Monday, May 28, 2012

Diablo 3 Character Class Guide

One of the great things about Diablo 3 is the depth of its character classes. Although there are only 5 classes that pretty much cover the basic archetypes in an RPG, each class has a distinct feel and thorough skill set that can be explored for hours on end. Also, there are a multitude of builds and skills that fit a person’s play-style. To help out a little, here is a guide for anyone who wants to try something new or find out a little more about how each character works.

First off, there are some basic similarities that are present in each class. All classes have a unique resource for casting spells. Although the resource is different for each class – spirit, mana, fury, etc. —the resource always has a way of regenerating and each class has spells or abilities that utilize the resource for more power. Each class also has unique weapons and equipment that can only be used by that character. Everyone can use the basic items like swords, shields, axes, and bows. But when you put a staff in the hands of a wizard, or a crossbow in the hands of a demon hunter, that’s when you really start harnessing the power each class has at its disposal. When it comes to stats and leveling up, each class has one stat that directly improves the character’s power and one or two stats that supplement the strengths the character has. With strength also comes weakness, so be prepared to notice where your character lacks in some way. Each character has around 22 spells/abilities that create various effects from fireballs to a horde of zombies. While you can only have six of the 22 skills active and usable at a time, there is a large amount of customization and exploration in each set of abilities a certain class has. Never have I had so much fun thinking of new ways to deal massive amounts of damage to my enemies. But enough of all this sharing and connection stuff, let’s get to the heart of what makes each class unique and entertaining.

The Wizard:

While the other characters have multiple ways to both spend and regenerate their resource, the Wizard just spends his Arcane Power to create massive effects that deal damage in creative ways. Whether you are summoning a hydra to spit fire at your enemies or calling down a meteor to decimate your foes, the wizard is all about big, damaging effects. Not to worry though – the Wizard can be a sneaky little guy too, with spells like Teleport, Slow Time, and Mirror Image, where your wizard can move around the battlefield fighting where and when he chooses. During your first 10-15 levels you don’t have too much to work with, but your basic spells are just as useful. Use Magic Missile and Arcane Orb once you unlock it. Both spells are pretty high damage dealers and do well to keep the monsters away. One of the downsides to the Wizard is that he’s probably the slowest to gain power. Even through level 14 or 15 you might feel a little overwhelmed when fighting large hordes of monsters. That all changes once he unlocks higher level skills past level 20 or so. Like most spell-slinging classes, the Wizard takes a little patience which gets rewarded big time when you can use spells like Disintegrate and Archon to really nail the bosses. Pay special attention to the Archon skill once you acquire it. Archon transforms your wizard into a being of pure energy, and includes a jump in power level to go with it. Although the wizard only has 3 spells when in Archon mode, they deal gargantuan amounts of damage and can lay waste to almost anything.

Since his Arcane Power regenerates really quickly, the Wizard has only a few abilities that let him regenerate AP. Still, pay special attention to Power Hungry and Prodigy. Power Hungry gives you AP when you find health globes from fallen enemies, and Prodigy regenerates AP when you hit an enemy with your signature spells (Magic Missile, Electrocute, Shock Pulse, etc.). A special thing to note is that the signature spells don’t cost Arcane Power. As a result, signature spells aren’t as powerful as other spells, but you should always keep one or two of them selected for when you need to regenerate AP. Unfortunately, the Wizard is on the lower end of the defense spectrum, vulnerable and weak when his AP runs out or is surrounded. Generally, I like to keep 2 evasive or defensive spells, like Ice Armor and Teleport, to help me get out of a pinch. The rest are straight offense: use Arcane Orb, Blizzard, Electrocute, and Disintegrate to decimate anything that could stand in your way. To fight large amounts of enemies, use Area of Effect (or AoE) spells like Blizzard, Slow Time, and Hydra to keep control of the battlefield and aid you in putting pressure on the enemies. Personally, I use Ice Armor and Diamond Skin for defense when I need it, and Disintegrate, Arcane Orb, and Electrocute to dish out the pain. My Sixth slot rotates often to try out new spells that I acquire through my leveling. However, this is just my own way of playing with the wizard; feel free to find a set of skills that suit your own play-style. When you want to fight a big boss or are with some friends, feel free to have only one defensive spell and pick all the cool offensive attacks you want. Also, make sure to wear a Wizard Hat to look extra cool.

Since the Wizard doesn’t do physical damage often, most of the armor you wear will either be to protect you when you do get hit, or include useful magical traits that increase your power or do something to help you along the way. I would use any armor that gives you Intelligence and, at first, armor that gives you extra experience for killing enemies. That way, you go through the first 10 or 25 levels fairly quickly. After that, I recommend steering your focus to Intelligence and Vitality. When you deal over 500% damage with a single spell and have 2000 health to keep you standing, not much can hurt you. If you feel the need for some utility, things like extra life from health globes or damage dealt to monsters when they attach you are useful traits on armor. Always prioritize items that are special to the Wizard: wands and staffs, Skulls and spheres, and wizard hats. They will almost always give you more intelligence and damage, and have some unique benefits that can be quite useful. Overall, there is a lot you can do with a Wizard and his wide range of spells. Using the right equipment, the demons of Diablo 3 don’t stand a chance against the Wizard’s arcane might.

The Witch Doctor:
Oddly enough, the Witch Doctor is the only character that actually uses Mana. Like the Wizard, he has spells and abilities that deal damage and hurt his opponents in various creative ways; However, his spells have a more realistic shape. While the Wizard just slings power around and can send an orb of pure magic at your face, the Witch Doctor uses his magic to summon allies like bats and zombie dogs to do his bidding, or create toxic smog to debilitate his opponents. Although he has six different skill-types (offense, defense, spiritual, and so on), the Witch Doctor’s 22 skills can be separated into three main groups: Physical, Spiritual, and Command (or Support). Physical skills are things that do more physical damage (clever, no?). Things like throwing an exploding skull or summoning zombies and spiders to attack other monsters count as Physical skills. Spiritual skills hex your enemies, causing de-buffs, like turning them all into chickens. His passive skills help generate Mana, or increase the harming effects of hexes. Circle of Life is one of the first you get and it helps keep your Mana from draining by giving you a small chance to have an enemy who dies near you automatically turn into a zombie to control. Early on, I kept spells like Firebats and Summon Zombie Dogs to attack minions while skills like Plague of Toads persistently damaged my foes. The Witch Doctor’s power really grows when you start combining his Spiritual and Support skills with the Physical ones. Skills like Haunt and Soul Harvest that can kill your enemies and give you intelligence while Plague of Toads poisons them and your zombie dogs are still biting them for lunch. Not only that, but his wicked-looking unique items really boost the Witch Doctor’s effectiveness in battle.

Unlike the Wizard, the Witch Doctor can get in the thick of things and fight off his enemies. He still has less Defense than the Barbarian or the Monk, but putting a dagger or two in the hands of a Witch Doctor is common enough, especially when those daggers are ceremonial knives, specialized for human sacrifice. Knives, shrunken heads, masks, and mojos (dead snakes) all boost the main stat for the witch doctor, Intelligence. With armor, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more damage and life-steal, since you might want to jump in and get your hands dirty from time to time. Plus, who wouldn’t want to walk around with an awesome looking knife, shrunken head, and scary looking mask that makes you look awesome? There is a lot of variety in the Witch Doctor, which also makes him a little difficult to start with. His damage dealing isn’t so straight forward, and takes some strategy to get the maximum efficiency out of his spells. However once you invest some time and energy playing around with the Witch Doctor’s toolbox, you’ll find a lot of exciting things to spend Mana on.

The Demon Hunter:
In Diablo 3, I think that the Demon Hunter is probably the most strategy-centered character out of the five. The Demon Hunter uses a dual-resource pool for his various skills. Hatred and Discipline both have their uses in battle, from throwing knives and grenades, to laying down caltrops and traps to slow and bind your foes. Hatred regenerates quickly, and some of your skills can generate Hatred to help out, while Discipline regenerates much more slowly and is utilized for traps, turrets, and other crowd control. The Demon Hunter has the lowest Defense in the game inherently, so it is crucial to always try to have a battle plan in mind and keep all your adversaries at a distance. The Demon Hunter always likes to pick people off with bows and crossbows, letting the monsters die at a distance. His Passives can be dangerous when used in the right combination. Thrill of the Hunt immobilizes enemies when you strike them and Steady Aim increases damage when you are more than 10 yards away from your enemies. When you use two crossbows, your enemies can experience some demoralizing pain.

The Demon Hunter’s special equipment almost seems weak in comparison to a Wizard’s staff or Witch Doctor’s voodoo mask, but his dual-wielding crossbows might be the most effective. Dexterity is his main source of strength so focus on that when you can, finding armor and weapons in the various dungeons. But also consider finding items that increase his critical hit chance, or add additional elemental damage to each hit. These kinds of effects let you get as much effective damage out of each shot you do, increasing your efficiency. When you increase his Dexterity, the Demon Hunters’ dodge chance also goes up, so Demon Hunter-specific hoods and such are useful to boost that stat. The Demon Hunter is one of the few that I recommend having more defensive and utility spells than offensive. The power of the Demon Hunter comes from being able to control every part of the battle: using his caltrops to slow his enemies, firing of a shot or two then vaulting away and firing again. Skills like Smoke Screen and Vault let him move around while Chakram and Rapid Fire deal the damage he needs, throwing down a trap or using a Fan of Knives spell to deal damage and slow his enemies. For most of my play-through, I used the Vengeance and Steady Aim passive skills, increasing my Hatred and always doing more damage by keeping my foes at a distance. Like most rougue-esque classes, the Demon Hunter doesn’t have much inherently obvious power and is difficult to work with in the beginning. But once you start playing with all of the tools the Demon Hunter has, it’s hard to ignore the fun in one-shotting a zombie or two from 15 yards away.

The Monk:

If the idea of being a kung-fu master, eliminating foes with swift and powerful justice, appeals to you, then the Monk is your class.  Using Spirit, the Monk uses his fists as his weapons, and that’s all he needs. Instead of having a varying amount of spells, the Monk uses his Spirit and Skills to amplify the three-hit combo that is the basis of the Monk’s attack. Skills like Fists of Thunder and Deadly Reach simply empower his kicks and punches with added force or elemental abilities. Once you understand the flow of his combat, you will be throwing down with the most difficult monsters and putting them away with ease. Since you regenerate Spirit only by connecting with attacks, it is important to always tactically be aware of who is around you, and how much Spirit you have. If you don’t, your Monk could end up with only a little bit of Spirit left before a large battle ahead – not a good combination. To help out with the offensive frenzy, the Monk has defensive skills that can protect and heal you and Mantras. Mantras are an effect that lasts for around 3 minutes, buffing you and your teammates. These are especially useful when applied correctly. Abilities like Mantra of Healing give your teammates increased health regeneration, incredibly useful in a pinch against a big boss fight. Oddly enough, I think some of the Monk’s passive skills are the most powerful in the game. Transcendence heals you for every point of Spirit you spend, while Chant of Resonance extends your Mantra’s length from 3 minutes to 10 minutes and increases your spirit regeneration while a Mantra is active. Those two together with a Few Mantras and offensive attack skills, and your Monk invariably becomes a tank that wades through his enemies smiting them down with vengeance and satisfaction.

To make sure your Monk has the tools he needs to fight his foes, invest in fist weapons.  Things like Bladed Knuckles and Shukos not only increase the power of the Monk’s fighting attacks, but the right weapons can also increase his attack speed and life steal. Attack speed and life steal, in some form, are the most useful stats to focus on, minus his main stat, dexterity. If you find armor increasing his attack speed and that give him either a percentage of life steal (when you deal physical damage, you gain a portion of that as health) or gain health on hit, then your Monk can move through dungeons with speed and efficiency. The Monk has the second highest defensive capabilities, but that doesn’t mean he should be standing still. The Monk’spower comes from moving throughout the battlefield, dispatching his foes with swift, holy justice.

The Barbarian:
Instead of calling this character class the Barbarian, they should have called it 5he Tank. The Barbarian has the highest defensive and physical offensive capabilities in the game. His Fury resource lets him leap into the fray and knock back his enemies with devastating force. The Barbarian’s skills are separated into 3 groups: Fury Generators, Fury Spenders, and Utilities. By the obvious names, Fury Spenders cost Fury but deal damage. The cool thing about Fury Generators is that they deal damage, too. At first I figured that for the generators to create Fury, they wouldn’t do much physical damage – and I was happily proved wrong. Some of the coolest generators have abilities that can stack to give you more attack speed or strength. Others let you leap in the air and strike down, dealing heavy damage to enemies in an area of effect ability. His shouts are even cooler, buffing your team or de-buffing your enemies with a ferocious roar. From the beginning, the Barbarians’ attacks, skills, and passives all buff his strength and defensive capabilities. Skills like Revenge which deal massive amounts of damage to opponents and healing you for a percentage of the damage dealt, or increasing your armor with nerves of steel. However, even with all of his power, he needs to reach his opponents to kill them. His reach isn’t too good and he will die easily if surrounded. While there are a few abilities that can get him out of tight spots, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind where and how many opponents you have to kill.

With the weapons in Diablo 3 ranging from swords and shields to voodoo masks and shrunken heads, the Barbarian can wield some of the biggest and most fearsome weapons in the game. Not only can he wield two single handed weapons like axes and swords, the Barbarian is the only class that can wield mighty weapons, like giant clubs or hammers. Along with a mighty weapon goes a mighty pelt, showing off some cool achievement while increasing strength and armor. For the Barbarian, it’s all about strength. Increase it with whatever you can find. Critical chance is also a stat worth increasing, as some of the Barbarians abilities work off of critical hits. I turned my Barbarian into a tank, getting the highest amount of vitality and damage I could. Using Cleave and Rend, I rendered my enemies worthless (ha-ha rend--rendered, get it?). With skills like frenzy and Threatening Shout, I kept pouring damage onto my enemies ruthlessly. And I had a lot of fun doing it.

In the end, the best class and best “build” is the one you feel most comfortable with and enjoy. Experimenting is always fun to do when you get a new spell or ability, so try new combinations often, even after you found a set of skills you like. Diablo 3 has some really fun classes to use while exploring sanctuary, and all the variety that goes with it can keep you playing for a long time.
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