If you’re one of the many gamers who have qualms about Diablo 3’s apparent lack of customization, you’re not alone. And even if you’re the most die-hard Blizzard apologist, you have to admit, the default skill system doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity.
Pick two attacks, one defensive skill, and some support bonuses, and that’s it. Right?
Actually, wrong: Diablo 3 has an “advanced” option called Elective Mode that unlocks your entire ability set.
Skillbars for Algernon
Let’s take a step back and explain the regular system.
By default, Diablo 3 only lets you slot certain skills into certain hotkey slots. On a Wizard, for instance, only one Signature Spell (like Spectral Blade) can be equipped at once, and it must be bound to the left mouse button.
The right mouse button is reserved for “secondary” skills like Arcane Orb, and the number keys are used to trigger one Defensive, one Force, one Conjuration, and one Mastery ability each. That’s it.
While there are certainly still a lot of combinations of abilities and runes, it’s somewhat limiting.
What if you wanted to make a Wizard with lots of Signature Spells, able to spam weak attacks with no cooldowns or Arcane Power costs? By default, you can’t do this, even if you’ve unlocked every skill in the game. That is, until you turn on Elective Mode.
Found right in the goddamn options menu with almost no explanation, the cryptically named “Elective Mode” removes the restrictions on equipping and binding skills by discipline.
Once you’ve turned it on, you can assign any skill you’ve learned to (almost) any button, even if you’ve already equipped other skills from that attribute. For instance, I was able to build a Wizard that used all four Signature Spells, plus two Defensive enchantments.
Is this build any good?
Probably not. Two-thirds of the abilities have the weight of a feather duster, and the other two are mutually exclusive. But the point is that with the click of a single checkbox, Diablo 3’s kid-gloves default goes out the window. You’re free to experiment!
Wait, why isn’t this the default?
A lot of players like myself who enjoyed “discovering” unorthodox builds in Diablo 2 were not happy with the design of Diablo 3’s skill system. Millions of players who would have had no trouble with “Elective Mode” turned on by default, instead opting for a “Dummy Mode” that streamlines skill selection to its current state. So why would Blizzard make this decision?
Officially, the company stated it didn’t want new players to create terrible, unbalanced builds and become frustrated. After all, they could easily create a Demon Hunter with only skills that expend (but not generate) Hatred. Or a Monk with no melee skills. Or a Wizard with only Signature Spells. The horror!
Of course, this rings hollow when you consider skill choices can be reversed at any time. There really is no danger of anyone messing up that badly, and any damage dealt could be un-dealt in a matter of seconds. In effect, Blizzard’s attempt to act as the helicopter parents for the stupidest of their players excised the actual fun of their game for their most dedicated players!
Elect to play Diablo 3 uncrippled
Assuming you’re not an idiot (you can’t be, since this website doesn’t load in Internet Explorer), you should enable Elective Mode immediately. You’ll have the option to scroll between ability groups when assigning spells and attacks to buttons and hotkeys.
From there, it’s up to you what you do. Will you create a summons-only Witch Doctor? Or a Demon Hunter homage to your Diablo 2 Trap Assassin? The world is now your oyster.
The only question is: Why didn’t Blizzard just hand you its pearls to start with?