Having now played or played alongside each of the five character classes in Diablo III, I think I’ve settled on a favorite.

After the jump, the voodoo that she do

The early levels of Diablo III aren’t going to tell you how a character plays any more than the early levels of Diablo II, or World of Warcraft, or Lord of the Rings Online, or Call of Duty: These Are My Perks, This Is My Gun. But at least you can get a sense for a character’s style. In Diablo III, the Demon Hunter is an assassin/amazon, the monk is an assassin/paladin, the barbarian is the fighter/fighter, and the wizard is the wizard.

(At some point in the last twenty years, a switch flipped in my head and the word wizard turned ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s the “wizard did it” meme, or that it’s as generic as “magic user”, or the way it sounds (seriously, say “wizard” out loud right now). Maybe it was Ian McKellan’s bit with Ricky Gervais on Extras. But I look down the list of Diablo III’s characters from Barbarian, to Demon Hunter, to Monk, to Witch Doctor, to Wizard, and I can see precisely where Blizzard gave up trying to think of cool names.)

Then there’s the Witch Doctor, who is a kind of druid/pet class. She gets zombie dogs right off the bat. Not very cuddly. The things are about as ugly as possums. Here I am with my three zombie dogs, who I’ve named Abednego, Belphegor, and Curtis. Curtis is the one on the right.

As you can see, I also have a pig. There are scrolls in the game that give you temporary random pets. These guys run around and pick up gold for you. They’re mostly just cute. Well, my pig is. One of my friends got a rabbit that was way cuter. I’ve also ended up with a wasp (kind of cute), a snake (not really cute), a roach (not cute), and a centipede (really not cute).

As the Witch Doctor levels up, she unlocks a frog attack. Which is exactly what it sounds like. She tosses out a handful of poison frogs that mess things up. Look.

They’re basically green magic missiles. At first, I was kind of timid using them. I mean, three frogs is sufficient, right? But when I saw how little mana they used, I started spamming the frog attack button. Frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogsfrogsfrogsfrogs. It’s like the end of Magnolia. They certainly stand out. When I was a kid, I had those Aurora models of famous monsters. The Wolfman, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, that kind of thing. You could build them with normal parts, or you could opt to use these sickeningly green parts that glowed in the dark. The Witch Doctor’s frogs are the color of those glow-in-the-dark bits.

These frogs have special game-breaking properties. At one point in the Diablo III beta, you might find a gate in a cemetery that you can’t open. No NPC will open it for you and no attack will break the lock. Except for my frogs. I flung a few frogs and the gate opened. It was as if the rest of Diablo III was now within my grasp! Unfortunately, Blizzard cleverly placed an invisible wall as a safeguard. Here I am unable to move out any further into Diabloland, despite the gate-breaking power of my weirdly green frogs.

I love numbers. I love tossing out frogs and seeing how much damage they do. It’s like Mayor Ed Koch asking “how am I doing?” I spam the frog button and I want to know how I’m doing. Like any good RPG, Diablo III isn’t shy about telling me that I’m mostly doing 38, but sometimes I’m doing 24.

Diablo III also gives you the option to show enemy health, as both hit point bars and even hard numbers, like so:

We’re about to fight this guy, at which point we’ll know full well that he’s rocking over 4,000 hit points.

In addition to zombie dogs and frogs, the Witch Doctor has spiders and chickens. The spiders are corpse spiders, which makes them a special kind of gross. The chicken is a temporary and reluctant guest. A Witch Doctor can polymorph an enemy into a chicken for a short time. Here’s a fearsome something-or-other, turned into a docile chicken.

Classes aren’t pre-determined genders anymore. But I liked how Diablo II gave more personality to a class by always and only making it male or female. Now, when you pick a class and gender in Diablo III, you almost expect that you should be able to then pick your race and face. One friend I played with — a World of Warcraft veteran — complained that she couldn’t change the color and style of her character’s hair. But what did she know? She was just a wizard.

Although she did end up with this awesome hat:

And, really, that’s Diablo in a nutshell: it’s the hat that makes the wizard. Given that choice has been taken out of the character building system, Diablo III is more gear-based than ever. Which is partly why I like the Witch Doctor. All those dogs, frogs, pigs, chicken, and spiders add extra personality. Now can someone kindly direct me to the secret cow level?