I was a huge Diablo 2 fan. In fact, I don’t think I’ve installed a game more times than I did with Diablo 2. It was just one of those games that after having not played it for a year, I could throw it on a computer and play it again for a couple of months. One of the first things I did anytime I came across a shitty lap top was to ask “But can it play Diablo 2?”. If it couldn’t, I wanted nothing to do with it.
I loved Diablo for several reasons:
– The thrill of looking for kick ass loot (My friend traded for a HoZ one night, and I hadn’t gotten one yet, and I didn’t talk to him for 8 hours. I took that shit seriously. If you know what a HoZ is, then we can be friends, by the way.)
– Being a bad ass, mowing down demons and undead and cows left and right. A Javazon tearing up Cows in the Cow level, man, that was one of the best things ever. Until you saw lightning come out of the Cow King, then you got the eff out of there.
– Finding gear that looked cool. Phase swords, I loved them.
– Testing out new builds and seeing if I could find a new way to make a kick ass character. Or testing out proven builds and just dominating with them. I loved my Hammerdin. Loved him. I can still hear the *whomp whomp whomp* of his hammers…
So it’s safe to say I was excited when I heard Diablo 3 was finally coming. When Diablo 3 finally arrived, and I played it (a week after release, as the servers were down most of the time), I was underwhelmed. I was underwhelmed, and that quickly turned to annoyance, which quickly turned into anger.
There are many reasons I hated Diablo 3 (itemization, gear wall, burst damage was too high, gear was more important than skills, forced story mode and not being able to switch between acts, Act 2, the monsters that shot bees out of their mouths, the AH item balancing, the legendary drop rate, etc), but the main reason I hated Diablo 3 was because it felt like it was made to spite the memory of Diablo 2. The spirit of Diablo 2 was nowhere to be found in Diablo 3.
One of the main things I remember when reading Jay Wilson on the forums, was how actively he and his team wanted to let you know what “fun” was, and how you were wrong about enjoying Diablo 2. There were countless comments of “Well we didn’t think this was very fun” to explain some game design decision they made, or when someone would ask why a Diablo 2 feature wasn’t in the game, they would tell you your memory of Diablo 2 wasn’t correct, and that that feature wasn’t very…..”fun”. You liked boss farming? Sorry, you’re wrong, that wasn’t fun. You enjoy overpowered builds? Nope, sorry, that isn’t fun, that’s gone now. You like putting your own stats into your character? Nah, that wasn’t fun, it was tedious. You basically got told you were an idiot for ever enjoying Diablo 2.
On one hand, I understand a team wanting to put their stamp on things. You’re taking on a giant IP, you want to make your mark, but at the end of the day, you have to respect the source. It would be like if JJ Abrams made a new Star Wars movie but took out lightsabres and replaced them with a neon green golf club, because you were wrong about thinking lightsabres were fun, that lightsabres were too overpowered anyways.
So Diablo 3 just chipped away at Diablo 2 features until eventually we got something that didn’t resemble the Diablo franchise at all. It was so bad that even things like elemental damage effects, a staple of any game, much less Diablo 2, was taken out of the game. Diablo 3 ended up feeling like World of Warcraft had more influence on it then Diablo 2 did. A prime example of this would be that “kiting” became a term used in Diablo. I never want to hear kiting being used in Diablo. Yes, if you’re fighting a hard mob, sure, run around a bit, keep moving. But in Diablo 3 release, you were spending five minutes running around a god damn map, trying to take down three monsters. You went from destroying crowds of enemies and feeling like a bad ass in Diablo 2, to running around screaming as you tried to avoid being killed by three monsters. It was deflating.
Diablo under Jay Wilson has too many frustrating moments to recount, (How did they decide to implement the hardest game mode? They got a version of the game where there testers couldn’t finish it, then they “doubled” the difficulty without further testing it, then released it. “And then we double it” became an internet meme for quite a while.) but the end result was they came across as a team that hated being in the shadow of Diablo 2. Things came to a head one day when David Brevik, a co-founder of Diablo 2 maker Blizzard North, gave an interview where he politely critiqued Diablo 3, and Jay Wilson responded by saying “Fuck that loser.”
Obviously if you have spent a lot of time on a game, you will probably be defensive if you view someone as attacking it. However, it just further pushed the idea that instead of learning from Diablo 2, instead of using mistakes and successes learned from Diablo 2, the dev team for Diablo 3 was intent upon making their own mark on the gaming world, and when it fell flat, they didn’t respond by fixing it, they responded by digging their heels in and defending their vision. Instead of fixing mistakes, they would defend themselves by talking about how many copies of Diablo 3 they sold. Well I’m sorry, the Diablo 2 IP was so strong, I could have taken a shit in a box and put it on shelves, and I would have made a lot of money. “New items in Diablo 3: The poop sword!”
The fact the player base dwindled rapidly in the months after release showed more about the state of the game than the fact they sold a lot of copies on release.
This brings me to today, and the state of Diablo 3 now that Reaper of Souls has been released. Jay Wilson is gone, and now Josh Mosqueira is leading the charge and my initial thoughts on Diablo 3: RoS?
It feels like the game Diablo 3 should have been ON release. Are there flaws? Yes. Can there be improvements? Of course. But the base game is finally fun, and it finally feels like a Diablo game. Things that are awesome:
– The mystic lets you transmogify your gear. What this means is you can make your gear look like any other gear you’ve found. This not only makes finding legendaries even more fun (that flaming sword of flaming death and flaming destruction that has shitty stats but looks amazing? Now you can make your sword you actually use look just like it), but you can now build a character that looks amazing. I went from looking like a homeless man wearing clothes I found at Value Village, to a red skull wearing, spike shoulder having, flaming bow and arrow wielding ass kicker.
– Act V is sublime. From the atmosphere, to the music, to the settings, it feels much more dark and demonic. It’s honestly amazing how much better Act V is compared to all of the first four Acts.
– Boss fights are actually fun. I had more fun fighting the first boss in Act V then I did in any of the boss fights in Acts 1-4. It felt like an epic fight, one where you needed a smoke and a beer afterwards.
– Little things, like having the teleporters in Diablo 2 making a re-appearance in Pandemonium in Act V (another D2 area that looks amazing in D3), or searching through four different caverns looking for the one with the right symbol outside of it, a la Tal Rasha in Diablo 2, made it seem far more like this team gave a wink and a nod to Diablo 2 memories, rather than kicking Diablo 2 in the nuts and spitting on it. Jay Wilson killed off Cain,an icon of the series (“Stay a while, and listen!”), and didn’t even kill him off in an epic send off kind of way. He was killed by a god damn butterfly.
– Adventure Mode makes grinding in the game so much better. It lets you teleport to any of the acts, and it sets random bounties for you to complete. So instead of just grinding out a story line mode, you now get a bounty to go kill a named monster, or maybe clear out a cave, or do a cursed chest event. It keeps things fresh and makes those late night grinding sessions, looking for materials, way more palatable.
– Nephalem Rifts (you open them by using items you get for completing bounties) create randomized levels for you to complete. This means you can end up in an Act 2 area with randomized monsters, or maybe you’ll hit up the level that has 12 treasure goblins running around.
– Whimsyshire, the secret level from Diablo 3, was garbage. It was made in response to people saying Diablo 3 looked to bright and not dark enough (again, the MO of that original team seemed much more of a sarcastic response to the fans then “we’re listening to you” response). The cow level in Diablo 2 was fun because it was packed with monsters you could mow down, and it helped you power level. Again, the Cow Level is huge in Diablo 2 history but it was kind of ignored originally. Well now one of the Nephalem rifts you run into might be filled with cows. It doesn’t happen often, but just the fact you can run into a pseudo cow level is another nice nod to Diablo 2.
As I said, there are some problems. Right now, half the items are bound to your account (you can’t even trade gems, that is just pointless). The theory is that this stops third party sites from selling shit and making money off of Diablo, and that it makes it more rewarding to find your own gear. The problem with this, is that I like to give gear to my friends or help them out with materials, and currently, they are out of luck. The only way they can get an item from me is if they were playing with me when the item dropped, and even then, I only have a two hour window to give it to them. This is frustrating because last night I found an amazing Wizard item, but I can’t give it to my buddy, because it’s account bound. I hope they allow people in clans to trade freely, because as it stands now, it’s too restrictive.
A lot of the legendaries don’t feel very legendary, but again, that is something that they can improve by releasing more unique proccing legendaries down the line. It is deflating to find a legendary only to find out it’s just some shitty belt, but Diablo 2 had it’s share of useless legendaries as well.
That being said, the game finally feels like Diablo, and it is run by a team that you feel will do the Diablo name justice. I had more fun in one night of the expansion than I did in my entire time playing Diablo on release. It’s too soon to be able to tell how much longevity the end game has, and whether the items you try and craft and find will even be worth it, but for now, the fact I am back on master difficulty and I have to work my way up to Torment again, has me excited about building up my gear again in Adventure Mode (the games difficulty ramps up quick quickly once you hit level 65).
As I said, it’s a shame it took this long and an expansion pack to give fans a game that should have been presented on release, but at least they are heading in the right direction. Since it’s Blizzard, you know more expansion packs are coming, so I am excited to see where this team takes the game next.