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DiabloApr 25, 2015 8:00 pm CT

Get into Diablo 3 with the basics

There once was a deal in World of Warcraft: pay for a year of WoW, and you’ll receive a beta invite to the then-latest expansion Mists of Pandaria as well as the new Diablo 3 game.

I was already buying the Annual Pass because I knew I’d be playing WoW for a long time. After all, I’d just scored this crazy cool job teaching Defense with the Dark Arts fifteen hundred words at a time. And the site I was writing for was all excited about the new Diablo 3 game that came with the Annual Pass. There were a handful of how-to-play articles when the game launched. I decided, why not play?

Three years later, despite the warnings that the Diablo franchise is the maker of computer mouse graveyards, my original 2-button mouse still lives, though I admit the plastic has worn off in two fingertip-shaped spots. I might not log into Diablo 3 every day like I do for WoW, but now at Blizzard Watch we have more space to talk about and share the game. We’ve got you covered (again) for learning the basics of Diablo 3.

Mouse Heavy, Keyboard Light

Of course, if you’re playing Diablo 3 on the XBox or Playstation, none of this mouse and keyboard stuff applies, for the controls have been adapted to fit on a console controller. But you’re likely coming from WoW, so I’m going to talk about handy computer hardware.

It’s not uncommon in WoW to see a whole keyboard’s worth of keybinds used on a regular basis, even just in combat. Your class’s rotation can take up an entire action bar by itself, and then you need another two, three, maybe four to store all your other utility spells or mount macros.

By contrast, Diablo 3 is all about the mouse. Movement and combat in game is more like that of a MOBA like Heroes of the Storm. You click to move, either by clicking specific spots on the ground with your left mouse button, or holding your left mouse button down so your character can follow it across the map.


Combat, too, follows the mouse. You don’t select a static target frame like in WoW, but simply point to the monster in the world and your spells and abilities will follow. Similarly, any area of effect abilities that you can place on the ground can be placed by the mouse rather than just cleaving off a monster’s hitbox center. You can hold the shift key to force standing still, or you can hold another key to force moving, for when combat and movement collide on the mouse.

You also loot with the mouse. In WoW, you select a mob’s body to get a window pop-up of loot icons and names, or you acquire items automatically off kills with bonus rolls and Personal Loot. In Diablo 3,the mobs are too busy bleeding out or lying on the map floor to neatly arrange your items, so they splay their loot everywhere on the ground for you to click and pick up.

But beware: you shouldn’t pick up everything. Leave grey items and white gear to rust and rot on the ground, and once you’re decked out in the best legendaries, you’ll even learn to leave behind the magic blue and rare yellow items.


Visuals: Darker, personal, and bloody

I remember seeing the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm TV trailers, and my dad commented that he would never play World of Warcraft (at the time, not realizing that his daughter already did). When I asked him why, he said the game was too “cartoony,” with its bright colors and less realistic-looking characters.

Playing on the isometric plane rather than from directly-behind is not the only visual difference between WoW and Diablo 3. Although the nephalem character you play isn’t quite human, he or she has a more realistic human face than your WoW character, even with updated models. Diablo 3 is darker in both color scheme and its illustration of death. In WoW, characters, NPCs, and monsters all have death animations that involve collapsing onto or into the floor. In Diablo 3, however, death animations often include blood, guts, and gore splattering in all directions as your character’s main attack causes the monster’s body to explode across the floor.

Even the cuddliest of bears will bleed out when decapitated.

Diablo 3 is also more personal in frame usage than WoW. You’ll have many unit frames on your interface when in Azeroth since group content is focused on anywhere from 5 to 40 people on a team. And that’s not even counting the enemy frames!

In Sanctuary, however, your interface is not modifiable beyond what class skills you want to use and what gear you want to wear. Your health and class resource are the two big orbs that bookend your action bar. Your party frames start with you in the upper left corner and go down the left side with players and across the top with NPC followers and pets. A target frame appears at the top center of the screen for whichever mob your mouse is currently hovering on — which means the target frame will change rapidly with many mobs packed close together! (Hint: turn on Monster Health Bars to see all their nameplates.)


Finally, the game is all about randomization, even down to the game maps. Every time you start a new game, whether it’s the story line from Campaign Mode or the bounties and rifts found in Adventure Mode, the maps will be slightly different from the last time you played. I can tell you exactly where Oregorger is, because your Blackrock Foundry is laid out exactly like my Blackrock Foundry, but you won’t find the Khazra Den in the same spot as I will, because our two Fields of Misery will look different. Maps are composed of blocks of terrain that fit together in many combinations, and you’ll learn to recognize some of the patterns when it comes to navigating both Heaven and Hell.

All about that gear

If the mouse is the technical center of the game, loot and gear is the thematic center. Diablo 3 is all about the grinding of mobs so you can climb ever higher in game content difficulty.


Much like the maps, loot is more randomized in Sanctuary than in Azeroth. My Shadow Council’s Robes have the same stats as your Shadow Council’s Robes. However, my Carnevil voodoo mask might roll a socket and Armor while your Carnevil might roll a bonus to Life percentage and buff your Zombie Charger damage. But don’t worry too much about pleasing the RNG gods. Your Blacksmith and Jeweler can craft the same item over and over (provided you have enough materials) for the chance of rolling different stats, or you can hand your almost-perfect item over to the Mystic to re-roll one stat into another.

Gear sets, including class-specific sets, are the same in both games, where you equip two, four, or even six pieces to acquire a set bonus that improves or changes up your play. Some gear sets are craftable in Diablo 3 while many more are looted only on the highest difficulties (Torment levels I through VI).

diablo-3-ring-of-royal-grandeurLegendaries are relatively rare in WoW — they’re the sort of items you find once an expansion and they aren’t cheap to make. But you’re only playing a mere hero when in Azeroth; in Diablo 3, you harness the power of a nephalem, a being born of demon and angel. You’re practically a demi-god, even at level 1. Legendaries in Diablo 3 are quite the same as wearing epics in WoW — it’s the standard endgame gearing strategy. However, while WoW epics add boring stat additions to your character, each of the powerful Diablo 3 legendary items has a unique mechanic to it. Legendary mechanics can do things like deal additional damage (Hellfire Ring), give you buffs when you open chests or loot gold or health globes (Harrington Waistguard), change up your spell mechanics (Quetzalcoatl), or split damage between party members or followers (Unity).

Legendary effects and gear sets can make or break a skill build for a class, so it’s hard to discuss one without the other. We’re here to help you learn the basics of Diablo 3, from which class you might like to what’s a Season and what do terms like T6, RoRG, and GR40 mean. (Hint: that’s Torment VI, Ring of Royal Grandeur, and Greater Rift level 40.) But we’re also here to share the love of slaughtering millions in Heaven, Hell, and Sanctuary, and that means in time that we’ll dive into popular class builds.

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