The announcement of Diablo III’s demon hunter class wasn’t the only new feature revealed at this year’s BlizzCon. Blizzard also took the wraps off a player-versus-player mode that pits teams of three players against each other in a confined arena. We jumped into a match that originally pitted a team of two witch doctors and a wizard against a team of a barbarian and a witch doctor--all equipped with a couple of special skills and abilities. We selected the barbarian, spawned into the arena, and discovered just how chaotic this mode can be.
What becomes immediately apparent is how functioning as a team and adopting a complementary strategy between classes is quite important. As a barbarian, our first inclination was to run immediately toward the enemy team and inflict as much damage on its players as possible, letting the witch doctor focus on individual opposing players that strayed from their pack. The problem with this was that barbarians get absolutely obliterated before they even get close enough to do any serious damage. The leap attack can help close the distance a little more quickly, but if you whiff, then you basically jump right into a trap where the witch doctor can cast horrify and then the wizard can blast you with disintegrate.
The other issue with this particular combination of classes on our team was with the design of the arena itself. Pits made it easy for classes with numerous projectile attacks to take a step back and chip away at classes that had no long-distance answer. With the pillars, barbarians could run behind them to seek cover and wait, but members of the other team knew better than to pursue, yelling “Play defensive!”
So with our team continually getting decimated, two of us decided to even the odds a little by selecting the wizard class and having our third player stick with the witch doctor. This made an enormous difference, as we were able to hold back more often and take defensive positions while still inflicting damage. We also developed a strategy where one wizard would run in and cast meteor to get members of the opposing team out of their defensive positions in case they were being stubborn. The action still got pretty messy anytime both teams met near the middle of the arena, but it usually only lasted for a few seconds before the teams separated and regrouped.
After playing dozens of matches, it was great to see how both teams continually evolved their strategies. But it will be interesting to see how this mode changes when players can use characters that are specialized in a specific way and what sort of team combinations will sprout out of that. Still, the PVP arena offers plenty of fast-paced action with matches that only last for several or so minutes, so the competitive set should feel right at home.