Resurrection Post: Diablo 3: Not Broken, But Could Use Some Fixin’

UPDATE: Given that Season 5 is just about ready to wrap up, I figured I’d take a quick look back at an old past I did, to see how it washed out. Almost a year ago I leveled a couple of complaints at D3, not really expecting much change. I decided to rehash that, and discovered they almost took my primary suggestions.

Regarding Rifts, they implemented Greater Keystones almost exactly as I suggested (except for giving you a new stone if you beat the clock.) Realm of Trials is gone, and while I suggested and would have been happy to see it retooled into a horde-mode, I don’t entirely miss it.

So far as the Bounties, the addition of act specific crafting mats and the Cube to use them with has solved the issue of staying in one Act quite nicely. Would still like to see a new set introduced, but given all the tweaking they do each Season to existing sets, it might be a little much at this point. So I guess they get a pass.

Central question? Is Diablo III fixed? Well, I know I’m in the minority, but as the title suggests, I didn’t think it was nearly as broken as some folks did. But all in all, I think it’s certainly steadily improving… Which, given that I didn’t think it was that awful to begin with, is 100% good news in my camp.

I may not play it as much – actually managing to get work done on a manuscript every day, having a job I actually enjoy, and keeping up with SMITE and The Division cuts into hack-slash-loot time – but I still love it.

What about the rest of you? Any Diablo III players out there? How do you feel about all the changes going on? Something you think still needs fixing? Let me know down below!

(For those interested in ancient history, the original post, unaltered, appears below.)

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My love of loot grinds and “click-to-kill” games is a well-known quality. I’ve been addicted to them from their early ancestors in the form of Roguealikes, straight on through to Diablo III. But I don’t fit in well with my contemporaries, as I seem to be much more forgiving when it comes to games being different; I heard all the shrieks of outrage regarding D3 and its departures from the way Diablo II did things, but didn’t care. I enjoyed the game, anyway. Still do. Then went back and tried to play D2 again, and my soul hurt, as I sat there saying to myself “People honestly think this is a better game?”

Much head shaking ensued.

Now, despite the thousands of hours spent on D3, the fact that I can sometimes be found streaming it on Twitch, or that I really do consider it superior to most of its competitors in most ways, I don’t think it’s 100% “right.” There’s some things that could use a bit of adjustment. Since I’m interspersing filling out applications and writing with loot-breaks (and pretty much not bothering to sleep), I’ve had more time than usual to think about them. So, despite the fact that Blizzard is unlikely to read these, and that I doubt there’s a huge amount of overlap between “horror fans” and “nuts-and-bolts D3 players,” it’s what I wanted to write about today. So bwa ha!

#1: Keystones, Rifts, Trials

I love Greater Rifts. They are, for all intents and purposes, the endgame of D3. It’s where you want to be, where you earn the most XP and gold, where you find the best and most shinies, and the place where you’ll earn the most ePeen. “Yeah? I cleared GRift 48 today, with 12 minutes left.” “Big deal; I took down GRift 55 with a gimped Inna’s set.” Etc. Etc. They’re basically timed gauntlet-runs with a nasty boss at the end who serves as a giant loot piñata.

Okay, so this was a lame piñata. It was only Torment I, what do you want from me!?

Okay, so this was a lame piñata. It was only Torment I, what do you want from me!?

The problem is that the process is needlessly complex and frustrating. See, to get into a Greater Rift, you need a Greater Rift Key. Which is coded to a given tier of Greater Rift. Assuming you clear a Greater Rift in under 15 minutes, you have the option to either get gear upgrades in the form of Legendary Gems or to upgrade your Key to a higher level. The amount of the upgrade depends on how fast you cleared it. I’m down with that concept. Very risk-vs-reward, especially for Hardcore characters, as you’re never quite sure if pushing for that next difficulty is going to get you killed or take so bloody long to clear that it just isn’t worth doing. But glory and riches await! What to do, what to do!

Okay, so that part’s fine. But to get your first Greater Rift Key (or to replace one if you run away from a Rift, or after you choose to upgrade Gems instead of a Keystone), you have to do a Rift Trial. Which is basically “get assaulted by hordes of enemies; each wave you clear pushes the difficulty up. You have limited time to clear a wave. Fail to clear it, the Trial is over. Here’s a Greater Rift Key, of a level supposedly appropriate to the level of Trial you were able to handle.”

Personally, I enjoy horde mode gameplay. I played way too much Gears of War and Halo: Reach for just one person, primarily due to those kinds of modes. But Rift Trials are just not a fun variant of this. They’re too quick, there’s no real strategy besides “stand in the middle and hope the enemies cluster up or you can force them to, until you start taking too much damage.” Add in the fact that you have to do this step to get a Greater Rift Key… every time you want one… it starts getting tedious and annoying rather than amusing.

Oh, but how do we get to the Realm of Trials? You clear a Nephalem Rift and hope a Keystone of Trials drops. Nephalem Rifts are basically similar to Greater Rifts, but with less loot and tied to the base game difficulty, instead of a scaling model based on how fast and efficiently you clear them. The loot piñata… er… boss at the end has a chance to drop the Trials Keystone.

Aha, but how do we get into a Nephalem Rift? You go do bounties, which are essentially mini-quests scattered throughout the zones. Kill x of y, find x of y, murder this boss, complete this event. That nets you Rift Keystones. Simple enough, and amusing – and at least they change up the geography a bit – but here’s the problem.

There’s four freakin’ steps to play endgame content. That you must do each and every time you want to do it. Now, realistically, by the time you hit a point where you can actually enter Greater Rifts you probably are swimming in Rift Keystones from the leveling process. Plus, Nephalem Rifts still drop loot and provide acceptable XP, so they aren’t a complete waste of time. But then we jam you up with that Trials part. Then you can go play in the place you wanted to go to in the first place.

Do I need to be using a minimum of three inventory slots for this? I think not.

Do I need to be using a minimum of three inventory slots for this? I think not.

My suggestions in this department are simple enough. Take out the middleman. Instead of dropping a Keystone of Trials, have the Nephalem Rift bosses drop Greater Rift Keystones. That’s step 1. You can leave the Keystone Upgrade portion alone, but instead of leaving you with an inventory of assorted Greater Rift Keystones (because Keystones for each Tier of difficulty take up their own slot, you see), when you use it, you pick which level of Greater Rift you want, based on what you have previously qualified for.

Example: Soldano the Monk gets his first Greater Keystone. He pops over, and starts at Tier 1. He clears it, quickly, and doesn’t feel like giving up yet, so upgrades his stone. He gets a replacement Greater Keystone, and has now unlocked up to Greater Rift 11. This is instead of taking away his Level 1 Keystone and giving him a level 11 one. He goes back, using his new Greater Keystone, and is allowed to pick any Tier from 1 to 11. Say he goes for the gold, picks 11, and completes it. Not in record time, but decent enough. He gets a new Greater Keystone and is now qualified for up to Tier 18. Next time he uses a Greater Keystone, he can pick any level between 1 and 18. And so on.

That dodges the lame Realm of Trials, prevents boredom caused by having to clear Greater Rift levels that are serving no purpose except to get to the difficulty he actually wanted (if he had a bad Trial or he’s progressed to the point where you basically have to use the upgrade system instead of the Trials to get to your preferred difficulty of 45+), and allows him to chain difficulty-appropriate Rifts (if he’s farming legendary gems or grinding Blood Shards) without hitting the brick wall or oh-shit moment of “Well, my Keystone is now a higher level than I can hope to clear, guess I go back to step 1,” but still has the “entrance bar” of a Greater Keystone earned from a Nephalem Rift. It also means players of different skill levels (or loot luck) can more easily play together, which the current system really doesn’t work well with.

More efficient, easier inventory management, still the same basic concepts.

I’d also reconfigure the Realm of Trials, keeping it in the game, but making it a more standard horde mode, playable as it’s own gametype. Maybe you get in with a standard Rift keystone, maybe a Greater one, maybe some other mechanic entirely. It doesn’t need to go away; it just needs some retooling and to be removed from the process of trying to play in the Greater Rifts.

That’s issue #1. On to #2.

#2: Bounties

There’s a problem with Bounties in the game. That being, people only do one kind. When you start a fresh game of D3, there are 25 bounties scattered throughout the world. Five to an Act. Finish all five, and Tyreal will give you a Horadric Cache, which drops some Rift Keystones, some Blood Shards, and a random assortment of goodies, including an Act-specific Legendary item. Problem is, the players quickly decided that only two of those items were worth going for: The Ring of Royal Grandeur and Pride’s Fall. Those drop in Act 1 and 3, respectively. The other Act 1 and 3 items aren’t considered interesting or useful, the Act 2 and 5 items are considered junk or not worth hunting, and Act 4 has a chance to drop any of the other Act’s loot, which most people avoid because RNG says the likelihood of getting one of the two “awesome” items is too low compared to the effort. For people like me, who like visiting all the different locations Sanctuary has to offer, if only for a change of scenery – or who think some of the other Acts’ items are actually pretty awesome, such as Soulsmasher – this makes multiplayer an unfun and boring place that consists of “Join a game, blitz the Act 1 bounties – usually with every player going to a different zone, to clear them as quickly as possible but thus not actually playing with the others, thus kinda defeating the purpose – maybe do the Act 3 bounties, leave the game, rinse, repeat.”

Not exactly fun times. Or high on the player interactivity. But unless there’s a compelling reason to grind the other Acts, there’s not really any chance of this changing.

My solution to this one is easy enough. Introduce a new Legendary Set. Make it only drop from Horadric Caches. And then make each Act have one or two pieces of it. Want to complete the set? Best get to trying Bounties in other Acts, then. It’s analogous to World of Warcraft raids; “Oh, you want your top-tier pants? Better go kill Boss X in Raid Y. Want the Helm? That’s from Boss W in Raid Z.” Spreads it out a bit. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a useful set; one that serves as a “pretty” transmog or other cosmetic item, or grants a Conquest Achievement or something else that’s just fluff without tweaking the game mechanics would do the job just fine. People would go do different stuff. Excitement!

In the end though… Diablo III is still fun. Still a great time-sink. And, in this humble writer’s opinion, it’s still an improvement over it’s predecessor and most of the other click-to-kill games currently out there (I’m sorry, Path of Exile does nothing for me, and while The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and it’s sequel are certainly great fun, they didn’t grab me the same way.) So what’s your opinion? What roguealike should I be playing instead? Are my suggested changes crazy and pointless? What would you tweak to “fix” D3? Let us know in the box below! (And don’t forget to subscribe to my Twitch and YouTube channels to watch me fail epically at D3. Like in this video.)

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