Why Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is the Best Diablo Yet
To think that I have been a fan of the Diablo franchise for over 17 years speaks volume to the impact it has had on my lifetime of gaming. From my very first moments of encountering The Butcher in the original Diablo and being promptly slaughtered like a cow, to my recent endeavors as a Witch Doctor endlessly farming away for the next best Ceremonial Knife drop, it’s safe to say I’ve seen many, many Diablo updates come and go over the years. Some big, most small, nearly all of them important nonetheless – each and every change to the Diablo universe causes a lot of stir amongst the player base, with a high tendency for negative reactions to occur as a result. The one thing we’ve seen over and over again from the outcries of the many is that the majority of Diablo players hate change.
With Diablo III: Reaper of Souls comes some of the most fundamental alterations to the overall game play experience we have ever seen. This new version of Diablo is attempting to re-invent the franchise in a way that better suits the casual player, as well as Blizzard as a company. With all changes, as previously noted, comes criticism… and it’s safe to say this expansion marks a milestone in overall dissatisfaction from many of it’s “loyal” customers. They all seem to have major issues with the new direction, but one specific item on the list is causing the majority of the uproar.
The core motive for playing Diablo has and always will be loot. No one argues this point, and I think anyone, regardless of their stance on the upcoming expansion, can at least agree on that one basic thought. Loot drops are the center point for the game’s framework, and everything you do save for mindlessly grinding experience points is bent towards finding the next best Legendary-rarity item. This is the game in a nutshell, as it has always been and will continue to be in Reaper of Souls. Kill stuff, get loot.
Beyond that, though, comes a myriad of opinions that too many confuse with facts. The largest of these notions is the mindset of trading being an absolute cornerstone in the Diablo series. With Reaper of Souls, Blizzard has taken a new step, and has modified all high-end loot drops to be bound to the character that finds them, rather than allowing for that character to use said item as a device for trading within a Diablo-driven economy. Naturally, those that consider trading to be absolutely necessary to their enjoyment of the game have lost their minds in rage over it’s removal from the formula, and now consider Reaper of Souls a tremendous failure and/or embarrassment to the Diablo legacy. This is easily found by browsing any number of forum posts that pop up in what seems like every minute of every day, since the recent Patch 2.0.1 launch that has implemented this new system in preparation for the expansion’s launch on March 25th.
When reading these posts, I feel like most of the authors are simply not seeing the big picture regarding what’s at play here. I commonly read them shaking my head, both in disagreement with their core argument and in disapproving of the false notions they are creating by presenting the argument in the first place. Ultimately, it is of my firm belief that both sides of an argument should be properly represented, and as I have grown weary of seeing post after post after post of why this new expansion is the death of Diablo, I have decided to explain to readers why it is, in my opinion, the best update to the Diablo series thus far.
The Big Picture
Before we go into the specifics of Reaper of Souls, I want to take a step back and discuss the REAL obvious reason as to why Blizzard has implemented this change in the first place. While I’m okay with the new direction, and will list off why I think it’s the best change yet, I’m not going to ignore the basics of why they created this new game in the first place. It’s painfully obvious, and anyone thinking their negative input is going to have even the slightest impact on their decision to implement this expansion’s changes really needs to wrap their head around what I’m about to say.
For years now, Diablo has had an in-game economy. Gold, items, powerleveling, you name it – primarily foreign websites have banked on this player-fueled market and turned a profit capitalizing on our basic need to be as powerful as possible, as quickly as possible. As a result, thousands and thousands of players have experienced all sorts of problems relating to transactions with these websites. From account hijacking, to bannings, to being spammed endlessly day in and day out with “chinabot” friend requests and in-game messages, the market provided by an in-game economy has caused Blizzard to hire a Customer Service force unlike anything the gaming world has ever seen. Between the issues caused by World of Warcraft and Diablo web purchases, it’s a shocker Blizzard actually manages to make a profit at all!
With Hearthstone came the first glimpse at the future of Blizzard’s stance on economies within it’s games. Their decision to limit the card collections to the sole purchaser of said cards and not allow for trading amongst it’s players signaled the coming times of peace and quiet within customer service standards. A Hearthstone account has very little to any real world dollar value at all, and as a result there really isn’t all that much desire to attempt to hijack and “hack” accounts by third-party websites for financial gain. It’s a very simple, off the market game and the money they are saving by not having to employ an army of customer service representatives is more than likely putting their profits from the game through the roof.
Now, apply this same basic principal to the upcoming version of Diablo: players will be finding Legendary items during their travels, and just as gold, crafting materials and crafted items – those items are bound to their account. Permanently. There is no more e-market flooding you with requests for gold purchases. There is no more emails from scammers telling you you’re about to be banned unless you supply them with your account information. There is no more e-stores offering every single item in the game at a risk of account deletion. As the list goes on and on, one thing becomes very clear – there is also no more need to hire nearly as many people to cater to these issues as there used to be.
Everyone seems to think this basic change to the game is a result of some masterminded game design direction, and frankly I think they’re wrong. The REAL catalyst to this change was common sense from a business perspective. Their attempt at a Real Money Auction House was their first stab at killing the e-market beast, as they even admitted to it several times themselves. It was unsuccessful, and instead caused more problems than solutions. The RMAH is now closing, and Loot 2.0 is moving in as the second attempt. This time, they will be successful. Are there other reasons as to why this change is a good one? Of course there are, and I’ll get to those in a second. But in the end, the reason negative input regarding the change will fail is because Blizzard is not doing this to satisfy you, they’re doing this to protect you. The e-market monster is a nasty one, and they’re simply tired of it. Frankly, so was I. Good riddance, I say.
Why Diablo II Wasn’t As Good As Everyone Seems To Remember
The biggest point I see brought up in a lot of these posts talking about why the upcoming release “does not hold up to Diablo II in any way” has to do with the notion of why Diablo II was the “best of all time”, and that notion is primarily bent around the importance of trading within the game’s economy.
In Diablo II, there was no RMAH, and as a result players spent countless hours in an in-game trade chat chatroom, mindlessly watching as copy/pasted trade messages were spammed over and over and over in a never ending effort to churn out profitable trades using the items you found. Watching this trade chat was essentially the equivalent of attempting to comprehend the computer screens used in The Matrix, as the chat flew by at such speeds that one usually needed to freeze everything and scroll back when they thought they saw certain keywords. You weren’t actually reading the whole messages, you see, but instead quickly scanning for keywords like “Windforce” or “SOJ” or “Tal Rasha”, as you usually knew what you had and/or what you were looking for, and your trade efforts needed to be as specific as possible. Most players, including this author, spent more time doing this than we did actually playing the game. That is not an exaggeration, I assure you.
While this was unlike anything currently at play in Diablo III, the actuality of it’s meaningfulness is usually very skewed. Choosing to use it in an argument highlighting why it was a better game because of this ignores a whole slew of reasons as to why this inevitably killed the enjoyment of the game for many people.
You see, this trade chat economy was ruthless. It was not kind, it was not new player friendly in any way, and unless you were ready to really commit to it, it would chew your enjoyment up and spit it out in no time.
Items became currency, in that you needed certain items to actually have any sort of market value whatsoever and any other items found were usually worthless. There was a clear line in the sand as to what was good and what was bad and if you tried crossing that line in determining good or bad for yourself, you were often laughed at and disregarded. This had a major effect on your enjoyment of the game itself, as your item drops were no longer anything more than worth something and meaningful or worth nothing and a waste of time. The problem? 99% of the things you found, were worth nothing and a waste of time.
Chasing only the best of the best in Diablo can be a real headache, and it’s certainly not very fun. With an economy in place that is represented by the items themselves, it’s pretty clear that the hardest items to find are usually some of the best, and it’s also overly obvious that Blizzard had no intentions of making them a frequent find for the player. The result of this is many, many countless hours mindlessly grinding the best farm spots for a slim-to-none chance of finding an item anyone actually cares about. It’s not about finding items for you and your character, but only about finding items that fit into the mold of what other players want, and in that… it almost becomes a job. A job with little to any payoff for most.
I spent hundreds of hours in Diablo II and I remember finding one item with any actual market value. One item. That was it. To this day, in any Diablo, I have never found a Stone of Jordan.
How Diablo III Tried to Improve on Diablo II
Blizzard was clearly aware of how the trade chat system worked in Diablo II, and implemented a shiny new auction house in Diablo III to improve the basic structure of the system. As mentioned before, the Real Money version of this was a direct attempt at silencing the third party e-store dealers, but the Gold Auction House was meant to drive the player economy in a similar fashion to Diablo II. Making gold an actual commodity that could be used to buy any item in the game (theoretical) meant that basically anyone could eventually get the hard-to-find items they wanted, if they spent enough time hunting in the wild and amassing currency.
The problem? The Real Money side of the Auction House (and the e-store dealers selling gold) skewed the market for the Gold side, giving players the ability to “buy power” with real world dollars. This had a severe impact on the overall flow of the in-game economy, as real dollars were taking an element out of the economy and replacing it with factors a player could not directly impact with their playing of the game itself. Everything got weird, and – as before – you were right back to only really hunting the “best of the best” in an attempt to have any real foothold in a vast market. The notion of “the best” was also far greater in scope now as well, as the AH allowed for a quick look at hundreds of thousands of items for sale with the click of a few buttons. There were no more secrets as to what was out there. Looting a Legendary item and feeling a sense of accomplishment, only to find hundreds and hundreds of similar (and usually better) versions already for sale on the Auction House, was very disheartening. I know that, for myself, this was truly the nail in the coffin two years ago that caused me to lose interest in playing. Mindless grinding day in and day out for those few fleeting moments of Legendary drops (or rares with rolls that actually mattered) became so tedious and disappointing that I simply could not find the energy to log on any more. The market drained me out.
Reaper of Souls and You
Now, comes Loot 2.0, and Reaper of Souls.
Loot 2.0 has modified the fundamentals of loot in Diablo by making all of the Legendary items (and gold, and crafted items, and recipes, the list goes on) bound to our account when we find them. Trading is now limited to the players in your group at the time of the item dropping, and is only allowed for the first two hours after the item spawns. Eventually, it becomes locked to you forever. To coincide with this change, the item drop rate has been substantially increased. Blizzard doesn’t mind you finding Legendaries on a frequent basis now, because those items are essentially yours and yours alone – there is no flooding of an economy. They have even gone so far as to introduce a system we’ve dubbed as “mercy” drops, which rewards you with a guaranteed Legendary drop if the randomization gods deem you unworthy for too long a time. No one likes playing for too long without a payoff, and this mercy system makes sure everyone sees their fair share of Legendary items eventually. Additionally, items now drop with stats better tailored to your class. While not perfect by any means, this “Smart Loot” system is an incredible relief, as I now find items consistently that I can at least consider using, rather than items I know I will never use on the character I find them on.
Initially, I was on the fence. I remember reading all of the changes, and thinking “Holy cow, this is a major change to Diablo… isn’t BoA essentially undermining the reason we play?” That question, to me, sums up the overall feeling I get from a lot of these posts bashing the new system. What’s funny to me is it seems no one questions if the reason we used to play was actually a healthy, self-sustaining reason. Why does everyone have to defend the old way? Based on everything I’ve explained in this article, I’d argue the old way is exactly why I’m so excited for the new way. The old way, frankly, sucked – but it was the way I had come to know. My initial reaction to the Loot 2.0 changes, though, wasn’t “Do I like this new way better?” but rather “Isn’t this destroying the reason we play?”. I fell victim to the trap mindset, too. It took a lot of self-exploration on how I really felt about Diablo as a series to come to these determinations for myself.
Everyone needs to really just take a step back and re-assess the way we used to play Diablo. I loved Diablo II, I was less enthused over Diablo III, and when I really sit down and analyze why I was in love with those games, it was never because I actually enjoyed trading or the economy. It was because I enjoyed mindlessly mashing up monsters and that feeling I felt when a Legendary item would drop. It was playing with my friends and laughing at them when they would die to a Fire Enchanted elite, or sweating profusely as I tried to make it to the end of the game on a Hardcore character.
Which I’ve done, by the way, in case any of you think I’m a Diablo player with no street cred. This photo was taken when I completed Diablo III on Inferno in Harcore, as a solo Witch Doctor. At the time, it was believed to be a potential world first, and if it wasn’t a first it was at least top 3.
Painfully wasting hours of my life away in a never-ending and often fruitless effort of trying to obtain an item someone actually cared about, while being part of the reason I played, was never part of why I enjoyed playing. There’s a key difference there. Having 99% of the Legendary items I found be essentially worthless was crappy. It burned me out.
Reaper of Souls changes the way we play the game. Now, I find Legendary items all the time and I can realistically expect to find multiples in a single play session. When I do find Legendary items, they are usually catered to my class instead of finding STR items on my Witch Doctor day in and day out. This means I can also realistically expect to improve my gear myself, which is a new notion entirely. I have been so used to basing all of my upgrades on purchases and trading that I have completely missed out on the feeling of accomplishment that comes with improving my character with items me and my friends actually find ourselves. It’s an incredibly rewarding sensation.
Additionally, Reaper of Souls has a bunch of upgrades in the form of Rift Runs and Adventure Mode, and a lot of people bashing Loot 2.0 seem to go out of their way to intentionally leave these out of their argument. That’s because these also change the way we play the game, in a positive way! They give us a means to an end in grinding creatures for loot, but doing so in a way that is far less repetitive than before. Rather than killing Mephisto or Magical Unicorns over and over again, Rift Runs allow me to enter a zone with randomized creatures each and every time. Sometimes, this includes the sacred Cow Level, or even zones comprised entirely of Treasure Goblins. This randomness keeps the grind fresh, if even only a little, and does not let us fall into a truly repetitive pattern of only killing one boss over and over.
Treasure Goblin Rift Runs. Bring friends.
Finally, one of the greatest new features is the inclusion of Clans. Full guild functionality allows us to turn Diablo into more of a social experience, and we’re able to keep up with our friends effortlessly while we plow through packs of creatures and bosses in our own games. Besides a fully fleshed out chat system, Clans allow it’s members to see Legendary drops without a player needing to link them, and also keep us up to date on Achievements and the like. Playing a game now actually feels like I’m playing with friends, even when I’m playing solo!
If you take anything away from this article, let it be these two points:
Point 1 – The trade based economy in Diablo II / Diablo III was not nearly as exciting or fun as everyone wants you to believe. It was rather boring, very by-the-books, and it turned loot drops into a grind that benefited few and left many disappointed. Some may have enjoyed how it played out, but it is by no means a fact and there are plenty, like me, that actually inevitably quit the game as a result of how this played out.
Point 2 – Removing the economy and allowing a player to find Legendary drops at an exponential rate increases the amount of purpose in item drops. You are now no longer competing with a market that tries to tell you how good or bad your items are, and are now instead only competing with yourself in upgrading your items with your own items. This gives players a heightened sense of accomplishment and rewards players that play more with better geared characters. You can no longer buy power. If you want the best, you have to play the most.
Blizzard will not go back on this feature. Reaper of Souls is now the Diablo standard, and it is light years ahead of it’s predecessors. Before you disregard the game due to hearing people smash it as being a failure, give it a try yourself. You may find the changes are more in line with a fun gaming session and less in line with a mindless economy-based part time job.
<TMM> is looking forward to Reaper of Souls, and we can’t wait to play it. We’ll see you on March 25th!
Feel free to discuss this article in the comments section below!
Category: Featured Articles