A few days ago Blizzard announced the first expansion for Diablo III called Reaper of Souls. At the Gamescom nobody seemed to know what it is and i couldn’t quite grasp what Blizzard wants to sell me behind closed curtains. Also I didn’t feel like waiting three hours in line to play for maybe 10 minutes.
Then i watched the absolutely stunning Opening Cinematic:
But I still wasn’t convinced from a gameplay perspective. Back at home a lot of information surfaced about the increased level cap to 70, the new character class called Crusader and a darker and grittier fifth Act.
While all this seems promising, the real game changer in Reaper of Souls will be the major overhauls being done to important end-game mechanics and systems, the biggest being the loot system.
Loot 2.0 & Smart Drops
Diablo is all about loot. But the current loot system of Diablo III is a disaster because 95% of all item drops are worthless. You can literally do 2-5 farming runs (~20-30 minutes each, depending on gear, skill and route) with every single item being trash. And that’s without picking up blue (magic) items, only rare and legendary ones! Most of them aren’t even worth the time to put them on sale in the Auction House, let alone the Real Money AH.
The average farming session looks like this:
- Complete the optimal farming route as fast as possible
- At the same time, pick up loot until the inventory is full with rare/legendary items
- Sell 90% of the items at the vendor, keep 10% for the AH
- Occasionally increase Magic Find% and Gold Find% through paragon level ups
- Repeat until you have enough gold to buy the best items available for your class in AH
There’s no excitement for items. You are grinding for gold essentially, not for item drops.
While the slow and steady improvement via paragon levels added in Patch 1.04 rekindled the urge to crawl through the dungeons again, it was just a means to an end: grinding even faster for gold.
This particular feeling of playing for hours, knowing that nothing good will drop.. It’s frustrating and demotivating. The AH is just amplifying these problems by making external items readily available with enough gold.
Diablo II was so addicting because of its loot. Almost each item drop was exciting. Just take a look of how deep the actual Diablo II economy/market for items was.
So what’s changing in Reaper of Souls and how will it improve the loot system?
First of all, less items will drop overall. Currently, each farming run will yield about 931 items on average, against 428 item in Reaper of Souls. On average, 503 less items will drop per farming run, a ~46% decrease of total loot dropped! This is a big deal because it increases the general value of all items, even if it’s just perceived value.
That’s not all, because the rarity ratios were also changed. Here’s a breakdown:
A decrease of 29% in normal item drops, 67% magic item drops, 30% rare drops and an increase of 600% legendary drops on average!
On top of this, normal items can be used as new crafting ingredients, making them more valuable in a different way.
The Smart drop system will weigh each item’s affix roll more in favor of class that is currently being played. This means that a Witch Doctor will have higher chances of rolling Intelligence (instead of Dexterity) on his drops for example.
Legendary items will be build-changers, by drastically altering (improving) certain skills when worn. This will raise legendary item on a whole different layer and most importantly, makes them unique. Players won’t be looking strictly for pure numbers anymore.
All these changes are absolutely crucial in my opinion. They increase the value of all items on a lot of different layers by several magnitudes. This is the right way to reignite the feeling of excitement when identifying that one legendary item that’s just perfect for your character, but probably means rethinking the current build. It will give meaning to the item itself. Stats and numbers will play a less important part in the overall item game eventually.
The Paragon system also receives a major overhaul. Paragon levels are now account-wide and the cap of 100 is removed. Each level will add one paragon point the all of your characters.
It allows the player to improve every character while playing just one and encourages fooling around with other classes. Playing a twink suddenly got a lot more interesting.
The player can choose to invest the paragon points into one of four categories: Core, Attack, Defense and Utility. Each one allows to compensate a characters weaknesses on a meta level until he has found the right equipment. At this point he might want to respecc his paragon points again.. Interesting decisions for everyone.
Paragon 2.0 is still not finalized and Blizzard will be sharing more information in the coming weeks, but it’s the right direction. It will be interesting to see how they approach transferring current paragon experience to the new system. From experience, developing a new system and then transferring existing resources to the new system can be a real pain in the ass.
Blizzard has identified the root of Diablo III’s problem and they promise great solutions.
Their decision to release the game mechanics and system changes for free but to keep the additional content locked behind a pay-wall reassures my projection:
We want to implement a lot of the new systems and features in a pre-expansion patch for free. That should include Paragon 2.0, Loot 2.0, Loot Runs, and Nephalem Trials. For now, you’ll need to purchase the expansion to play as the Crusader, explore Act V, unlock the Mystic, and level up to 70. These details may change as development moves along, but we want some of the core gameplay improvements to be available for everyone. – Grimiku, Blizzard Community Manager (Source)
Most hardcore gamer will get hooked by the system changes and then buy the expansion. The casual gamers are playing because of new content anyway.
Releasing a successor to a high-profile AAA title is impossible without hurting someones feelings. What most people seem to forget is that vanilla Diablo II was pretty much hated at launch too, just like Diablo III. It only took off when the first and only expansion set, Lord of Destruction was released one year later in 2001.
But Blizzard doesn’t want to please everyone, and that’s a good thing. I don’t particularly like the dynamic skill system in Diablo III, but Jay Wilson designed a very tight system when viewed individually. They have their own style and I’m glad they don’t yield to everything the community has to criticize.
Diablo II received its latest patch in October 2011, more than eleven years(!) after its release and the current ladder (seasonal rankings; last reset on May 2013) is still going strong to this day. Blizzard is notorious for this determination to support and polish their games, even if it takes decades.
This is why i think Diablo III will reclaim its throne as the leading dungeon crawler with the Reaper of Souls expansion. I’ve called it now.