How to choose the Diablo 3 class that's right for you.
I've lost hours thinking it over: which class should I play in Diablo 3?
Last weekend, after weeks of travel and a turbulent eleven-hour flight, I returned to my modest apartment to what I thought would be a relaxed weekend of finally playing my most anticipated game of 2012. As I saw it, I would download the Diablo 3 client, install it onto my Mac, and make no contact with the outside for at least 48 consecutive hours.
I immediately stalled when the game gave me the choice of five different classes. They all looked so cool, and I had successfully had details spoiled in advance: One had exploding dogs, while another could make it rain arrows.
Paralyzed, I polled my colleagues at The Verge and Polygon for help. They boasted about their classes like they were 10-year-olds that had just got the honor roll. Like they were flawless, God's gifts to demon slaying. I had made a mistake. I didn't need to know what was the best class for everyone; I needed to know the best class for me.
I took their opinions and compiled them into a personality test of sorts, lining up certain types of human traits with the various fighters of Satan. My guide has helped me to find the right class - not just the "best" class.
I believe it can do the same for you.
Barbarian is to Diablo 3 what the Incredible Hulk is to The Avengers: powerful, nearly invincible and brainless. The Barbarian's combat strategy is two steps: Find a fight. Insert yourself into the middle of it
For this reason, the Barbarian is a satisfactory beginner's class. If you've never played Diablo before, the Barbarian will introduce you to the universe's fundamental tactic - click, click, click, click and click - though not necessarily much else.
"THEY'RE BIG AND STUPID AND CAN KNOCK STUFF DOWN."
"I wanted to have a fairly straight forward first play-through of Diablo 3," says Polygon News Editor Brian Crecente, "and figured muscling through the game quickly would be easiest with the Barbarian."
As Joe Grossberg, a developer for Vox Media says, "Barbarian requires the least thought and strategy."
Crecente says, "Barbarians can wade into the thick of battle and feed off of the damage they inflict and dish out."
His moves are damage-centric: increasing his power, decreasing the enemy's. With Frenzy, a successful hit will increase attack speed by 10% for a brief period. Threatening Shot is a defensive skill, decreasing damage dealt by enemies within 24 feet by 50% for 12 seconds.
Alternate between these sorts of moves and a Barbarian will look like a hot blade cutting through butter. The butter being the entrails of a dozen zombies.
"It's easy to overestimate your character's strengths," says Crecente, "and once you do, you go down pretty quickly."
Grossberg notes that the Barbarian's lack of ranged attacks can be a problem, along with a lack of diverse abilities. If you opt to play alone, the Barbarian can be overcome when surrounded by malevolent hordes from multiple directions. When playing with others, ranged classes like Wizard or Demon Hunter compliment the Barbarian's "in the weeds" style of play.
THE BARBARIAN SALES PITCH:
"They're big and stupid and can knock stuff down with huge weapons," says Brian Crecente.
WHO SHOULD PLAY BARBARIAN?
- Casual gamers
- Diablo newcomers
- Fans of console action games like the God of War series
The successor to Diablo 2's Necromancer class, the Witch Doctor calls upon minions to do the lion's share of its work. The Witch Doctor also has a few melee attacks, but they are mostly superfluous. The class is best against larger enemies, like bosses, overwhelming them with traps and gangs of mind-controlled demons and zombies.
"IF YOU ENJOY THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE — LIKE UNDEAD THINGS DESTROYING OTHER UNDEAD THINGS — THEN YOU SHOULD CHOOSE THE WITCH DOCTOR."
WHY WITCH DOCTOR?
"The history and mythos behind the character is really fascinating to me," says Tyson Whiting, a designer at Polygon's parent company, Vox Media.
"They are the most different it seems. Barbarians, Wizards, and Demon Hunters just seem like a given for the realm of Diablo. [But] there's nothing like zombies, shrunken heads, and jars of spiders."
"They have great ranged attacks that do critical damage from far or over time," says Whiting. "Haunt is a great example of that." With Haunt, a spirit enters an enemy's body, delivering damage for each second it stays inside.
"The Witch Doctor also has great abilities that do damage to several enemies at once, also from a distance. You can summon zombies to fight for you, too. It's like having your own personal undead army."
Whiting is referring to Summon Zombie Dog, a self-explanatory skill that allows the Witch Doctor to summon up to three undead canines at once. Even better, the Sacrifice skill turns the zombie dogs into "zombie suicide bomber" dogs.
"If I ever get caught in the middle of a battle I'm screwed," says Whiting. "There is basically an inability to engage in hand to hand combat and I feel like my health plummets whenever I am trapped or surrounded."
The Witch Doctor relies heavily on mana, and may run out at what feels like the most inconvenient time. Worse, the Witch Doctor cannot equip the heaviest armors, making them all the more vulnerable. Without a strong partner, like a Barbarian, to play back up, the Witch Doctor is likely to get into the occasional pickle - and not get out alive.
THE WITCH DOCTOR'S SALES PITCH:
"If you're like me," says Whiting, "and you enjoy the simple things in life - like lots of undead things destroying other undead things - then exploding and summoning more undead things, then you should choose the Witch Doctor."
WHO SHOULD PLAY WITCH DOCTOR?
- Zombie nuts
- Fans of Diablo II's Necromancer class
- MOBA lovers
Like the Barbarian, Monk is a class that thrives in the midst of a kerfuffle. The Monk is weaker than the Barbarian, but faster and smarter. The Monk is a scrappy and agile fighter, like an assassin, zipping into a scrimmage to deliver a gust of blows, before zipping out, leaving behind an explosive decoy in his place.
Think of the Monk as the middle-ground character between the melee Barbarian and the ranged Witch Doctor and Wizard.
"HE CAN'T TAKE AS MUCH DAMAGE AS YOUR BARBARIAN, BUT HE'S NO WIMP."
"I've always been drawn to secondary melee characters," says Polygon Managing Editor Justin McElroy. "The characters that aren't hulking brutes but can still put a lot of hurt out on a clump of bad guys. Plus, he looked sort of vaguely Russian, which is a big draw for a beard fan such as myself."
"Well, you've got punching," says McElroy, "but also (and this is so often overlooked) kicking. Where, say, your Barbarian will say, 'Wow, my arms are so tired, I can't do any more swords today,' the monk says, 'My arms are sore too, but don't even worry about it, buddy, because I have kicking. See, there in the sand where there are lots of crazy footprints all around? That's where I kicked guys for you.'"
The Monk delivers hundreds of punches and kicks by combining them with skills like Inner Sanctuary, an ability that creates an impenetrable space for six seconds. Many of the Monk’s attacks also include debilitating buffs, moves that decrease the enemies' speed or attack strength. He slows or hinders his enemies, before slapping them like a turkey’s bottom on Thanksgiving morning.
"He can't take as much damage as your Barbarian, but he's no wimp," says McElory. "I also don't have a lot of luck with crowd control, nothing like what the Wizard can dish out, but hopefully I'll unlock more skills in that vein soon."
The Monk also lacks the ability to wear the heavy armor available to the Barbarian, and has no powerful ranged attacks like the Witch Doctor.
THE MONK'S SALES PITCH:
Justin McElroy launches into his Monk movie pitch: "Gumshoe Adrian Monk would never actually have gum on his well-polished shoes; in addition to intellect and instinct, he also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Though his eccentric traits bewilder his colleagues Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lieutenant Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford), Monk's attention to detail keeps crime — and grime — off the streets."
WHO SHOULD PLAY MONK?
- Barbarians with brains
- Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta fans
- Lovers of Russian beards
The Wizard is a ranged class with a wealth of magical abilities, a callback to Diablo II's Sorceress class. It is a show-off class; one that, when weilded by a skilled player, can be awesome. They can manipulate practically everything: Weather, time and space. They can conjure something from nothing.
An investment of time and patience is required to master the Wizard, and they have some curious flaws, but a committed Wizard player can deliver flourished kills that make the combat of other classes seem shallow.
"HOLDING A HEAVIER SPEAR MEANS MY WIZARD SHOOTS A MORE DAMAGING FIREBALL."
"The Wizard's abilities felt the most varied," says David Zhou, a software engineer at Polygon parent company Vox Media. "In most games, I tend to favor classes that can deal damage in more ways than just auto-attacking monsters. Wizards to me seemed to have a nice mix of offensive spells, defensive buffs, and just generally wacky crowd control abilities (Time Bubble, Hydra Head Summon). And I've never been a fan of summoning things to do my work for me, so Witch Doctor was right out."
"Surprisingly, versatility," says Polygon Senior Editor Russ Frushtick, echoing Zhou’s sentiment. "I thought for sure it'd just be ranged attacks, but the Wizard is pretty devastating up close as well. When up against a lot of small, quick enemies, Spectral Sword tears them to ribbons. Against larger, single bosses, you can swap out for an Ice Beam, which continually slows the target, giving you time to maneuver."
Moves like the Arcane Orb, a spherical explosive, and the Wave of Force, a repellent blast, also make Wizard one of the game’s better crowd control classes.
"Unlike in other games, the Wizard's arcane (or really, mana) pool doesn't go up drastically even in late game level 60 characters," says Zhou. "What you get at the beginning of the game is largely what you have at the end. This means that arcane usage is a constant juggling act;— it’s very easy to run out of power. And because Diablo 3 has no mana potions or the like, this means that, unlike in many other games, you don't end up with that infinite mana pool to spam abilities from."
"Oh and one other, not weakness per say, but game design quirk about the Wizard that annoyed me," says Zhou. "Weapons types are basically meaningless for Wizards. The damage of any weapon they carry is automatically carried over to the damage their spells do. This means that, inexplicably, holding a heavier spear means my Wizard shoots a more damaging fireball."
STILL MORE WEAKNESSES?
"Also, armor is a problem," says Frushtick. "Most Wizard gear doesn't offer much of it and to maximize damage you have to forgo a shield, leaving you vulnerable. Your best bet early on is to try to get your Damage Per Second (DPS) as high as possible so that you can kill anything before it has time to deal any serious blows."
THE WIZARD'S SALES PITCH:
"If you're sick of watching teenaged, wannabe wizards go through puberty," says Frushtick, "and just want to play one that can annihilate demons en masse, Diablo 3 gives you that privilege."
WHO SHOULD PLAY WIZARD?
- The showboater
- The expert
- The player trying a second or third or fourth (or fifth) play-through
Demon Hunter is a ranged support class. The character who keeps his distance, providing a stream of projectile attacks from a safe place outside the crush of swords and armor. The Demon Hunter, when used properly in a team setting, slows enemies down, while another class finishes them off. It’s not the most glamorous class, sure, but a Demon Hunter is welcome in any party.
"THE DEMON HUNTER IS THE LEAST RELIGIOUS OF ALL THE CHARACTERS."
WHY DEMON HUNTER?
"The first thing I did was spend three hours analyzing the appearance, ethical perspective, and general fighting style of the Barbarian, Demon Hunter, and Monk classes," says Vlad Savov, Senior Editor for The Verge. "I actually started off with a Monk because of the combo attacks you can string together, however about midway through the game I found myself using only his long-range attacks and preferring to fight off the hordes from a distance. That's when I made the tough decision to leave him be and move to the Demon Hunter, who is by design a distance killer.
"The Demon Hunter has a lot of attacks and upgrades that help you control and slow down crowds, which is the thing that appeals to me; I like to see my victims before I obliterate them, whereas characters like the Monk rely on ultra-quick enemy disposal."
"The biggest strengths of the Demon Hunter are its damage output, crowd control abilities and mobility," says Jake Lear, a developer for Vox Media. "The Demon Hunter comes equipped with a number of abilities to snare enemies and quickly gain the requisite distance. Gearing for Demon Hunter is relatively simple; played correctly, you won't take much damage as Demon Hunter, and so you can focus on your damage output when gearing. For tougher difficulties, when survivability is more of a factor, you can find comfort in the Shadow Power ability, which converts your damage to health for a few seconds."
The Demon Hunter also has more survival skills than an Eagle Scout. Smoke Screen and Caltrops both serve as traps to impede or confuse the enemy, while Vault lets the player tumble 35 yards. He’s like a strange mix of Davy Crocket and a Ryu Hayabusa.
"The problem with the Demon Hunter," says Savov, "is that there are instances where you'll be shooting at enemies off-screen, who are similarly shooting at you from their 'invisible' position. I feared that before starting the game, which is why I moved away from the Demon Hunter initially, and it is a problem that crops up a few times."
Like the other ranged classes in Diablo 3, Demon Hunter is a physically weaker class, and benefits from having a Barbarian or Tank to distract the enemies. Demon Hunter is not the best class for solo play.
THE DEMON HUNTER'S SALES PITCH:
"The Demon Hunter is the least religious / superstitious of all the characters," says Savov. "He has a wide arsenal of options for controlling crowds or doing maximum damage to a single enemy, and he's the coolest looking of all the classes. You can't say you've fully experienced Diablo 3 without exploiting the arrow rain (Rain of Vengeance) or machine-gun arrow (Multishot) abilities."
WHO SHOULD PLAY MONK?
- The full-time teammate
- The ninja wannabe
- The casual player who finds the Barbarian too barbaric
You can waste hours dwelling over statistics, finding out which class is numerically the most powerful or will score the best gear. That's not necessarily the point. A wise D&D Dungeon Master once gave me a piece of advice for designing a character in role-playing games that I will now share with you: "Play to experience, not to win."