My quite lengthy barbarian PvM Blizzcon report has been posted on the main page. See the link for the full thing, with links and images and such.
Here's a quote from just the skill coverage:
Like all of the pre-made PvM demo characters, the Barbarian had 3 skills set, one of them maxed out to five points, plus various appropriate Traits already pointed up.
Description: The Barbarian swings at multiple targets at once, dealing X% weapon damage to all targets in front of him.
The basic attack skill at the start was Cleave. It was maxed out at five points, and pretty much owned anything that got in front of the Barbarian. The saving grace of this skill, and low level Barbs, is that it can can hit multiple targets per swing. Anything in front of the Barb, which is a wide arc of maybe 120 degrees, gets nailed. You can see how long a swing this one gives you from the orange streak of light it produces, and itís no trouble to hit 3 or 4 monsters per swipe. In fact, itís natural to ignore single targets, or try to herd them together a bit to maximize your hits per swing.
As for the skillÖ it does what it looks like it does. Thereís no knock back or stun or anything, just a pretty swoosh of red-orange light, and lots of damage dealt to anything in reach. You wouldnít want knockback, for that matter, since this one is useful as it lets you kill pretty quickly. With the crappy starting axe I had it took me 2 or 3 hits per monster, but if I was hitting 4 of them at once, that wasnít too bad.
I didnít pay much attention to items with the other characters, since they were strong enough not to need them; not during the short play sessions at least. With the Barb I ignored armor, but I did look at weapons, and after trying out a bigger sword, I settled on a rare spear. I donít recall the stats, but it had some enhanced damage, plus a max damage boost, and it owned; at least compared to the crappy axe Iíd begun with. The weird thing was that I wielded the spear one-handed, with a shield clutched in my other grubby mitt. I didnít hold the weapon like a javelin, though. I swung it like an axe, at least while using Cleave. Big, sweeping tennis forehand-type slashes.
This wouldnít work, in any sense of real world physics. The pointy end was maybe grazing some enemies, but the ones in closer to me were just being bumped by the side of the staff, which is essentially a broomstick. I donít know if this was an error in the game and the weapon was being treated like a bladed object, instead of a poky one, or if the spear should have been two-handed. Or if it was just a compromise with reality; after all, D2 Barbs can kick *** with spears and Whirlwind, and that combination of movement and weapon has the same ďwouldnít workĒ physics problem as Cleave with a spear.
That aside, Cleave with the spear was extremely effective. It bumped up my damage enough that I began to one-hit kill virtually all of the regular monsters, and that was very fun. Iíd usually run up to groups of 4-8 monsters, let them crowd in close, and then cut the whole damn bunch of them down with a single swing. Watching their bodies fly back like eviscerated ragdolls, was, to quote Jay Wilson, ďAwesome!Ē It was all that ďmake the player feel godlyĒ stuff theyíre always talking about during the design panels, come to life. I was putty in their hands, and felt slightly dirty at being so easily manipulated.
Not dirty enough to stop enjoying it, though.
Description: Shakes the ground, stunning all enemies within X feet for X seconds.
The defensive skill given to new Barbs was Ground Stomp. This oneís been seen in plenty of demos and videos, and itís effective enough. Itís basically a stunning shockwave with slightly more than melee range; anything close enough to hit you gets stunned for a couple of seconds. It wasnít really necessary in this demo, since the monsters werenít numerous or dangerous enough that I needed to to stun them. There werenít any really thick bunches of nasty monsters in this demo, though. I used Ground Stomp fairly often in last yearís demo, when I got swarmed by Overseer-charged up Fallen Imps, or hordes of Lacuni.
The was one thing in this demo I really wanted to try GS out against. Those summoning circles of Dark Vessels, where theyíre free kills for about 5 seconds after you spot them, before they start pulling in demons and become the 50x nastier Activated Vessels. Those little mushroom circles seemed like an idea use for Ground Stomp, since theyíre just about the radius of the skillís effect, and I figured the stun would refrigerate their transformation efforts, letting me slaughter them all before they could bring down their big brothers.
It didnít quite work out that way.
First of all, I didnít need Ground Stomp against them, since the rare spear I was using with Cleave did enough damage to one-shot the chanting Vessels. And since I could hit 3 of them with one swipe, I was able to wipe out the entire circle or 6 or 8 (the number of them vary from circle to circle, depending on where they spawn) with 3 Cleaves. (You could actually use that to plot the effective arc of Cleave; since 3 swings could hit 3 out of 8 targets, spread in an evenly-spaced circle, each Cleave covers more than 120 degrees or 1/3 of a circle.)
In other words, I could take 3 or 4 swings of Cleave and kill off all of the Cultists before any of them transformed. I didnít need to stun them to delay their summoning, assuming I wasnít delayed in my destruction by other enemies. (Which I usually wasnít, since Iíd just run past the stray zombies or whatever, in order to destroy the higher priority targets in the summoning circle.)
Furthermore, it didnít really matter if I killed off the Cultists before they transformed, since it only took 3 or 4 Cleaves to kill the Activated Vessels. But even in an easy demo, one has to set goals and try to use tactics, so my objective became to wipe out the Vessels before they could Activate.
The other problem was that my only available runestone added damage and knockback to Ground Stomp. I tried, it, and it was probably better for defense, but it ruined the Summoning Circles, since the damage was tiny, a fraction what I was doing with Cleave, and the knockback pushed the cultists back out of Cleave range. I could step up and hit them, of course, but only two at a time now, at best. This meant I needed at least 4 hits to take out the whole circle, more like 5 or6 usually, and by that time, even with the Ground Stomp stun, one or two of them would usually transform.
Iím not stating that the +damage/knockback rune effect in Ground Stomp is necessarily useless and awful, but it didnít pair very well with Cleave, and was especially lame when used in the middle of the Dark Vessel circles. It wasnít very good from one side either. Iíd push one or two Cultists back into the middle, but the ones to the side would still get shoved out of reach. I couldnít really use the GS knockback to push them around like hockey pucks, since the stun wasnít long enough, and since GS isnít exactly a spammable skill; thereís a fair delay between stomps.
That said, I can imagine high level Barbs having fun with GS and knockback. If you had gear to lengthen the duration of the stun, it might be fun to torture monsters, banging them around like shuffleboards and trying to push them in various directions. Youíd need high hit point enemies though, so you didnít prematurely kill them during the maneuvers.
Description: When hit, there is a X% chance the Barbarian may strike all enemies within X feet, dealing X% weapon damage and gaining X% health for each enemy hit.
This was the only Barbarian skill that was actually new, in style and use. The description makes it sound like some kind of automatic lash out. Itís not. What happens with Revenge is that you put it on the 1-5 keys, and it stays grayed out/unusuable until you get into a fight. At some point during the battle, if you have enough Fury and you get hit, it activates. Then you can hit the hotkey to use it, and your Barb makes a kind of spinning back swing, like a counter in a fighting game.
It canít be saved up for later, since the skill only goes active after you get hit, and only stays active for a few seconds. (I didnít time it, but it would go gray again after quickly every battle.) Itís not really an offensive tool, since you canít use it that often, and since Cleave does much more damage. (Though Cleave was rank five, while this was just rank one.)
Revenge seems to be useful mostly for the novelty/variety, the ability to hit multiple enemies (which Cleave did, but a Barb using Bash or Hammer of the Ancients would appreciate the multi-target option), but especially for the life leech. Leech is very rare in Diablo III, found only on a few skills (and apparently not on items at all).
I didnít actually need it during the demo with the Barb; I was never low on hit points and could have passed up 75% of the health globes I earned. But the whole game wonít be as easy as this demo, and with more points in Revenge, or perhaps with skill runes, the life leech might be raised (or the activation might be increased in frequency) up enough to make this a really valuable source of health.
Description: The Barbarian makes a mighty leap, causing X% weapon damage to all enemies within X feet upon landing.
Another skill that everyone knows, from seeing in gameplay movies and using in D2. Itís improved in D3; itís much faster in the air, and feels, yesÖ awesome. I loved it in the Arena, even though I seldom hit with it, just since the visual is great. The 3D works nicely with it, since your perspective lurches upwards when the Barb jumps, and you feel like youíre flying for a second. Thereís a great grunting ďRAHHH!Ē sound too, and you must want to knock something in half with a massive club when you trigger this skill. Ideally that Wizard whose been sniping you with that damn Disintegrate from the far edge of the screen for the entire round. ďHold still and die, maggot!Ē
Sorry, Arena flashback there.
So yes, the Barb leaps a lot faster than he runs. I used this one quite a bit late in the demo as a movement skill, when I was rushing through the huge jail level, trying to find the last of the six ghost prisoners to finish the quest and fight The Warden before the demo time ran out. I actually think Leap Attack might be overpowered, for a fairly low level skill. With just one point in it the Barbarian could leap all the way to the visible edge of the screen, over any number of enemies, and at a very high speed. Itís damn near Teleport, plus it does damage to anything in the vicinity when you land.
It seems like a one point wonder, at this point, which is something the developers have said they do not want. Wonders, yes, but not with just one point. Diablo III skills are supposed to require multiple points to make them really useful, and additional points should add additional function. Given how it worked at Blizzcon, itís hard to envision what could be added to the skill to make it worth more points. Maybe they could lessen the Rank One range or speed, and then allow skill points to add to them? Generally speaking, itís hard to figure how the movement skills can be improved by points or runes, or how they can be useful without being necessary. As this forum thread documents, in between getting hijacked more often than a stagecoach in a Western.
Hammer of the Ancients
Description: Calls forth a massive hammer to smash the enemy for X% weapon damage, and has a X% critical chance.
This skill confuses me. Not the skill, but my clear memory of using it at Blizzcon.
Itís confusing since donít remember playing the Barbarian twice through the PvM demo, and yet I know I picked Leap Attack with my level 10 skill point. I did level up to 11 with at least one char, and I remember picking a Trait just to see what it was like (not so special), but that wouldnít matter in terms of trying a 5th skill, since a character has to reach Clvl 14 to get to the 5th skill tier, when they can add a 5th skill.
HotA was not available in the Arena demo, so either I played the PvM Barb twice and have conflated the two trials in my memory, or Iím remembering using HotA from Blizzcon last year. I blame all those hours standing waiting in line and watching WoW players walk past. The neck beards!
At any rate, I was unimpressed by Hammer of the Ancients. It looks cool, with the big yellow (yellowÖ why on Earth Sanctuary is it yellow?) mallet appearing overhead and smashing down like the Barbarian is trying to win a prize at one of those strong man carnival games. But it doesnít hit over a very wide area, and in fact seems almost not to work at melee range. The huge hammer crushes down a good couple of yards away from the Barbarian, and when using this one I kept feeling like I was just missing my target.
The impact zone seemed very small, like a single monster in radius, which felt weird. Like it should be called Snow Shovel of the Ancients, with a narrow, blade-thin hitting end. As big as the hammer was, it should have had a crushing impact, capable of hitting multiple enemies in the area. Even basic Rank One Cleave did that, and with a much faster, more accurate, and less Fury-costly attack.
Maybe HotA is meant for a special purpose; huge damage reward for precise accuracy. Or maybe itís all about the skill runes, and you can make it hit over a bigger area, or stun, or liquefy enemies, etc. The basic starting version of the skill was unimpressive, though. (Which wasnít that uncommon for skills in the demo, so perhaps Iím being too hard on this one.)