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 Many skills for each class have been re-worked, stupid penalties and silly design decisions have been rescinded, and a better loot drop system has been patched in (dubbed “loot 2.0”) that makes most item drops relevant to the actual character you are playing, rather than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.
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.