For the past several weeks I’ve been lost in the realm of Sanctuary, hunting demons with a bow and arrow. With the help of my bat companion and the strong will of Kormac the Templar, I’ve defeated the forces of the Burning Hells multiple times. I’ve encountered treasure unimaginable, a whimsical land of ponies and rainbows, and creatures with abilities and powers that made the Lord of Terror seem like child’s play.
It’s been mostly fun. Mostly. It’s almost time to move on though, and it’s bittersweet. I thought I would be playing this game for much, much longer than I’ll end up playing it. Am I rage quitting due to all the changes from the last patch? Not really. I’ve just reached that point where I’m ready to move on. Diablo 3 did not ensnare me like its predecessor did so many years ago. I’m older, maybe a bit more mature (big maybe), and my taste in gaming I think has evolved more than I realized. But it’s not only that. Diablo 3 is both everything and nothing like the legendary game before it.
I’ve had fun playing the game, there’s no doubt about it. It’s been a nice change of pace from other games.
The always online bit didn’t sit well with me for one reason only; hardcore mode. With gameplay being subject to possible lag spikes at any corner it becomes entirely undesirable to play Hardcore mode. You can’t kill what you can’t see. In a game where fast reactions can make the difference between life and death you just can not have lag spikes added to the mix. With Hardcore items and economy being entirely separate from the normal mode economy I have to wonder why they couldn’t just make Hardcore an offline only mode.
Oh, right. The hardcore auction house.
The skill system in Diablo 3 is at first glance rich and diverse. You could go with “optimal” builds or if you’re feeling up to something a little crazy you could go with an aberrant build. For instance, I went through a good part of the game without using a ranged weapon on my Demon Hunter. I wanted her to be more a master of traps and devices, and there were skills and runes that made it work. My demon hunter played through all of Hell throwing grenades while setting down spike traps and caltrops. Should I get cornered, my Grenadier ability let me go out with a satisfying bang that took out my foes with them. My aberrant build was full of finesse, flavor, and fun…
Inferno punishes aberrant builds harshly, and that was disappointing. I found that if I didn’t have Smoke Screen available I wouldn’t have a chance. Not only that… sometimes two or three smoke screens in a row weren’t enough. That led to me using Preparation to get more discipline. Goodbye caltrops, goodbye Sentry. My crafty trapper had to take up a bow and arrow and kite her way to victory.
I was still failing hard in my first few days in Inferno. I spent about a week farming Act 3 & 4 in Hell difficulty only to find upgrades were practically nowhere to be found. It was frustrating. What was I going to do?
Oh, right. The auction house.
With the help of the auction house I got the gear needed to kill them before they killed me. I didn’t stack attack speed like most demon hunters did, and I’m glad I didn’t. To me it was as simple as this; would I rather kill things in two to three fast shots or one stronger shot? I guess that’s why the IAS nerf didn’t bother me too much.
Speaking of which, 1.03 didn’t bother me as much as it did the majority of the community. Did I die a lot? Sure. Did I lose dps? Some, but not a ton. Did the higher repair costs bug me? A little, but I had some luck on my side by finding a few legendary pieces of gear which sold altogether for about seven million gold…
… on the auction house.
Do you kind of see where I’m going here? Diablo 3 is everything and nothing like Diablo 2 because of the existence of the auction house. I’m not even talking about the real money one. The auction house has had a more profound impact on the game than any other element.
Did I use crafters much? Nope. The auction house had items that were effective and cheaper than random gambles made at the blacksmith. Gems were cheaper to buy than they were to make all the way up to Inferno, and the only way to progress beyond Star quality gems was to be extremely lucky or use the Auction House to buy the expensive gem pattern you wanted.
Gearing up my character was not a slow, steady climb like it was in Diablo 2. The auction house gave me access to instant upgrades in the stats I specifically sought after. While I needed that gear to do as well as I did in Inferno, I have to admit that the access to instant upgrades like that is a huge factor in why I feel like I’ve played enough of the game for now. My progression has stopped at Act 2, and I’ll tell you what… it’s not due to gear. Inferno Act 2 requires skill and reflexes that I don’t think I have… and the repair costs in the land of 1.03 don’t do anything to encourage me to work harder on it.
I would have reached this point eventually… but without the auction house I think it would have taken much longer to reach this point.
We were told not too long ago that you would have the same chance to find a legendary item in a barrel or on a monster. The devs felt this was important to the experience, and they’re right.
So, 1.03 happened and all of those words got stepped on and covered in dirt. Chests don’t get the benefits of magic find? Really? I understand barrels, pots, logs and such… but treasure chests? Why is this happening? It’s happening because everyone has quick and easy access to magic find gear sets that would have taken much longer to put together had the auction house not existed. We are creatures of habit, and one of our greatest habits is to find the path of least resistance. If someone can use the Auction House to stack their magic find to improve their chances to find treasures on objects that won’t kill them, then they’ll do it.
As a result, the 1.03 changes to finding loot off of objects kills one of the fundamental parts of this style of game. Why take the time to explore every nook and cranny when there’s far less incentive to?
You know what though? All said, I still had fun playing this game, and I imagine I’ll revisit it every now and then to see if the iteration from the devs has done anything to improve the experience. I thought I would stay in Sanctuary longer but it’s not the end of the world. I see Mists of Pandaria raid testing is coming up after all.
Diablo 3 was worth every penny I paid for it. Yep. Every penny. Zero. By enrolling in the WoW Annual Pass program I got Diablo 3 for free. In retrospect I’m glad it worked out that way. I think I’d be a bit more irritated with the game if I paid sixty dollars for it. As a “free” game I don’t feel too angry or betrayed by how the gameplay turned out far different from my expectations.
If there’s anything I’m angry about in regards to Diablo 3 it’s not the auction house. It’s the… topic of the email I’m about to write to a certain dazed and confused wizard.
In the wake of patch 1.03 to Diablo 3, the host of the Shattered Soulstone podcast posted a blog on his personal experiences in Inferno. Check out his blog at neviksnotebook.com. Be sure to check out the Shattered Soulstone podcast also on iTunes or shatteredsoulstone.com. Who knows, in a future podcast you may even find out what I hated most about Diablo 3. If the email doesn’t pop up there you’ll get to see it here soon. What I hate most about Diablo 3 really deserves its own post.