Diablo 3 brings a radically different skill system to the table, at least compared to Diablo 2. I’ve never played the Diablo 3 Beta, but one of my friends who was very much into Diablo 2, did. He told me how much he hated the new system.

  • He told me you don’t get to pick any skills.
  • You don’t get to assign skill points.
  • You don’t have to choose which spells you will be using.
  • There is no character customization!

At first I was mad. This friend and I, we always took pride in creating off-beat builds. Back then it took “guts” to think outside of the box and make a melee sorceress or a dagger-throwing barbarian. Now anyone can splash around in stupid builds in safety and then just revert to the cookie-cutter if it fails. There is no risk, and that seems to remove the charm. But I came around. That is backwards thinking, and not good game design.

Sirlin wrote a great analysis of the Diablo 3 Ability System with a reference video to a D3 developer explaining some of the changes. As usual, what Sirlin says is right on. It took reading that to realize how stupid it was for us to “stock up” our skill points in Diablo 2 until level 24 or 30 because it was so bad to put them into the early skills. You remember that?

Skill Freedom

don’t use

Diablo 2 had no way to “change your mind.” You always had to make the correct choice; you could never get that choice back. Often (as is the case with many bad builds) you don’t realize you even made the wrong choices until you are in Act 4 Nightmare, which was like 20+ hours into the game. So then you had to start over and try another quirky build. Or of course you could not do all that and just look up “the build” online and not make any mistakes. But you better not missclick! The current system is much better; it gives you plenty of freedom to be fun and quirky, but also get serious when you need to.

Gems Forever

Gems Gathering Dust

You can now remove gems from socketed items. I can’t explain how happy I am about this. Instead of hoarding all my gems waiting for that perfect item to put them in I can put them into anything! It’s really interesting how so many mechanics from Diablo 2 actually kept you from playing and enjoying the game. If you put a perfect diamond into a shield, it is inevitable for you to find a better shield, forcing you to simply sell your precious diamond throwing the baby out with the bathwater as it were. Players always had chests full of gems with “rainy day syndrome” waiting for that perfect item, too scared to waste them. Don’t get me started on the rare runes… Now you just keep polishing the same old gems all game long without a care in the world. Gems also have many more levels or refinement to ensure maximum avarice.

No More Scrolls

I didn’t even notice at first, but there are no more scrolls of town portal or identify. All the magic items are simply always identified, and you can cast town portal all of the time. It is funny to think how little value these scrolls brought the game. All you had to do was always buy scrolls of identify and town portal. It was kinda like putting gas in your car. It wasn’t fun, exciting, or thought provoking, you just had to do it. Now it’s simply automated. You almost never noticed it until you were stuck in the the second floor of the Maggot Lair with no potions and no scrolls of town portal. Then you start pulling your hair out. It wasn’t a choice to made to identify or not identify an item. You always identified everything, so why the busy work? No more!

No More Attributes

Darn need more STR and DEX

Another thing I didn’t “get” until about 20 hours into the game: you no longer need to have strength or dexterity to use an item or wear armor. You can use every single item you get (there are still level and class requirements). This is a huge improvement to the fun of the game. Usually any given character, especially the weaker ones like wizards, only care about 10% (or less) of the items they find. Wizards for example do not care about most weapons, and generally don’t even care much about armor, or shields. They just didn’t have enough strength to wear anything, and wouldn’t want to take a sword into a fight. In this game wizards care about armor just like everyone else, and even weapons because spell damage is now based off weapon damage. Every character gets to be excited about more drops than they ever could in Diablo 2.

A case can be made for character customization here. If you want to focus on being a glass cannon for example, with massive damage output but not paying much time to vitality, you can’t really “build that way” with no attributes. But I think the good outwieghs the bad. In a more general sense letting people make these choices can lead to the same problems as with skill points. There is going to be a best build which you can look up online, and anything else would just be sub-optimal and let you screw up your character. You could max your strength all game only to realize much too late that you wished you got some more vitality. I think the risk-less system is better. It also makes the game easier to balance from a development standpoint, being able to know for sure about how much of an attribute a character will have at any given level.

More Loot Porn Than Ever

The auction house is one of the biggest changes to the game. You can now buy and sell items from all the people on your server. Many players know understand how disappointing it is to be a wizard and watch a rare barbarian item drop. Sell it to the shopkeeper for 12,000 gold or whatever and get back to the grind. Now when you find a rare awesome Monk item that your Demon Hunter can’t ever use, you can still rejoice knowing you can sell it for a smooth 200k gold, which you can then flip into a good Demon Hunter item! Basically, you get to have some kind of fun with every item you find instead of just 1% in previous games.

Further improvements in the NPC mercs, the inclusion of the auction house, the new crafting system, the shared stash and many more I probably haven’t realized yet all go toward increasing the fun of the game. Diablo is simply more fun to play than ever.

One Complaint

There are so many skills to work with and so many unique builds to deal with, but no way to save them. I have three distinct builds for my Witch Doctor, one involves exploding zombie dogs, the other involves max damage, and the third AOE damage. All of these use entirely different skills and passives and honestly it’s hard to remember exactly how I built it the last time, and it is very time consuming to switch between them. We should have 3-5 “build slots” so I can save or even hotkey my builds and switch between them quickly. This seems like such a blatant oversight I can’t image it wont be patched soon.

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