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Diablo 3 NPC Followers system detailed

Three companions. You decide.

Blizzard has unveiled Diablo 3's Followers system.

It allows solo players to play the fantasy action role-playing game as if they're playing with real players.

Three NPC companions are available: Kormac, a Templar; Lyndon, a Scoundrel; and Eirena, an Enchantress.

Kormac, who wields a spear, is a tank, and should help protect players from damage. Lyndon uses a crossbow to dispatch enemies from a distance. Eirena casts spells, some of which buff your character.

"In Diablo III, going it alone is a valid option... but it's not always the safest one," reads the Diablo 3 Followers page on the game's official website. "Having a brave companion at your side might not save you from the tearing claws of your enemies, but it can't hurt to improve your odds."

That's not all. Each NPC Follower plays an important role in the game's story. They also auto-level as you progress through the game, and have their own ability tress for you to fiddle about with.

"Each follower has his or her own agenda and reasons for fighting against the darkness, and you'll learn more about their histories and motives as you battle alongside them," Blizzard said.

Only one follower can accompany the player character at a time, forcing you to think about who best fits what you're up to.

"Followers are powerful allies in Diablo III," Blizzard added. "They've got skills, gear, levels, personalities and dialogue, and we've put a lot of work into the system -- but our goal is to ensure they don't get in your way, outpace you in damage, or outshine your importance to the story. They're the sidekicks. You're the hero."

Earlier this month Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime said the development team was doing its best to ensure the finished game makes it onto shelves before the end of the year. An external beta test is due in the third quarter of 2011.