News | 9/26/2011 at 12:50 PM

Diablo 3 Co-Op Character Focus - The Wizard

A Song of Ice and Fire (and Lightning)

Last Friday, Nick wrote up his overall impressions of the Diablo 3 Beta - which several of the staff members have been putting through its paces over the weekend. This week, we’ll be running through each class and how it feels to play, starting with the Wizard.

Anyone who played as the Sorceress in Diablo 2 is going to be immediately at home with the Wizard. Familiar spells such as Frost Nova, Charged Bolt (renamed Shock Pulse) and Chain Lightning (renamed Electrocute) make their return. A quick glance at the recently-released skill calculator ( reveals more classic goodies as well.

Let’s talk briefly about the new skill system that Nick mentioned in Friday’s article. Skills are divided between Active skills (spells you cast) and Passive skills (inherent character abilities). You may carry up to six active skills and three passive skills at any given time, and you may change them at will. Active skills are assigned to the number keys and the right or left mouse buttons. While some people might think this is limiting, I find it particularly refreshing. In Diablo 2, while you might spend skill points on many skills, the game only ever let you have two mapped at any given time, so it encouraged players to pick only a few abilities and stick with them (Chain lightning Sorceress or Hammerdin, anyone?).

A big change (and a welcome one) is the fact that Wizard spells no longer consume mana and instead draw from a pool called Arcane Power. Arcane Power rapidly refills itself, and your bread & butter/utility spells don’t consume a particularly large amount of it while more powerful area of effect spells like Frost Nova or Wave of Force drain quite a bit of it as well as trigger ability cooldowns. Passive abilities such as Power Hungry allow you to replenish Arcane Power even more quickly, so downtime (a key component of Diablo 2) is kept to a minimum.

The character build I centered on through my beta time has been using Electrocute as my main spell, while chaining together Frost Nova and Wave of Force to freeze then shatter enemies in a large area of effect. It’s quite effective, though I also had a surprisingly good time when I decided to screw around and make a melee-centric build. My melee build used Spectral Blade (a close range frontal cone attack) and Shock Pulse as core abilities. I triggered Ice Armor or Diamond Skin for protection and enchanted my sword using Magic Weapon. It was fun to see that a viable melee build was possible, however silly it seemed.

In our co-op time, I found that the Wizard’s strong AOE/snare abilities are very effective at keeping the melee classes safe. Frost Nova makes a good setup for many Monk or Barbarian abilities, and Electrocute is fantastic for picking off groups of ranged enemies. 

Early 2012 still seems like an awful long time to wait, but with this early taste, I know there are going to be many long nights of co-op goodness to come. There are any questions, toss ‘em up in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.