Let’s take a closer look at those. What makes them so ugh?
Energy Twister I’m not surprised to find unloved. I tried it multiple times in the beta, wrote about it extensively in a two-part Beta Wizard skills overview, and could never find a scenario when it was the best choice, or even a good choice. The Arcane Power cost was way too high, the twister didn’t do enough damage, it moved too unpredictably, and it didn’t suck in or slow enemies well enough to consistently deal multiple hits. I could imagine it working very well against high hit point enemies in a tight bunch in a confined area, but 1) how often does that happen, and 2) lots of other spells would also excel in that scenario.
Do the skill runes improve things? Mistral Breeze cuts the resource cost, Gale Force increases the damage, and Wicked Wind sits the twister in one place, but clearly none of these are enough to win back adherents. Perhaps if one rune effect did all three of those?
Three suggestions for the unpopularity, aside from the strong possibility that it’s just not a very effective skill. 1) Players tried the base skill while leveling up and found it so lame (as I did during beta testing) that they just erased it from their minds and never bothered to try it again with a higher level rune effect. 2) The random movement of the skill conflicts with every other Wizard skill, which are all about precise targeting and pin point accuracy. Players get used to aim being very important and expect that of all skills. 3) There are so damn many offensive attack spells for the Wizard that this one offers nothing, save pretty graphics, to make it stand out or bear closer examination.
I have no prescription for fixing this one, since I don’t care. It’s lame, there are a ton of better Wizard skills, and not everything can be awesome. Next.
Exploding Palm is a sad inclusion on the list, since this was literally the coolest skill in the game at one point. Back at Blizzcon 2009, when the Monk debuted, Exploding Palm was one of the combo skills, and it was glorious. Glorious! A worth foe! *cough*
It dealt two low damage single target hits, but stuck that Kill Bill-inspired ticking time bomb on any target you tagged with the third hit. This created a steady life drain and a pulsing heart icon over their heads, and when they died their hearts burst, causing them to detonate in a massive spray of blood, which dealt giant AoE damage to everything in the vicinity. It even inspired fan art.
Here’s what I wrote about it in my mega Monk PvM report from Blizzcon 2009:
This was probably the coolest spell most people saw at Blizzcon, just for the massive blood explosions it created. It was magnificently overpowered, working like an early D2C version of Corpse Explosion. Triggering the third stage of this one, then beating that monster down with 100 Fists, was almost certain to clear any room, killing every monster anywhere near melee range.
It will have to be nerfed in the final game, and probably moved down the skill tree as well, since this is just insane for such a low level skill.
Videos or it didn’t happen? Check it out in the Blizzcon 2009 gameplay movie:
Click through to continue the article, with much more on Exploding Palm, plus coverage of the other three unloved skills as well.
The embed code should start at the right point, but if not skip to about 2:10 into the video and watch the next encounter. The domino effect of explosive deaths. The blood supernova graphics. The beating heart overhead shrine-like icon, symbolizing their impending death. Just awesome. All during Diablo 2’s development, the Necromancer’s Corpse Explosion said, “The greatest skill ever.” as its tooltip.
Why? Because it was! Because we’re all 5 year old boys at heart, and we want to see things blow up in huge sprays of blood and destruction. Jay Wilson understands this, and commented to that effect when describing what makes things “awesome” numerous times during Diablo III’s development.
So how did the coolest of all Monk skills (you might argue for Seven Sided Strike, but you’d be wrong) during development turn into the least used Monk skill upon release? Well, it turned out there were too many combo skills, since they all had kind of the same “hit, hit, AoE effect” feel to them. So shortly before release, in that big skill and rune system overhaul we got in Beta Patch 13, Blizzard reworked three of the former combo skills to provide more variety, or at least less redundancy. And Exploding Palm got the short end of that stick.
Hands of Lightning (name macho’ed up to Fists of Thunder), Long Reach (name changed to Deadly Reach), Crippling Wave, and Way of the Hundred Fists all remained much the same. Dashing Strike lost its combo-ness but became a very useful movement/attack skill. Sweeping Wind remained sort of a combo skill, but with a weird stacking kind of function and a defensive property that you evidently have to use to understand, since I haven’t used it and the tooltips are gibberish to me.
And finally, there’s Exploding Palm. It got de-comboed, though it sort of kept the time bomb explosion effect. But the damage is much lessened, and perhaps most crucially… the killer graphic is gone. Instead of the gory and delightful blood supernova, it now makes a pathetic pink flashing light, apparently under the logic that only the Barbarian can have basic attacks that cause corpses to explode into bloody chunks every single time you use them.
Is the Barbarian Jay Wilson‘s favorite class? Of course it it.
All that said… it might be that Exploding Palm was only awesome at low levels, since it’s so easy to trigger the massive domino blood explosion effect and wipe out entire low hit point mobs on Normal. On Nightmare, much less Hell and Inferno, you’re not wiping out entire packs in a few punches, so perhaps the skill would have fallen into general disuse purely based on the function and efficacy. (Though obviously the way they ruined the coolness by nerfing the graphics wouldn’t have helped.)
The best hope for Exploding Palm is that it was one of the last skills to be changed and was therefore a rush job. Hopefully one of the skill devs still working on Diablo III will remember how awesome it once was, note its current neglect, and include it in the skills to be improved in their planned v1.03 overhaul.
Be still my beating heart!
Sacrifice is probably the easiest unpopularity to explain and to fix. The problem isn’t Sacrifice. The problem is that all pets are grossly underpowered in Hell and Inferno, making them useless. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mongrels was also in the top five (or two) least used Witch Doctor skills at level 60, since you can’t use Sacrifice without dogs to blow up, and while various passives and rune effects give nifty auto-dog creation options, what’s the point if they get one-shotted before you can even detonate them?
Sacrifice is a very cool skill in concept and function, and as we saw in some pre-release theorycrafting, it has the potential to scale up to gigantic damage. I think we’ll see it come back into viability when/if Zombie Dogs and the other pets get a buff in some upcoming patch. I hope so, at least, since it and Exploding Palm are the closest things we had in Diablo III to some of the awesome Corpse Explosion type skills of Diablo II, and it’s sad that both those D3 descendants are currently crappy.
Ancient Spear is another “should have been awesome” skill that’s sad to see fallen so far. Not a one of us didn’t instinctively grunt, “Get over here!” when we first saw it in use. (Even people like me who preferred the skill and strategy of the superior Street Fighter arcade games vs. the inferior combat system and cheesy comical violence of the Mortal Kombat games.)
Even if you recently arrived from Mars and know nothing of Scorpion and his tag-line, the idea of a skill that hurls a spear on a chain and lets your Barbarian skewer an enemy, then yank them helplessly into melee range, is pretty awesome. So why is it unloved? Probably since it’s pretty damn hard to hit a moving target, since at level 60 the Barbarian’s problems do not include getting monsters to quickly come to you (they do that all by themselves), and the numerous great skills that take you right to them.
I’ll wager that Ancient Spear will become more popular once the Arena is implemented, as it may have more practical utility against other characters. We’ve all found how scary the skewer and yank can be when it’s done to us by The Butcher during that Act Boss battle, after all.
In the meantime, it remains an option for mercilessly cheesing Izual.
Strafe is a Demon Hunter skill that’s quite fun to use, at least at lower levels. I think the level 60 state of disuse is unsurprising, but if they asked about level 20 or even 30, it might have retained a bit more popularity.
I quite enjoyed using it on my Demon Hunter through Normal difficulty, and was a bit sad to part with it once I reached Nightmare and found that just Vault was no longer sufficient as an escape option. I needed to add Caltrops, and when I eyed my five offensive skills, Strafe was pretty clearly the weak link in that proverbial chain.
It’s fun; and easily holds the title as the best anti-destructible skill in the entire game, but the Hatred cost is way too high and the DPS is way too low to make it any use against monsters, other than maybe a quick click here and there to polish off one last trash beast that’s bouncing around the corner somewhere.
Even with the high resource cost and low damage, it still might be useful, if there weren’t like, fourteen other fast firing, guided aiming, multi-target, quick killing Demon Hunter skills.
The silly Tasmanian Devil animation doesn’t help the cause much either. (If Bliz needed to incorporate some element of that marsupial into the game, they should have gone with the voice. Imagine how much scarier any boss in the game would be making this noise, instead of all their annoying holographic whiny lecturing?)
So, those are the five least popular skills in the game at level 60, according to Blizzard’s own game analyzing statistics. What do you guys think? Are there other skills you feel should be even less popular? Is anyone using any of these skills in their own end game builds and thinks that one rune effect is an overlooked masterpiece? If so, hop into the comments and let the rest of us know what we’re missing.
Writers Wanted: This article was pretty fun to write, and while I’d like to keep it all to myself, I’ve got a lot of other things to work on and we’re always looking for additional staff writers. If you’d like to author pieces like this, maybe focused on one class, or one or a few skills each week, let me know via [email protected], and we’ll see about getting you set up to start contributing to the Diablo III community.