The problem with developing one of the most hyped sequels of all time is the inevitable backlash that will follow if the title fails to meet and exceed expectations. Bioware certainly felt the heat after Mass Effect 3 was not everything gamers needed it to be. The debacle that was Final Fantasy XIII is still painfully fresh in our minds. But there is perhaps no one game in the past decade that was more vulnerable to fan outcries than Diablo III.
Granted, Blizzard has grown accustomed to scorn, but no one could have predicted how poorly Diablo III would fare among the gaming public. Many a hack ‘n slash aficionado went as far as to call the much maligned title the worst ARPG of the past decade, with others citing it as a messy borefest. But perhaps all hope is not lost. Subject to a myriad of server, itemization and end-game problems, one begs to ask the question, “Can Diablo III be saved?
The short answer is yes, but not without a concentrated effort on the part of the developers. Diablo III’s problems begin and end with its end-game, or lack thereof. Upon reaching level 60 and beating Diablo on Hell, players are thrust into D3’s highest difficulty setting, Inferno. Fair enough. Problem is Inferno is painfully unbalanced, so much so that advancing through an act requires senselessly grinding the previous act.
But isn’t grinding the point of Diablo? Yes and no. In Diablo II, it was nearly impossible to reach level 99, and those who did spent countless hours farming Baal, nudging up their experience bars ever so slightly with each successful run. Reaching the elusive goal was considered a worthy achievement. At level 99, you became strong enough to equip lots of magic find gear, which made those Mephisto runs all the more profitable. Sure, it eventually became repetitive, but is there really such a thing as a game that remains fun indefinitely?
There is no such novelty in Diablo III. Attaining level 60 is downright easy. So the endgame really just becomes about acquiring enough loot to progress through Inferno, which would be fine if there were any discernible excitement associated with item drops. Fact is, Legendary items drops are rarer than winning some state lotteries, and when they do drop, 99 out of 100 times they feature a mishmosh of undesirable properties. Gamers crave excitement. They need the very rarest drops in the game to actually be worth their while.
Blizzard tried to address the itemization problem by increasing the drop rate of level 63 items, but because most of the top level items are vendor trash, there is very little excitement associated with seeing one spring from the corpse of an elite mob. Thus gamers are left to scour the Auction House in order to progress, and even then, the price of progression is high. I’d go as far to say that thanks to obscene repair costs, progression is not encouraged whatsoever. The best alternative is to mindlessly grind easier acts, not in the hopes of acquiring gear, but of slowly procuring gold to spend at the Auction House.
Sure, every week or two gamers will run across an item that is worth its weight in gold, but beyond that there is really no good reason to play Diablo III. Leaderboards, timed challenges and a more linear difficulty progression would certainly quell the rapid player fallout until PvP is introduced, but without a full reworking of Inferno mode, Diablo III may be remembered only as an exercise in failure.