Most of these features are improvements, though some pose strict barriers on gameplay and technical issues unfortunately keep it off the pedestal of perfection. You could build a single-player Witch Doctor with a focus on summoning pets to pull aggro, rapid Mana generation, and life leaching skills, while at the same time playing a second Witch Doctor more suited for multiplayer, performing bolstering rituals on allies and hexes on enemies, making them easier to pick off by your team. This, however, only becomes a luxury after gaining dozens of levels and unlocking all the skills, which until then is a frustratingly linear progression. There are both active and passive skills, which are unlocked at the appropriate levels.
There is no choice in which skill you choose; it’s one specific power per level. You are only allowed to slot a certain number of skills, and the slots themselves only unlock after reaching a specific level. But once everything is finally open and available, customizing and finding the perfect loadout requires a welcome bit of strategy and experimentation. Active skills can also be upgraded with extra effects by attaching runes to them, allowing even more options to personalize your character. And the runes don’t just add statistical bonuses, they also affect the visuals of the powers, making for some dramatic onscreen animations.
Equipping your character will feel familiar to anyone recently coming off of Diablo II or any other grid-based inventory game, but Diablo III adds some MMO-like features to the formula. The potency of each piece is labeled with a specific color, and equipment sets can be sought after for extra bonuses when worn together. You can build your pool of money to buy new pieces in town, or even go into the persistent Auction House and purchase equipment from other players using in-game currency or real money. The House itself is a point of contention, with a very vocal opposition, but it is completely optional and functions outside the campaign so it can be avoid altogether if you so desire. It’s well-laid-out, and finding specific items is simple, as well as keeping track of bids and sold items. The real-money auction was not live at the time of this review, so I unfortunately could not critique it.