by Davneet Minhas
previewed on PC
To add depth to each class’s skill system, Diablo III incorporates Skill Runes – items that any class can use to increase the effectiveness of any active ability. Skill Runes consist of five different categories: Striking, Hydra, Energy, Viper, and Force. Each category is also divided into ascending quality levels, with low quality or minor runes being the most prevalent and higher-level runes being much rarer.
One rune type focuses on damage, another multiplies an ability’s effects, the third focuses on energy-efficiency, the fourth concentrates on critical or death effects and the final rune type acts as a miscellaneous category – any effects that don’t fit into one of the four main types fall under the “weird” category. For example, the Wizard’s Electrocute ability will damage up to two targets in its base form. Adding a Hydra rune will increase Electrocute’s chain effect, thereby dealing damage to three or more enemies. Electrocute with an attached Viper rune will maintain the same chain effect, but deal additional explosive damage.
While runes only enhance Electrocute’s existing effects, they can also add effects to other skills, completely changing those skills’ dynamics. The Wizard’s Teleport skill is typically a defensive ability, useful for retreating from an overwhelming force. However, added damage from a Striking rune makes teleporting into a group of enemies a viable offensive tactic. The entire rune system promises to add a great deal of customization and depth to each playable character. Two different players with identical classes and skills can still gain very different experiences from Diablo III, depending on how they manage their runes.
Outside of incorporating new classes and a skill customization system, Blizzard is also tweaking Diablo III’s controls and health system to create a more fluid experience. In Diablo II, players used the 1 through 4 keys to access potions. Diablo III uses those same keys as a hot bar for casting skills. Players can also swap skills using the right mouse button. In fact, Blizzard is designing the entire game around the four hot keys and two mouse buttons, drastically reducing the number of keys from Diablo II, and placing an emphasis on skill accessibility in combat.
Continuing with that emphasis on combat, Blizzard has completely removed the old health model. Health potions will no longer be available at any time – a player will only be able to use approximately one potion per map. Instead of relying on potions, players can pick up health power-ups from fallen enemies. Blizzard hopes this new system will increase tension and encourage players to stay in the thick of battle, instead of constantly retreating through town portals to stock up on more potions. Bosses and other formidable opponents will even drop health at regular intervals, such as every time they lose 25% of their total health, to ensure the player remains engaged in combat. Even loot recovery has been revamped to provide for more immersive combat – players can pick up gold merely by touching it, as opposed to previous installments in which players had to manually select the currency.