‘Diablo 3′ Runestones Make Skills A Lot More Interesting

First of all, no, there’s still no release date for “Diablo 3.” And no, we don’t know when the external beta will launch (apart from sometime this summer). Blizzard continues to keep those crucial details under lock and key. They are, however, more than willing to spill on other details regarding some of the new gameplay mechanics. Last time, the developer enlightened us about Followers, AI-controlled buddies who will fight with your hero as you hack and/or slash. Today we’re taking a look at Runestones.

It’s not the first time Blizzard has mentioned runestones. We’ve always known they were a part of “Diablo 3,” but now we’re seeing what their (likely) final implementation will look like.

On a basic level, you can think of runestones as skill modifiers. Lets say you’re playing as a Wizard and you’ve selected the Ray of Frost skill, which shoots a look, Cyclops-style beam of cold across the map. Pretty standard skill, but adding a runestone can make it a lot more interesting. For example, adding an indigo runestone will cause a protective vortex to spring up around the Wizard while Ray of Frost is active. On the other hand, the obsidian runestone decreases the damage dealt by the skill, but will slow the movement and attack speed of any enemies hit by it.

There are 5 runestones in total, and you can assign any one of the five to a given skill. Now consider that each class has 20 different skills, which means that we’re talking about 100 possible skill/runestone combinations per class. In short, the likelihood that your wizard will be exactly the same as my wizard is officially very slim. Unless you read the same insanely detailed min/maxing FAQ that I did, in which case, welcome to the winning team.

Here’s a run-down of the runestone examples that Blizzard revealed today:

Whirlwind is an iconic Diablo II skill, wherein the barbarian spins furiously and damages any enemies in his path.
Crimson – Shoots bits of rock and gravel in every direction, dealing area effect damage.
Indigo – Barbarian spawns smaller whirlwinds which deal direct damage.
Obsidian – Provides the barbarian with immunity to immobilizing effects.
Golden – Reduced Fury cost.
Alabaster – Critical strikes confuse enemies, forcing them to attack their allies for a short time.

Sweeping Wind is a combo skill that lashes out against all enemies surrounding the monk, creating a vortex of damaging wind that increases in damage and radius across three stages.
Crimson – A flurry of blades increases Sweeping Wind’s damage.
Indigo – Expands the area of effect and strikes enemies with additional fire-based attacks.
Obsidian – A persistent whirlwind surrounds the monk, dealing damage to any foes that come into contact.
Golden – Increases Spirit regeneration.
Alabaster – A powerful sandstorm billows with the monk’s attacks, damaging enemies and knocking them back.

Ray of Frost is a wizard spell that damages and freezes enemies caught in the beam, slowing their movement and attack speed.
Crimson – Beam increases in damage the longer it remains in use, to a cap.
Indigo – Wizard is surrounded by a swirling vortex of sleet, damaging any foes that come into contact.
Obsidian – Decreases beam damage, but increases reduction in target movement and attack speed.
Golden – Arcane Power cost reduced.
Alabaster – Enemies slain by Ray of Frost have a chance to leave an area of ice on the ground where they die, damaging other enemies if they move through it.

Cluster Arrow is a powerful demon hunter tool, as it fires a cluster bomb which explodes on impact, releasing smaller bombs which explode shortly thereafter.
Crimson – Increases the damage of the explosion at the point of impact.
Indigo – Fires enemy-seeking missiles instead of grenades.
Obsidian – The Cluster Arrow is launched high into the air and rains down grenades.
Golden – Instead of grenades, the skill spawns shadow creatures that attack nearby enemies and leech life to the demon hunter.
Alabaster – Adds a stun effect to the grenade explosions.

Acid Cloud is a witch doctor skill that summons an acid-spewing spirit, raining caustic, skin-dissolving death on the unfortunate enemies below.
Crimson – Causes immediate damage instead of a damage over time effect.
Indigo – Increases area-of-effect radius.
Obsidian – Spawns slimes that attack nearby enemies.
Golden – Afflicts enemies with a disease effect that deals damage over time.
Alabaster – The witch doctor belches forth a directional pool of acid.