Diablo III is a dark fantasy/horror-themed action game by Blizzard Entertainment, the third installment in the Diablo franchise. The game, which features elements of the hack and slash, dungeon crawl and action role-playing genres, was released in North America, Latin America and Europe on May 15, 2012 and in Russia on June 7, 2012. Before its release, the game broke several presale records and became the most pre-ordered PC game of all time on Amazon.com.. Diablo III subsequently set the new all-time record for fastest-selling PC game by selling over 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release.
The game takes place in Sanctuary, the dark fantasy world of the Diablo series, twenty years after the events of Diablo II. Deckard Cain and his niece Leah are in the Tristram Cathedral investigating ancient texts regarding an ominous prophecy. Suddenly, a mysterious star falling from the sky strikes the Cathedral, creating a deep crater into which Deckard Cain disappears.
The player character, known as the Nephalem, arrives in New Tristram to investigate the fallen star. The Nephalem rescues Cain upon Leah's request and discovers that the fallen object is actually a person. The stranger has no memories except that he lost his sword, which was shattered into three pieces. Although the Nephalem retrieves the pieces, the witch Maghda seizes the shards and attempts to capture Cain to force him to repair the sword for her own ends. However, with an uncontrolled display of power, Leah forces Maghda to flee, and she kidnaps the stranger instead. Cain, dying from Maghda's torture, uses the last of his strength to repair the sword and instructs the Nephalem to return it to the stranger. The Nephalem rescues the stranger and returns his sword, causing him to regain his memories. The stranger then reveals himself as the fallen angel Tyrael. Disgusted with his fellow angels' unwillingness to protect humanity from the forces of Hell, Tyrael cast aside his divinity to become a mortal and warn Sanctuary about the arrival of the demon lords Belial and Azmodan.
To avenge Cain's death, the Nephalem tracks Maghda to the city of Caldeum, which is controlled by her master, Belial. The Nephalem kills Maghda, and rescues Leah's mother, Adria. Adria tells Tyrael and the Nephalem that the key to stopping the demons is the Black Soulstone, which can trap the souls of the seven Lords of Hell and destroy them forever. In order to obtain the Black Soulstone, the Nephalem resurrects the mad Horadrim, Zoltun Kulle. Kulle reveals its hiding place and completes the unfinished Soulstone, but is killed by the Nephalem after he attempts to steal it for himself. The Nephalem kills Belial and traps his soul within the Black Soulstone, freeing Caldeum. As Leah studies in Caldeum's library to find more answers about the Black Soulstone and Azmodan, she receives a vision from Azmodan, who tells her that he is sending an army from the ruins of Mount Arreat to take the Black Soulstone for himself.
Tyrael, Adria, Leah and the Nephalem journey to Bastion's Keep, the only line of defense between Azmodan's forces and the rest of Sanctuary. With the others staying behind to protect the Black Soulstone, the Nephalem pushes out from the keep into Mount Arreat. The Nephalem kills Azmodan and traps his soul in the Black Soulstone. However, Adria betrays the Nephalem and takes the Black Soulstone with the seven Demon Lords' souls inside. She reveals that she has been Diablo's agent from the beginning, and that Leah's father is the Dark Wanderer, who conceived her while being possessed by Diablo, making her the perfect vessel for the demon's physical form. Using Leah as a sacrifice, Adria resurrects Diablo. Having the souls of all the Lords of Hell within him, Diablo becomes the "Prime Evil", the most powerful demon in existence, and begins his assault on the High Heavens, the defending angels being no match for him.
Tyrael and the Nephalem follow Diablo to the High Heavens, where the city is under attack. The defending Angels warn the Nephalem that Diablo is attempting to reach the Crystal Arch, which is the source of all of the angels' power. To prevent Diablo from corrupting the Crystal Arch and completing his victory over the High Heavens, The Nephalem confronts and defeats him. With Diablo's physical manifestation destroyed, the Black Soulstone is shown falling from the the High Heavens, apparently still intact. After the battle, Tyrael decides to rejoin the High Heavens but remain as a mortal, dedicated to building a permanent alliance between angels and humans.
Gameplay is similar to that of previous titles in the Diablo franchise. The game is classified as an action role-playing game that is played primarily using the mouse to direct the character with supplementary commands provided through the keyboard.
The proprietary engine incorporates Blizzard's custom in-house physics, a change from the original usage of Havok's physics engine, and features destructible environments with an in-game damage effect. The developers sought to make the game run on a wide range of systems without requiring DirectX 10 in order to present an overhead view to the player, in a somewhat similar way to the isometric view used in previous games in the series.
As in Diablo II, multiplayer games are possible using Blizzard's Battle.net service, with many of the new features developed for StarCraft II also available in Diablo III. Players will be able to drop in and out of sessions of co-operative play with others. Unlike its predecessor, Diablo III requires players to be connected to the internet constantly due to their DRM policy, even for single-player games.
An enhanced quest system, a random level generator, and a random encounter generator are used in order to ensure the game provides different experiences when replayed. One of the new features intended to speed gameplay is that health orbs drop from enemies, replacing the need to have a potion bar, which itself is replaced by a skill bar that allows a player to assign quick bar buttons to skills and spells; previously, players could only assign two skills and had to swap skills with the keyboard or mousewheel. Players can still assign specific attacks to mouse buttons. For example, one skill rune for the Wizard's meteor ability reduces its arcane power cost, while another turns the meteor to ice, causing cold damage rather than fire.
As in Diablo II, Diablo III gives players the choice to make hardcore characters. Players are required to first level up a regular character to level 10 before they have the option to create new Hardcore characters. Hardcore characters cannot be resurrected; instead they become permanently unplayable if they are killed. They also do not have access to the real-world money auction house. Hardcore characters are separately ranked; their names are highlighted with a different color ; and they can only form teams with other hardcore characters. After dying, the ghost of a hardcore character can still chat, the name still shows up in rankings, but the character cannot return to the game.
Artisans are NPCs who sell and craft. Two types of artisans can be introduced by completing a quest for each: Haedrig Eamon the Blacksmith and Covetous Shen the Jeweler. The previously announced Mystic Artisan has been pulled, possibly to be released later on. Artisans create items using materials the player can gather by scrapping acquired items and reducing them to their component parts. These materials are used to create items which will have random bonuses.