Wednesday, 18 July 2012

OPINION: (Video) What's wrong with Diablo III?

Like thousands of other gamers, Diablo III was one of my most highly anticipated titles of all time. Now that it's been floating about for a few months, lets take a look back on why it's not as great as it could be.


What's wrong with Diablo III?

Hey guys, Steve here and today i'm going to talk a little bit about Diablo III. Diablo II was a game that was very near and dear to me, so I didn't want to rush into any harsh judgements on its sequel, and have people accuse me of looking back on D2 with 'rose tinted glasses'. Well now, D3 has been out for a good few months, and i've had more than enough time to get a feel of it, and more importantly, figure out, at least in my opinion, what's wrong with it.

By the way, what you are seeing in the background is a speed run of Act I inferno on my wizard. A link to his build is in the description, I've got pretty average gear at around 40k life and 22k damage. This is what I have found to be the most efficient way to farm Act I. Please enjoy.

Now I'm going to discuss a few things in this video but it all pretty much ties back into my one main point: Blizzard are treating Diablo III like it is World of Warcraft. While WoW certainly borrowed more than a few assests from Diablo II, it was still at its core a completely different game. After all, one was an MMO and the other was an action RPG.  I want to start by saying that the core game, the engine behind Diablo III, is fantastic. The skill and rune system is a thing of genius and it really, really captures the Diablo vibe. The game is fun to play.

However, once you get past the numbingly easy normal mode and move into nightmare, hell, and eventually inferno, WoW's influence really starts to bleed through. First, let's look at items. Items in Diablo III are boring. While Diablo II certainly had its own share of 'junk' affixes (I'm sure we all remember light radius) the majority of the really cool affixes in Diablo III are ignored in favour of the WoW style primary stat + vitality + a stat unique to that gear slot. Gloves, for example, are almost completely worthless if they don't have a primary stat, vitality, crit damage and crit chance. Having 'best' affix combinations is both boring and frustrating. It doesn't help that items have a chance to roll multiple primary stats, which essentially just take up an affix slot.

Diablo II had some crazy on hit affixes that had huge proc rates. In D3 on the other hand, we have 1.5% chance to stun. 1.5%. What the heck is that? I mean, on WoW boss fights that last up to ten minutes, I'm sure 1.5% is a pretty big rate, but most D3 battles, as you can see from the footage playing, are lucky to last more than a minute. Legendaries are underwhelming, with standard blue magic weapons being better than most legendary weapons, and Legendary item set bonuses being  terrible. The Tal Rasha set in Diablo II gave THIRTEEN additional bonuses to offense, defence, and utility. In Diablo III? Plus 3% to fire, lightning and cold damage...

Now let's have a look at the game's post-release support. Blizzard are famous for offering a tremendous amount of post-release support for their games with patches containing game balances and additional content. One of the very first patches to Diablo III nerfed the amount of gold dropped by pots. Additional patches have systematically nerfed several viable farming spots, class ability combinations deemed too overpowered, repair costs and item affixes that they felt people were stacking due to their usefulness. These sound like reasonable patches... for an MMO. Why, for example, are farming locations being nerfed? Diablo III is essentially a SINGLE PLAYER GAME as the current end-game grind actually punishes you for playing in a group. It's simply much faster and more efficient to farm by yourself. It's not exceptionally difficult to beat the end boss, so there is no competition to gear up and beat the hardest challenges. There's also no PvP as of yet, so they don't have to worry about people getting a leg up by farming particularly good locations. So, why does it matter if some guy wants to spend the majority of his play time smashing pots in a crypt? Who cares if someone finds a wizard skill combination that works really well? Jay Wilson has actually gone back on two key quotes with this post-patch support. The first one was 'We don't mind if people find things that feel like they broke the game' and the second is 'you can find the best item in the game out of a pot'. It feels too much like Blizzard is telling us, 'you can only have fun the way we want you to have fun'

My final gripe brings us back to what I am doing in this video: farming act 1. My character is progressed well into act III and to be honest, I could probably finish the game if I really wanted to. So why am I farming act 1 over and over instead of actually trying to progress? There were two major post patch changes that brought us here. The first was the insane tripling of repair costs for level sixty gear. The second was the changing of drop rates so that the best items have a chance to drop in act 1. Sure, the drop chance in act 1 is much smaller than it is in act 2 or 3, but i can run through act 1 in a fraction of the time that act 2 or 3 takes me, with very minimal risk of dying. When I am playing act 3, if I die more than four or five times, I have actually lost gold on that run. It costs me gold to just try and progress in the game. Can you see what is wrong with this?Anyway, all of this ties back into my original argument of Blizzard trying to balance this game like it's world of warcraft. The reason for this is obvious: they want players to use the auction house. This is a no-no. While the auction house is a nice little feature to have, it shouldn't be so integral to the game. It's completely against the Diablo mythos.

Jerry Holkins of Penny-arcade summed it up best - Diablo is a piñata. You can always go to the store and buy candy, but the whole fun of the piñata is hitting it and getting the candy from inside. My solution? They should completely reverse their philosophy on nerfs. When an item, or a farming location, or a stat is deemed too overpowered, don't nerf it, buff something else. The attack speed nerf could have been easily taken care of by offering buffs to crit damage and crit chance. Farming jars for gold could have been fixed by upping the drop rate of gold on monsters. Until Blizzard stop trying to balance the game around possible abuse of the Auction house, I don't really see this game ever measuring up to the glory and longevity of Diablo II.

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