Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diablo 3 PSA: Turning on "Elective Mode"

If you are one of the millions of people that blew sixty bucks on Diablo 3 instead of buying food for your cat and/or baby, you might be interested to know about an obscure gameplay option that will greatly increase your enjoyment of the game: Elective Mode. It is literarily impossible to invent a more unhelpful name for this important option, so today's post will reveal its secrets.

In Diablo 3, there are 6 possible action hotkeys: the two mouse buttons, and the numbers 1 - 4 (which can also be remapped). Each hotkey corresponds to one of the 6 categories of skills that every character learns throughout the game. The categories are fairly arbitrary, and it is not always clear why one skill was categorized the way it was. At the beginning of the game, your "primary" category and your "secondary" category are tied to the mouse buttons by default. As you gain levels, you unlock the four numbered keys and can assign skills there.

The problem is that these unlocked hotkeys are restricted to specific categories of skills, and you'll find that some categories have plenty of fun skills while other categories are nearly useless when they first open up. The default UI forces you to pick exactly one skill from each category to play with.

Turning on Elective Mode (under Options, then Gameplay) almost completely eliminates this restriction1. You can assign a skill from any category to any of your available hotkeys (by right-clicking on a slot in the hotkey bar at the bottom of the screen, and then wading through far too many pages of skills), and can pick more than 1 skill from each category. This gives you greater strategic flexibility to choose a more offensive or defensive build, or do something completely off the wall.

Here's a concrete example: When a Demon Hunter reaches level 4, it has access to 2 Primary skills (Hungering Arrow and Entangling Shot), 1 Secondary skill (Impale), and 1 Defensive skill (Caltrops). At this time, the default UI unlocks hotkey #1, and forces you to assign a Defensive skill (the only one available is Caltrops), at the expense of your extra Primary skill. By turning Elective Mode on, you can choose any 3 of the 4 available skills, regardless of which categories they're assigned to. This might not seem like a big deal early on, but consider the possibilities when you have over twenty skills fighting for one of the six slots!

While you're at it, enable Advanced Tooltips. I know the game wants to be friendly to new players, but "This spell hurts stuff" is almost demeaning.

1: The only remaining restriction is that the left mouse button must be some sort of attack skill, so it doesn't conflict with "click-to-move".

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