Diablo 3 [5] – Patch 2.0 AKA Of the Bear

2.0 is out, but anyone who’d take the time to read this probably knows that. I’ve heard good things, so I’ve decided to give Diablo 3 2.0 a try. I did it without the expansion, mind you, but a lot of the overhauls the expansion brings are actually included in the patch. Since the core of an ARPG is simple, this will be an attempt to cover most of it in a single posting.

I decided to write this in the parts, at two different points of my playing through the new and, hopefully, improved Diablo 3.

In the beginning…

The first part of this posting is written after I’ve completed the first chapter of the game with a fresh barbarian character on the new Hard difficulty.

It feels fresh again

I’ll admit it. I thought Diablo 3 wasn’t like Diablo 2 in the sense that I’ve grown tired of it and I would not be going back to the game over and over like I did with Diablo 2.

I guess I was wrong, because I started with a barbarian and I have to say I’m kind of having fun. I’m actually having a lot of fun to and time just passes by as I play it.

Part of it is probably due to the leveling speed. You can now set the difficulty of the game to multiple levels as you play. This is similar to the /players X command of Diablo 2. I’m just guessing here, but I think the monsters gain more health and damage, but you also gain more experience from them. In addition to this, there’s an active buff for all players which increases experience gained a further 50%.

Diablo 3 - Lina

Pictured: My first and only character to hit level 60 before patch 2.0

In practice, this means that I started a barbarian and was level 10 in about 30 minutes. Now at the start of the second act, I got to level 29. This is normal difficulty. With this rate of leveling, I might actually get to 60 before I finish the normal difficulty.

So that’s the first plus – the grind was reduced and I like the speed at which it’s going now. I’m slightly worried about how it will feel to go down to 50% less once the temporary buff goes away, but from what I’ve read, it’s still going to be faster than it ever was.

The other reason it feels fresh again is that item drops seem to have improved. I rarely get stuff that’s completely useless to me in the aspect of what bonuses it provides. It’s still often useless in the sense that it’s not an upgrade, but most items that drop are actually better in some stats and worse in others, such as a pair of gloves having less strength, but more vitality, etc.

The AH is gone

On paper, the idea of a real money auction house seemed fine. In practice, it was one of the reasons I stopped enjoying Diablo 3 and didn’t like the idea of going back to the game ever again. The drops were balanced around the auction house being there. They had to be, otherwise the economy would die even quicker than it did.

Because of that, playing a quick session of Diablo 3 didn’t feel like a treasure hunt, it felt like a paid job, except you get paid in virtual currency which you can use to buy virtual items (and maybe earn real money if you’re jobless and desperate or are living in a country where it’s actually worth it. Croatia is pretty crap sometimes, but I’m still lucky enough to have better paying opportunities than farming in a Blizzard game.

Well, the AH is gone and I say good riddance.

World map and proper waypoints

Yup, there’s a world map now and you get to revisit places as often as you want, without actually revisiting the story, which was complete crap and, honestly, very much influenced by World of Warcraft, in a bad way.

Diablo 3 is like Diablo 2 when it comes to where you go and how you want to play it now. You go to a waypoint, teleport to an area and start killing and collecting gold.

It’s not just more like Diablo 2, it’s like Diablo 2 with PlugY installed, which is probably the best of both worlds. There’s plenty of storage room, you get to reset your spec as often as you’d like and you can share items between your characters.

Not all there yet

I’m really trying not to be negative here. The things that still bother me are in no way objectively bad, they’re just things I would prefer to be different. If anyone wants to call me objectively wrong about this, they’re free to do so. These are just my preferences.

My first issue is in the title of this posting – of the Bear. Nine out of ten items that drop for my barbarian have this suffix in their name. I get it. The drops have been modified to more often suit the class you’re playing. There’s very little variation, though. Most items have either extra vitality, extra strength or both, with one or two other bonuses, such as more regeneration, experience, gold, etc. They still feel quite boring on their own. The thing that’s more fun is you doing better against monsters with these items, not the items themselves. Heck, I’m pretty sure even just more variety in naming with the exact same bonuses would bother me less.

If I were to go a bit too deep into it, I could even go as far as describing it as lazy. This approach is simpler – cheaper to implement and easier to balance. Overall, it will probably end up giving a more balanced and polished experience, which more people will like. However, in my view, that’s not a recipe for greatness, it’s a recipe for adequacy.

My second issue was there when the game was first released and probably wont be going away ever.

I start with a barbarian and use Bash, since it’s my first ability. Then I unlock Hammer of the Ancients and start using that as well. They work pretty well together. With more levels, I start unlocking more stuff, but by that point, I’m already used to these two abilities so much, I’m reluctant to switch to something else. What I have is effective and the new stuff feels a bit meh, since I’m not used to it yet.

The end result is that I got to around level 20, forced myself to start using Whirlwind and pushed through the next half a dozen levels with reduced overall enjoyment, only to start getting used to the new skill now.

The intent of the free and fluid skill system that Diablo 3 has was to provide more freedom and less worrying about the proper spec. For me, the result is the opposite, kind of. In Diablo 2, I decided on what I’ll build before hand and that gave me something to look forward to at levels 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and even later, once the proper levels in these skills were obtained.

In the new system, I just end up using the lower level skill for too long because I’ve grown accustomed to it. They’re all similarly effective, so there’s little incentive to switch as soon as you get a new one.

I’ll say it again, this is just my opinion, especially so with my second issue. I would be surprised if I didn’t have someone that disagrees with me.

Overall, though…

I like it, a lot. I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me in the past, but I got back to Diablo 3 and I’m enjoying it again. I might even get back to it again in the future, in a few months or a year, just as I used to do with Diablo 2.

And what about Diablo 2. Without giving it much thought, I’d be inclined to say I still prefer Diablo 2, but the reality is, over the past few years, I have probably about 100 hours of Diablo 3 played, but exactly zero hours of Diablo 2. This is telling me something. I’m not sure what it is, but it is something.

Hell, I might even get the expansion and get to level 70 with a character at some point. I might even finish normal difficulty with Cohen, the Barbarian (10 Internet points to anyone who recognizes the reference).

I’m still not convinced the old Diablo 2 magic is back, though. In fact, after playing Torchlight 2 and Path of Exile, I’m becoming more and more sure that the magic lost forever. Some other type of magic, just as good, might be out there, but I don’t think I’ll ever get that Diablo 2 feeling. In part, it’s because games have changed, but a big part of it is probably because I’ve changed.

As I said, Diablo 3 doesn’t stand a chance of capturing my attention like Diablo 2 used to do, but that’s the important part – Diablo 3 used to do it. It doesn’t do it anymore. That game hasn’t changed, so something else must have – me.

And please don’t consider this a negative comment. Things change. That’s all.

In the end, sort of…

The second part of this posting is written after I’ve completed the game for the first time with the same barbarian character and tried playing for a bit from the start at the Torment IV difficulty.

I think it was fun

I’ve played World of Warcraft for a very long time, which made me a bit reserved about calling something, especially something with RPG elements fun.

I’ve realized it’s very easy to let yourself get tricked into thinking something’s fun and engaging, when it’s in fact simply compelling, in the addictive sense of the word.

I will say this, the combat feels great. No other action RPG managed to hit that feeling as right s Diablo 1, 2 and 3 did. Each  hit carries weight and each attack feels like it’s hitting something. The combination of sound, visuals and screen effects simply work together perfectly.

Diablo 3 - Cohen and his Companion

Pictured: Cohen and his Companion, about to go to Tristram.

The story is poor. Overall, Diablo 2’s story feels better, at least in my memories. Maybe it was actually objectively better, or maybe it felt better because it wasn’t so annoyingly pushed on the player with cutscenes (automatically skippable, but I discovered it too late) and escorting characters. Diablo 2’s story was there if you wanted to explore it, but it never forced you to be aware of it.

Overall, it honestly does feel like World of Warcraft had a lot of influence on storytelling in Diablo 3, in a not very good way.

The RPG is not very RPG. I love the skills and I love the runes. I love getting a new item and now some of them even have fun effects. For instance, Diablo dropped a legendary polearm called the Bovine Bardiche. One of the effects on it gives it a chance to summon a herd of murderous cows, which is basically a pack of Hell Bovines from Diablo 2’s secret cow level that fights for you. A setof bracers called the Custerian Wristguards gives me experience for picking up gold.

Diablo 3 - Bovine Bardiche

Pictured: Bovine Bardiche, a legendary with a unique ability.

All of that is great, but in the end, after about a dozen hours playing the game again, one thing is clear to me.

I’m playing for the always-increasing numbers. I’ve seen all the skills I’m going to be using for the rest of the game within the first two chapters. I know the story and I’m not impressed with it. The only reason I’m playing is to see what the next boss will drop.

In Diablo 2, that was half of the reason I kept playing. The other half was to see how my character will turn out and how I could use some of the loot I get with a different build on a different character. With Diablo 3, that part seems to be gone, but even if it was there, I’m not sure I’d keep playing.

If I shut off my brain, it’s almost like I’m having fun. As soon as I start thinking about it, however, I’m not able to shake of the feeling like I’m wasting my time. 

Playing any game is wasting your time, some would say. I don’t think that. I think having actual fun is not wasting your time. Even if playing any game did equal to wasting time, there would still be a difference between wasting time while having fun and wasting time while tricking yourself into thinking you’re having fun. Anything else is just semantics.

So I guess what I’m really saying is that I don’t really think it was fun. I think I kind of let myself get tricked again. It was nowhere near as bad as with Ancient Summoner, for instance, but it still wasn’t great.

Did 2.0 make Diablo 3 better? Yes, it most certainly did. Id did not make it magical. It’s still a game designed primarily to hook you instead of engaging you. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s just the game, or maybe it’s a bit of both. Right now, I can’t help seeing it that way.

What does that mean?

It means this will be my last Diablo 3 report for probably a long time. I won’t say I’ll never go back to the game, because I’ve been wrong in the past, but I’m absolutely positive I’m done with Diablo 3 for the time being.

Oh, and by the way, in case you’re interested, I got to level 47 on hard difficulty by the time Diablo was dead for the first time. I started a new game on Torment IV, but quickly gradually dropped it to Torment I.

Diablo 3 - Cohen at 50

Pictured: Cohen at the moment of his retirement.

At this difficulty, I got to the point of rescuing Cain in the cathedral and there’s actually a hint of a challenge and strategy in boss fights. There’s also a lot of gating similar to raid gating in World of Warcraft, meaning you sometimes simply need to keep playing to make your character stronger in order to have an easier time with a fight. Basically, part of the challenge is player skill and strategy, but a big part is simply time.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

I’m retiring Cohen at level 50, with Cain alive, not killed by an annoying witch that came out of nowhere, because that’s the story I prefer.