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Diablo 3 for WoW Players Part 4: Classes

May 13, 2012

So much Diablo content to cover, so little time.

I had a few people ask me questions about the lore and I realized it would be good to answer them — and also to perhaps cover a bit about the new lore revealed in the lead up to D3.  However, I’d like to cover some more practical aspects of Diablo gameplay before it releases in 2 days, so I may have to come back to the lore later.

  • Part 1 gave a synopsis of Diablo lore prior to the events of the original Diablo game, as well as a brief discussion of some of the similarities between the lore of Diablo and the lore of Warcraft.
  • Part 2 gave a synopsis of the lore of the first Diablo game and discussed more similarities between Diablo and WoW.
  • Part 3 covered the lore of Diablo 2 and a few more similarities to WoW.
  • This installment will cover the Diablo class system, which will feel very familiar to WoW players.
  • The last(?) installment will cover some basic Diablo 3 gameplay and offer a few handy tips to start out with.


Part 4: The Diablo Classes

This is going to be an explanation of the Diablo classes, with a focus on which WoW classes are most like the Diablo classes and how it felt to play each class through the early levels on the D3 beta.  For much more detailed information, check out the official Diablo 3 website.

One thing you have to remember is that D3 is not an MMORPG.  It is multi-player, yes, but you aren’t going to be exploring a world filled with other players.  You can join open games with strangers if you like, but the number of people in your game at any one time is going to be severely limited.  (If I remember correctly the max group size is four.)  This means that the classic MMO “holy triad” of tank, heals and DPS does not exist in D3.  All the classes are capable of DPS, and each individual is largely responsible for his/her own health.  The melee classes (especially the Barbarian) are able to tank to a limited degree if they spec for it, but having a “tank” in your party is unlikely to be essential.  There is only one class in the game with access to heals and that class is the Monk — a melee class.

Another thing to be aware of is that there is absolutely no character customization.  If you roll a male Barbarian, you will look like every other male Barbarian in the game.  Since I love character customization this is a little disappointing to me.  However, it does mean the character creation process is very simple and it only takes a few seconds to choose a name and start playing.  Gear and weapons will also change the look of your character as you acquire them.

When I played the beta I found all the classes to be easy to play and very survivable.  The ranged classes were squishier than the melee, but I never died at all.  (Had a couple of close calls, but was always able to get through it.)  This might not be the case on live.  There was a Blue post recently admitting that the beta content was too easy even as a tutorial, so they buffed the difficulty of the first Act.  (Unfortunately, I can’t find a source for that blue post right now.)  I think this was probably a wise decision.

The Barbarian

The Barbarian tribes existed to protect the Worldstone.  It was their purpose, and their very reason for being.  The shattering of the Worldstone not only destroyed Mt. Arreat, but Barbarian culture as well.  Devastated at the loss of their identity, Barbarians seek to find new meaning for their lives.

Giant, powerful melee fighters, Barbarians wear heavy armor and wield massive weapons.  They are equally capable of using sword and shield, two-handed weapons, or dual wielding.  Barbarians are able to take large amounts of damage, shout to empower themselves or weaken their foes, and leap into the midst of their enemies to stun and devastate them.  Strength is the barbarian’s primary stat.  Fury is the Barbarian’s resource.  It works exactly like a Warrior or Bear Druid’s Rage — taking and dealing damage build up Fury which can be spent on powerful special abilities.  Fury decays over time too, just like Rage.

This class was a blast to play in beta.  I could just waltz in and destroy huge packs of mobs without breaking a sweat.  The game likes to congratulate you if you kill a large number of monsters in a short period of time.  At once point I got so cocky I ran into a graveyard that spawns mobs as you run over the graves and tried to pull as many as possible.  I got a lot more than I had anticipated because I forgot some of the mobs spawn additional adds.  Things got a little hairy but I managed to survive, and the game congratulated me on killing more than 30 in one pull.  So. Much. Fun.

WoW classes that are similar to the Barbarian:

  • Warrior.  Really, the two classes are practically interchangeable.
  • Bear/Cat Druid.  Bears will be familiar with the resource system, while both specs will be familiar with the melee playstyle
  • Paladin, DK or Enhancement Shaman.  There are elements that all three of these classes will find familiar in Barbarian play, but it won’t feel like a perfect match.

A few Barbarian abilities that will feel strangely familiar to WoW players:

  • Cleave.  Does just what you’d think it does, but to more enemies than the WoW version.
  • Rend.  Attack that causes all nearby enemies to take bleed damage.
  • Leap.  Yup, just like the Warrior’s Heroic Leap.
  • Whirlwind.  A whirling dervish of wanton destruction?  Got that too.
  • Really, I could go on, but let’s just say the Barbarian toolkit looks a LOT like the Warrior’s.

The Demon Hunter

Demonic incursions have devastated the world of Sanctuary, destroying towns and killing thousands.  Survivors of demonic attacks are often deeply traumatized and burn with the desire for revenge.  Some of these survivors have banded together, determined to hunt down and exterminate all demons.  They are the Demon Hunters, masters of traps, shadow magic and ranged weaponry.

Demon Hunters use light leather armor and rely on Dexterity as a primary stat.  They specialize in wielding ranged weapons, particularly crossbows, which they can dual wield.  They are not well-suited to taking damage, so they prefer to stay at range.  Traps, slows and high mobility help to keep their foes at arm’s length.

Something unique to this class is a dual resource system.  Demon Hunters use both Hatred and Discipline.  Hatred is used for offensive abilities.  It regenerates very quickly, and is most like the Energy resource that WoW Rogues and Kitty Druids use.  Discipline regenerates at a much slower rate and is used for all defensive abilities.  It seems like a combination of Hunter Focus and caster Mana — abilities use a huge chunk of Discipline which then regenerates quite slowly.

I definitely enjoyed playing a Demon Hunter in beta.  All the abilities look and feel really cool, and dual wielding crossbows is totally bad-ass.  I did feel a bit squishy — you want to keep the bad guys as far away as possible.  Mobs that can close gaps were a pain.

WoW classes that are similar to the Demon Hunter:

  • Hunter and Rogue.  If you imagine a combination of these two classes you’ll be pretty close to the feel of the Demon Hunter.  They don’t have pets, which will feel weird to a Hunter, and they stand at range, which will feel weird to a Rogue.
  • Shaman.  There’s a little bit of a Shaman feel here, especially because Demon Hunters can drop turrets which are a lot like totems.
  • Shadow Priest.  Demon Hunters use shadow magic and gain the ability to turn into a powerful shadowy apparition.  That’s a little bit like Shadow Priesting.

A few Demon Hunter abilities that will feel strangely familiar to WoW players:

  • Fan of Knives.  Exactly like the Rogue ability.
  • Multishot.  Exactly like the Hunter ability.
  • Sentry.  This is the turret ability, which works like a Shaman totem.  It can be changed to have different abilities using runes.  There are turrets similar to Healing Stream Totem, Searing Totem and Stoneskin Totem.
  • Rain of Vengeance.  Hunters rejoice!  This is exactly like the old Volley.

The Monk

Monks are new to Diablo and as far as I know there isn’t much established lore about them.  They are followers of the Sahptev faith and endure much training in the martial arts and spiritual disciplines.

Monks are lightly armored melee fighters who specialize in the use of fist weapons and staves, and they can also dual-wield.  They are highly mobile on the battlefield and can chain attacks together in powerful combos.  The Monk is also the only class with access to any healing abilities.  Dexterity is the Monk primary stat.  Spirit is the Monk resource, but it bears no resemblance to the Spirit stat in WoW.  In Diablo 3 Spirit is generated by basic attacks or combos and than spent on special attacks.  It also regenerates slowly over time, and you can find items that will increase Spirit regeneration.  Compared to WoW resources it is most like Mana.

This is the class that I played first on beta and I absolutely loved it.  I plan to roll a Monk as my first character when D3 goes live.  One of the early abilities allows you to instantly teleport to whatever enemy you are attacking, kinda like a WoW Rogue’s shadowstep, except with no cooldown.  Just blink, blink, blink around the battlefield.  It was hella fun.  Monks also get an early heal that is absolutely incredible — it’s like a party-wide Lay on Hands on a 15 second CD.  I have no idea how it scales, but it was awesome at low level.

WoW classes that are similar to the Monk:

  • Paladin, Rogue, Enhancement Shaman, Kitty Druid (and Monk).  There isn’t any specific WoW class that is a close parallel to the Monk.  (Except for perhaps the new MoP Monk class, but we don’t have a good basis of comparison there yet.)  However, most melee classes are going to find something familiar about the play-style.  Paladins in particular will find much in common with the Monk class.
  • Healing Classes.  If healing is your thing, then the Monk might be the class for you.  The play-style is very different from WoW healing, but it’s the closest thing you’re going to get.  Just get used to getting up close and personal with your enemies while you DPS and throw out the occasional clutch heal.

A few Monk abilities that will feel strangely familiar to WoW players:

  • Breath of Heaven.  This was the heal that felt like a party-wide Lay on Hands.  Not sure if it will remain that powerful as you level up or not.
  • Serenity.  This seems a lot like a Pally’s bubble.
  • Mantras.  These work like Pally Auras.  Either all party members within 40 yards will receive a beneficial effect, or all enemies within 20 yards receive a detrimental effect.
  • Near Death Experience.  This is essentially the same as a Pally’s Ardent Defender.  An attack that would have killed the Monk will instead bring them to 35% Life and Spirit.
  • Although all the above are examples from the Paladin’s toolkit, I see many Monk abilities that are similar to Monk abilities on the WoW beta.  There are also a few that resemble Rogue, Warrior and Feral talents.

The Witch Doctor

The spiritual leaders of the Umbaru tribes, Witch Doctors  commune with the spirits and offer human sacrifices.  They are attuned to the Unformed Land, the realm of the Umbaru afterlife, and are caretakers of the balance between that realm and the physical world.  When the dead cry out in agony the Witch Doctors hear and take action.

Witch Doctors practice the art of Necromancy, raising minions and creatures to do their bidding.  Masters of poison, acid, fire and other destructive magics, they are also skilled in crowd control and debilitating effects, weakening their enemies.  They can wield two-handed weapons, but prefer to combine a one-handed weapon with a magical fetish or shield in their off-hand.  They wear very light armor and elaborate voodoo masks.  Because of their fragile constitution Witch Doctors should stay safely out of range of their enemies.  Intellect is their primary stat.  Mana is the Witch Doctor resource.  It is a large pool of power but regenerates very slowly.  It is very much like the WoW Mana resource.

Although the class has a very strong flavour, I enjoyed playing it the least of all the D3 classes.  Early on you get three Zombie Dogs as pets, but you have no control over them.  They were constantly running off ahead into places I couldn’t see and pulling the entire room for me.  It was like trying to run a dungeon with three gogogo DPSers hopped up on caffeine.  If the group I was in wanted to go left, my dogs would inevitably run right, leaving me alone to battle all the mobs they’d pulled.  At least I always knew if a room was full of mobs.  Are my dogs standing at my side?  This room is empty.  Are they eagerly running forward as if greeting a long-lost friend?  I might be about to die.

On the plus side, all the Witch Doctor abilities look really cool.  My favourite was Firebats.  It was like breathing fire, except it was bats, who were on fire.  So. Amazing.  Unfortunately, the bats were only useful in melee range, which is NOT where my Witch Doctor wanted to be.  At higher level you can add runes to the bats to make them more useful, but sadly I had to switch to using a different ability.

WoW classes that are similar to the Witch Doctor:

  • Warlock.  The dark caster feel will be very familiar to Warlocks.  Summoning minions, crowd control, fear, debuffs — all very similar.
  • Hunter and Shadow Priest.  Hunters will be all too familiar with pets who sometimes have minds of their own.  Shadow Priests may recognize the Witch Doctor as a darker version of their own class to some extent.  Actually, now that I think about it, Shadow Priests are also used to pets that don’t obey.
  • Death Knight.  Unholy Death Knights in particular may find this class attractive, despite being a ranged class instead of melee.  There is a similar theme to the class, and some of the Witch Doctor abilities come straight out of the Unholy DK arsenal.  Also, they’re used to having brain-dead pets hindering them.

A few Witch Doctor abilities that will feel strangely familiar to WoW players:

  • Grasp of the Dead.  This is exactly like a DK’s Desecration, except the spell effect looks about 10 times cooler.  No offense, DKs.
  • Horrify.  This is an AoE fear, rather like a Priest’s Psychic Scream.
  • Hex.  Like the Shaman hex or a Mage Polymorph, except so much more awesome.  Summons a fetish shaman for 12 seconds that turns enemies into chickens.
  • Blood Ritual.  Allows 15% of your Mana cost to be paid with Life instead.  This is like a passive version of Life Tap.

The Wizard

In the world of Sanctuary, Wizard is a derogatory term.  It’s used to refer to those mages and sorcerers who rebel against the traditional, cautious, academic schools of magic users.  Wizards are reckless and rebellious, disregarding the safety of others and taking risks few would dare to take.  Their magic is wild, unstable and very powerful.

Wizards are lightly armored ranged casters.  Keeping a safe distance from enemies is a high priority as Wizards are unable to take much of a beating.  Masters of the elements, they have access to powerful AoE attacks and protective wards.  They prefer to use wands and off-hand weapons to channel their energies.  Intellect is their primary stat.  Arcane Power is the Wizard resource.  It is a nearly limitless supply of quickly regenerating power.  Because you are unlikely to run out of Arcane Power, many Wizard abilities have cooldowns.  It is most like a combination of WoW’s Energy and Mana resources.

I honestly didn’t play this class much on the beta.  I can say that the spell effects looked really beautiful.  Wizards also seemed pretty squishy, at least until I got an ability that let me turn myself into a diamond and be immune to all damage every 15 seconds.  It was like a mobile Ice Block and looked amazing to boot.

WoW classes that are similar to the Wizard:

  • Mage.  Very much like Mages, yes indeed.
  • Warlock, Shadow Priest, Boomkin, Elemental Shaman.  Any of the ranged classes are going to feel pretty much at home playing a Wizard.

A few Wizard abilities that will feel strangely familiar to WoW players:

  • Frost Nova.  Freezes nearby enemies in ice, just like the Mage ability.
  • Armor Spells.  There are several armor spells that are very much like Mage armors.
  • Teleport.  Yup, Wizards have Blink too.
  • Mirror Image.  Again, just like the Mage spell, except it summons 2 copies instead of 3.

When I started writing this post I honestly thought it was going to be pretty short.  I am so very sorry.  Is anyone here still reading this?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. antlergirl permalink
    May 14, 2012 3:15 am

    I love these posts! I’ve mentioned your blog on our podcast’s facebook page, because I’ve had some listeners asking about Diablo compared to wow 🙂 Can’t wait for more of your posts about this!

    • May 14, 2012 6:26 am

      Thank you so much for linking to me on your facebook page! I’m glad you’re enjoying the series and finding the information useful. 😀

  2. May 14, 2012 11:59 am

    I’m enjoying the series! I’ve never played any Diablo franchise game, not even the D3 beta, so while I’ve been enjoying the lore story, I’m especially interested in the play mechanics in your next post.

    • May 14, 2012 12:17 pm

      Thanks! I’ve got my nose to the grindstone right now. Hopefully the next part will be done soon so people will have time to read it before the D3 release. 🙂

  3. May 14, 2012 12:16 pm

    I find it interesting that they have 5 classes but the group size is limited to 4.

    Just kind of odd you know?

    Thank you so much for doing this series. I might actually start playing it BEFORE I finish Skyrim. 😀

    • May 14, 2012 12:18 pm

      Yeah, it kinda makes me picture the poor little hero who always gets picked last for teams. He has to sit around town waiting for the more popular classes to come back with all the loot. 😦

      And you’re very welcome! I’m glad people are finding the info interesting and not just going “omfg tl;dr”. LOL

    • May 14, 2012 2:38 pm

      Wait, Skyrim has an end?

      I still think I’m going Barbarian. I know it sounds kinda odd since my WoW toons are all healing paladins, but … playing melee isn’t the same as tanking for pugs. My refusal to tank for pugs made gearing up a tank in WoW more trouble than it was worth, which is part of the reason I ended up turning to healing. For THIS though … the idea of pulling a whole room on purpose is too good to pass up.

      • May 14, 2012 2:49 pm

        Don’t forget that they might have buffed the content since I played the beta! I’d hate for your first pull to be disastrous and have you come back here and kick my ass.

      • May 14, 2012 3:36 pm


  4. May 14, 2012 12:57 pm

    I’m still reading! Hmmm, based on this I think I’m going to change my mind. I have no WoW Warriors at all. I think my first class is going to be The Barbarian. I had thought Witch Doctor but I think I’ll try something different for a change.

    • May 14, 2012 1:03 pm

      You should try the Witch Doctor too! You might like it a lot more than I did. 🙂

  5. JD Kenada permalink
    May 14, 2012 8:27 pm

    Very interesting once again. I’m honestly unsure of what class strikes my fancy the most, though Witch Doctor or Demon Hunter seem to be jumping out at me. I know for a fact a dear friend of mine will be a Barbarian based on what you’ve explained here. Didn’t matter if it was a Paladin…or a Hunter, he’d run full tilt into battle. Same with his D&D Clerics…and well, anything.

    • May 14, 2012 8:52 pm

      Don’t get me wrong about the Witch Doctor — it is a lot of fun, just I didn’t like it as much as the other classes. I was honestly very impressed with all of them. It was like every ability I got, no matter what class, made me go, “OMG! This is so cool!” 😀

      • JD Kenada permalink
        May 14, 2012 10:02 pm

        Nah, your personal favourites didn’t factor into my decision. The Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor are the classes that seem most appealing at this stage.

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