In this installment, I’m going to focus on two classes: the Wizard (arcane, elemental magic) and the Demon Hunter (ranged). Both are actually excellent for ranged attacks, yet they don’t really show their true potential until around level 6 to 8. And out of the two, I’m not exactly sure which one I like better, as they both offer a unique approach to taking down a horde of enemies. If anything, the Demon Hunter seems to be a bit more "explosive" than his magic-based comrade.
As seen on the official website, characters feature slots for six active spells and three passive spells. At the time of this writing, my level 9 Wizard only has three active spell slots unlocked -- the other three won’t be available until levels 12, 18 and 24. The first active spell slot won’t be available until the Wizard hits level 10; the other two will unlock at levels 20 and 30.
For this character, I am using Arcane Orb, Magic Missile and Spectral Blade. The latter spell is tied to the Wizard’s 1-handed sword -- a Legendary Sword called Griswold’s Edge -- and creates a cloud of energy slashes each time the character swings his sword. Magic Missile is the secondary ranged “weapon” in this case, and is used by right-clicking the mouse. Arcane Orb is assigned to the “1” key although it can be used by clicking its icon and then choosing a destination.
The three skills I have armed and ready aren’t the only available abilities in the Wizard’s arsenal. In the Rapid Cast set, he’s unlocked Shock Pulse and Electrocute, a popular duo that I see a lot of other Magicians use. In the Offensive department, the Wizard has unlocked Wave of Force, and in the Utility section, he’s unlocked Frost Nova, Ice Armor, Magic Weapon and Diamond Skin. That said, there are still 15 spells to unlock, the last of which is Archon and level 29.
In the case of this Wizard, his primary hacking attack is the sword/Spectral Blade duo with Magic Missile set as the secondary, ranged attack. Using Arcane Orb as the non-immediate spell probably doesn’t make sense -- assigning the “1” key to Ice Armor is a more logical setup as it doesn’t require any kind of aiming. Regardless, he makes for a powerful opponent in hairy situations, and when compared to the Demon Hunter, seems a bit easier to manage in regards to leveling up quickly without suffering numerous deaths.
On a side note, one of the aspects about Diablo 3 I’ve found to be a little disappointing thus far is the inability to update the character’s stats. There aren’t any points to distribute between the four attributes; they are what they are, and the only customization to be had is the path of the character’s skill tree. That said, my level 9 Wizard has an Attack of 26, a Precision of 32, a Defense of 20 and a Vitality of 21 which automatically increases as the character levels up. The character’s basic attack is 12.47 points of damage per second.
For some reason, the Demon Hunter was a bit harder to level up -- or rather, I found that this class died more frequently than the Wizard. That may be due to to his initial skills compared to the magic user, or it could merely be the current combination of weapons and skills. Nevertheless, this one is best suited using ranged weapons, traps and explosives, attacking enemies from a good distance.
Still hovering at level 8, my Demon Hunter uses the Light Crossbow of Slaying as his primary weapon. He’s actually capable of carrying a crossbow in each hand, but I decided to leave the other hand open for using the Entangling Shot ability which is bound to the crossbow. This in itself is an incredibly effective, incredibly satisfying weapon combination. But by itself, the Entangling Shot releases a spear-like projectile that encumbers the target with ethereal chains while dishing out a percentage of weapon damage.
As a secondary attack, my Demon Hunter tosses out three grenades. Combined with the crossbow/Entangling Shot combo, a group of zombies can be eliminated quickly by pitching the explosives into the crowd of rotten flesh -- the remaining stragglers can be taken out a few at a time with the crossbow/Entangling Shot combo.
Out of all the Active skills, the Demon Hunter has only unlocked nine including the Offensive skills Hungering Arrow, Evasive Fire, Fan of Knives, Bola Shot, and the Discipline skills of Caltrops, Vault, and Marked for Death. For the skill that’s assigned to the "1" key, I really haven’t decided on an ability that feels "right," although Fan of Knives will likely be the skill of choice simply because it doesn’t require aiming, but is an explosion of knives emanating from the character when triggered.
As reported earlier, the Demon Hunter uses a dual-resource system: Hatred and Discipline. The mana globe is actually divided in two, and specific abilities will draw their power from one of the halves, depending on their nature. Hatred is colored red and defines the offensive skills. Discipline is colored blue and defines the defensive maneuvers and some traps. Essentially this means that in the brief moment where there’s no energy for Entangling Shot, the character can still Vault away from the encounter until the Hatred energy refills.
If anything, the Demon Hunter proves to be the more interesting, more challenging character of the two classes I’ve played thus far. The Magician looks and sounds extremely heroic, and less of an actual robed magic user.. at least, so far. The Demon Hunter is a bit more gruff, and his arsenal feels a bit more unique -- or rather, less RPG-ish -- than the other character. I’m looking forward to the later levels where the Demon Hunter can summon a enemy-pecking raven and set up a mechanical turret that fires arrows. Interesting indeed.
In the next hands-on installment I'll cover the Barbarian and the Monk, so stay tuned.
If you missed it: Diablo 3 Closed Beta Hands-On: Part 1