There are a couple of things that made me fall in love with Diablo 2 and most of those things were present in Diablo 3 at first. Blizzard has done a 180 on a few of those things during Diablo 3’s lifetime which morphed it from a game I once enjoyed to a game I can barely stomach. Diablo has always had easy to get into, fast paced action combined with deep, customizable characters that pulled equally from both the choices you made with your character’s skills and the equipment you found and chose to use. Diablo 3 has actually improved on the playability of the Diablo series so I actually have zero issues with that aspect of D3
Good gear was hard to find in Diablo 2 (legitimately anyways). Top end elite gear and high end runes were extremely uncommon and finding these items felt very rewarding, often significantly changing how people played their characters (people would frequently make a new character entirely for those newly found items). It took time and dedication to get top tier Items in Diablo 2, so much so that the majority of D2 players would probably never obtain the best items legitimately. This created a sense of awe and wonder when you happened across people with these items in games. Diablo 3 had this at the start but needing to put any significant effort into getting character defining equipment has been eliminated. D3 now showers you with gear and provides multiple ways to target specific items letting people fully gear a new seasonal character in their preferred gear setup within days of a season starting. From there on out it’s simply finding stronger versions of those items so you can grind your way towards GRift 150 (or have they increased that?).
This leads to difficulties. Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 had very specific, strict difficulties (as did Diablo 3 at launch). Each of these difficulties had their own quality of equipment that was possible to find. You need to progress through the difficulties and farm the hardest content for the best gear and that felt rewarding. I myself have never killed the Ubers or gotten a torch in Diablo 2, I was never able to get good enough gear (I played legitimately and on hardcore mode), but that fact that there was content too hard for me made the game feel like there was still something to accomplish, that there were still goals for me to attain if I could put in enough time and effort. That’s another thing that’s been lost in Diablo 3. We’re up to what? 15 torment difficulties and 150 Grift levels? You can pick and choose the optimal difficulty for your character and grind out those upgrades at your leisure, no challenges or obstacles in your way. I do realize they’ve implemented a required Grift of 70 before you can get primal items and you need higher Grifts to upgrade gems further which are actually steps in the right direction, but it still ultimately translates into simple numeric upgrades to the same standard gear you get in the first couple of days in a new season.
All that being said, I realize this is only my opinion and I expect people to disagree with it (since I’ve heard repeatedly that Diablo 3 is “good” now and how it was bad at launch). I know one of the counter-arguments has been that people feel cheated having character playstyles locked behind gear walls but I feel that having a handful of overtly powerful playstyles locked behind gear walls is exactly the kind of feature that excites me. I’d also like to believe that because so many people have come up in support of classic WoW, a game where you need to wait around and find groups, a game where end game content isn’t accessible to every player and where top end gear will only be obtained by the top end players, that there is also a group of players like me who would like to see Diablo 4 to go back to its roots in these aspects and stop hand-holding its players.
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