Diablo 3 Demon Hunter Hands-on Preview

By Brian Leahy, Oct 25, 2010 12:40pm PDT The fifth and final Diablo III character class was revealed at BlizzCon 2010 and is the Demon Hunter. I got a chance to play through an early part of the game as the ranged class and found the class to be quite fun.

Although the Demon Hunter is a ranged, weapon-using class, you will be able to utilize some dark magic for a few spells and special attacks. At present, the class felt a bit overpowered, but the game hasn't begun balance tuning and it could have also been setup for an easy, but enjoyable demo experience.

In general, the Demon Hunter feels closest to Diablo II's Amazon, but its gadgets and grenades give it a bit of flavor from Lord of Destruction's Assassin without combo points and finishers. Thankfully, I wasn't ever starved for mana. The way my energy regeneration was going, I didn't ever have to drop to a normal attack, but I'm not sure if that will be final balance.

The main skill I used was Entangling Shot, which would do bonus damage and leash nearby enemies together. Damage would jump between them similar to a chain lightning-type spell and all entangled enemies would move slower for the duration. It made kiting quite easy and did a good bit of area damage (very important!) to weaker monsters.

Bola Shot was very fun to use, but felt a bit weak in terms of damage per second (DPS) compared to other options. It would shoot out a glowing bola, which would attach to enemies and explode after a slight delay. It did more damage than any other individual attack, but the time I often found that I was able to kill an enemy outright before it even exploded. It does area damage, however, and does help bring down stronger foes, but I generally found it better to spam Entangling Shot.

I also got a mobility skill, Vault, which did a quick shadow magic-enhanced flip over monsters and hazards alike. Combined with the slowing effect of Entangling Shot, it was incredibly easy to avoid actually getting hit by enemies. Now that potions are on huge cooldowns, healing in combat is definitely focused on the health orbs that drop from some vanquished foes.

The new skill system, revealed in its revamped form at BlizzCon, includes only active spells. Passive bonuses and relegated to Traits, which are not earned every level. I leveled up a few times during my session and did get to take Multi-Shot, which would fire a lot arrows in an arc in front of my character. It was easily my best area damage spell and actually drained my energy enough that I couldn't spam it endlessly.

With the nixing of Town Portal, the developers have added more ways to sell or destroy loot in the field. The first, a Scroll of Wealth, will instantly transmute an item into its corresponding merchant value. It isn't quite Torchlight's pet, but does allow you to clear up some inventory space. Finally, players can salvage items in the field to create stackable crafting components for the game's artisans. Charms will also be streamlined with each player getting a "Talisman" that holds charms and will grow in capacity as a player levels up.

I found myself getting lost in the game like every other time I have played Diablo III. The worst part about the demo was that it came to an end. The sheer amount of changes from the BlizzCon 2009 build and this year's makes it clear that this game is still very much in development, despite the surface polish. Be sure to read my impressions of the game's PvP Arena system and ask any questions you might have in the comments.

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