- New Loot System
- Class, Paragon & Difficulty Overhaul
- Clans & Communities
- Not representing Skill adjustments in Damage
Diablo 3 (D3) was originally released on May 15, 2012 and as of November has sold more than 14 million copies (PC, Mac, and PS3). While these numbers represent a massive hit for Blizzard, the game also received scrutiny for being “broken” due to class imbalance, the auction house and end-game play. Forbes published a review with the CEO of XFire which shows a steady decline of the player base over time, due to these issues.
I can personally attest the game was broken. Players were submerged in repetitive stagnant end-game play, wading through tons of useless items and lacking in any real progress other than the old paragon-based magic and gold find system (which capped at 100). Classes were broken as well, leading players to build very specific templates to farm MP10. Whirlwind Barbarians with Skorn dominated the landscape and the Auction House was tedious and overflowing with junk and items no average gamer could afford. It was a complete mess.
Believe it or not, Blizzard has fixed all of these problems, and the result is a completely new game with an expansion just around the corner.
Before we get started, there are two important upcoming dates: March 18, 2014 is when the Auction House will close down. While it’s still live, I haven’t touched it since 2.0.1 because there just hasn’t been a need. On March 25, 2014 the first expansion for D3 titled “Reaper of Souls” goes live.
There is a lot happening with this game, and I believe D3 is positioned to not only regain its lost player base, but finally become the game it was always meant to be.
Items & Loot
Let’s focus on the most important part of the game: reward. As mentioned above, D3 was broken in many ways, but mainly in the area of economy, junk and useless item drops, playing for days at a time and never receiving an upgrade. Those days are gone as every item drop matters now; even whites and grays. And even better, far fewer items drop, which means you pay closer attention.
As a friend stated with excellent accuracy: “I don’t want to shop for my loot. I want to rip it from the hands of my cold dead victims.” That’s exactly what D3 does now.
One of the biggest adjustments is the fact that many items now have class-specific skill enhancements. This is huge. If you’re running a Disintegrate Wizard, you seek out Disintegrate bonus items, and the bonuses can be huge at end-game.
Nephalem Valor is no more, but now we have Nephalem Glory, which is a buff that can drop when you kill certain monsters. It energizes the party, can stack, and allows you to move faster and cause more damage.
One of the new features added to items to help determine if an item is better for you than what you currently have equipped is the Stat Changes if Equipped section at the bottom of an item you mouseover. It shows Damage, Toughness and Healing (DHT). There are also new little diamonds on the left of an item’s attributes. If it’s bright, it means the attribute does not affect the numbers shown in Damage, Toughness or Healing. To me it should be the opposite, so I think it’s confusing to many people. For example if you find a weapon that increases Whirlwind Damage by 15% the diamond will be lit up and the Damage section at the bottom won’t take into account the 15%. This means a player can find a weapon that might lower their DHT displayed damage, but if they are a Whirlwind Barbarian, that 15% could increases their damage dramatically (and it won’t show on DHT).
With the importance of all items now, a character should open every chest they see and destroy every “container” possible.
Occasionally you will find items at level 60 that show as “locked” and unusable even though you meet the requirements. This is a bug where the item is really level 61 and it’s not displaying the requirement properly.
Numerous new legendary items with unique enhancements have been added to the game, and some of them are an absolute blast with unique modifiers including summoning angry cows to attack your foes, converting gold to a 5-second armor buff, squealing like a pig when you attack enemies, activating shrines spawns a champion, and more.
Legendary and Set items are now bind on account, but if the player is in a party, there is a 2-hour window where the player can trade the items with another party member, allowing those in a party to share the loot.
Here is a list of all the items available in the game, including the new 2.0.1 drops.
Stats & Classes
While the core stats and details for offense, defense, etc. are pretty much the same, they have added a new “snapshot” to the character screen represented through Damage, Toughness and Healing (DTH). However, it is misleading since skill enhancements from items (e.g. 20% more damage to Whirlwind) are not considered. It is still a very easy way to compare whether or not an item is an upgrade.
Every class has been adjusted dramatically with some new skills and runes being added while others have been removed. In other words, each class plays different than before, and it’s fun to explore different build types. Add the item-based skill enhancements, and switching between certain skills can be highly beneficial based on the gear you have and find.
The old paragon system of raising your stats, magic and gold find is gone. There is now a new system that focuses on constant progression and character enhancement. Paragon level is now account wide and shared across all characters. This means any character already max level (60 until RoS, then 70) will contribute experience to the Account Paragon pool. For each level, a character receives a point to spend in one of the new categories: Core, Offense, Defense and Utility. Each category has 4 options with 50 points each for a total of point 800 distributions. These enhancement impact everything from crit chance to skill cooldown.
At this time there is no cap on the number of Paragon levels you can obtain.
There are now five new core difficulties with six variations on the end-game difficulty, Torment. Normal has no bonuses. Hard has 75% exp and gold bonus, Expert has 100% with double for Blood Shards, masters has 200% with Imperial Gems from Level 61+, and Torment I starts at 300% bonus with new legendary drops at level 70. Torment III is 550% extra and Torment VI has a 1600% bonus. You can scale down the difficulty any time you want, so if you try Torment I and it’s too hard, go to the ESC menu and select “Lower Difficulty”. This is a very nice feature which allows players to tune their experience. While you can lower difficulty, you cannot raise it except by leaving the game and restarting the game.
Trash mob runs were very popular prior to the 2.0.1 patch, but no more. Trash groups don’t spawn in the volume they once did in the old MP system, however the game now feels much more balanced and focuses on Rare, Elite and Champion fights, which feature new monster skills, and the boss battles feel much more interactive and fun. Rewards from the “boss” fights are now a focal point, which also enhances the overall balance of gameplay; while a character may be able to take on trash mobs in a higher difficulty setting, the bosses may be too tough, forcing players to focus on the difficulty where they can handle the bosses.
This makes the game much more fun than it was before.
Crafting has been revamped to focus more on self sufficiency. They want players to craft, find their own plans, and experiment. They have simplified the components and added a new core component called a “Common Debris” which is used to craft every item. Even more importantly, crafted items will have attributes supportive of the crafter. Gone are the days of crafting 50 Archon Helmets that no Wizard would ever use (if you are crafting as a Wizard). Crafting is now the primary money sink.
Diamond gems have also been added, which impact the damage on elites, reduce the cooldown of all skills, or provide resistance to all.
The new rule of thumb is pick up every item you find and salvage every item you don’t need and/or use. This includes Legendaries.
Plans drop much more abundantly now than before.
Clans & Communities
Blizzard added Clans and Communities to the game to enhance the social and interactive nature of the game; but both are implemented in a very basic fashion. Clans are essentially guilds, but there are no benefits (e.g. shared stash) other than chat channel, different member levels (e.g. member vs officer), a clan tag (which displays in other chat channels), and sharing events with other clan members (e.g. finding a legendary or gaining an achievement). Anyone can create a clan, and if marked public, anyone can apply to join. You can only be a member of 1 clan at a time.
Communities are chat channels which can be public or private. They are very similar to Clans except there is no tag and no events announced. You can join up to 5 communities at any given time.
There are a number of smaller enhancements that have been made to the game which affect overall playability:
Quests now give excellent experience, and it’s worth replaying the storyline again and again for the custom events and even the item rewards that quests provide. The Map system has changed; now you can teleport to any waypoint from anywhere in the game through the map. Repair costs have been reduced even more and are now so cheap they don’t really impact your gold. They’ve added a new feature under Gameplay Options called “Show Icons for Dropped items” that shows dropped items as Icons. I prefer this! Upon death you can now respawn at your corpse, but not while in a boss fight.
There are numerous new Achievements. They have also added Cursed Chests and Shrines that spawn events requiring you to kill an influx of nasty critters. Pools of Reflection can be found spread throughout the world. They provide a 25% bonus to experience up to a certain amount of experience (10% of your paragon needs for each stack), which can be increased by stacking the number of pools (up to 10 times). Once the amount of bonus experience (e.g. cap) has been reached, the pool bonus dissipates. A character also loses the bonus on death, but it persists through logout. They removed the different types of potions and now only have one type that restores 60% of your health upon use.
There are a few things missing from this fantastic upgrade that I believe we will see in the future. The first is that of being able to save and load Class Skill and Equipment Builds. There is so much to try out and switch between now for the classes it would be nice to have a few templates to auto-switch between, especially with the skill-based items. I believe this will happen sometime in the future.
It would also be nice to see additional clan announcements for things like leveling and killing bosses.
Another feature that would be nice is the ability to see legendary drops for other party members.
Not being able to move between acts without restarting the game is a bit burdensome as well. It would be nice to jump between Act I and III with the click of a mouse.
And finally, one of the biggest issues with D3 that isn’t addressed with 2.0.1 or the expansion is there is no reason to create more than one character of the same class. This is mainly due to the dynamic skill and paragon point assignment systems. While there’s an achievement for getting a 2nd character of the same class to max level, and one could argue a different skill build could be set up with skill-specific equipment, it’s not a real driving force. Blizzard needs to create some sort of system that entices players to build new characters from scratch, and they haven’t gotten around to it yet.
What’s coming in Reaper of Souls
Reaper of Souls goes live on March 25, 2014. It features the new Crusader class, Act V, a raised level cap to 70, end-game Nephalem Rifts, new skills for existing classes, Transmogrification (changing the visuals of an item) and Enchanting (re-rolling the properties of an item) via the Mystic, and a new Adventure Mode, allowing players to explore an endless word including monsters with bounties on their head.
I believe the new Diablo is now the best ARPG on the market, surpassing Diablo II and Path of Exile. The fun factor has been enhanced greatly, and the overall purpose of playing – progress and reward, are now the focal points of the game design, and they are designed well. If you abandoned Diablo 3 due to the Auction House, Loot, End-game and/or imbalance issues I highly recommend returning and trying the new flavor of Diablo 3. You won’t be disappointed.