'The rule of cool' is Blizzard's solution to Diablo 4's barbarian problem and it's going to 'juice up the other classes' to compensate

Diablo 4 barbarian shop armor with horns and an orange background
(Image credit: Blizzard)

It doesn't take a Diablo 4 expert to look at all the weapons barbarians carry around and wonder what the other classes are doing only using one or two. Barbarians are Diablo 4's strongest class by far and it mostly comes down to the fact that, in a game about powerful items, they get to have four of the strongest ones at all times.

Despite what some players think, Blizzard is very aware of barbarians' inherent advantage and is going to try to lift every other class up to their level, starting in season 4.

For context: Diablo 4 classes gain the majority of their power from weapons. All your skills deal damage based on the strength of your weapons. And each weapon can have the strongest Legendary powers, or aspects, in the game on them, like a passive that causes skills to deal up to 40 times more damage than normal.

So let me reiterate the problem: Barbarians get four weapons.

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In an interview last week, I asked lead class designer Adam Jackson how you balance a class with such a massive advantage over the others, especially with the introduction of season 4's new Tempering crafting system that lets you stack even more powerful stats onto your items.

Understandably, Jackson looked like he aged a thousand years as he reflected on the difficulties of trying to wrangle this class in: "The fantasy is really cool. And we like the fantasy. We also think that it feels really awesome that you have access to more weapons and you get a little more Legendary power flexibility and things like that."

"Minion necromancer should feel crazy good."

Adam Jackson, lead class designer

The answer to this problem, he explained, could be "something really kind of lame," like only activating Legendary powers for weapons the barbarian is actively swinging or changing how they work for barbarians only.

"Rather than do that," he said, "what we're thinking right now on the team is we're trying to juice up the other classes, in their mechanics and other things, to keep up with that, and now the classes have parity that way."

Jackson implied it'll be an ongoing process over the next major balance patches, but pointed to necromancers as the first class in line. In season 4, their undead minions will be more powerful than ever before. Your bone mages can cast your Bone Spear skill—which gains every bonus your character would get for using it—and the golem can call down a hail of Bone Spikes on enemies. On the early playtest server, or PTR, last month, necromancer minions were strong enough to nearly one-shot Uber Lilith all on their own—which Jackson said isn't far off from where they'll be when the season launches next month. "That's important to us; minion necromancer should feel crazy good."

To get there, Blizzard had to apply what Jackson refers to as "the rule of cool." 

"If you can't tell why it's awesome, like if we only increase damage numbers or something, that's not enough for something like a class mechanic," he said. "We want to make sure these things feel different and awesome and cool.

"We added these things [to the necromancer] because we wanted to measure up to that cool factor that the barbarian has. Having weapons is something you can see and you're always engaging with in your inventory. And that's kind of what we're trying to hit for the classes, like these mechanics and things that they get in their powers feel very unique and the fantasy is there, and also is impactful. So you can look forward to more of that in the future."

Sorry, barbarians, it sounds like you won't be the only class blasting through season 4's toughest dungeons when it launches on May 14. It's the necromancers' time to shine.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.