I am a true Diablo veteran thank you; I was playing Diablo I long before Diablo II came out, I played Diablo II right when it was released up through every patch it has ever undergone, LoD, everything. I've done it all, I can intelligently discuss it all with you. The one thing I can't fathom is how a true veteran of Diablo II can look at the skill system of Diablo III and tell me that it's worse.
Worse? Excuse me, I love Diablo II, I always have and still do. But if you cannot admit that it is ANTIQUATED at this point, then you're not a very good judge of an RPG game. Every class uses the SAME resource system. 15 seconds after you get your first skill for the barbarian you're out of mana. After that, you get to use Bash once or twice a minute, or you could rock a couple rows of mana pots on your belt. It was a _little_ better when mana leech on items was a level 4 mod, so you could actually have a little regain on your resource bar, but nowadays it's lvl ~28, so you're pretty much %@#%ed for the first 30 levels of most classes. Sound balanced?
Next I'd point out that there's maybe 1-2 useful offensive skills for each class out of the 3 entire trees that they have. Some have more, but then again some others can't even solo hell no matter what spec they use, and even fewer can solo ubers while others can almost breeze through them. Sound balanced?
And did I mention that 90% of those good sklils are acquired at either 24 or 30? The barbarian is basically twiddling his thumbs until frenzy, concentration, or whirlwind (back in classic at least, it blows now). The Sorc's usefulness goes up about 2343294872049823% the moment you get FO, Blizzard, or Chain Lightning. So you're just supposed to trudge through the first 23 levels of the game? Sounds well spread out.
Now let's talk about Diablo III. Every class in the game either starts with a skill, or gets one within the first 5 levels that I can see myself using for their entire existence. Cleave, a skill that actually generates my resource, does good damage and hits multiple targets? Holy !@#$! I could point out dozens upon dozens of other examples that fully flesh out what I'm saying here but it's so obvious that I think I'll just drop the bottom line:
The sophistication and ACTUAL synergy (not just a word that means "dump skills into one skill and you get passive bonuses for another") of skills for the different classes is literally LIGHT YEARS beyond anything Diablo II has or had. And you know what? That's ok, because that game is ten years old and at the time it was made, it was light years beyond its predecessor (did you know that Diablo I was originally planned to be a turn based game?), not to mention most of the other games that were out at the time. They made mistakes, they went in directions that made no sense, like AR and stamina, that added nothing to the game.
Also, it's time to put an end to this whole rant about lack of stat distribution. I'm sorry, but that argument is utter bull%^-*, and here's why: There is only two kinds of Diablo II players - players that know how to distribute stats, and players that don't. And of the players that know how to distribute stats, there's only one thing you need to say about ANY BUILD OF ANY CLASS IN THE GAME -> enough str/dex to wear the gear, the rest into vitality. Period.
The only exception to this is the dexazon, which is pointless because they're no longer viable anyway.
So there you go, there's your "amazing character customization via stats". It's a lie. It's a shadow of a thought of a dream. It's a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there. I.e. it doesn't exist. Pumping strength would not, and will not make your barb a bad !@#. It will give him, at most, a 5-10% increase in damage by the time he's 80, and you'll have sacrificed so much health that you'd be a miserable glass cannon. Even Sorc's don't really need to invest Energy due to the improved mana regeneration and "+ to mana after each kill" items that are available.
I don't see how this is an argument. Throwing stats in every level was not only arduous, it was nerve wracking, and the same is true of skills. For the first 10 years of Diablo II, every time you made a character you went to a website, thoroughly researched the build, and knew, before you EVER set foot on the Blood Moor EXACTLY where EVERY SINGLE POINT OF STATS AND SKILLS WOULD GO. That is NOT customization. And unfortunately the game was tuned so poorly in the upper difficulties after 1.09 that there was only half a dozen viable builds total across all the classes. You can experiment with useless skills if that's your definition of customization, but I can tell you right now that unless you're a Ice/Lighting Sorc, Ice/Fire Sorc, Hammerdin, Smiter, WW/Lightning Trap Sin, Javazon, Frenzy Barb, Conc Barb, Zoomancer with godly gear, or a Bear pet druid, you aren't doing fcking anything in hell, period. And some of those builds don't do much anyway unless you have godly $%^ gear. And some of then aren't that great even then.
I'm sorry, but that's not "breadth of customization". I can fully imagine there will be some issues with tuning in Diablo III, that's just the way game development works, but I can tell you right now that it's not very debatable that the mere shred of the skills systems we're able to see right now are already way beyond the design quality of the entire scope of Diablo II. There's really no other way to see that, or say it.
I'm not saying Diablo II sucked because it didn't and it doesn't, but I am very tired of nostalgic whining that puts severely dated systems on a pedastal, and tries to bring down the work, GOOD WORK, done on Diablo III. If you think that, and don't play Diablo III because of it, I feel really bad for you, because you're missing out on one hell of a game.
I forgot a couple things, bare with me:
I have also heard how "linear" Diablo III is, and how "lame the quests" are. Seriously? someone said either of those two things? Excuse me, the entirely of the first act of Diablo II has a path that you can follow literally from the moment you exit the Rogue Encampment until you set foot in the Outer Cloister. How is that not the very definition of linear? Yeah, there's other things off the beaten path, but I really don't garner a single iota of fun from running around the map, bouncing in between border lines of endless grey brick walls, while looking for a Waypoint, the Cairn Stones, etc. Yeah, I do them because I want the waypoints for later, etc. but that doesn't put Diablo II over that "linear or not line". I'm sorry, but it doesn't. Every area in the game is contained within some boxed shape area or another. Paths and shapes differ slightly, but it's pretty much the exact same thing as Diablo III. I'm not complaining about either game, I'm simply pointing out just how erroneous that argument is. On the other hand, Diablo III has: multiple alternate areas in each main area, random events that are so diverse that I can almost truthfully say I seem something new every time I play through the beta, random bonus quests, etc. That may not put Diablo III over the "linear or not" line either, but I can say that it does break up the monotony, and areas that you've been in before, you may not recognize again when you're passing through. Considering I didn't see the "Jar of Souls" on my first few playthroughs of the beta, I can easily see myself saying "woah, I've never seen this before" for a long time once I have the full game in my hand. Bottom line is, neither game is a sand box, Skyrim type game, and they never will be. You can split hairs about which is more linear than the other, but I'm pretty sure Diablo III will come out on top of that argument as well.
And as to the lame quests? I'm sorry, but the only quests anyone ever does in Diablo II are the ones that gives rewards. No one cares about the lore, no one goes out of their way to do anything that doesn't specifically give them something that they want... I'm sorry but they're lame, and 9 out of 10 Diablo II players skip the entire 3rd act :\ Tell me that's not lame with a straight face.
Lack of item effect on character look... Are you freaking kidding me? How can you say that with a straight face? It's the first THIRD of the first ACT of the first DIFFICULTY? Not to mention that EVERY piece of gear has a unique look on every character. Not to mention that the armor looks in Diablo II varied so slightly from one step up or down to the next that you could hardly tell one from the other (http://www.mmorpguides.com/forum/Armor-Appearance-Class-t15132.html woohoo!). Not to mention that Diablo III has like 3 times the amount of armor tiers. Not to mention that Diablo II's exceptional and elite armor had the exact same graphics as their identical normal tiers...
Not to mention any of that... it's still act 1 of normal, I think we could find other things to complain about.