Diablo III Hands-On - The Demon Hunter

We jump right into the new ranged class announced at this year’s BlizzCon.

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Blizzard announced the fifth and final character class for Diablo III at BlizzCon 2010, and not surprisingly, it's a ranged class called the demon hunter. When we jumped into the demo, we took a few seconds to check out some of the demon hunter's basic equipment. Her (only the female version of the class is available at the moment) equipment included dual crossbows, some fairly light armor, and a section to equip prayer beads. These beads function much like smaller trinkets, giving small bonuses to various attributes such as accuracy, and several can be equipped at once. Later in the demo, we found some really nice slotted armor and some other nice items to beef up our demon hunter. As far as attacks and skills go, there were quite a few available early on, giving us a pretty good taste of how a demon hunter can hold her ground when the enemies start piling up.

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Naturally, the class has a standard ranged attack, and while seeing the female demon hunter dual-wield crossbows and pump arrows into enemies is cool, it wasn't the most effective attack in the demo level. We quickly looked for an alternative and discovered her entangling shot. Diablo III describes this as "a sticky adhesive that deals 120 percent weapon damage," but as the name suggests, it also entangles enemies--up to three of them. This makes this particular skill useful early on when facing moderate numbers of enemies at once. But when we discovered her bola attack skill, we found that it was even more useful against larger and stronger groups of enemies. When you fire the bola, you'll see a red circle that quickly constricts around the target, indicating the amount of time before it explodes. If any enemies are standing nearby the target, they will take a little bit of the splash damage as well. Granted, the countdown period before the explosion means you have to be careful to not get trapped by faster-moving enemies, but even if you do, the demon hunter has an acrobatic solution to that problem in the form of a vault skill.

The vault enables the demon hunter to perform cartwheels and other such speedy gymnastics maneuvers to evade enemies as well as any traps that might be present in a level. It's not a free skill, however--it takes quite a bit of mana, so you have to make a choice in some tough situations: Do you use your mana for some of your attack skills and try to fight your way out, or do you try to vault away, regroup, and potentially risk grabbing the attention of more foes? Thankfully, we discovered some new skills after gaining a level, so we didn't have to answer that question too often. Upon entering the skill menu, we saw options for grenades, a fan of knives, a spike trap, and a couple of others, but what caught our eye was the purchase-new-skill option, which opened up the multishot skill. Given how useful it was in Diablo II, we went with the multishot--an attack that showers a barrage of arrows in the general direction of a target. We initially started using it in combination with the entangling shot, but later found that the bola’s ability to also slow down enemies made it a better partner.

We were using all of these skills and attacks in the context of a mission to confront King Leoric--a name that should sound immediately familiar to those who played the original Diablo, in which he was also known as the Skeleton King. But first, we had to travel through the Halls of Agony, a dungeon filled with numerous torture devices, fire pits, massive guillotines, and all kinds of enemies ready to do horrible things to you. In fact, there was quite a diverse range of creatures in this rather imposing dungeon, including hulking demon-like foes. But the ones that gave us the most trouble, at least initially, were the more powerful zealots that were capable of teleporting, making it difficult to completely evade them. We also encountered some zombie-like enemies, which--when we used our bola attack against them--caused them to burst into two, but the torso was still alive and attacking.

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Eventually, we made our way out of the dungeon and found ourselves in a new outdoor area called the Highlands Passage--mostly a long crumbling bridge being pelted by foul weather. Meeting us at the bridge was a non-player character named Kyr, who asked us to cross the bridge with him to kill a specific character named Dargon. We battled across the bridge and weaved our way through some cliffs before encountering Dargon and his group of enemies, but they didn't pose much of a problem. Kyr thanked us for our help by offering to sell us some of his finely crafted items, and we then made our way into some tombs where we found a ghostly queen who asked us to go on yet another quest where we encountered shielded skeletons capable of blocking our attacks as well as a creature named horror that explodes and releases what appears to be eels. Yeah, it's disgusting.

Unfortunately, that's where our brief time with the demo ended. We didn't reach the final encounter with Leoric (yet), but we did get a pretty good feel for the demon hunter class. It feels a little more defensively oriented in the early going, but a quick peek at some of its later skills revealed that a much more offensively minded strategy is also certainly possible. Either way, we're eager to jump into the demo a little more and see what else we can discover.

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