Diablo 3 Observations and Wishes

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From the gameplay trailers I linked in my previous post, there a number of interesting looking changes … and even more interesting questions. I’m going to make a couple comments and also weigh in on what I’d like to see in the full game based on impressions from Diablo 2.

-So far we know of two classes, the Barbarian and the Witch Doctor. The Barbarian is the same concept, and many of the same skills, as the Barbarian from Diablo 2. The Witch Doctor looks to be a retooling of the Necromancer concept with a bit more “flavor” thrown in than a generic guy who likes death and reading books. Neither of these were hugely popular with me in Diablo 2, so I’m not all that excited by them.

-It’s said on the official Diablo 3 site that there will be five total classes. I’m hoping we’ll see the Paladin class return, but ideally with some major improvements in functionality. Paladin builds in Diablo 2 usually ended up being glorified spellcasters, which is a shame since they were supposed to be melee fighters with strong party support abilities. Other than that: I expect some kind of spellcaster class, and some type of ranged specialist class.

-Speculation: The art trailer shows what looks to be a druid holding a snake staff. We will either see a Druid/Paladin hybrid, or a Druid/Sorceress hybrid. A Druid/Paladin hybrid could be quite interesting, since it’d mean shapeshifting and pet summoning would be added in to the defensive/supportive playstyle of the Paladin. Quite interesting. I also expect an Assassin/Amazon mixture, possibly using the Crossbow.

-The official website also says that characters of any class may be male or female. This is a nice change, since Diablo 2 had characters locked in as either male or female depending on class. I wonder if there will be any further character visual customizations. Diablo isn’t an MMO, so I don’t expect much, but simple hair and skin coloration would be pretty neat.

-From the gameplay video we can see that the “belt” from Diablo 2 has been replaced with a full-on skill bar ala other modern MMO games. This is a good move, and pretty obvious given the success of this model with World of Warcraft. My biggest hope with this associated change is that characters will be encouraged to use more than the one or two skills that were typically used in Diablo 2. I want the actual gameplay to look like the gameplay videos shown, i.e. with characters running around, utilizing a variety of skills to turn zombies into paste. What I don’t want to see is a repeat of Diablo 2, where every Barbarian is constantly using whirlwind ad nauseam.

-I can’t tell from the gameplay video (too small), but I am not sure whether the idea of potions has been done away with entirely or not. I’m hoping not, as I think potions are an important part of the gameplay (a PANIC! button). That said, I do like the idea presented in the gameplay video of having enemies potentially leave behind floating health pickups. That’s an elegant way to handle restoring a player’s health without stopping the game in the way that potions can.

-On a related note: I’m really hoping that Diablo 3 downplays the significance that Life and Mana stealing items had in Diablo 2. Life and Mana stealing was absolutely essential in Diablo 2, and while it existed in Diablo 1, it wasn’t an outright necessity. I’d much rather have the gameplay resemble Diablo 1 in that respect.

-Another good change I’ve noticed is the change to the inventory so that all items take up a single inventory space. It’s so much nicer to know that you’ve got so many spaces in your inventory, and can pick up that same number of items. Much less of a hassle than trying to fit in the 6×4 bow into your inventory with the 1×2 tomes and 1×3 quivers. If gems or runes make a comeback, stacking same-type gems and runes should be essential (if we’re not given an outright gem/rune-bag). If potions are in, hopefully they stack. A potion belt only really needs two slots: Health and Mana potions.

-Hopefully inventory management is improved in general. More storage space. Less crafting items that sit around in storage waiting for that one rare drop to finish them. Diablo 2 never got this right. Gems took up way too much space for too little utility. Runes improved on gems, but even though they are yet another space-consuming craft item, Blizzard never increased storage space to compensate.

-The talk about dynamic environments and increased interactivity in the form of quests is interesting, but I’m a bit skeptical. Typically the extent of dynamic environments in games involves shooting barrels and triggering landslides in predetermined areas. More quests is nice but … I’m not sure it will be a substantial change in the game. Not that I’ll complain, of course. Too much of Diablo 2 consisted of running around virtually empty areas with a few roaming enemies. Always having some kind of objective besides “I’ve got to find the next waypoint,” is good.

-As far as overall wishes go, I’m really hoping that Blizzard steps back a lot of the grind that they built in to Diablo 2. For example you had about a 0.0000001% chance of ever getting really good gear unless you purposefully did hundreds or thousands of raids on bosses known to drop good loot. Diablo 1 was much more forgiving with giving out good items. I think Diablo 3 can straddle the line there by making “good” items fairly easy to get in normal play, and reducing the difference between “good” and “the best.” If a good sword does 50-75 damage and gives you +25 to all elemental resistances, and the best sword only does 51-76 damage and gives +26 to all elemental resistances, then the difference between your average player and your obsessive compulsive grindomatic player will be pretty small, yet the average players don’t get shafted and the grindomatic players have something to work towards.

-On a related note with the above, I’d like to see Diablo 3 scale back the levels from 100 to 50. You could beat Diablo 2 with a character in his 20’s or low 30’s. After that point, the entire game was grinding through the higher difficulty levels just to continue to get more experience. I would much rather have characters cap out lower to reduce the grind factor. I want to be level 40 by the time I beat the game on the first playthrough, and if I want to grind for 10 more levels after that just to gain experience, I should be able to. But it shouldn’t be 70 levels of grinding after beating the game. After all, there are five character classes to play. Repeated playthroughs of the game should be encouraged by having people explore different character classes or character builds, not level grind.

-Probably my biggest issue with Diablo 2: Character respeccing needs to be allowed. Preferably with little to no penalty. The single biggest reason why I stopped playing Diablo 2 is just because, patch after patch, characters that I had meticulously planned out from level 1 to level 100 became weaker and weaker as Blizzard tweaked skills, monsters, and everything in between. Since I’ve begun playing Guild Wars I’ve come to the conclusion that character respec is a human right, so if Blizzard does not include it I may have to protest by standing in front of an angry Tauren stampede. This is my single biggest wish for Diablo 3, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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