More observations and skill descriptions gleaned from yesterday’s D3 demo at Blizzard. This will be greatly expanded upon once the show begins and we can actually take our time to look over the skill descriptions.

    The new skill tree is all displayed in one window, with the three trees side by side. Each of the three are tinted a different color, and they retain the same skill tree names we already knew, but they are essentially one giant skill tree in function. The skills in each tree are sorted by type and function, but there are no dependencies between them. The longest look we got was at the Wizard’s tree, and the Conjuring, Arcane, and Storm skills were all listed, though some of the skill names (and a lot of their functions) had changed since last year’s Blizzcon.

    Dependencies in D3 are entirely derived from the skill level. You need 5 points in any level 1 skills to access the level 5 skills, 10 points in level 1 and level 5 skills to access level 10 skills, and so on. These points can be spent in any of the 3 skill trees. You are not forced to specialize in just one The concept, according to Bashiok, is that character specialization will come from spending multiple points in your key skills, and from how you invest your skill runes. He also said that higher level skills may or may not have graphical differences. If they do the changes will probably be minor, since the skill runes are what make the big changes in skill appearance. The skills went down to level 25, with most of the lower level ones showing “inactive” on their hover.

    Keep in mind that this is the Blizzcon build, not the full working build, so it’s likely the team has a lot more working than they’re showing us, and don’t be surprised if the skill levels are tweaked considerably before the final game.

    Click through to read the rest…

    While Bashiok played the Wizard for a bit, he didn’t use a wide variety of skills. He also nearly died several times, mostly because he was running around recklessly to show us a lot of stuff in a short time, and each time he’d mutter, “I’m no good with the Wizard.”

    Spectral Blade looked unchanged in function or graphics since last year. It was dealing more damage, killing most of the desert monsters in one hit, but it wasn’t clear if the skill had been upgraded, if there were multiple points in it, or if the damage had scaled up due to other bonuses, such as equipment or character level.

    Bashiok used Arcane Orb as his main ranged attack, and it was quite functional. The orb travels fairly slowly, even slower than the D2 Sorc’s Frozen Orb, but without all the spinning ice shards. Arcane Orb hits with a huge explosion, dealing heavy AoE damage to anything within a couple of yards. This one looked like a good spell to use against a bunched group of monsters, but not so much against anything fast moving or elusive. And you’d never hit a Shaman or mage enemy with it, until all of their minions were dead.

    Frost Nova has gotten a big change in graphics. I initially thought it was some kind of new Stone Curse skill, since the nova ring expands so quickly that the spell works almost instantaneously. The radius is less wide than the D2 version of the skill, and the monsters, when hit, are frozen, not chilled. They changed to a rather gray shade when frozen (hence my thinking it was a stone curse type spell), and remained that way for 2-3 seconds. Enough time for the Wizard to finish them off with other attacks, in most cases. Talking to a Blizzard artist at lunch, I mentioned the stone-looking effect and he said they could tweak up the blue hue a but, or do something to make the ring a little more visible when the spell was cast. It might also have been the viewing environment, since we were watching the demo projected on a huge movie screen in the Blizzard theater, and the colors and frame rate weren’t super crisp.

    Witch Doctor Skills

    The Witch Doctor was demo’ed for less time than the Wizard, so most of these skill observations come from what Bashiok said while flipping through the skill tree and showing some of the new skills. (Tons have been added since last year, and the WD now has more than 50 skills, just like the Wizard and Barbarian. Details to come.)

    DiabloWikiCorpse Spider was a new summoning skill. This one summoned a large, cat-sized spider that stalked around the screen and attacked enemies by leaping onto them and poisoning them with repeated bites. The coolest thing was how the spiders appeared. When the spell was cast, a humanoid zombie would burrow up halfway out of the ground, and vomit up the huge, white spider. Sometimes, as Bashiok pointed out, the spider would burst out of the chest of the zombie, Aliens style. He cast this one about 6x in a row, just to watch the summoning animation. (Only 2 or 3 spiders could be present at once, and more of them caused earlier ones to dispel.)

    DiabloWikiSummon Fetish. I derived substantial amusement when Bashiok showed us that the WD now has several Summon Fetish skills. Yes, the Flayers from d3 return, as minions. It seems appropriate, especially since one of the winning entries in our past design a D3 skill tree contest was a mock WD tree, which included assorted Summon Flayer skills.  I’m fairly sure Blizzard had this one in the works more than a year ago, when we held the contest, but it’s certainly worth some retroactive bonus points to Kaeros, for creating that contest entry. We didn’t get to see any of these skills in action, so no comment yet on the visuals.

    DiabloWikiSummon Gargantuan We didn’t see the Gargantuan, but I assumed it looked something like the Grotesque. A large, mutated, hideous demon type thing that fights for the WD.

    DiabloWikiZombie Charger. Another new summoning skill that we saw only from the skill name. Bashiok said it was a small, aggressive minion. One to try out at the show, if possible.

    DiabloWikiParasitep. This one sounded like a mind control skill, with a nice Witch Doctor twist. The spell sends out a swarm of some sort of insect that infect or infest enemies, turning them into allies who will fight for the Witch Doctor. It wasn’t clear if they are akin to the Necromancer’s Revives, and will remain your allies until they die, or if they’re just mind controlled for a short period of time and will revert to enemy status at some point. Presumably this one would not work against big bosses or other special enemies.

    More to come from the show floor; later today and through the weekend.

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