Happy news for Diablo fans, for both the ones who stay loyal to 2 and newcomers who like the third one; the promised changes are coming into effect.
Yesterday, Blizzard released the patch, which is something of a bridge to the upcoming expansion, Reaper of Souls. And that’s the best thing about it – with this patch, I already feel like I got the expansion, as all the promised revisions made it in, just without the brand new content – the new Crusader, leveling to 70, Act V, etc. But the loot system is reworked, majority of skills is changed dramatically, difficulty settings are different, and the game just feels more alive than before.
After a lengthy Battle.net download and optimization of the game (which was great, since now Diablo III runs much smoother on my laptop), I was greeted by a bunch of splash screens that explain the new additions. Menus are different, they look a lot better, and oddly enough, the splash screen on launch of D3 shows the Reaper of Souls logo, as though I’ve already purchased it.
Diving into my favorite character, the Wizard, I immediately looked at skills. Most of them had a flashing “NEW!” sign, indicating that there’s a new rune modification for it. This is what I love about the patch. Again, speaking just for the wizard, but it seems Blizzard has taken great steps to streamline different builds and make skills much more fun than before. For instance, it’s a lot easier to make an elemental build, as many more of Wizard’s spells cover the various elements. So Magic Missle can turn into D2’s Glacial Spike, letting you freeze enemies, or into Conflagrate, a stacking fire damage-over-time effect that goes through enemies. Gone is the Venom Hydra, which, flavor-wise, probably doesn’t make much sense, replaced by a fire one with a similar effect. Arcane Orb is one of my most-used skills, and I’m happy to see it has different elemental versions. Yep, the Frozen Orb is back, and while I don’t feel it looks as dazzling as the original, it’s great to have in my frost build. Otherwise, you can try out the fire version, which explodes effectively and leaves a fire wall in its wake.
I tried out both a fire and frost build, and had a lot of fun with both. It’s great to be able to angle most of your skills to a given element, even the Familiar. Using Comet, which I believe is slightly cheaper, and now has a chance to freeze enemies on impact, I eliminated large groups of enemies easily, trapping them in Blizzards with Comets and Frozen Orbs. Works great, feels fresh and fun.
A lot of the UI and menus is streamlined. You have a handy map now to let you select way point destination, it fits the Diablo 3 aesthetic well. Almost all items that drop are now automatically identified, which I found sort of weird, the exception being legendary items. I found a legendary single-handed mace with strength, but the game says “account bound” on the item. I can’t trade it? Not sure if this is new. Shame, because I’d love to give it to my brother, who plays a Barbarian.
And just as promised, there’s far less loot, and my impression is that it is almost 90% geared to your class. Almost every item I found was tailored to the Wizard, very often giving extra % damage to a particular skill. While that’s a lot less boring that just pluses to intelligence or critical hit, since you can gear up more in accordance to your build, it’s still very stat driven and doesn’t feel as good as the loot in D2. It’s still early to tell, though, how much the loot has changed. But I was able to find a few things that are slightly better.
As for stats, they’re even easier to understand now, since there are simplified “healing” and “toughness” numbers, grouping a couple other stats into one number. The Paragon system is nice, and even though the additions you make to stats are very small, it’s nice to have points to put in something you like. You can increase your crit chance, amount of Arcane Power, decrease cooldowns, etc, all in accordance with the particularities of your build.
Coming back to the “streamlining,” D3 seems to aim to be even more accessible than before, which worries me slightly. For instance, you can revive on your corpse now, a few seconds after dying, in the same spot. You can lower the difficulty at any time. I still died a few times, and it’s hard to judge whether the game overall became too easy or too hard, but I just worry about it being too simple. Doing quests now also randomly hands you a yellow item, which is nice, since I’m pretty sure some players complained that quest rewards were useless – but again, it just feels a little automated.
That’s it for some early impressions, and in summary, D3 already feels plenty more fun and intriguing than before, and it looks like Blizzard is getting the game on a good track. I know I’ll be getting Reaper of Souls, anyway.