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Every class in Diablo III is a DPS class; all are capable of prolifically slaying the enemies, whether by spells, skills, brute force, or a clever combination of techniques.

Aspects of combat are addressed throughout this wiki. Weapons and skills are detailed, monsters are described, strategies are promoted, and more. This page covers the basics of combat, and how the game is designed to facilitate it.

Combat is simplified in Diablo III, with skills factoring in weapon damage, attack rate, main stat, critical hit damage and critical hit chance as the chief factors. All elemental types of damage are calculated the same as physical damage, and there is no real to hit factor, nor is there much variety between weapon types, with no special bonuses, such as blunt weapons dealing higher damage to the undead (as was the case in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2.)

Damage Types[edit | edit source]

While damage types were a major feature during Diablo III's development, this aspect of combat was simplified before release and all variety between different damage types was removed from the game.. The graphics remain different, but players often refer to the different elemental types as "red damage," "green damage" and so forth, since the color variations are purely cosmetic. Jay Wilson explained this in regards to poison damage shortly after release:[1]

How do the witch doctor posion mechanics work, do they reset when added i.e. like the warrior rend. –sebducker Poison in D3 does not act like D2. It’s not a guaranteed dot. If a skill has a DoT reapplying refreshes duration unless noted. Some skills have DOT mechanics, and some of those skills use poison damage, but poison damage does not DOT by default. I’ll repeat: poison damage does not work like D2. It does not apply a persistent effect, it’s a type of damage like fire or holy. –JayWilson

All elemental damages are calculated just as if they were physical damage, with a character's main stat, weapon damage, and skill damage adding up no matter what types of damage they are. For instance, a Wizard might use a wand with Arcane damage to cast Meteor (fire damage), and while the resulting attack would look like the Meteor skill, it wouldn't be fire or arcane damage in any effective way. It's just damage, exactly as if the wand had physical or fire or lightning damage.

Critical Hit Effects[edit | edit source]

Axes with cold and lightning damage show their graphics.

During development, each type of damage was going to create a special bonus effect when a critical hit was scored. This feature was removed from the game shortly before release when all damage types were simplified. The only remaining effect is visual; monsters that die to poison damage leave gas-smoking green corpses, monsters that die to lightning appear charred black and crispy, fire damage will set corpses on fire, etc. These effects are amplified when monsters die to a critical hit of that damage type, and they explode in flames, or lightning-crackling chunks, etc.

All very pretty, but without any strategic function in Diablo III.

As in previous games in the series, there are numerous types of damage in Diablo III. Various spells, skills, runes, and weapons channel their destructive might into one (or more) types of damage. Characters and monsters counter these attacks with equivalent types of resistance and immunities, and players must find the right balance of each if they wish to succeed in their battles.

The following lists the damage types and their critical hit effects, but these are purely visual without any special function.

Physical Damage: No special graphic.

  • Critical hit deaths may explode in novas of blood and gore.

Arcane Damage: Purple in coloration. Dead monsters with glow with a purple light.

  • Critical hits were going to "silence" targets, which would have prevented summoners from resurrect or casting buffs on monsters. This feature was removed during development.

Cold Damage: Blue in coloration. Targets may be chilled and slowed, and will turn blue and may shatter upon death.

  • Critical hits were set to freeze targets before this feature was removed.

Fire Damage: Red in coloration, often with flames. Dead enemies may appear blackened or charred.

  • Critical hits with fire were set to deal a DoT effect adding fire damage, but this feature was removed.

Lightning Damage: White-blue in coloration. Dead enemies will appear crisped and dried up.

  • Critical hits were set to stun targets before this feature was removed. During pre-release testing skills such as Electrocute were highly effective due to their ability to repeatedly stun enemies.

Holy Damage: White in coloration, this damage type is not found on weapons, but is dealt by some Monk skills.

  • Critical hits were set to provide an AoE heal to friendly nearby targets, before that feature was removed from the game.
    • Resisted by: Arcane resistance is tabbed for resisting Holy damage. This is only a factor in PvP, since no monsters deal holy damage.

Disease Damage: Green in coloration. Formerly known as "Toxic" this damage will turn enemies green and cause puffs of green gas to rise from their corpses.

  • Resisted by Poison resistance.
    • Diseased units were set to suffer a damage debuff; they take more damage and deal less, but this was removed during game development.

Poison Damage: Green in coloration. (Acid damage is poison.) (Poison and Disease are similar, but not the same.[2])

  • Poison does not "poison" targets with a DoT effect. It's just another type of direct damage in Diablo 3.

Damage Over Time[edit | edit source]

The DoT mechanic is much expanded and complicated in Diablo 3. No longer is the equation simply "X damage per second over Y seconds." In December 2011, Bashiok delivered an informative forum post on the subject, which you can read below:[3]

The tick rate of channeled skills is currently scaled by your weapon speed. This has the side effect of making the resource cost go up, which we’re okay with. It’s consistent with the philosophy that faster speed weapons consume more resource but may do more damage. Channeled skills might still be better with slower weapons though because on a channeled skill, you have as much mobility as you want, so the “mobility” and “overkill” advantages of faster weapons are eroded with channeled abilities, so all you’re left with is increased mana cost for increased damage.

DoT is no longer associated with an particular damage types, and it comes mostly from skill effects.

Spell Damage[edit | edit source]

Spells is just another word for "skills," one usually applied to mage-type attacks. This is purely a language convention in Diablo III, with all skills calculating their damage in much the same fashion, whether they are executed with a sword or a fireball. For instance, compare two classic Diablo skills in their function as of Patch 1.05:

Wizard's Meteor:

  • Summon an immense Meteor that plummets from the sky, causing 260% weapon damage as Fire to all enemies it crashes into. The ground it hits is scorched with molten fire that deals 60% weapon damage as Fire over 3 seconds.

Barbarian's Frenzy

  • Swing for 110% weapon damage. Frenzy attack speed increases by 15% with each swing. This effect can stack up to 5 times for a total bonus of 75% attack speed.

Note that the descriptions are essentially identical, with the damage entirely based as a percentage of weapon damage.

Spell Damage from Equipment[edit | edit source]

Early in Diablo III's development, equipment with +%spell damage was of great importance to mage type characters, who were destined to value it as combat characters do +% weapon damage equipment. This system was modified during development and all sort of +%spell damage was phased out of the game. All skills are now boosted by the same properites; weapon damage, passive skills, and item modifiers.

Boss health display.

Health Bar[edit | edit source]

The display of monster health bars has changed repeatedly during development (as has everything in the interface.) The final system was arrived at by the beta test, with character, pet, and monster health bars able to toggle on or off in the options menu. Most players play with health bars visible, and while it makes for less pretty screenshots, most players value the information display over aesthetics.

Normal monsters show their hit points directly over their heads in the battle. Bosses of all types, from Champions up to Act Bosses, display as seen to the right, with a normal small health bar over their head, but a big one with their name atop the center of the screen.

These sorts of large displays are always visible during special boss fights in "closed rooms." Thus no matter how near or far these bosses are from your character, players always know exactly how many hit points they have. Such bosses also show up with a special icon on the minimap.

Target Outline[edit | edit source]

One of the surprise controversies of Blizzcon 2009 was the red target outline. A new feature just added to the game was a glowing red outline around the monster being pointed at. This outline was meant to help players identify what they were pointing at on the frequently-crowded and chaotic battle screens of Diablo 3. Most players didn't mind or didn't even notice while playing at the show, but players who only saw the RTO in screenshots or videos found it distracting.

Red target outline seen in PvP Arena, Blizzcon 2010.

This became a minor issue of contention, but the D3 Team never wavered in their opinion that the feature was essential[4] and fans had no problem with it once the beta began and then moved into release.

Information Through Graphics[edit | edit source]

The visuals tied to damage types are meant to add eye candy, but also to inform the player about events occurring on the screen. As Julian Love explained during BlizzCast #8, in March 2009. [5]

Bashiok: A lot of the effects that you make factor in to the abilities that the characters are using, so fire and arcane and all that stuff, but in the world of Diablo it seems like there are very specific magic types that exist... it is actually a pretty broad spectrum, but is there any limitation there to what you can do with different damage types?

Julian: Yeah in fact that’s a common input that I’ll receive is “Hey this guy’s a fiery this or whatever, but can we make that fire look green?” And that’s where the sort of designer in me has to kind of come out and say, wait a minute if we make fire green all of a sudden it’s a bit of a miscommunication in terms of the gameplay. And so there is a bit of constraint there that, at one point I’m trying to make things look as epic as they can, but at the same time they have to be really clear to the player so that they’re not confused that you know, green fire might mean poison. Then there’s the other part of it which is it’s really easy in my department to make a big mess. We can just clobber the screen with so many effects that you just can’t see the game anymore. So those are really the two constraints we really work with most.

In Depth Combat[edit | edit source]

Cold damage from an axe. {The red-orange slash is the Cleave skill graphic.

The combat in Diablo I and Diablo II was often criticized for being simplistic. Not only could most characters "spam" the same one or two skills over and over again, this was actually the most effective way to play, in most situations. Diablo III is attempting to change this mechanic in various ways.

In terms of skills, the developers want more skills to be viable in the end game. This is the case and it's created by several factors:

  • Better balance to skills to allow more play style variety.
  • Skill damage scales up with attributes and other equipment.
  • No skill points.

As a general design goal, the D3 Team worked to make combat feel more tactical. Their biggest change was the removal of potions as a major game mechanic. Healing potions remain, but they provide only a partial heal and have a long cooldown after each use. Players must heal themselves with health orbs, with skills, and with equipment bonuses.

Jay Wilson spoke on this design goal early in development with in December 2008.

What makes Diablo 3's combat deeper than its predecessors?

Jay Wilson: Combat is as deep as the options the designers give themselves. Whenever you add a new capability to a monster -- potentially something that feels unbeatable -- it's more of an opportunity to expand the depth of your characters so they can respond to those threats.

A good example would be if you look at Diablo 2: There were a couple of problems with just the power of the characters and the way they were made powerful. A player could run faster than any monster, so you could escape just about any threat. You had endless health and resource -- by resource, I mean mana -- because of potions. And you had the Town Portal, which could instantly get you out of any problem. Those were incredibly powerful mechanics to escape danger and were not class-specific. So every kind of class really had no need for anything like an escape skill or reactionary ability. They simply needed to attack, and if they ever got in over their heads, they simply ran away or drank potions. And it's the same response across the board.

So one of the things we focused on is that response -- 1) setting up scenarios where the players can't easily get out of danger without the use of class-specific skills, and 2) giving them really simple controls to use a broader range of skills without making the game that much more complex to play. I really distinguish the difference between complexity and depth; to me, complexity is adding more buttons, while depth is making a single button more powerful and versatile. So that's always been our goal -- reducing the amount of controls while making each button mean more.

Most of Jay's design goals from 2008 are evident in the finished game, though changes like the removal of town portals, much slower character foot speed, long cooldowns after using health potions, and more.