Blizzard has announced Diablo III, the sequel to its smash hit action-RPG series, and demoed the game to its Worldwide Invitational audience in Paris.
In a press conference following the reveal, the developer confirmed PC and Mac platforms, saying it had "no plans" for console versions, and added that it was too early to talk about a release date - although Frank Pearce added, "as much as possible it will be our goal to release simultaneously worldwide".
During the press conference, Blizzard explained that the game would include drop-in/drop-out co-operative play and a mixture of random and static maps for its dungeon-crawling.
The game was introduced with a telltale steel guitar riff, played live, and a lush cinematic video. The video showed a world in ruins and armies marching through fields of fire.
Jay Wilson, lead designer, demoed the game, first introducing the barbarian class. The barbarian slew hundreds of demons on water-covered walkways in a dark temple. A minimal interface appeared a streamlined version of Diablo II's. Quick skills will now be added to mouse wheel and Tab key as well as the left and right mouse buttons. Wilson promised it would all be "so simple that you can play it with just the mouse".
Elsewhere, a new drop has been added to the game - red globes that allow speedy health recovery. The environment is fully destructible and very beautifully rendered in the familiar isometric perspective. The effects in particular are stunning. The barbarian was also shown jumping over a destroyed bridge and killing more zombies by smashing a destructible wall down on their heads. He killed tens of enemies at once with a new whirlwind skill.
Story and quest cut-scenes take place as fully animated, zoomed-in, inset windows, Blizzard explained.
Subsequent sections showed the barbarian, supported by two AI archers, scything through armoured enemies by getting them to drop their shields with powerful ground-pounding attacks. Dynamic scripted events take place during gameplay, with supporting characters' exclamations appearing in speech bubbles, the audience was told and shown.
After a boss fight with a grotesquely fat ogre, co-operative play was shown. The new player took on a witch doctor class who can possess his enemies and cast locust swarms. The witch doctor can also summon pets who can then be sacrificed in an explosion that will destroy nearby enemies. He was shown confusing his enemies into attacking one another and then killing them with explosive fireballs.
After a brief cameo from the series' popular character Deckard Cain, the action moved to an autumnal, soft-focus outdoor area - very WOW in graphical style.
The witch doctor's show-stopping skills continued. He summoned a wall of zombies to handle oncoming hordes.
Finally, female versions of the barbarian and witch doctor characters joined the fight for a spectacular boss battle with a giant armoured demon called a Siegebreaker Assault Beast. The monster's devastating blows toppled spires of rock nearby, before it was downed - and replaced with an army of skeletons emerging from the ground. Fade to black.
So there we have it - classic, co-opertiave Diablo with some mighty new skills, features focusing on ease of play, female and male models for every class, and stunning contemporary visuals and sound. We'll bring you more on Diablo III based on the rest of our time at the Worldwide Invitational, so keep an eye on the site.