Since many Diablo 3 players are current or former Diablo 2 players, I wanted to make a post detailing the differences between the two games.
Even though the basic game mechanics may appear the same from looking at gameplay videos, there are many subtle differences that make huge differences in gameplay. So far, I can honestly say I agree with and enjoy every change and think it is a big improvement over Diablo 2.
Since there are so many differences in Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2, in order to help structure this, I have separated this into two sections: primary differences, which focus on major changes to entire portions of gameplay, and secondary differences, which is a list of miscellaneous changes between the two games. We will start with primary differences below and finish with a list of miscellaneous changes.
Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2 – Primary Differences
There are some major changes between Diablo 3 and Diablo 2 that involve complete overhauls to some of the game’s primary systems. These are things that completely change the way the game is played.
Primary Difference: Emphasis on Co-Op Play
One of the primary differences between Diablo 3 and Diablo 2 is the emphasis on Co-Op (working with other players) rather than playing “every man for himself”. Most people who play public games in Diablo 3 are wanting to team up, whereas many players in Diablo 2 joined public games just to be able to fight stronger monsters.
An example of this would be if the title of the game was “Baal run 104″, there would often be 1-2 Sorceresses who would join the game in order to do a Mephisto run in a full public game to get better loot. There would also be an Amazon doing a run of the Secret Cow Level, and another player clearing out Bloody Foothills. There would only be a few players doing Ba’al. One of the Ba’al runners would then get upset and log on his Barbarian PK character and attempt to kill all the leechers. Just another day in Diablo 2!
As a result of this, there has been a collection of changes which make Co-Op play more appealing and reduce tensions between players which are present in Diablo 3.
- Public games are based on quests and are level-restricted. This means that if you make a public game for a beginner quest, high level players will not be able to join and run around killing all the late-act bosses. This also makes it much easier to find players on your current quest. Note that you can invite high level players to private games if you want to power-level.
- Gold and loot are instanced. Even in public games, everyone has separate gold and loot drops. This means no more arguments about someone stealing your drop. It also removes the need to click fast to pick up drops and eliminates the usefulness of third-party auto-looters.
Boss fights are game-wide. You cannot sneak off to fight a boss any more in a public game. You now have to zone in to fight act bosses, and when you do, players are asked if they want to join and can teleport from anywhere. This means that there is no point in a player joining public games and then trying to secretly kill an act boss. If they do, you can tag along for the loot.
- Friendly party members can teleport to you from town. Every player has a banner in town in a public game which another player can click on at any time to teleport to that player. You cannot hide in public games and portals are not required. Anyone can port to you at any time and vice-versa. You can open portals at any time, but these are for yourself to get back to town rather than for players to get to where you are. They also are no longer instant-cast and take 10 seconds to create.
- No apparent PvP in public games. In Diablo 2, you could declare hostility on players in town and then attack them anywhere in the open world. This does not seem to be an option in Diablo 3, as there are supposed to be arena battles and maps specific for PvP. This could always change though, but I doubt it at least for the public questing games.
- Quest rewards share at any distance. If a player does go out on his own and performs a side-quest, these rewards are shared zone-wide. If someone is doing the Jar of Souls while you are doing the Skeleton King, you will get the 1100 XP, 360 coins, and a 1 magic item reward when they finish, even though you were in a different area of the game.
- Games are now limited to 4 Players instead of 8 Players. The developers found that the best co-operation happened in groups of 2-4, and players seemed to prefer that size of group. As a result, the limit on players in public games is now 4 total players. This means there is less of a chance someone will be off doing something on their own in a public game. This also seems to increase the rate of drops in single player games (in the beta, although limited to normal mode of Act I, I cannot really tell a difference between the drops I get in single player versus 4 player games, at least when fighting near other players).
All of these changes make it much less threatening to join up with other players. Players are no longer fighting amongst themselves for status (loot, experience, etc), which makes party play much easier, more entertaining, and a more rewarding experience. There is no point in going off on your own, so you do not have to worry about other players ruining your experience by filling up your questing game while they pursue their own objectives.
Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2 Primary Difference: Streamlined Mechanics and Itemization
In Diablo 3, there has been a lot of streamlining and simplifying in the realm of stats, mechanics, ability scaling, and itemization. Items and stats now are much easier to understand at first pass, and the underlying mechanics behind the classes has changed quite a bit.
- Stats now auto-distribute. In Diablo 2, you got 5 stat points per level which you could apply to any stat. This is now removed and stats will automatically distribute. However, you barely get any stat points in Diablo 3 for leveling up. Most of your character customization is done through gear.
- Stats have simple effects for each class. In Diablo 2, different stats were useful for different classes. While this is still true in Diablo 3, each stat has a much simpler effect for each class now. Each class has a “primary” stat (Strength for the Barbarian, Dexterity for the Monk and Demon Hunter, and Intelligence of the Witch Doctor and Wizard). Each point of your primary stat enhances your damage by 1%. Additionally, each point of Strength increases your armor by 1, each point of Dexterity increases your chance to dodge, and each point of Intelligence increases your resistances to all schools of magic. Just like in Diablo 3, Vitality increases your health. No class has Vitality as a primary stat.
- All abilities scale off of weapon damage. This means that spells like Shock Pulse will be based off of your weapon damage. This means that Wizards will boost their damage in the same way that Barbarians would – by getting a more powerful weapon. Rings which enhance damage would work just as well for a Barbarian as it would for a Witch Doctor.
- Any class can equip nearly any piece of equipment. There is no longer a “strength” requirement on gear like in Diabl0 2; any class can equip nearly any piece of gear in Diablo 3. There are two limitations: each class cannot use a weapon type or two (though most weapons are open to each class) and each class has a few unique, class-specific items. Examples include Mighty Belts (Barbarian only), Wizard Hats (Wizard only), and Spirit Stones (Monk only).
- Mana is no longer the universal energy. In Diablo 2, all abilities were powered by Mana. In Diablo 3, each class has their own unique bar which offers slightly different playstyles amongst classes. Each class also has abilities to use when this bar is depleted, so you never have to just auto-attack or wait for regeneration.
- There are 5 new classes. Despite the belief that the Wizard = Sorceress, Barbarian = Barbarian, really all 5 classes play differently due to these new mechanics. The Wizard now just not just spam Frozen Orb (or whatever spell) but rather makes use of a variety of abilities. The 5 classes are Wizard, Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, and Monk, each of which will be discussed at length on this blog.
Many players will at first perceive some of this as a negative, as Diablo 2 itemization and stat customization offered players the ability to create vastly different builds on the same character. It was widely considered to always be one of the best parts of the game’s experience.
Rest assured, there is still a wide variety of items in the game. Additionally, players are offered much more customization in Diablo 3 than was available in Diablo 2 thanks to runestones. Runes are unlocks simply by leveling up – you do not need to find them.
There are 5 different runestones which can be equipped to any ability you have and completely change its function. Since each class has ~25 abilities, this means that with runestones you really have access to 125 different abilities based on what runes you choose (25*5 = 125; un-runed abilities do not really count as the runed version is far superior).
Additionally, the developers have stated that they have not finished adding in item effects for Diablo 3 and there will be more cool effects before release. They have also said they need to at least save some of the crazy effects for their expansion. If you compare Diablo 3 even in the beta test to Diablo 2 at release (pre-Lord of Destruction), you will find much more customization and variety is present in Diablo 3.
I for one welcome the change to automatic allocation of stats. Since PvP is supposed to play a bigger role in Diablo 3 when compared to Diablo 2, it will be nice to be able to take my favorite character into the arena without having to actually level up a new character and allotting all its stat points to be best for PvP (and then doing it again next time a patch comes out which adjusts balance).
Finally, this makes it so much easier to have alts. You can share gear easily between classes as they can all wear the same sorts of things. A good leveling piece for your main can be handed down to your first alt.
Diablo 2 vs Diablo 3 – Primary Difference – Abilities
Speaking of abilities, not only was the scaling of abilities revamped, but also the whole ability system has changed. The current ability system is nothing like that of Diablo 2.
In Diablo 2, players earned 1 skill point for leveling up. You could then permanently apply this to one of three talent trees. You could put up to 20 skill points in a single ability, each ability increasing the strength of that talent. Some abilities were spells you casted whereas others were passive abilities (such as +crit).
In Diablo 3, this has completely changed. Here is the list of differences:
- There are no skill points. Abilities are unlocked by leveling up. You can change their strength and function by adding runes, but you do not put points in abilities to strengthen them.
- You can equip up to 6 abilities. You unlock ability slots by leveling up. At level 30, you can equip 6 different abilities.
- Abilities can be changed at any time with no cost. You can swap out which abilities you have equipped at a moment’s notice. Going against a tough enemy that you need a a specific attack for? No problem, bring up the skills tab and swap it out on the fly.
- Passives are now separate. In Diablo 2, players would have to use skill points on their passive abilities. In Diablo 3, players unlock 3 total passive slots and can choose from a list of different passive traits. These are separate from ability traits and can also be swapped out at any time.
- Runestones can be used to modify abilities. As mentioned briefly in the previous section, players can get runestones which are then equipped to their abilities, changing their functions. This allows players to really customize their abilities.
Diablo 2 vs Diablo 3 – Primary Difference – Crafting
In Diablo 2, crafting was something that was very basic and rarely done once Lord of Destruction came out. Players were able to craft a variety of things in their Horadric Cube, but really once rare items stopped being good (at the release of Lord of Destruction), the Horadric Cube and the crafting system in general was not used much.
In Diablo 3, this has changed – crafting is now a major part of the game. In the beta test, the only thing the Horadric Cube seems to do is break down items into crafting components. For example, you can use it to turn useless items into common scraps, unwanted magic items into subtle essence, and so on. These crafting components are then used by Artisans (crafters in the game world) which you befriend as you go through the game.
There are three proposed Artisans: a Blacksmith, a Jeweler, and a Mystic. In the beta test, you can work with the Blacksmith. Through your travels, you will often find “Pages of Training” as loot pieces. You can combine 5 of these into a Tome of Training. A Tome of Training plus some gold and some crafting materials will allow the Blacksmith to level up and learn new recipes.
You can then give the Blacksmith gold plus crafting materials and he will make an item that you select out of the recipes he knows. You can also find recipes as loot in the game world and teach them to your Artisan so you can craft those in the future. It looks like the best and rarest recipes will be drops rather than learned from training.
It looks like at least a few of the best in slot pieces will come from this part of the game, so you will want to take care to level up your Artisans. One interesting thing about Artisans is that they share account-wide, so when you start a new character, you already have advanced Artisans. If you train them on your new character, your old character will benefit from it as well. No need to learn the same recipe or do the same training twice. This makes leveling up a new character a lot more appealing.
Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2 – Primary Differences – Questing
In Diablo 2, the quest system was fairly basic. There were 6 quests in the game, each of which could be done one time. When you finished a quest, sometimes you got a reward which resulted in a permanent stat increase or extra skill point for your character. If you wanted, you could skip over many of the quests in the game and move on to the last quest in each act and fight the final boss, which would allow you to progress to the next act.
Diablo 3 is much more linear. The quests are not abstract but specific, and there is a lot more story involved. You have a quest tracker which appears on the right side of your screen, and if you get close to your target, a ping will appear on your mini-map which will tell you where to go. If you take too long to find your target, an arrow will sometimes appear to point you in the right direction.
There are many quests and objectives in Diablo 3 compared to Diablo 2. You join games based on the current quest you are on. In the beta test, we have access to four primary “quests”, but each one has many parts and you get rewards as you work through these quests. Completing quests so far seems to offer experience points, gold, and occasionally an item.
There are also side quests and events, such as the Jar of Souls, which allow you to earn even more experience, gold, and items. Some side quests are bonus objectives of the main story line, and some are random spawns. For example, finding the Blacksmith’s Apprentice is a bonus objective of A Shattered Crown and can only (but always) be completed when working on that quest.
On the other hand, the Jar of Souls and The Matriarch’s Bones are a random Act I side-quest that spawn in one of the Defiled Crypts. You can either get the Jar of Souls or The Matriarch’s Bones, but not both, in a single game of Diablo 3.
There are many side quests and bonus objectives available as you play through the game which helps keeps things interesting. It is a definitely a big improvement over the Diablo 2 quest system.
Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2 – Miscellaneous Changes
There are also a lot of small changes in Diablo 3 vs Diablo 2 which did not fit into any of the major categories. Here is a list:
- Monster level is now more appropriate. In Diablo 2, monsters were, for the most part, too low of a level. Players could hit 99 in and most monsters in the game even in Hell mode were level 80 or less. Before Uber Diablo, the highest level enemy in the game was 95 (Baal) and aside from that, few monsters were above level 85.
- Inferno Mode has been introduced. This is a fourth level of difficulty in which all monsters have a minimum level of 61. Since the level cap is 60, players in Inferno mode will actually get to fight against hordes of higher-level monsters.
- Gems now have many more levels. In Diablo 2, there were five grades of gems: chipped, flawed, regular, flawless, perfect. In Diablo 3, there are 14 grades of gems. Just like in Diablo 2, it is rumored that 3 gems of a lower grade can be combined to make a higher grade gem. Additionally, it is rumored that the best gems players can find in the game world are level 8, even in Inferno mode. This means you will have to combine 729 of these gems to get a level 14 gem, making the max-level gems incredibly valuable if this goes live.
- Introduction of an auction house. In Diablo 2, players traded items in trade chats and it was extremely chaotic. There is now a game-wide auction house that players can access. Furthermore, the auction house has a real-money element, where players can sell items for real money. Sellers can receive payments via paypal!
- Dungeons are destructible. As you walk through dungeons, you will be able to attack and destroy practically everything. There are also things you can interact with that will cause the dungeon to destroy enemies, such as walls falling on top of them or dropping chandeliers on them.
- Introduction of Resplendent Chests. Sometimes you will find a large treasure chest called a Resplendent Chest in the game world. This always drops good items and in my experience typically drops better loot than a mini-boss, but less loot than the Skeleton King.
Introduction of the Shared Stash. The old “stash” in town in Diablo 2 was character specific. In Diablo 3, it is account wide. Any item you put into this stash will be shared amongst players. Now there is no need for risky trades or the game crashing when your valuables are laying around in town.
- Items take up much less space. In Diablo 2, the amount of space an item took up in your inventory was fairly realistic, with a belt taking up 2 slots of space whereas a large weapon could take up to 8 slots of space.
- You cannot leave games instantly when out in the game world. No more third-party applications that let you leave games instantly when you are about to die. This was very frustrating in PvP. Additionally, this will help weed out hardcore players who are using hacks to reach a high level by using computer programs that let you leave games when your health dropped under a certain %.
- Dedicated PvP system. This is not in the beta at the moment, but there is supposed to be some sort of dedicated PvP or arena system which allows players to join games specifically designed for PvP. In Diablo 2, most players just had to random games named “duelzz121″ or challenge people in chat, which was not the best system for finding skilled opponents.
- Followers have replaced Mercenaries. In Diablo 2, you could get “mercenaries” which were hired help that you could take out with you in the game world. These were worthless except for the Act II mercenary which had a nice aura which improved your attack. Followers from Diablo 3 have more abilities and buffs at their disposal. You also gain 20% of the magic find and gold find you equip to them. While Followers do not deal too much damage (at least the Templar does not), but you can learn up to 4 abilities (you pick). The Templar follower can even tank for you it seems and has decent healing abilities. You cannot use followers in public games.
Diablo 2 vs Diablo 3 Differences – Contribute!
If this article seemed long, it is because it was! There are truly quite an amazing amount of differences between the two games. They may appear similar on the surface, but Diablo 3 is truly worthy of being considered a vastly improved Diablo 2.
As we have only seen a portion of the game at this point, this is a comprehensive, running list that will be updated over time. If you notice something that I missed, please add it to the comments section and I will update the list. Thanks!