Diablo 3 Beta Review: Your Mouse is F*cked
The possibilities of this system are practically limitless. The days of creating a character with a particular build and gear set in mind from the get-go are well and truly dead. Characters can change skills as easily as they change gear, and they will. Players might even collect different sets of gear, swapping them in and out to match whichever skill-set is currently deployed. Passive skill slots, unlocked at levels 10, 20, and 30, add a further level of character customization through constant, passive bonuses that augment active skills.
Experimentation with different synergies promises to be both fascinating and endless. Frustrated dungeon-crawlers will even be able to respect immediately after death, when stuck on a particularly difficult encounter. It is even possible to hide in a corner in the midst of a battle to swap in a context-sensitive skill — activating Frost Nova to deal with frost-vulnerable enemies, for example.
As if the wide open possibilities of this system weren’t enough, Blizzard also promises Runestones, which did not appear in beta. Runes have been in Diablo before — you could add the to your weapons in the Diablo II expansion Lord of Destruction — but these Runes are different. They are added to skills, not weapons.
There are five different Runestones — Crimson, Indigo, Obsidian, Golden, and Alabaster — and different levels within each color. When applied to a skill, a Runestone provides a special, added effect. The Barbarian’s Whirlwind skill, infamously spammed in Diablo II, provides an example. Augmented by a indigo Runestone, it spawns smaller whirlwinds which damage enemies out of the range of the Barbarian’s weapons. With a golden Runestone equipped, it costs less Fury.
In practice, this means that each and every skill in the game has five potential variations. This means more opportunities for customization and experimentation, more ways to make a character uniquely your own.
Despite this staggering degree of variation and personalization, the satisfaction of casting Whirlwind won’t really change much. It will still trigger a spectacular animation, accompanied by an appropriate, tornado-like sound. Blizzard might have torn the skill system up by the roots, but there’s no separating Diablo from its native terrain: addictive, immensely satisfying repetition.
Regardless of when the game comes out, or how many times you rearrange your skills, one thing will remain constant: the merciless death of Diablo 3′s monsters. They will be burnt, poisoned, disemboweled, and turned into chickens. They will die over and over again. Millions of them will die, dispatched by millions of clicks. Your mouse is f*cked.