Diablo III Impressions: Hands On With The Barbarian

We just played Diablo III. For fifteen painfully brief minutes, our lady Barbarian tore through hordes of Fallen, clicking them back to the Hell they came from. It was good.

The Gamescom (and Blizzcon) demo of Diablo III playable at Blizzard's booth features the three announced classes: Wizard, Barbarian and Witchdoctor, with male and female options for each. I opted for the Barbarian, what I assumed would be the easiest, most familiar introduction to Diablo III. That assumption was correct. Blizzard doesn't seem to have mucked with the successful formula of click, kill and loot in the newest Diablo.

Our short journey started in the desert.

The demo begins in the Sundered Pass, a dusty zone that smacks of Lut Gholein's desert lands in Diablo II. Of course, the deserts in Diablo III look far better than those featured in the previous game, with visible winds carrying clouds of sand across the plains, dust storms kicking up around us. The land is similarly populated with tiny desert creatures, snakes and insects that get trampled underfoot.

Our main quest in this desert land is to head to Alcarnus, as given to us by the lady Asheara, to see just what the hell is going on in that town. Since Diablo's back in town, things in Alcarnus aren't going too well. You know, demons and stuff.

That's what stood between us and Alcarnus—a hellish hot spot we actually never made it too. Instead, we ran into a few side quests. One sent us after the bounty of a man named Husam. The price on his head was high, so we took his head. It really only took one good whack from the maces we were dual-wielding. After some backtalk from Husam, we bludgeoned him until his head popped off.

We started off with some good equipment, two maces, an axe, a shield, plus full armor. We also had an Adventurer's Backpack, which brought our Barbarian's inventory to a cool 28 slots. The inventory screen should look familiar to Diablo fans, but the newest version is far more streamlined. When hovering over unequipped items in your inventory, you'll see a pop up window with that item's vital statistics and the item you currently have equipped in that slot.

That made it a lot easier to see if the leather pants we picked up at one point were better than the "lucky" leather pants we started out with. They were. A right click equipped them, draining our character's luck, but upping her armor.

We were also equipped with two Barbarian skills, Ground Stomp and Battle Cry. The former was hot-keyed to the "2" and, when enabled, stunned everything around the Barbarian. Helpful, when Fallen are surrounding you and Fallen Shamen are tossing fireballs your way. The Battle Cry, on the "1" key, increased our armor class temporarily. If we were playing a multiplayer game, that Battle Cry effect would have been passed on to our party members. But we were doing this quest solo.

The Barbarian's other skill, Cleaver, was mapped to the right mouse button. Click on it, and our lady brute did a two handed attack on two enemies at once, as long as they were side-by-side. Again, handy when surrounded by Fallen and Sand Wasps. Those Sand Wasps really suck, by the way, ejecting a quartet of mini-Wasps at our hero. Nasty.

We ran into a few other nasty things in the desert, the most annoying of which was the Desert Dervish, a spinning tornado of a beast with a strong knock-back attack.

The demo offered a few side quests on our way to Alcarnus. We ran into a "Crazed Miner," who offered us the quest, "A Miner's Gold." All we had to do was defend the miner while he raised a treasure chest via a pulley system. When he started, swarms of Fallen came after him. If we were successful in defending the miner from the swarm, we'd get half the gold. It really wasn't a challenge for the Barbarian, as Ground Stomp made that defense quest a simple task.

After that, we were quickly bested by a massive Fallen attack, as Shamans and other beasts piled upon us. It seemed like the demo ramped up the difficulty quickly when the "Thanks for playing" popped up. We could still play—and revive the dead Barbarian—but a Blizzard rep kicked us off.

From graphics to gameplay to interface adjustments, Blizzard seems to have delivered with Diablo III. The game looks fantastic, dripping with atmospheric detail and gorgeous visual effects. But honestly, it's the user interface changes that are most exciting. Blizzard has made the process of looting and equipping much more efficient, letting the player focus on the action.

We'll have more hands on impressions of Diablo III from Gamescom—and soon from Blizzcon—in the coming days.