Well, lets face it. The Beta has been out for a while now, and you've likely watched enough footage to write one of these yourself. So, why exercise your eye muscles on this instead of more furious, Hulk smashing gameplay? Truthfully, if I may turn the camera towards myself for a second, I love the Barbarian class. Throughout the Diablo franchise I've been intrigued by no other class, and even with the introduction of the Monk, I've yet to budge in my interests. That being said, I've focused my playtime almost entirely on this class, and have done my best to learn its ins and outs in Diablo III so far. Rather than take you through the story line of the Beta through the eyes of the Barbarian, I'll be diving into the different aspects of the class itself.
Throughout the Diablo series there has been one primary tanking archetype, be it the Warrior in Diablo I, or the Barbarian in Diablo II and now Diablo III. While other classes can often be built to play a similar role, one could argue it comes most easily to the Barbarian. This is due to three main factors.
Warning: No information from my experiences will be withheld.
Through a multitude of skills the Barbarian uses super natural strength to pulverize foes (and barrels ;)). Most of these skills help enforce the feeling that the Barbarian is a heavy hitting character, dealing large chunks of damage with each hit, while not typically as quick or agile as the other classes. The Barbarians' skills are broken down into three groups, Fury Generators, Fury Spenders, and Situational. Though we only get access to a few of each in the Beta, there are still many potent combinations to play around with.
Many of these skills surprised me with their efficiency. When the Fury System was first announced I had some concern the Fury Generators would pale in comparison to the damage and efficiency of the Spenders. While the Spenders do typically pack more punch, either through pure damage or other effects, the Generators get the job done just fine.
The skills available in this category during the Beta include Bash, Cleave, Leap Attack, Ground Stomp, and Frenzy.
I found myself hard pressed to choice between these skills when all of them became available. Since for the most part the Beta is easy as pie, I narrowed it down to which I took the most pleasure in using, which is Bash and Leap Attack. All of the skills are efficient though, and could easily fit into many different builds. Speaking strictly for the Beta, at level 13 (level cap) you out class the monsters by enough that it really doesn't matter what skills you use, so it comes down to preference rather than necessity.
Sure, the Generators get the job done, but the Spenders bring more to the table in general, after all you have to work for these. These skills are so fun to use; each time I swing my Hammer Of The Ancients I feel like a boss.
The skills in this category available in the Beta are Hammer Of The Ancients, Threatening Shout, Battle Rage, Weapon Throw, and Rend.
Each one of these skills is a blast to use, though in most cases some seem to be more preferred than others. Since this is about my honest impressions of the class, I'll say I rarely use Threatening Shout, or Rend. While I could see their use when things get challenging, I find their effects less desirable than other more powerful skills such as Weapon Throw, or Hammer Of The Ancients in the easy atmosphere of the Beta. Even Weapon Throw seems to fall short, not in damage (it does an insane amount), but instead in availability.
At full Fury you only have enough to use Weapon Throw five times, and un-runed the skill only hits one enemy. So at best, you only get five kills out of a full Fury orb by using it. There is a Passive Skill to remedy this though, No Escape, which offers not only a 100% damage boost to Weapon Throw (and Ancient Spear), but returns 20 Fury for each enemy killed with it. Sadly, this Passive Skill is not available in the Beta.
Unlike the other categories, we only get access to two of these skills in the Beta.
These two skills are Ignore Pain, and Revenge.
Both certainly will have their uses come challenging encounters, but like some other skills, they are just unnecessary in easy environments. Either way, I gave them a try to understand how they could be used if need be. Ignore Pain could be great for a whole bunch of clutch situations, need those extra few seconds to rush through a crowd and attack a primary target? Low on heath and need to get out of there? Ignore Pain certainly has a niche.
Revenge also has plenty of situational uses, and saved my life once during early gameplay. During one of my early play-throughs of the Beta I came across a mod of Illusionist Grotesque mixed with some Skeletal Archers and regular Skeletons. Mods who are classified as Illusionists split into three when at 30% health or lower, each of the copies spawn with the same amount of heath the original creature had when it split.
So upon my slaying of the first Grotesque, it predictably exploded. What I didn't realize was the explosion had brought all of the other Grotesque to below 30% heath, so they each split into three. There was now give or take 15 Grotesque surrounding me. On top of that, the explosion killed the two Grotesque the original one split into, so a chain reaction of explosions occurred all around me, nearly killing me instantly (I wish I had a screen shot). Lucky for me, I had Revenge equipped and it had activated. I swiftly deployed the skill, killing most of the Corpse Worms which would have surely taken me, regained a good amount of health from the hits, which granted me enough time to grab some nearby health globes; effectively saving me from a certain and comical death.
The Passive Skills for the Barb add a mammoth amount options to toy with. Each has a very appealing buff, so choosing between them largely comes down to what you have in mind for your build. These are the toppings to the Barb pizza, adding just the right flavor to your build.
Blood Thirst, Pound Of Flesh, Ruthless, and Weapons Master.
As with the Active Skills, some of these Passive Skills will have more appeal to the in high difficulties. Take Pound Of Flesh (Pictured right) for example, during easy, or even mildly difficult situations this may seem unnecessary, maybe the occasional life potion is enough. I'll willing to bet though, that during Inferno Difficulty the cooldown on potions will hinder their usefulness greatly, making health globes all the more valuable. These are the situations where less exciting, more tactical skills (both active and passive) will be used.
Life And Fury
As with the previous installments, the heavy melee class starts with more life points, a necessary aspect of a tanking class. The Barb starts off with 84 life, compared to the Witch Doctors' 80, and the other classes' 76; this gap only increases with level. Aside from life, the Barb also starts off with 11 Defense, compared to the Monks' 10, Demon Hunters' and Witch Doctors' 9, and the Wizards' 8. Those few points make a world of difference. The Barbarians' 11 Defense grants 50% reduced damage, while the Wizards' 8 offers none at all.
Fury has sure turned out to be a great system for the Barbarian. Since the only way to build it is to smash things or take damage (unless you have the Unforgiving Passive Skill), it pushes you to participate in combat. While some of the other classes have mild issues with their resource, as it stands right now the Fury system works wonderfully. There is no abundance, or lack of Fury during combat. If you need Fury you build it, if you have Fury you spend it, and everything around you is dead by the end of it all.
If I could think of anything to be tweaked regarding Fury, it wouldn't be Fury itself, but instead how much Fury some Fury Spending skills use. As I mentioned before Weapon Throw is expensive, costing 20 Fury, which only goes into 100 five times. I'd like to see some changes to skills like that, where even if you don't have the perfect build (No Escape for Weapon Throw for example), you can still somewhat efficiently use the skills. This isn't game breaking, but it does deter the use of those over priced skills to some extent.
Also, I support this message. Special thanks to CherubDown for relaying it.
Blizzard is making sure all classes rely heavily on gear in Diablo III. The recent switch-up of base damage, to % weapon damage of almost every skill on every class pushes this even further. This change isn't reflected in the Beta, but you can head over to the Blizzard Skill Calculator to see the changes yourself.
Being a Barbarian player through the series, you get used to the fact that you are your gear. Small upgrades in armor or weapons can have a huge effect in gameplay. Throughout my experiences with the Barb so far, this holds true in Diablo III just as much as the previous games. The excitement of finding a new, better weapon is relatable to finding a $20 bill on the ground.
Sadly though, the Beta currently has a very limited amount of content. The only rare items I've seen drop are from the first slaying of the Skeleton King, and the only Legendary item I've seen is Griswold's Edge, which is only found on a randomly appearing Anvil in the Old Tristram Ruins, to which I have found three. I personally am near certain this isn't how the drop tables will be come release.
Aside from drops, crafting is a very viable means to get great items. In fact, most of the best items in the Beta right now can only be crafted. This is due to the fact that you are able to level your Black Smith higher than you normally would have by the time you defeat the Skeleton King on this difficulty, thus granting you access to gear that out classes the drops at this point in the game. This isn't to say you can just craft a perfect item, there are many variables which lend itself to a great crafted item. These variables are completely random, so getting a great roll can be very rare. This is where the Auction House comes in. I personally have used to Auction House for most of my gear. I tried to roll good items, but it just didn't happen.
As one would expect from a player based economy, most items are ridiculously overpriced at first. Something wonderful is starting to happen though, those overpriced items are not selling. Even in the Beta where players know nothing they're accomplishing will carry over to release, people are still refusing to pay for overpriced items. This brings the item price down, and slowly but surely will come to a standard price for that item depending on stats.
Blizzard has done a fine job at maintaining the heaviness that characterizes this class. Every time I see an enemy I'm drawn towards it like a magnet. The feeling that comes from knocking skeletons clean from your enemies' flesh is empowering, and extremely satisfying. The physics that ensue after these powerful strikes may look silly while watching gameplay footage, but let me assure you it feels just right when you're behind the controls. There are some tweaks to be done in this area if you scrutinize it, but nothing that will ruin your ground and pounding experience with the Barbarian. This class is for those who love being toe-to-toe with yo foes, ya dig?