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Too much of a good thing? Diablo 4's skill options overwhelmed me as a new player

Too much of a good thing? Diablo 4's skill options overwhelmed me as a new player
Only 3 of the 5 classes were playable in the build we were given, and I chose the Rogue.
PHOTO: Blizzard Entertainment

This article was written based on an early build of the game provided by Blizzard during an exclusive media event. A complete review will be out with the full release of the game.

Can too much freedom be a good thing?

Prior to an exclusive media preview of an early build of Diablo 4 that lasted a week, developers told regional media in a press conference last Thursday (Dec 1) that there would be a lot more freedom of choice compared to previous iterations.

And I thought to myself: How bad could it be?

Well, let's just say a kid in a candy store would probably have less options than I did and choosing where my talent points went to felt like Sophie's Choice.

Full disclaimer: I've never played any of the other Diablo games in the series before but I was curious to try it out and it was a whole new world for me in many ways.

Upon logging in, I was met with my first choice — picking my class. For this build, only three of the five classes were available: Barbarian, Rogue and Sorceress.

Being an enjoyer of Overwatch 2's Hanzo and Genji, this choice was already made for me.


With the ability to dual wield (daggers, shortswords or one each) and a bow as her primary weapon, the Rogue seemed like a good fit for my tastes and would be the one to take me through my first foray into Diablo.

After going through a simple character creation process, my character was thrust into the world of Diablo 4, left alone on a snowy mountain after the horse she rode on was viciously torn apart by unknown beasts.

Immediately apparent was the fact that the usual keys for movement (W, A, S and D keys) were already in use for other purposes. Instead of using the keyboard, navigation in Diablo 4 is done using the mouse, specifically the left mouse button.

While I'm aware that movement in Diablo has always utilised the mouse, it was something that I didn't really enjoy, especially since attacking and movement used the same button.

When I'm using a melee build, my character ended up dying many times because I couldn't click out from the throng of mobs swarming her — adding on to this was what I felt might have been input delay due to connection problems.

Too many skills, too little points

Speaking of builds, the real stunner came when I opened up my skill window for the first time and was met with the most complex skill tree I'd ever seen.

There are five skills available at first tier, each of them with a path that splits in two, altering what the skill does. In addition, the basic skills of each tier has up to five levels.

Typically, you'll need to spend one skill point per skill level and you only get one point per character level, which means choosing what to spend them on shouldn't be taken lightly.

These skills were just the tip of the iceberg, however, as the skill tree for the first five abilities was just one tier of the full skill tree for classes.


After investing sufficient points into the first tier, the second one, with a whole new set of skills, would be available as well.

The same would happen for the third, fourth and fifth tier of skills on the skill tree all the way up until I got my ultimate ability, allowing me an immense amount of options.

It's not just of the base skills themselves, but also of the ways these skills can change to fit your playstyle.

This is because skills themselves also have special effects, such as increasing your critical rate or damage, or causing debuffs on enemies. These buffs and debuffs can also trigger the effects of other abilities, increasing your damage output, knocking down enemies or setting them up for your next combo.

The second tier of skills and beyond are also more powerful than the ones on the first tier and are on a cooldown instead of the energy resource required to cast other skills. Not only does this add a whole new layer to skill management, it also forces you to chain abilities properly.

As tempting as it was to just unlock all the skills, it's worth noting that you can only use a maximum of four at once, not including the basic abilities on your left and right mouse buttons.

So you'll have to think hard and read up about your skills if you want your combat to flow well — if you're too slow or fumble your skills, you might end up facing the 'revive' screen more than you'd like.

Challenging combat with a lot of variety

I first started off with skills that were based around the bow, thinking that keeping my distance would be good considering how foreign the game was to me.

But my fears were unfounded as combat was thankfully simple to understand — left and right clicks would use the player's basic ability, while numbers one through four on the keyboard would activate any abilities I would hotkey on them.


You could assign other abilities to the mouse buttons but it felt more intuitive to assign it to the basic abilities as these were the ones with no cooldowns, hence it would be akin to your spammable basic attacks.

While archery was very enjoyable, I later decided to switch it up and focus on skills around the dual-wielded swords or daggers and reset my skill points using a small amount of the in-game gold.

And I was instantly smitten.

With a completely different build, my playstyle also changed accordingly. Instead of playing at a distance, I jumped straight into the fray, trading blows with the enemies.

Although this was a much more dangerous way of fighting that caused me to die multiple times, I enjoyed the rush of adrenaline that came with bursting down enemies quickly before they reduced my health to zero.

Going through the overworld

While playing, I came across another player from Taiwan. We tried to party up for multiplayer gameplay, but a difficulty with portals meant that we couldn't proceed together, so we ultimately disbanded. 

But solo play had its merits as well, as it allowed me to fully immerse myself into the grim, apocalyptic world of Sanctuary.

The main story quest to pursue Lilith and stop her is equal parts tragic and epic, much like how you would expect a hero's journey to go.

But to me, the hero's tale is one that's been told too many times.

The highlight of my playthrough of Diablo 4 — aside from the flexibility of builds, loot and smooth combat — was the side quests that spoke volumes of the world from the perspectives of regular villagers trying to survive.

In one particular quest, I had to travel through an asylum to eliminate the soul of a tortured boy that persistently haunted his father.

The mobs themselves were all undead and the atmosphere of the asylum was chilling.

You could interact with iron maidens, causing blood and rotting body parts to pour out, or interact with a torturing rack and watch a corpse get pulled into two as fibres of flesh snapped apart.

When I killed the ghost and returned to the father, a twist, albeit somewhat cliche, awaited me that I'll not spoil. Safe to say, many side quests give greater depth into the world that the main story does not.


Although my overall experience was enjoyable, I do have a slight gripe about the responsiveness of controls.

While the combat was fluid when it worked, when it didn't, it was a little frustrating. For instance, when I cast a skill that would reposition me elsewhere, my character would occasionally jitter on the spot as though I were stuck in terrain.

Additionally, there were many times where I felt that my input, whether mouse or keyboard, was delayed or buffered, muddling up my combos.

While I'm not certain if there will be dedicated servers for Southeast Asia on launch, I certainly hope that will be the case.

However, my complaints are very much overshadowed by my enjoyment of the game.

For an early build, the game delivered on its promise of variety and I'm looking forward to its full release and what creative character builds players can cook up.

ALSO READ: December games roundup: 2022 ends with a couple of bangers

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