This is definitely the biggest callback I’ve ever done in a “Journal” series of reviews, but one I felt necessary with the recent “relaunch” of Diablo 3 with patch 1.04.
When we last left off, the game was over. As in, there was nothing else to do, which is a problem considering Diablo 2 sustained enthusiastic play for the better part of a decade. The issue was that once you hit level 60, there was nothing to do but grind for gear…which would allow you to grind for gear faster and easier. An endless cycle of pointlessness.
Patch 1.04, in the works for a long while now, has tried to fix that. Now, the good old days of taking forever to level your characters to max are back. There are now 100 “paragon levels,” each adding a few points to your stats and giving you 3% magic find and 3% gold find per level. It’s been calculated by top players that it would take you a solid month of 14 hour a day play to reach level 100, so needless to say it’s added quite a bit more play time.
Actual pus spitting on the Pus Spitter.
The second big change of the patch is that loot problem had finally been addressed, namely, the fact that loot, generally speaking, sucks. Legendary items used to be the most sought after pieces in the game, but in D3 they were piles of garbage, with lower tiered rare items often at least twice as effective at the same item level.
Now, legendaries are cool again. They’ve ramped up the damage to make them actually usable, and perhaps more importantly, they’ve made them what they’re supposed to be…unique. Previously, legendaries had all the same stats as regular weapons, but you might find an out of place stat like increased block percent on a helmet or magic find on a weapon. Woooo! That was a sarcastic wooo.
But now there are actual effects that make legendaries as cool as they were in D2. Firewalkers leave a trailer of fire behind you. Pox Faulds are pants that release poison clouds as you walk. The Puzzle Ring has a chance to spawn a treasure goblin.
These improvements have made the game very obviously better, but how much better exactly? Have they “solved” the central problems with Diablo 3? I’m not so sure.
Paragon levels are fine, but with the only meaningful reward being more magic find and gold find, the cycle is still in effect where the only reason to keep playing is to try and get better gear, which will help you find better gear. Yes, there’s experience, but the rewards are too uniform through 100 levels. You want me to put another 1000 hours into this game and give me the exact same reward each time I level up? Lame.
Similarly, Legendary items are now cool, but it’s still an enormous pain to get them to appear at all. Players can spend a few hundred hours playing the game and never even see one, and the satisfaction of buying them on the auction house isn’t nearly the same as finding them yourself. Even with my Barbarian at 300% magic find killing an elite enemy per minute, it still takes an unwieldy amount of time for one to ever drop. The good news is that now at least when one DOES drop there’s a decent chance it won’t be completely terrible, which was not the case before the patch.
But is the game significantly more fun now? Not really. The new paragon levels don’t make up for the fact that you are simply running the same areas for the ten millionth time. The new gear now makes .001% of your drops worthwhile rather than .0001%, while the rest is garbage. I realize that both things, re-running levels and gear hunting, are staples of the Diablo series, but maybe we’ve grown up a bit past those simplistic concepts in the past ten years. It just feels…empty if that’s all there is.
You have enough gear, we can stop now.
This patch has made Diablo better, but I think gamers may have moved on past Diablo’s playstyle in the age of the MMO and epic single player RPG. Guild Wars 2, for example, comes out this weekend, and many Diablo players, even those excited about the new patch, will switch over to that universe as that game also has no monthly subscription. And I’m one of them. Diablo 3 was fun for a while, but Guild Wars 2 will be an entirely new experience. D3 just doesn’t seem like the kind of game people will play for 10 years anymore. But honestly, even if a perfect version of D2 was released today, I don’t think it would have the same kind of staying power it had a decade ago. There’s just too much worthy competition both in its specific dungeon crawling action RPG genre and in others.
Diablo 3 would have been way, way, way better and received a much warmer reception from fans had the meaningful changes of 1.04 been released at launch. Yes, you can say Diablo has always been about patches improving on things, but I think gamers have a shorter attention span than they used to, and even if the game is better, many have already moved on to the next thing, and they’re not coming back.
So, who wants to form a GW guild with me?