Top 5 Biggest Changes in Diablo 3

2. Inventory Management

If there’s one thing that made Diablo 2 such an addictive juggernaut, it was the loot. Dead enemies turned into virtual fountains of items, and the rhythm of the game was partially defined by the endless cycle of filling up your inventory, opening a portal back to town, selling everything off, then heading back into the depths of Hell.

Diablo 3′s developers wisely realized that this system could become tedious. In a move of deft, brilliant simplicity, every player is equipped with two items that will make the acquisition and disposal of items an absolute breeze.

The first is the Cauldron of Jordan, which enables you to instantaneously sell any item, right from your inventory. If you make a mistake, you can simply buy your item back from the nearest merchant. The second item, the Nephalem Cube, enables you to break down any item into its component parts. Break down a common item, and you simply get scrap, but the more valuable the item that goes in the cube, the better the materials that come out of it.

These materials can then be used to craft new items, using a system that the beta only hints at. For a roughly 4:1 investment in magical (blue-colored) items, you can craft a new blue item in a variety of categories, with random modifiers. By picking up “pages of training” in the gameworld, you can increase your skill at crafting, enabling you to turn unwanted loot into ever-more-useful equipment.

1. Redesigned Skill System

This is the big one. For Diablo 3, Blizzard rebuilt the way character leveling and building works from the ground up. First and foremost, you don’t choose your stat points anymore! The game selects them automatically as you level, based solely on your class.

It’s when it comes to skills, however, that things are really different. Diablo 2 had three skill trees for each character. You’d have to put in one point to unlock a skill, which would also make available the abilities above it. If you wanted to concentrate on a particular skill, you could put more points in it, increasing its effectiveness. Once you had unlocked your skills, they could only be triggered by the right or left mouse button, but you could hotkey your full compliment of abilities, enabling you to switch the correct button to the correct skill at the correct time.

Diablo 3 does away with all that. Skills now unlock automatically when certain level thresholds are met (you get a new one every level or two), and they’re either locked or unlocked. No more putting 20 points in Corpse Explosion.

Even more interesting is the way that these skills are triggered. Each character has six “Active Skill” slots — two are unlocked at the outset; the rest unlock at levels 6, 12, 18, and 24. Your number of available slots determines the number of skills you can use, meaning that even if your Level 11 Barbarian has unlocked 12 different skills, he’ll only be able to use three (and only three) at a time. Once chosen, skills can be assigned to either the right or left mouse button, or to one of five MMO-style hotbar slots. There are also three “Passive Skill” slots, unlocked at levels 10, 20, and 30.

Skills can also be swapped out on the fly, which means that building a character in Diablo 3 will be a fascinating exercise in experimentation with different synergies. Even during the beta’s early going, I was able to try out a number of different three-skill combinations until I found the one I liked best. Since base stats are determined only by level and class, this experimentation can continue to happen deep into the game, especially with the introduction of Runestones, which can be applied to skills to augument or alter their effects. Characters could even amass different sets of gear to match different skill combinations, and simply switch them (along with the skills) as easily as they would a change of clothes.

It’s a brave new world in Diablo 3, and there’s much more we still have to explore. Check out rest of our Diablo 3 coverage — there’s a Graphics Guide, a Story Update, and screenshot galleries for the Monk, Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Wizard, and Witch Doctor.

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2 Comments on Top 5 Biggest Changes in Diablo 3

Urzuxo

On September 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm

The writer should have mentioned runestones more, to me that’s the one biggest change from D2 to D3.

Ben Richardson

On September 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I agree that Runestones are a big change, but they’re not available in beta. Or I haven’t found any, at least. That’s why I didn’t discuss them in more detail.