Building A Better Diablo 3
In about six weeks, Blizzard will launch Reaper of Souls, the first expansion pack for Diablo 3. I've spent the last few weeks playing in the beta for RoS, and while I normally hold an article this extensive for a launch, there's enough locked-in differences to be worth discussing at this stage.
This new expansion comes with the usual slew of goodies -- a new Act for the game, new quests, a new enchanting ability, and a new skill for each existing class, as well as a new Crusader class to experiment with.
Fixing Diablo III's Core Problems
Diablo 3 has had something of a mixed run. The game sold extremely well, but it didn't enjoy the staying power of its predecessors. It copied Diablo 2's difficulty structure -- beat the game once, and the only thing to do afterwards was to start over again at a higher difficulty level. The game's design suffered from several significant problems, including:
Weak itemization: In Diablo 3's Normal difficulty, only two stats seriously mattered: your primary attribute (either Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity) and Vitality. By Nightmare difficulty, players had to start concerning themselves with various types of magical damage resistance. Because Diablo 3's skill tree is static and all damage is scaled to weapon damage, the only thing that matters is pushing your total damage level higher. Your critical hit chance and critical hit damage were still important, especially for Demon Hunters, but too much of the game was directly linked to a bare handful of stats.
Good equipment, generally speaking, was equipment that had your primary stat on it. Bad equipment was everything else.
The Auction House: Diablo 3's much-discussed Auction House (AH) was meant to give players more flexibility and freedom by alleviating the stress of item hunting. It backfired. Because item drop rates were relatively low, players had little choice but to use the AH for equipping themselves, particularly at higher difficulties. The best way to advance your character wasn't to kill Belial, Azmodan, or Diablo himself, but to sit in the AH interface watching for just the right item to pop at just the right moment.
Real money only made it worse. I bought 25 million gold at one point and had a great time outfitting my Barbarian, followed immediately by the depressing knowledge that the best thing I could do to improve his gear further would be to buy everything I wanted on the AH. It was Diablo: Ferengi Edition. That's when I quit playing.
To Blizzard's credit, it has tried to address these problems already. The company introduced alternate level advancement via the Paragon system, it buffed legendary items to make them more competitive with top-end rare drops, and it introduced new recipes and events since 2012. Reaper of Souls, however, is easily the largest full-scale overhaul to date.