Welcome to my Diablo IV impressions article series where I will take a more in-depth look into Diablo IV with my thoughts and impressions on the game. I say impressions because the game is still very early in development and hate to call these criticisms of things that will most likely change. Take everything with a grain of salt. A more comprehensive feedback video will be coming after this series to go further down into the details.
The classes of Diablo IV are rooted in the dark world of Sanctuary. They are not the powerful Nephalem of days gone by but just battle harden travelers. We were told there would be five classes ready at launch with three being shown off/playable at BlizzCon. The Barbarian, Druid, and Sorceress are all great examples of the there respective archetypes and destroy demons in the best of ways.
While I won’t get in the nitty-gritty of the skills and damage and all that (for there are many other better people and sources for that) I will offer a few general thoughts before going into each class specifically. Each class felt connected to the world. Part of it could be the way the Sorceress’s skills interact, mainly the chill/freeze mechanic. Also, the way the skills illuminate the surroundings. How the Druid’s Cataclysm alters the current weather to truly feel like you are a master of the storm. The sheer destruction of the Barbarian skills. Breaking the ground and throwing it in your enemies’ faces. It lends to a very satisfying time playing all three classes multiple times during the demos.
The area I hope gets developed more is native skill interactions. Now stick with me here, in Diablo Immortal (the Wizard) you can cast a spell call Ice Crystal. It’s a hovering ice crystal that deals periodic damage and slows enemies in a radius of it. After a short time, it explodes. Ray of Frost is a channeling, single target skill is also available. However when you use both skills together something unique happens. When the Ray of Frost hits the Ice Crystal it fractures to hit multiple targets. This turns the normal single-target ability into an AoE ability natively. No runes, no talents, no passives, no gear power – just native interactions between skills.
(Example of Diablo: Immortal Wizard skill interaction)
I hope this style of gameplay isn’t just being kept to Immortal as a calling card. I truly love this idea. Figuring out what you got and then build up the skills from there. I want this level of depth for us and make us think of buffing skills (by the way of talents) we wouldn’t normally because these interactions exist.
The savage destructiveness of the Barbarian is back. To aid in this endeavor of mayhem is the new Arsenal system. Barbarians will be able to equip four (4) weapons at one time to fulfill that fantasy of having a weapon for any situation that arises. You’ll be able to have two 2-handers along with two 1-handers to suit your abilities at any point. To further your customization, you will be able to assign different weapons to different skills to make sure you get the maximum potential.
I normally play magic-based, ranged classes. That stated I loved the Barbarian. It felt easy to get up and go once you got a good flow. Strategic use of Leap to keep your Fury going never let the party stop. Your shouts and in particular, Wraith of the Berserker, felt so satisfying when they went off. The development team made sure to give weight to them, making the enemies around you witness your rage. Upheaval is a skill I loved the most. after a brief wind-up with your two-hander, you rip into the ground and fling it all at your enemies. Taking throwing sand in the face to a whole new level. Some people in the Diablo community had a slightly less favorable opinion of the Barbarian because of the wind-up noted above and how it felt some skills had some hesitation to them. It could be said that this was by design to really make sure the weight and power of the skill were telegraphed fully to the player. All in all, I love my time playing the Barbarian and will for sure create one – it’s too much damn fun!
(Example of abilities from Diablo Blog Post)
The master of earth and storm; the Druid is back from Diablo II! The key feature of the Druid in Diablo IV is the seamless transformations from caster to werewolf to werebear and back again. Each form serving a unique purpose and happening based on the ability you are suing. At first glance, this seems a little cosmetic. However, with talents and items that work based on when you transform you can better plan out your buffs and effects right when you need them.
I will admit the Druid was the last of the three classes I tried at the demo stations. It felt at first glance like how they were aiming the Crusader, a mid-range melee caster of all trades. I did my due diligence though and was glad I did. The abilities like Boulder and Charge worked so well to take control of the battlefield. Having your “Good Boys” wolf companions was an added touch to further enhance the fantasy of the Druid. Lastly, Cataclysm brought down the lightning and the thunder, ravaging enemies with primal natural rage. I liked playing the Druid. The skills and abilities worked well enough and gave a great sense of what they were going for with the class. The key will be to make sure the transformations matter and can be worked to maintain buffs and trigger effects. Let the storm rain on!
(Example of abilities from Diablo Blog Post)
Elemental carnage best served chilled. Fire, Cold and Lightning are your tools to bring chaos to demons of Sanctuary. The Sorceress has a new mechanic to help you keep ultimate control over how you want to destroy your enemies. The Chil mechanic is one where through (in the demo) Blizzard would do periodic damage and build up Chil on your enemies. Once built up enough, enemies would be frozen in place ready for your next devastating attack. The Chil mechanic is built up with all Cold skills.
The Sorceress was the first class I tried out. The overall feeling is that it will be (out of the three currently) hardest to master. The balance of positioning for Blizzard and Meteor attacks was key. Not overusing your resource was something you always kept in mind and may need some further looking into by the development team. All this withstanding, I love the magic of the class. It felt right. It felt real and more like the caster we would expect to see in a dark fantasy game. Powerful yet fragile, the balance between these is there and the team is doing a great job with it. Also, there is the Conduit skill that has shades of Archon to it, it’s a much more measured skill. It has an impact but you’re not revolving your entire build around it. I look forward to playing this class more in the future and reign down fire on my demon enemies.
(Example of abilities from Diablo Blog Post)
It would shameful if I didn’t touch on the new amounts of customization they are bringing to Diablo IV. In the previous iterations of Diablo, you just selected your class and that was it. With Diablo IV the aim is much grander. During the demo you could select different character templates. However, when the game releases they aim to have what I am calling WoW levels of customization. So you’ll be able to select such things as gender, face, hair, markings, tattoos, etc. to really make sure this wasn’t just any character you were playing, it was your character you were playing. I’m excited about this as customization often gets shoved over to the skills/build end but appearances matter too. Build your character, in all ways, your way in Diablo IV.
Skills & Talents
Now I am by no means a pillar of the theorycrafting community, but I will give some basic thoughts here on skills and talents alike. Skills, or more appropriately skill ranks are back. So unlike Diablo III where you just leveled up and gained a new skill, now you will be able to place skill points into the ones you desire. While there is no way to respect your skill points the development team did say you would be able to eventually fill out all your skills if you played enough. Lastly, to aid in that effort skill tomes can drop in the world granting skill points as well.
After some initial hesitation, I have come around to liking the idea of skill ranks. Partially due to a sense of pseudo-permanence. Your decisions will matter at the beginning with what skill you select. On top of this as you rank up a skill more effects could unlock for it giving you a sense of progression. The only thing that gets me is this scenario:
You start a lightning Sorceress and get to the end game. A perfect fire Mythic item. You can respect your talents easy enough, but you don’t have Meteor or Fireball. You’re put at a gut-wrenching decision – do I reroll a new Sorce just for this item or try my best to jimmy rig this character for the Mythic item? Now I know that is not a new idea but I hope we could figure out a more clever way of handling this particular problem.
(Example of talents from Diablo Blog Post)
Talents are back in Diablo IV! The general sense of talents is they are not meant to be overpowered, but a tangible increase in your character’s power. The trees start at the top and pathed differently for each class to the bottom. When you reach the bottom there will be one of two ultimate talents you’ll be able to pick from. As seen in the gif above is an example of a Sorceress going down the Cold path. Talents themselves will be respectable, but the means on how to do so or the cost are not known at this time.
I am initially happy at the thought of having talents back in Diablo IV. Another tier of customization on our character cake is always a good thing. I do hope that the impact is measured by our talents though. It’s not that I don’t want powerful talents it’s more a case of having about the same power being derived from all sources available. Gear, skill ranks and talents should all work out to about the same power each to your character. Having one give more emphasizes that particular system more and makes errors in that one more harmful and consequences in the others lessened.
Thank you for reading part two of my impressions of Diablo IV. Look out for the next part coming out!