Diablo 4’s skill tree has changed dramatically

diablo 4The skill tree, through which players allocate skill points to learn new talents and abilities, was once a totally sick, evil looking, gnarled and blackened tree with a hellfire inside and veins and blood oozing from the ground. It looked bad. Playing the game’s beta this weekend, I was deeply conflicted to realize that the game’s skill tree isn’t that insane literal tree anymore.

Instead of this, Diablo 4 Players can expect a more traditional video game menu interface when the action RPG launches sometime next year. The skill tree is now a symbolic tree with nodes, straight connecting lines, and branches overflowing with skills and modifiers. It now looks like a chart set in stone. Players use a mouse or analog stick to navigate the large skill board and spend skill points earned through leveling up.

Here’s a look at the current look of diablo 4‘s skill tree for Barbarian class:

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

The change from the cracking ancient hell tree to lines and icons is perfectly fine. Revealed during a quarterly update in September 2020, the previous incarnation of the skill tree looked extremely sick, but didn’t seem all that practical. The tree shown two years ago was clearly described as “pre-alpha”, “content in development” and “NON FINAL”.

It was also at least the second version of the skill tree it was designed for diablo 4; Blizzard showed off a previous incarnation back in 2019 when the game was revealed at BlizzCon.

An early version of Diablo 4’s Sorceress skill tree
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Despite the aesthetic change, a more readable skill tree is what makes a game diablo 4 needs. There is a huge array of skills and abilities that players can acquire over the course of the first 50 levels that all players can try out – either by acquiring the skill itself and respecging it, or by acquiring a piece of gear with a skill attached to it.

Blizzard’s approach to character specification diablo 4 is a hybrid of the studio’s approach diablo 2 and Diablo 3. As executive producer and head of the Diablo franchise Rod Fergusson put it, “diablo 2 felt like locking yourself in; You had the option to respect once per difficulty level. But with D3 You kind of changed your physique like you were changing your clothes. Everything was gear based and not skill based.”

Fergusson added: “I think the fact that we have skills in equipment [in Diablo 4] is really nice to experiment with — as Sorceress I [might] get Blizzard [on a pair of boots] three levels before I should and I can try Blizzard to see if I really want it.”

Game director Joe Shely told Polygon in a roundtable interview that “making your character feel like a compilation of choices that you’ve made leads to really interesting choices, at least interesting opportunities.”

The Wizard class unleashes a trail of fire and calls down a flaming fireball, displaying fire-based abilities in Diablo 4

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Shely said that the Diablo team is aware that players, especially early on, will not have a full understanding of each class’ abilities. Players will want to experiment.

“If you look at our respec systems,” Shely said, “which apply to both the skill tree and Paragon to later levels, our endgame progression system, we really tried to approach it in a way that makes sense that it’s important making a choice, and that your character isn’t the same as everyone else’s character, but that you have a lot of flexibility to try things out.

“You have the ability to respec point by point. […] You can just click to free up a point and spend it on something else, but as you get into the levels later the cost of making those decisions increases [feel] a little more thoughtful. Of course, you can also respec your entire tree at once if you want to build from scratch.”

Fergusson noted that as players delve deeper into their character, “the in-game currency cost to respect increases – eventually you get to the point where you have a level 90 barbarian and instead of changing my build completely , it’s better to just roll a new barbarian and start over.”

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