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Learn the basics of Diablo 3 gameplay

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Since Diablo II was released 12 years ago, it's safe to say that Diablo III will be the first Diablo title many people will have ever played. When we first mentioned that we would be providing some coverage of Blizzard's point-and-click dungeoneering action title, one of the first requests we received was a guide to Diablo basics. How do you play the game? What does it have in common with WoW?

We have you covered.

The core of Diablo gameplay is the mouse click. You do everything from combat to looting to movement with your mouse, and your interactions with your keyboard are extremely minimal overall. On Twitter recently, I noticed many people mentioning they were buying a new mouse specifically to use with Diablo III -- and that's not a bad idea. No, we're not talking a brand new $80 Razer Naga; we're talking some $10 to $15 thing you can pick up off of a department store shelf. You want a mouse that you're not going to mourn when your buttons inevitably give out from the mountain of abuse you're about to unleash upon them. Grab something cheap and disposable so that when it dies, you will consider it a victory -- just another technological corpse for the bone pile.

Movement

MMO and FPS players are accustomed to using WASD or their arrow keys to move, using the mouse only to pivot. That is not the case in Diablo. Movement is handled entirely via clicking somewhere in the game world. Click a specific point to move your character in that direction, or hold your click down to make your character chase after your cursor. You're not going to be using WASD at all. If you've played RTS games or a MOBA game like League of Legends, you'll have some familiarity with this system already.

Each class has some ability that can augment their movement, such as the barbarian's leaps or the monk's dash, but those are usually combat-specific, and you'll learn how to use them just like any other combat ability. They don't change the basic click-to-go locomotion.

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Combat

Fighting monsters makes up almost the entirety of the Diablo experience. That's what these games are all about -- tearing monsters apart in the most epic ways possible. Demon hordes will crash down upon you, and when the storm breaks, you will be the last man standing.

Just like movement, combat is handled through clicks. Your left-click controls one ability, and your right-click controls another. You will have some additional skills that you can bind to a few of your number keys, but those are used infrequently compared to your clicks.

Like World of Warcraft, every class in Diablo III has a combat resource -- fury, mana, arcane power, hatred, and so on. Your left-click will most likely be bound to a basic attack that generates your resource. Your right-click will most likely be bound to a more powerful attack that spends your resource.

Here's an example for someone who might be playing a monk:
  • You've bound Fists of Thunder to your left mouse button. Every time you left-click an enemy, you hit it for lightning damage -- and on every third hit, you do some AoE lightning damage. Every time you hit with Fists of Thunder, you generate 6 spirit.
  • On your right mouse button, you've bound Lashing Tail Kick. You spend 30 spirit to perform a roundhouse kick that deals massive damage and knocks enemies back.
If you want to compare this to WoW again, think of it as a DPS rotation. Click, click, click, right-click, and so on. It sounds a little boring written out like that, so imagine that with each click, a few dozen demons explode into sprays of gore. That's more exciting, right?

You may be wondering if you click to move but you also click to fight, won't you run all sorts of places you don't want to go if you miss clicking on the little monster? Hey, don't worry. If you hold down the shift key while fighting, your clicks won't make you move at all. You'll use your attacks while standing in place. If you absolutely do not want to be moving, hold that shift key.

You'll inevitably take damage while fighting all of those demons. That's fine. When you kill monsters, they'll occasionally drop health orbs. Run over the orb, and it will heal some of your health. The faster you kill enemies, the more potential chances for orbs and the healthier you'll be in the long run. Enemies also drop health potions, which go into your inventory as consumables. If you're having bad luck with health orbs and you're afraid you're going to die, swig a potion. Diablo III's potions have a cooldown just like World of Warcraft's do, so don't expect to spam them to cheat a tough fight.

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Classes

Now you know how to fight, but which class should you use to fight? Rather than spend an enormous number of words explaining the fine details of each class here, I highly recommend looking at those on the Diablo III official site. It's a great resource for that sort of thing.

The classes are barbarian, demon hunter, monk, witch doctor, wizard. The barbarian and the monk are melee classes, the demon hunter and the wizard are ranged classes, and the witch doctor is mostly a ranged class that tends to float somewhere in mid-range.

So which Diablo III class should you play if you want something similar to your favorite World of Warcraft class? That's fairly easy to figure out if you take a look at the class descriptions on the official site. Hunters will likely want to be demon hunters, since they use crossbows, traps, all of that sort of thing. Barbarians are a perfect for warriors. Mages (and probably warlocks) will definitely want to check out the wizard.

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Loot

If you're here on WoW Insider, chances are good you're familiar with randomized loot and the total rush you get when you receive a new upgrade. That's a big part of the Diablo III experience. You go into dungeons, you kill monsters, and they give you cool items to equip. However, there's something you should know about loot in Diablo: The concept of loot piñata is taken literally. When you kill things, items will just spray out of their corpses like crazy. Sometimes these items will be good things, like gold or potions or epic gear. Sometimes these items will be total garbage, just complete trash.

Do not pick up the garbage. Resist the temptation. If you pick up every little piece of junk, you will constantly be trying to manage your inventory, and it will seriously cut into your smashing-things time. You are not meant to pick up everything. The wild spray of random loot is part of the visual experience. It's all there to look impressive as you pick through your spoils of war. Take only what looks good. Leave the rest.

Do note that while you're playing multiplayer mode with your friends, you don't need to worry about ninja looting. Everybody gets their own loot drops. They can't see your loot, and you can't see theirs. If you see a cool wand on the ground that you think that your wizard friend can use, pick it up and trade it to them. Don't leave it there hoping they'll see it -- they won't.

If your inventory becomes truly overloaded while you're in the middle of a dungeon, don't panic. Diablo III has a town portal feature. In your UI is a little button that looks like a portal -- click that. Your character will channel a portal spell for five seconds and then be teleported back to your home town. A blue portal will have opened in the middle of town. Once you've finished cleaning up your bags at the vendors and your bank, you can jump back into that portal and return to exactly where you were in the dungeon so you can continue your adventure.

The game also has a system that breaks down items to turn into crafting materials, but Diablo does a very good job introducing this mechanic to you all on its own. Once one of your artisans becomes unlocked, you'll have a good idea of how that works.

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Exploration

In Diablo, all dungeons are semi-randomized. They're assembled using a spread of parts that are designed to fit together in all sorts of different ways. Each time you go through a dungeon, it's going to be a little bit different. You are never going to be able to memorize the layout of any particular location. This is nice, because once you've completed a chapter of the game, you're able to skip back through sections you've completed to replay them. You might want to do this for XP, to try and get a particular drop, to try that section on a different difficulty, or simply experience it with a friend who hasn't done so yet. Eventually, you'll start to recognize the puzzle pieces that make up the dungeon and be able to go oh, there should be a chest in a room like this, but you'll never be able to go from point A to point B just from memory.

When exploring, remember to look for things you can destroy -- pots, barrels, whatever. Break 'em. There's sweet, sweet loot inside. There are also sometimes monsters inside, but you can just kill those.

In Diablo III, you can use certain parts of the terrain to your advantage, so keep an eye out for those. There might be weak walls you can topple over onto enemies. There might be chandeliers you can chop down and drop on bosses. Explore, explore, explore. Just think, what if that chest you missed had a legendary sword in it?

Character customization

Don't expect to be able to customize your character's body type, facial features, or any of that sort of thing. You pick your gender and you pick your name. That's it. The monk is a specific monk, rather than one monk of many like you would see in an MMO. Your visual aesthetics will change based purely on the quality of loot you have.

The meat of the customization comes in with which spells you choose to use and how you rune them. In my combat example above, the monk is using Fists of Thunder and Lashing Tail Kick. You don't have to use those; you have other options. You can use Deadly Reach to generate your resources and Tempest Rush to spend it. Other options are available! From there, your spells can be customized to carry other effects with items called runes. It's a bit like choosing your Mists of Pandaria talents or glyphs. The game will teach you how to use these when the time comes.

Don't worry about screwing this up. Feel free to experiment. You can't permanently damage your character in Diablo III. Everything you do to your character can be undone.

Multiplayer

It's generally accepted that Diablo, like all Blizzard games, is best played with others. You can play it solo, but the game is at its most fun when played in multiplayer mode. When you play Diablo III, you have the option of creating either a public or a private game. If you want to play with any schmoe who comes your way, go with the public game. If you want to play with just your friends, start up a private game and invite them! Diablo III uses the BattleTag system, so swap BattleTags with your friends beforehand. If you haven't set up a BattleTag, you'll need to take care of that on the Battle.net website.

To Hell with you

This is just an overview of Diablo III's gameplay. You can't explain every single detail of World of Warcraft in one sitting, and the same applies here. These instructions will help you get started in the game, but you'll need to pick up all of the fine details as you go along.

Enjoy storming the depths of Hell and punching the Prime Evils in the face!

Evil has returned! 1.2 million WoW players are getting Diablo III for free thanks to the Annual Pass. You can get prepared for the evil with WoW Insider's launch coverage. From the lore of Diablo, to the important blue posts and the basics of Diablo gameplay, we'll get you on the inside track for the return of evil.

Filed under: Diablo 3

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