Diablo 3: Fourth (Season)’s the Charm
Diablo 3 has gone through a lot since its release in 2012: From the lead designer moving on, to patch after patch after patch attempting to address complaints about the design. Of course, we can’t forget about the Auction House system that left a major black stain on the game until its removal.
Flash forward to today. Diablo 3 has come a long way, as we just entered the fourth season of ladder play. Normally I don’t take a look at games I’ve already reviewed, but given everything that’s happened and the latest patch, today I’m making an exception.
Before we talk about the latest patch, I want to bring everyone up to speed on what’s happened since Diablo 3 was released. For the first few years of its life, Diablo 3 was marked by polarizing reviews; many people loved the game’s streamlined design, but the poor loot distribution and auction system made the endgame a nightmare.
The first sign of improvement came in Patch 2.0, which was designed to prepare the game for the Reaper of Souls expansion. There was an across-the-board balancing of the classes and their skills, along with changing up the boss fights. Itemization received the biggest change ,thanks to the announcement that the Auction House was going away, and the introduction of the Smart Loot system.
Previously in Diablo 3, there was a huge margin for finding equipment that would work for your character for several reasons. First, the range of item stats was very wide; causing players to either dominate the enemies or barely make due. Secondly, loot for any class had the same chance to drop; which means that as a wizard, you could get rewarded with witch doctor gear for all your trouble. The reason for this was to make the auction house that much more attractive; allowing someone to take really good gear that didn’t work for them and sell it for in-game gold or real money.
Unfortunately for Blizzard, handicapping players this way in a loot driven game was not seen as a good thing, and many people quit out of frustration. The Smart Loot system changed all that by giving relevant gear a greater chance to spawn, and tightening up the item stat ranges. Overall, this changed how someone would progressively find loot; instead of rarely finding something that would massively affect their stats, players would find loot a lot more readily that would offer some improvements. This change led to a gradual improvement that scaled well and meant that it was far easier to progress throughout the game.
With Reaper of Souls, Blizzard completed their first big transformation of Diablo 3, thanks to the addition of adventure mode, 10 new levels, new gear and so on. For more on my thoughts on Patch 2.0 and the Reaper of Souls launch, visit Game-Wisdom.com.
Reaper of Souls definitely brought more life back to Diablo 3, and the developers have been taking that momentum and running with it. That takes us to today with Patch 2.3 and the latest round of changes and additions meant to draw back fans to the game.
First off for the latest patch, we have the more current round of skill balancing and itemization. With each patch, Blizzard alters the classes’ various skills to hopefully get rid of any skills that are too powerful and bump up the ones considered too weak. Set and legendary items were altered and new ones were added to keep the loot drive going. One thing to mention here about the last patch, Blizzard has changed how legendary and set items worked; there are now “ancient” variants of these items that have greater stats.
This was in response to level 70 players no longer having any new loot tables of higher gear to go after. To make the act of getting legendary and set items easier, there have been several new and updated methods added to Diablo 3. First is the use of blood shards to “gamble” at a vendor in town, who can provide you with everything from trash gear to legendary and set items. Rifts and Greater Rifts allow you to take on a randomized area with the reward being a greater chance to get those items. Greater Rifts have been toned down and now you only get one pass via a rift key, but the extreme reward is still there.
Uber fights, where you take on two enhanced bosses at once now only require a key per keywarden (an enhanced enemy who appears at set points in each act.) Finally and most noticeably is the new item and artisan option called Kanai’s Cube. After finding it in a brand new area in act 3, Kanai’s Cube provides several late game methods for turning crafting material into high end equipment. You can use it to turn a rare weapon into a legendary, change a set item to a different item in the same set, remove level restrictions and more.
This also takes us to a new feature and use of legendary items: Extracting power. Legendaries that have unique effects to them can now be broken down; destroying the weapon and allowing you to equip the special effect separately which is broken down by weapon, armor and jewelry slots. Not only does this provide another use for legendaries that you don’t want anymore, but it allows you to further define your character with powerful abilities.
Seasons that let you play to see how far you can get have been given a new challenge in the form of a season journey. There are four groups of challenges tied to how someone would progress from 1 to 70 in the game, complete them all to unlock a new pet and portrait.
All this and the general enhancements to Diablo 3 have made it a different game compared to the retail release; with the level 1-69 play better than ever. With that said, I want to touch on a few complaints that people still have about Diablo 3.
Bored to Death
Blizzard has done a lot to improve the experience of Diablo 3 and it’s a great time for someone who originally played it to dive back in, but there are still some mechanical and design issues present. Loot design is still bare bones compared to the variety seen in Diablo 2; this is due to the focus on primary attributes for each class. The end game is still ruled by set builds and the unbeatable combination of raising critical hit damage via gems and items.
Too much of what Blizzard has added have been enhancements to the experience, but not additions. Elements like new content, bosses and challenges are few and far between; with the new area added for Kanai’s Cube being the first brand new area since Reaper of Souls came out.
Quite frankly, there just isn’t an incentive to keep playing the game once you’ve gotten your fill of Torment 1; I want to go into more detail about that, but that topic is just too big for this post. Stay tuned to Game-Wisdom where I’ll be posting an analysis specifically looking at Diablo 3’s end game real soon.
Diablo 3 has come a long way since launch and still stands as one of the most polished ARPGs on the market today. Blizzard has just about amended every major issue from launch and it really does feel like a brand new game. Hopefully Season 4 will renew interest in the game and it will give Blizzard the motivation to keep at it and hopefully give Diablo 3 as awesome of an end game as the rest of the experience.
Finally, if you want to watch some Diablo 3 in action, here is my Season 3 Road to 70 play and my new playlist for Season 4’s Road to 70 play.
Josh Bycer is a Game Industry Analyst with over seven years of experience writing about Game Design and the Industry. You can find his posts, podcasts and daily videos on his site Game-Wisdom and contribute to his ongoing Patreon Campaign to help him continue to create great content.