First up, I'd just like to say how absolutely ecstatic I am with the item changes they've brought forward in this quarterly update.
I'm probably a player in a very small minority who has seen how the itemisation has evolved in Diablo titles from literally 1.0 of Diablo 1.
I remember oldschool Zodiac rings, plates of the whale, rare pikes in Vanilla D2, 1.08 Ark's valor, Cruel Colossus Blades, the supremacy of DR items in 1.09 (D2's golden age), the rise of runewords in 1.10, the janky hard cooldown reduction items in vanilla D3, and the total domination of sets in RoS.
I've seen it all.
To cut straight to the meat and potatoes of my point – Uniques are absolutely critical because of one primary thing: Baseline item value.
MFing in d2 was a surprisingly engaging grind, simply for the fact that when you kill Meph for that 15th time in a day and you see that golden Shako, you immediately know that you've found an item of value – it doesn't matter how the variable stats roll on certain uniques, as even a low rolled unique essentially dictated the open market value, not if the item has any value to a player.
This excitement is strong enough to be a persistent memory for players, if they happen to find an exceptionally rare item. An example:
I'm in my 30's now, and don't game all that much – most of my friends are at a similar point in their life, but there's occasions where we catch up and see what we're all up to in the gaming sphere. A couple of these friends were around in the D1 days, and every time I mention i've started a new season in D3 to one particular friend, he tells me the same story every time:
'Hey, you remember that time in d1 where I got a grandfather to drop from a barrel?'
Yes, James. We all remember. We also always remember every time you play a diablo game and you obsessively break every single barrel in every.single.room.
For me, this perfectly illustrates the item permanence and value placed on the player when they get that one drop. I've had the same level of excitement getting my first Eagle Horn, Vamp gaze, Gryphon's Eye and 20% FCR/res/life/+skills amulets.
This kind of excitement even extends to Diablo 3, as even though it was a little more prevalent in Vanilla, where finally finding something of value could allow you to build wealth, even RoS build required items at the start of a season will give that little pang of dopamine.
One thing they rightly pointed out in the update is that they don't want an item quality to invalidate all items – Uniques are in a good spot, as even D3 has limited slots for placing legendaries, allowing you to gap-fill with a set requirement or in d2's case, some well rolled rings/ammy/circlet.
The primary issue is that I have the distinct impression that d4 will have the same problem as d3 – legendaries will always supercede rares, simply and only because of the legendary affix. If stat line rolls are equal, magic and rares can't compete. Have the stat line for magic and rares too high, and we're in a diablo 3 vanilla situation.
Hell, once 1.10 dropped in d2, any chance of something like a CCB, or even a large catalogue of uniques you could find were superseded by incredibly powerful runewords.
I'm optimistic, but the balance between stat lines, leg affixes and base item values on uniques needs to be spot on.
I hope they spend the time to do it right.
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