Like many of you, I have logged thousands of hours across many Action RPG games–Diablo 2 (~100), Diablo 3 (~2,000), Path of Exile (~500), Grim Dawn (~200), and recently, Wolcen (~50). My introduction to hack-and-slash RPG was a gem from the 2000's; Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest, on Playstation 2. I was maybe 11 when I discovered that game, and I was hooked.
In my time playing ARPG's (which, admittedly, has not been nearly as long as many of you readers), I have continually been disappointed by the same thing: the flow of combat. Too often, games market themselves as having extremely high build diversity, but having extremely simple combat.
Ask yourself: how many times have you played a character through endgame which had only 1 damaging ability, 1 movement-related ability like a teleport, and a then a few auras to buff them, or a pet, or something? This happens all the time in Path of Exile. What is "build variety" if 70% of builds just end up having the same core gameplay loop: press 1, 1, 1, 1, press 2 to teleport to next pack, repeat–and the only real difference is the animations of your characters and abilities?
I understand that many people enjoy ARPG's for exactly this reason. "The point isn't the combat; it's the loot" the may say, or "I play ARPG's because of the mindless grind, not in spite of it." And that is great. There is nothing wrong with these positions. But it would be excellent if ARPG's genuinely did live up to their stated mantra of "variety is the spice of life"–in short, why can't an ARPG be designed which satisfied me, and also satisfied everyone who wants simple combat? That would be real variety.
Let's talk about World of Warcraft. WoW has excellent combat. The damage rotations of damage-dealers (DPS) range from fairly complicated (most rogue specs) to very simple (retribution paladin). But all classes require the user to use different abilities at different times. Even if you're playing the simplest class (ret paladin), you are still required to have some minimum amount of knowledge in order to properly utilize your character–you are required to make compelling decisions about what buttons to press, and when.
I want to play an ARPG that provides me with compelling decisions about what buttons to press, and when. I want to have to build up my rage bar in order to use hard-hitting abilities, or manage my mana in a meaningful way, like with the Arcane Mage in WoW or the Black mage in FFXIV. I want combo point systems, like the Rogue in WoW. I want to use different ability rotations depending on if I'm in an AOE situation versus a single target situation.
My hope is that Diablo 4 will provide me with these experiences.
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