“Right after we revealed the game at BlizzCon, we received a lot of feedback on the level of depth, progression, and customization provided by our Skill and Talent systems,” says Diablo 4 game director, Luis Barriga. “We’ve generally had the same observations and experiences ourselves as we’ve been playtesting the game in its early stages. As a result, we’ve been reworking skills and talents over the last few months and are now ready to share some of the progress we’ve made.”
The Diablo 4 team goes on to explain that essentially felt the previous talent system needed “more depth.” They also observed that the game’s skill system was “too simple” and that players would often have no “meaningful reason to spend their skill points.” In response to those concerns, the Diablo 4 team has crafted an altered skill tree system that focuses on active and passive skills. Here’s a look at that skill tree in its current form and an explanation from Blizzard on how it differs from what they were using before:
“The Skill Tree you see above consists of many specific nodes, a sample of which you can see in the screenshots above. If we imagine every single node on that massive Skill Tree affecting different skills in different ways, the path that you decide to take will determine big power increases and playstyle choices. The Passive part of this system is where you will find more general upgrades to your character. These effects are not specific to particular skills. Therefore, the Skill Tree will have a good mix of all types of different choices for players to make.”
The team goes on to explain that “players will not be able to acquire every Skill Tree node” under the new system and that they’re “currently aiming for 30~40% of the nodes filled in for end game.” They hope this will encourage more unique builds and open more room for creative freedom.
Speaking of unique builds, the team is experimenting with a new Enchantment system for the Sorceress which will allow them to convert active skills into a bonus power. For instance, you can convert the Meteor power into a passive ability that regularly launches meteors but removes your ability to control them. The team notes that they’re still playing with the specifics of this ability, but their hope is to eventually give every class at least one unique mechanic along these lines.
Those who’ve played or seen the early builds of Diablo 4 can also expect some changes to the game’s existing gear mechanics. For instance, Blizzard notes that the existing Ancestral/Demonic/Angelic Powers system didn’t feel “cool enough,” so they’re looking for a way to further the idea of pieces of gear having unique stats that can be combined to achieve ability bonuses that don’t require the player to perform so much “bookkeeping.” It seems that this renovation is still a work in progress, but the team hopes to share more info in the next update.
On a similar note, the team mentions that they’re exploring a new approach to Legendary items and other powerful gear as they feel that “a character’s power is currently too dependent on items.” Again, they don’t confirm what kind of changes they intend to make but it sounds like the goal will be to ensure that items remain impactful without necessarily detracting from your character’s build.
Each of these updates is interesting in their own right, but the real story here may be Blizzard’s commitment to evolving Diablo based on player feedback. Diablo 3 launched in an infamously controversial state which left many long-time fans feeling as if they’d been ignored, and it certainly sounds like the Diablo 4 team is looking to avoid that early reception this time around.