Blizzard overhauls Diablo 4 skill system to enable more 'distinct' character builds

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Blizzard's latest update on the state of Diablo 4 takes a closer look at the game's Skills and Talents systems, which have undergone some "major changes" based on playtesting and feedback from the community. The progression under the current Skill system "felt too simple, which created issues where a player would have no meaningful reason to spend their skill points," Blizzard said, and so it's begun working on a new system with separate skills and passives. 

The Sorceress skill tree, for instance—literally a tree—has skills and skill upgrades on nodes along the branches, which is where you'll spend skill points earned as your character levels up. This is also where you'll unlock passive points that can be used on "powerful passive effects," represented in the tree's roots. (You can get a closer look at a few of the nodes in the gallery further down.)

(Image credit: Blizzard)

"The Skill Tree you see above consists of many specific nodes, a sample of which you can see in the screenshots above," Blizzard said. "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."

Blizzard also noted that players will not be able to acquire every node in the skill tree: It's currently aiming to enable 30-40 percent of the nodes for endgame characters, "so that players can have very distinct, and different ways they build out their character."

Legendary items are also likely to be changed up considerably, as character power is currently too dependent upon the items they have equipped, rather than their builds. "We’ve also had very mixed team feedback regarding core itemization," Blizzard said. "We’re currently looking at how to best differentiate our various item qualities. For example, should Magic quality items have higher affix stats than Rare items?" More information on that is expected to be revealed in the next update.

The update also offers a look at the Sorceress Enchantment System, which similar to the Barbarian's Arsenal system is intended to help the class feel as distinct as possible from the rest. 

"The main goal for us here is to have very unique class-specific mechanics in Diablo IV. We have this goal because Diablo is the kind of game where many players try out different builds or classes, especially during seasonal play," Blizzard said. "We believe that unique class mechanics with very different strengths and playstyles compared to other classes will make exploring the different classes—and playing the game—much more fun."

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Finally, there's a brief note on Diablo 4's endgame progression, although a proper look at that won't be ready for awhile yet.

"This system is intended to provide more depth and replayability than what Paragon currently offers in Diablo 3," Blizzard said. "We, and many Blizzard gamers, have talked about the concept of 'easy to learn, difficult to master.' We believe that the end game progression system is where the difficult to master component will come in, and should meet the expectations of the most hardcore Diablo players out there."

None of this is carved in stone as Diablo 4 is still "actively in development," and Blizzard invited feedback and "constructive discussions" about the update on its forums, Reddit, and social media. And since I know you're curious, sorry, but there's still no hint of a possible release date, although we may (if we're very lucky, and this is entirely speculative on my part) hear more about that in February during BlizzConline.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.