Most of us know the sad story of Diablo 3. It was an immensely hyped game leading up to it’s release, and everything shown for it implied it would be worth the wait, that long wait that preceded every major Blizzard release. A few warning signs tipped us off that not everything was shiny, like the always-on DRM, and systems like the Auction House interfered (to me, at least) with some defining series and genre staples.
And then it launched, with it came the now-infamous Error 37 that barred players from entry, as a result of the server issues that plagued the release. Anyone who used the internet around that time most likely knows about it, and it was a huge first blow to the game’s reputation.
Unfortunately, the always-online thing hasn’t changed, with Blizzard still being very defensive about the issue.
The Auction House was another point of serious contention. For the few of you who are uneducated, the Auction House allowed the player to purchase new equipment with gold or actual people dollars, instead of hoping the right thing will drop from enemies in-game. The auction house cut out the random chance nature of equipment finding, presumably to reduce the need for grinding.
To me, though, the Diablo series and dungeon crawlers in general were always about the drive to find new equipment. Seeing that special item drop in a pile of blood that turns your average hero into a steamrolling force (at least for a few levels) created the central thrill, the driving exhilaration to keep going.
“The perfect helmet was just a few enemy mobs away, I can feel it!” turned into “Nah that’s okay I’ll just buy one. It has the exact stats I’m looking for.”
Without thinking too much about the logistics of finding magical bracers in the stomach of goat-wizards, discovering awesome loot empowers the player and makes them feel like they earned the cool swag that made them badasses. With the Auction House, it cut away that thrill, and it turned into Diablo Ebay. Sure, you still discovered cool stuff, but it probably wasn’t the most ideal thing that you could have at that time, so its value was tarnished.
It’s a good thing they’re taking it out, then! Whether it’s because Blizzard saw how it affected the overall fun of the game or they got tired of the hate, they are taking out the Auction House when the expansion, Reaper of Souls, gets released.
Which is great.
It’s weird to think that a removal of a feature would improve a game, but they’ve discovered a way.
But that’s not all!
The difficulty system has been revamped, in a way that greatly reduces the repetitiveness of the old way. Before, to advance to a new difficulty, the one before it had to be beaten. This meant you had to beat the game 4 times to get to the end.
I dunno, man, but I have other games to play. I have that huge backlog to think about, before I beat a game multiple times. Once or twice was enough for me, before.
Now, though, the difficulty can be set from level one. The harder you go, the better gear you find, the more experience you get, and the amount of replays required drops to a comfortable 0. It’s found it’s balance, it only took multiple years to get there.
The loot drop system is even different. Trips back to town to unload inventory is kept to a minimum, and every drop feels meaningful. That’s not to say everything you’re going to find will be good or usable, but most things are worth inspecting, and it becomes less of a numbers comparing game.
Blizzard has clearly listened. This is a wonderful example of fans shaping a game, and with the upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion, Diablo 3 finally feels like a complete, well-crafted game. It’s a shame that it took so long to get there, but for those who have lost interest along the way, I implore you to give it another look.
Make sure to bring some friends, though.