue to expect that most players will be pleasantly surprised by how much they like the look and graphics of Diablo III, when they finally get to play it themselves, rather than just seeing it in screenshots and gameplay movies. Unless you’re the type who just doesn’t get, at all, the analogies made in this article, you will find Diablo III very visually-pleasing.

So the Highlands Passage was pretty, but what about the gameplay? Less impressive, but that’s because the level was clearly created just for the Blizzcon demo.  I say “clearly” since it was so small, without any branches or forks at all. There was a quest in the level, one given by a wandering NPC who was waiting for you right at the start. You can hear his whole (very brief) speech in the gameplay movie. Here’s a quote:

“I will make an example of Dargon, that traitorous cur. Help me hunt him, and I will sell to you, instead of those Zealots.”

As he tells you this you’re running along the bridge, towards the first group of Cultists. They’re quickly dispatched, and then you find a larger bunch in the alcove at the end of the first bridge, before running down some stairs to the right, going through a few more monsters, and reaching the clearing at the end of the level, where the Weaponmaker you were escorting triggers a speech from Dargon, the aforementioned NPC.

Dargon: “Master, help me. The crazed weapon-maker wants my head!”
The Cultist Master: “What makes you think I care for your life? Kill them, my pets.”

The Cultist leader was not named in the demo, and he was clearly not in finished form in the demo, since he hardly had time to finish his little speech before dying. He didn’t fight back, just stood there in his pretty red robe and died as soon as you hit him. I’m sure he’ll be a more interesting character in the final game; one who fights back viciously, and who is built up more before the encounter. The abbreviated nature of things in this demo was just due to the time constraints.

While he didn’t fight, his “pets” certainly did, and they were an interesting development.  They were Cultist Berserkers, a monster type seen often enough previously, but now much changed in size. In earlier demos they were basically human-sized; muscular brawlers, but not nearly as large and powerful as the Barbarian. The three in this year’s BlizzCon demo were huge, ogre-sized, and much larger than any of the player characters.

This might have been entirely due to them being Champions, who are larger than normal monsters of their size, but not usually *that* much larger. I’ll guess that all Berserkers have been increased in size since they were last seen, and that the increase was multiplied by this bunch being Champions. They were nasty, too. Some games worse than others, depending on which Boss Modifers they spawned with. I only died (to monsters) three times in the demo, and two of them were to these guys, both times when they had the Vortex property and kept yanking my Wizard or Demon Hunter back into their midst.

That said, they weren’t *that* dangerous. I’d have been fine if I’d been playing normally, rather than rushing through recklessly thanks to the 15-minute demo time limit. If I’d stayed back on the narrow bridge leading to the Berserkers and attacked more cautiously, taking advantage of the Weaponmaker who was there to tank, I’d have been fine. But I was always in a hurry so I always raced past him and took on two of the Berserkers while the other one pounded away at the Weaponmaker. Who fought back, but did negligible damage with his sword.

When the Berserkers, Dargon, and the Cultist leader were dead, the Weaponmaker gave a little speech and a reward, of sorts.

“Now that Dargon is dead, no one shall question my reputation or my resolve. Now for my goods. You’ll find none better!”

This led to the first NPC merchant interface seen in a playable version of Diablo
III, with the Weaponmaker opening up to buy
or sell your character items
right then and there. The sales prices were very low, in keeping with the D3 Team’s design goal of making monster-dropped gold the most important source of player wealth, but the Weaponmaker had a decent variety of weapons for sale. I never bought anything or spent much time looking over his goods, not with the clock ticking and the huge jail-style final dungeon waiting for me on the other side of that glowing portal, but it was a useful example of how the game will give players various options to dispose of their items without returning to town.

The Torture Chambers of the Mad King

This level, which was entirely free of torture or chambers, but not mad kings, began once players moved through the glowing doorway at the end of the Highlands Passage.  The very different vibe was visible at once, with the hellish red lightning of the Halls of Agony replaced by a cold greenish hue. This worked very well with the layout (open, spacious, barren) and the monster types (almost exclusively skeletons), plus the sound effects and various set decorations, to give the dungeon the feel of being cold, bleak, ancient, and abandoned.

I didn’t entirely notice this while playing, but in the weeks since Blizzcon, whenever I’ve thought back on the dungeons I’ve had very clear emotional impressions of the differences between them. This is a credit to the developers, since I’m sure it was exactly the mood they were shooting for. I don’t know how much of that will translate into the final game, though. The dungeons will still be nicely-designed, of course, but they were especially effective in the Blizzcon demo, since there were only two of them, with the short, mind-resetting Highlands Passage in between.

Players thus spent 7 or 8 minutes (or all 15, if you didn’t hurry to find the exit) in the red-lit, bloody, gruesome torture chamber of the Halls of Agony. Long enough to grow used to the hellish theme. Your eyes were then dazzled by the outdoors, wide spaces, sunlight, running water, and nature sounds of the Highlands Passage. Thus refreshed, the black, green-lit, alien, hopeless jail of the third dungeon was doubly shocking.

The player appeared in a narrow hallway, immediately before the spectral form of Queen Alyssa. Talk to the hand, Baby!

Well, listen to the hand, since she talked from her head. Her body remained immobile and floating, like a post, but as you walked past her she turned, always holding the head towards you, while she gave her little quest speech.

“Finally, someone to help my people. Guilty of nothing, save being loyal to me, they were cursed to be held in these cells beyond their natural lives. My blessing will allow you to free them from their long torment.”

The quest was simple; you had to move through the fairly huge dungeon and find the six prisoners, then click them to set them free.  The only difficulty for this was the size of the dungeon. It was quite large, but easy to move around since the passages were wide, straight, and regular.

The whole dungeon was shaped like a square, with clusters of jail cells in each corner, and paths along the perimeter, with two crossing straight through the center. That’s where the final battle of the demo took place, where the Warden appeared. Prior to fighting the Warden (who spawned once you reached the center of the dungeon, after freeing all six ghosts) players had to find the ghosts, which required you to run through pretty much the whole dungeon. I did that level 8 or 10 times, though I only had time to finish it 4 or 5 of those, and there was no predictability to the location of the ghosts. Sometimes you’d get 2 or 3 in the lower right corner, where you started off the level; other times there were none nearby, and the others were scattered through all the rest of the huge level.  IOW, the random ghost location program was working very well.

The spirits were easy to spot, since they showed up on the mini-map. You see one to the right, and a larger view can be seen here.  Actually getting to them once you’d spotted them wasn’t always easy; the cell blocks were miniature mazes, with bars you could see and shoot through on all sides (this area was very easy for the Demon Hunter and Wizard), but with only one doorway per cell. So you’d spot the green circle (or two right beside each other; I guess that way the ghosts of Alyssa’s servants had each other to complain to through all eternity) but still have to spend some time running around to the other side of the cell block, then winding through two or three cells to reach the ghostly servant.

Naturally, there were monsters in the way, almost all skeletons, which sets up some interesting theological debates about the cosmology and afterlife of Diablo. What is the difference between a zombie, or a skeleton, or a ghost, in Diablo? The servant ghosts to rescue for this quest had skeletons, lying in the middle of the green circles. Their ghosts paced endlessly around the circumference of the circle, mumbling sadly until you “freed them from their long torment,” per the Queen’s request. But why were they ghosts walking around skeletons, while there were evil skeletons (without ghosts) there to fight you? Skeletons guarding ghosts who are chained to skeletons? So who are the evil skeletons? Why do they have free movement and will? Are their ghosts inside of them, or do demonic spirits get called up to animate human bones? Also, what are zombies? They’re basically skeletons with a little more meat on their bones. Oddly, they’re much slower and more clumsy than skeletons, as if having some flesh and muscle were a drawback to manual dexterity?  And I haven’t even mentioned Wraiths and other evil ghostly spirits.  (And no, there aren’t really any answers to this, since it’s not meant to be logical or consistent in the game. It’s just for the sake of the silly argument.)

That nonsense aside, the jail level was fairly lightly-defended, with just scattered bunches of skeletons and lots of leathery ghouls. Their strength, such as it was, came from numbers. There were some Boss and Champion packs, but they weren’t too dangerous, especially not with the endless long hallways in the jail. The chief enemy in the demo was time, since I was always aware that it had been at least 12 minutes since I’d started playing, and I really wanted to finish the level and fight the Warden before the 15 minute timer ran out. (The timer did not display in the PvM demo; there was no top of the screen count down as in the Arena.)

The main skeletons of interest were the mages, who had a glowing circle around them. They hurled projectiles of some sort, possibly arcane, but not very frequently or dangerously. I mostly remember them as annoying nuisances, since they usually spawned in a pair, had fairly quick movement, and liked to retreat during the battle. So while you were wiping out the last of their melee troops and archers (who did some damage, but didn’t really retreat, so were easy to kill) they were backing away, and by the time you chased after them they often ran into another pack. Which meant you now had a dozen melee skeletons, plus 4 skeleton mages doing their artillery support thing.

A player without a time limit would have chopped them all up, and cleared out the jail systematically. Or had some fun herding all of the skeleton mages into one huge bunch in the middle of the jail area, then running around dodging 10 or 12 of their harmless projectiles at a time. I did not do either of those things.

Quite often I just left the skeletons to do their thing and ran right past them while looking for the quest ghosts, since the skeletons weren’t dangerous to ignore or valuable to kill. They needed a damage upgrade or more aggressive AI; something to make them dangerous enough that you needed to deal with them, since they were far easier to ignore than fight, in the Blizzcon demo.

One other interesting thing in the jail was the line of sight issues it demonstrated. Lots of the jail cells had a big solid door set into the bars. I’m not sure of the architectural logic of this, but it mde for interesting visuals, as you can see in the two part shot to the right. While running past the cells, towards the doors, you’d see a bunch of skeletons in the cell. Yet when you got to the door you’d only see one or two of them; the ones standing far enough to the sides that they were visible through the bars. Then as soon as you blasted through the doorway, all of them would again be visible.

The Warden

The big boss of the jail level was The Warden. He was a real SuperUnique; he had dialogue, original graphics, and lots of minions.

Finding his location was easy; once you freed the last of the six ghosts, a pointing arrow appeared on the minimap, directing you to the right spot. When you were far from it, the arrow pointed off the side of the minimap in whatever direction you had to go. As you got closer the arrow moved on the map and pointed right to the location.  Which was helpful, since there was nothing about the location to indicate that it was propitious. Nothing until you arrived there, and the fun began.

The Warden wasn’t hard; I never struggled to kill him off, or to stay alive while doing so, but he was fun. The battle is shown in the gameplay movie, which you should watch now if you have somehow not yet done so. The location is the crossroads in the center of the level, and once you reached it, after freeing all of the ghosts, hordes of ghouls can scrambling up the sides of the platform, and the Warden bellowed his powerful dialogue, before appearing, ready to smash.

“Am I alone here? Must I do this myself? So be it! Face me. And repent.

Ghouls
scramble up the sides.
The
Warden appears a moment later.

The battle was best fought from one side, and a wise player stayed in the center only long enough for the spawn to begin, then retreated down one of the four paths. I did that with a Demon Hunter, Vaulting through the ghouls, and had a very easy time with it. All of the enemies had to come along the narrow path towards me, which made Entangling Shot very effective at hopelessly clogging their advance, while Multishot pierced through the mob, dealing damage to dozens of enemies per blast.

The Warden himself had a big stick and liked to hammer with it, but even when he whacked my Monk it wasn’t very heavy damage, and I had no real trouble punching the rest of his puny minions to bits.  

Bonus Plot Stuff

The defeated Warden dropped The Black Key (or Skeleton Key? I can’t remember.) This was used to unlock a long gateway along one side of the level, that could not be passed otherwise. Beyond it were several large chests full of mega loot, and then a narrow causeway that led around a corner, through a huge mob of ghouls (who seemed to be there largely to let you rack up your highest Kill Streak bonus of the demo), and then down a stairway through the door that ended the demo.

I’d trod down that path a couple of times before I noticed a detour away from the chests. It led into a small side room, where the Tristram Ghostly Players reenacted a scene from plot events that took place prior to Diablo I. As King Leoric descended into madness, he was spurred on by his corrupted ArchBishop Lazarus. Leoric distrusted everyone, including his queen, and in the ghostly flashback (shown in the gamplay movie) Lazarus beheaded her, after convincing Leoric of her wicked intent.

Here’s the dialogue from that short scene:

Lazarus: My Lord, the prisoner is ready, as you requested.
King Leoric: Thank you, Lazarus. Your loyalty is invaluable in the midst of all these traitors. And you my queen, conspiring against me.
Queen Asylla: My love, I swear. I have never betrayed you.
*Lazarus drops the guillotine, her head rolls over to Leoric.*
Lazarus: Lies, to the very end.

It was an anti-wedding. Lazarus now pronounced them Man and Ghost. On a stand near the scene of that historical event there was a Lore Book written by Lazarus, which I listened to a couple of times. It was basically retelling of events from the Diablo I lore/manual, with Lazarus talking about his allegiance to Diablo and how he was going to kidnap the Prince, etc.  I don’t have a direct quote from that one, but we do from another book, by King Leoric. There were three books by him that could be found throughout the dungeons, and an excerpt from one was played during the gameplay movie.

I am convinced that some malevolent being is attempting to wrest control of my thoughts away from me. I hear voices urging me to horrendous acts. There are times when I seem unable to control myself. Lazarus knows, I’m certain of this.

What’s a DiabloWikilore book? Let’s quote Kevin
Martens, from one of the Blizzcon panels.


Blizzard Quote:
Lore books are items that fall as treasure. When you click on them they automatically start playing an audio file. In it you hear the narrator, the person who wrote the book that you found. They have a little bit of voice acting, they’re interesting, and it takes no more time than clicking on it to pick it up. And you can keep running along killing monsters
while you listen to it.

None of the books by Leoric or Lazarus (or another by Queen Alyssa found in a chest right beside her ghost at the start of the demo) told me anything I didn’t already know from the Diablo I story. But lots of people who play D3 won’t know anything about D1 (sad to say) and they’ll surely appreciate the backstory imparted by the books. And even those of us who aren’t new to the series will enjoy the lore books we find elsewhere, with background info on all sorts of game stuff we don’t know a bit about. Yet.

Dungeons and Quests Conclusion

As long as this article is, there’s no point in summarizing it here. I was impressed by the two big dungeons that made up the bulk of the Blizzcon 2010 PvM demo. They had very distinct themes and atmospheres, and were both very effective at conveying them through visuals, monsters, sound effects, and music. I’m not sure how much of that focus was granted by the fact that I played through those two dungeons a dozen times in two days, without any other areas of the game to dilute the strength of the impression they gave to me, but it was there.

The quests in the dungeons were a lot less impressive. There wasn’t really a quest at all in the Burning Halls, and the escort mission in the Highlands Passage was abbreviated to the point of absurdity. The ghostly servants quest in the jail level was the only one that felt like a real quest, and it was nothing special; just a FedEx sort of “find the object” mission.

That said, I’m not real worried about the quality of quests in the final game, since the levels for this demo were so clearly modified. No random events, most of the plot details removed, the layout and structure tweaked to remove waypoints or any need to talk to NPCs in town about the quests, etc. And besides, even if the quests are as simplistic as those in every other RPG, (like D1 and D2) it’s the gameplay and item hunting that makes Diablo so fun, and so far Diablo III’s doing a great job on that front. This year’s demo was the best the game’s looked, and I’m pretty much on board with most of the game feature changes and development. It won’t be until we get to try out the demo that we can really get a sense for how the game plays over an extended period and multiple levels, but I’m as eager as anyone for that day to come.