Fmulder once again points us to a nice new Diablo III feature. Edge Magazine has posted a lengthy and very-readable preview. It’s a combination of Beta info with overall game facts, and there are even a handful of new-sounding Jay Wilson quotes. Check it out, you should find the piece informative and entertaining.
It’s a system that points towards a wider cross-class trend: attack skills built around specific situations. “Diablo has always had a very simple combat model that tends to focus on a single attack that you just use over and over again,” Wilson admits, unconsciously clicking as he speaks. “One of the things we wanted to do with Diablo III was create a little more depth in combat and give the player a little more to do. So we’ve still got spammable attacks, but we also have this concept of breakout abilities, which can’t be used as often but really change up what the player’s doing. Lastly, there are escape abilities. One of the things we focused on here is making sure the player’s a little more threatened than they were before. In previous Diablo games you could out-run, out-potion, or Town Portal your way to safety. We’re tending to focus away from those mechanics, so now each class has a different way of dealing with threats.”
….Meanwhile, to counteract the steady, regimented unlock of each class’s skills, players are encouraged to mess around with runestones whenever possible. These are loot drops that act as modifiers, each one fitting into a skill’s single socket and flaring it in an interesting direction. The Witch Doctor’s toads can become a rain of toads, flaming toads, or one giant mega-toad depending on which rune you add, for example. When skill loadouts are combined as a whole, it’s even possible, as Wilson demonstrates, to take the fragile ranged-fighter blueprint of the Wizard and transform her into a close-up battlemage by socketing defensive skills with a range of splashback damage modifiers, or turn area-of-effect abilities into something that feels more like armour. “You can modify a skill so drastically that you change the nature of it,” Wilson says, adding that while there’s currently no cost for removing runes on an ad-hoc basis, the designers are exploring ways to incentivise sticking with certain decisions.
Whenever I think the gameplay is a bit limited in the beta, I remind myself that we’re using less than half of the base skills, have no runestones at all, only very low level and basic equipment, and are facing the easiest, simplest, dumbest monsters in the game. The beta is a nice preview of the look and feel, but it doesn’t provide any sort of insight into the full content or style or strategy that the full game will require.