The opportunity to play with my sister got me to buy the expansion to Diablo 3 despite its high price tag and my lack of enthusiasm for the base game. Patch 2.0 and the expansion are definitely massive improvements on the game I played two years ago, but it’s still just a step short from greatness.
The combat is still the best the genre has ever seen and the ability balance is better than it has ever been. Some runes are still weak, but the emphasis on elemental damage in the expansion means that more of them have a chance to be utilized. I think they have too many runes as it is. There has to be something unique about each one or it just becomes about which one does the most damage and they haven’t succeeded with all of the runes.
I also like the ability to respec at a whim even if I have fond memories of planning out a build in Diablo 2. In my old age I have really gotten tired of games that require me to spend a significant amount of time leveling before I can do something fun. In Diablo 3 I don’t have to start a new character as a weakling and wait forty levels for him to be effective at my chosen build, it’s just a few clicks of a button.
I played some Path of Exile (not enough to give it a proper review), but I really don’t understand all the praise of its character building. Most of the upgrades are small and passive and even some of the bigger nodes don’t change how you play the game. Ironically is sounds like it hits the awkward spot where each individual upgrade is unnoticeable, but you will die hard at higher difficulties if you didn’t spec your points exactly right. The worst of both worlds; unsatisfying talent upgrades and forced cookie cutter specs to survive.
Also not really fond of the skill gems and their leveling system and how it interacts with sockets. Finally, the combat in D3 is miles ahead of PoE and that’s what really matters to me.
Now the biggest change to D3 is the removal of the Auction House and making legendaries Bind on Account, thus basically turning the game into forced self-find mode. And here is where the problems start. First, they confused a symptom for the disease by removing the AH. The problem was their abominable loot system where finding upgrades for yourself was essentially impossible and where the best method to advancing was playing the AH. Maybe that is how it would have to be with an AH, but I feel like their was a middle ground where the AH could stick around and not overwhelm actually playing the game.
Reaper of Souls added Adventure Mode. Bounties are better than campaign mode for an endgame, but I really like Rifts. Rifts have a lot of variability in monsters and lighting which keeps it fresh. However, the Rift bosses are mostly damage sponges and too many levels are sparse with monsters making them a chore to navigate through. “The monster density is too high,” said nobody ever. That said, Blizzard keeps upping legendary drop rates in Rifts only and I think it is a bad idea to basically funnel people into exactly one game mode.
But now we are stuck with BoA. This is fine but they have tuned the drop rates completely wrong for the type of game they have now. The goal is that legendaries are build changing. But the drop rates are so low that you will likely get bored playing before you ever see a legendary you need for a build drop. This is exacerbated by the fact that most legendaries don’t have anything unique about them except for the ability to roll higher stats than rares. So we have a pool of hundreds of legendaries, a smaller pool with legendary affixes and an even smaller one with effective legendary affixes. Good luck finding what you want with a drop rate of in my experience (assuming you are just playing the game normally) of at most 1/hour.
But lets say the legendary you want does drop, the affix balance is so poor that it could end up being irrevocably bad. For example, any slot that can roll Critical Hit or Critical Damage essentially has to have them or they can’t even compete with rares. So it’s just RNG piled on RNG and yet the only interesting thing about the loot in Diablo 3 are the few legendaries with really unique abilities. Compound that with the fact that getting very good rares in their new 4 primary affix system (with the help of the mystic) is not really that hard and you run up against a frustrating gear wall rather quickly. Your basic stat progression has stalled and you are full of rage that you can’t try out that cool magic missile build you read on the forums because your legendary source didn’t roll right. And don’t even get people started on the impossibility of completing the new class sets, let alone with good rolls.
Now Diablo 2 worked around this with trading and the fact that uniques were relatively static. If you got a Shako it was pretty similar to every other Shako and always good. D3 on the other hand has decided to not only make acquiring specific legendaries very rare, but not allow trading and make it so they can roll very poorly and end up useless, which might be more infuriating than never finding it. Now upping the drop rates would be a good idea, but probably not enough. You make legendaries too common and you lose the loot rush. However, right now people are quitting in frustration, not because they are too geared, so it’s a good quick fix.
Finally, I have to talk about the mystic. The mystic allows you to reroll one affix slot as many times as you want for increasing prices. You get a choice of two random replacements. This works fine for rares as it is not too expensive. But legendary rings, for instance, cost 900k as a base to reroll once. Most of this comes from the ridiculous cost of upgrading gems, but it quickly escalates beyond that. It makes badly rolled legendaries an even worse problem. However, the worst part is that it punishes the unlucky, which seems completely backward as the game is already a huge luckfest. The costs really should stay flat for subsequent rerolls if they are going to stick with a random system in such a large pool of affixes.
As you can see a little easing up on how hard it is to progress your gear would go a long way. Blizzard seems stuck in a mindset that they need to keep people playing forever, but a) they get no revenue from continued play as it is not free-to-play and there is no Real Money AH to take a cut from, b) people are going to quit in frustration under the current system and c)it is basically a single player game with no economy at this point, so who cares if people gear up quickly? Blizzard on the other hand is still swinging the nerf bat hard despite all of the above points, suggesting they don’t understand the state of their own game. So at this point I am once again hoping they will get a clue and fix the game, just like after the base game. But they have come a long way already and I hope they get all the way there.