About a week ago, a friend asked whether I was interested in trying Diablo III again, as apparently they had made a great deal of changes and he wanted to see if it was in a playable state yet. After I stopped laughing I said sure, why not, even though I fully expected to be playing the game for less time than it would take to actually download it. A week later and pretty much all I have been playing is Diablo III. What is this devilish sorcery, and what happened?

To backtrack slightly: Diablo III blew at launch. Stupid always-on DRM? Check. Pay to win (through the auction house)? Check. Frustrating design and gameplay mechanics? Check. Not fun to play? Check, check and check. One of my first articles for OnlySP was a takedown of Diablo III, and it wasn’t pretty. It didn’t help Blizzard any that Torchlight II was released just a few months later, and was considered by many to be a better Diablo III than Diablo III itself, and at a third of the price, too. Still though, such an unmitigated failure for Blizzard was rare, and they actually started looking into why this was. Depending on whom you believe, Jay Wilson, the unpopular game director of Diablo III either resigned or was asked to step down in January 2013 (and that may or may not have been related to this), and Diablo III‘s auction house has been closed. Many skills for each class have been re-worked, stupid penalties and silly design decisions have been rescinded, and a better loot drop system has been patched in (dubbed “loot 2.0″) that makes most item drops relevant to the actual character you are playing, rather than with one eye on how much they could sell for on the auction house.

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Frankly, I have been shocked by how much fun the game is to play now; the change is like night and day. There was no greater critic of Diablo III than me (unlike most of my friends I barely touched the first two games, so didn’t have any rose-coloured glasses to distort my judgement), and if you had told me just a couple of weeks ago that not only would I be playing Diablo III again but I’d actually be enjoying it, I would have thought you were some kind of space alien here to scoop out my brains and/or re-populate your planet with my genes. At the end of the day, Activision-Blizzard are one of the largest gaming behemoths in the world, and if something goes wrong (and in Diablo III it went very wrong) they have the resources to both find out why and fix it, if they can. The fact that they have done so redeems some of my faith in them as a company, that they would be willing to overhaul such large parts of the game post-release. Of course, part of this is to get you interested in the game again to make you want to buy the expansion Reaper of Souls, but still, it wasn’t cheap for them to do this. They themselves are responsible for releasing the crappy version in the first place, so swings and roundabouts here, but credit where it’s due.

To anyone who thought Diablo III sucked at launch (and I’m going to guess this is a lot of you), I’d strongly encourage you to give it another go. If you already own it then you’ve got nothing to lose but your bandwidth, and you’ll now find a more engaging game, the death of the auction house (soon… soon…), better difficulty scaling, new skills and abilities, and overall, just more enjoyment. It took Blizzard almost two years, but they got there in the end.

  • http://www.grayski.co.uk GrayW

    I also stayed away from Diablo 3 at launch and went to the Torchlight camp, which I still enjoy greatly! I did however finally purchase Diablo 3 with the news of all these changes when they did a price drop and I’ve also found myself playing it quite a lot.

  • CouchGlue

    Diablo II was my first video game love. Sure, if were were being honest, it was A Link to the Past, but this was my first big boy video game. I remember borrowing the game and expansion from a friend and did not stop playing until Counter Strike took over my life. Oh man, was I excited about the next installment. I waited patiently, knowing that what came out had to be at least twice as good as Diablo II. I trusted in Blizzard because. Release day came, I borrowed my roommates computer to check it out, played for 5 hours strait and put the game down, never to play again. How could they have strayed so far from the formula that was so addictive and successful? Is it really worth going back? What platform did you play this on? Will the 360 game play experience be good enough to give it another try? I would go the PC route but alas, no computer.

  • AuronX

    I absolutely positively agree with the authors assertion here.

    With a slight caveat; When I read the following line, and I quote,

    “unlike most of my friends I barely touched the first two games, so didn’t have any rose-coloured glasses to distort my judgement”

    I felt a little… offended? I understand your intent but that statement sounded strange to me.

    I am a major diehard fan of the Diablo series, of which I have been a part of since the original Diablo for the PC. (Reading the books, keeping up with the lore etc)

    Words cannot describe the excitement, glee and just raw jubilation I felt during their announcement of Diablo years ago, furthermore the 2008 demos and gameplay footage had me salivating.

    Collectors Edition reserved the minute it was revealed to the US.

    I played the beta and was deeply saddened. Where had all the game mechanics gone that were previewed back in 2008? Where was the deeply elaborate and intricate rune system for skills?

    I told myself that it was Beta… perhaps Blizzard didn’t want to reveal the REAL game. Yes! That must be it!

    Then…. 2012 happened. The always-on DRM didn’t irk me as much as others, however I was perturbed by:
    The auction house
    Error #37 (granted all games suffer new-game jitters, although then again this is Blizzard, with the money, power and knowledge to know that you’re going to sell 20 bazillion copies… so it might be a good idea to add a couple more servers, right?)
    The henchman system
    The loot system
    The art style
    Watching as wizards and demon hunters easily solo’d inferno while certain classes *cough* monk *cough* struggled.

    I felt…. betrayed. Forgive me for the dramatic words… but the game definitely did not sit well with me. I quit back in July of 2012 and hadn’t touched the game AT ALL until this week.

    And you know what? I absolutely LOVE the game. The game is fun. I AM ACTUALLY having fun! Gee Golly. It blows my mind.

    • AuronX

      Ironic about what Jay Wilson said in the Facebook posting years ago.

      When I read his comment, I though to myself, “no fuck YOU loser”.

      I didn’t think he was a douche until I saw his reaction and stance concerning the opinion among fans in regards to the art changes.
      He seemed to be mocking fans and had this general “fuck you” attitude about him. This was only further cemented when he made the comment in Facebook.
      Which was pretty fucked up considering that Brevik wasn’t being an asshat; Brevik had tact, was respectful but also very honest and direct in his critique and he was far, far from being wrong.

  • benbenkr

    Touched it the other day for an hour, after the loot 2.0 update and stuff…. was yawning by the time I reached the catacombs.

    Meh.