As many of you know, Diablo 3 has had a very rocky first few months. That's putting it lightly. To be blunt, the game has been subpar. For an action RPG, it is on the upper side of the scale in terms of quality. However, this is Blizzard Entertainment we are talking about here. They sweat excellence, not above-average games of any genre. Fortunately for all of the fans of Diablo 3, the game is getting a much-needed rework patch in the form of patch 1.0.4. I will be summarizing the most important changes that will be coming in this patch, and giving my own thoughts as to why they are essential for the game's long-term sustainability in terms of fun and enjoyment.
Diablo 3: What Patch 1.0.4 Offers For Players
An article that will summarize the changes coming in Patch 1.0.4 and why I, a jaded ex-Blizzard fanboy, find some much-needed hope in the game's fun value.
Better Legendary Items
Because useless and legendary are mutually exclusive. Thanks for realizing this Blizzard!
For those of you in the crowd who read my previous article related to Diablo 3, I was basically expounding on why the game is currently bad. You may agree or disagree on the current quality of Diablo 3, but you're probably in the majority that agrees that Legendary items just stink. The drop rate of Legendary items is far too low to justify their current quality. I can understand the motivations of Blizzard for wanting to make Legendary items so rare, but if you're going to make any item hard to get, it has to have some value. Most available Legendary items right now pale in comparison to Rare items.
What is Blizzard going to do about this: Make the Legendary items better. There will be over fifty unique modifiers added to Legendary items in Patch 1.0.4. Most of these are either completely new (such as cooldown reduction), or modifications of existing monster affixes. For example, the Legendary Fire Walker Boots will have an affix that gives you the ability to leave fire in your wake, much like Molten Elites can already do. The Lidless Wall Shield will grant you an occasional invulnerability shield much like the Shielded modifier for Elites.
Why this will make the game better: It should be pretty obvious, but I'll elaborate. As of Patch 1.0.3, there is a very high chance that you will get a bad Legendary item drop. After the considerable time and effort spent to get ONE Legendary item, the least it could do is not be useless. Now, they will be worth your while, even if for novelty purposes (some of the Legendaries are getting joke bonuses, such as random, non-harmful gases leaving your body).
Making skills tastier and more fun to play with.
As of right now, no matter who you play, there is probably a "most-optimal" build for Inferno difficulty for that class making the rounds around the Internet. Cookie-cutter builds are an established part of both conventional RPGs and action RPGs, but in Diablo 3 the variety is even more limited than that. If you don't use one of the cookie-cutter builds, you will die. A lot. Take the Witch Doctor for example: Pets are currently useless in Inferno, as they die in two or three hits to anything. Most of your skills as a Witch Doctor just flat-out stink or are boring. Yes, boring. One of the two best builds currently existent for the Witch Doctor involves abusing Vision Quest, which means FOUR of your skills will be on cooldown at almost all times. So, you're playing with two skills in a game that accommodates six. Oh, and you're using skills with long cooldowns just for the sake of having them on cooldown. That's the inverse of what you want your players to be doing.
Side Note: Vision Quest is getting reworked in Patch 1.0.4 for this very reason.
While the Witch Doctor clearly got shafted in the initial release of the game, the other classes don't have it much better. Try running a Monk without Serenity, or a non-optimally geared Monk without One With Everything. Try running a Wizard without Diamond Skin. You may be able to pull it off, but it's so inefficient and pointless that few people do it. See, the problem is that you NEED certain skills right now to be functional with a given class.
What is Blizzard going to do about this: Complete class reworks. A lot of skills are going to be boosted and/or re-evaluated to see what can done to make it so you're not constrained to one or two builds just to stay alive in Inferno. I wholeheartedly support this. Oh, and Witch Doctors won't be trash anymore either.
Why this will make the game better: On occasion, when I'm bored, I like to browse Youtube and see crazy builds for characters in Diablo 3. While most of them abuse unintended behaviors and interactions between skills and monsters (such as the Overpower exploit that allows Barbarians with enough Life on Hit to tank Ghom's gas clouds), they're all very clever ways to use skills in a way that most other people wouldn't have thought of. With so few truly viable skills in Inferno, almost no one is trying to innovate anymore because the game is punishing them too heavily for it. Why would you use anything except the optimal skill line-up if any deviation from it gets you killed? More builds for each class can only mean more fun, in my opinion.
The Paragon System
More levels for your capped character. With benefits.
The Paragon System was implemented as a "happy-medium" solution by Blizzard to reduce the practice of gear swapping among a certain subset of the community. Gear swapping is done to maximize gold and magic find chances while killing Elites by having one set of gear to knock an Elite down to almost nil life and then swap to the find gear to get optimal gold and magic item drops.
What the Paragon System will do is give you 100 additional levels to be earned after you hit the normal cap of Level 60. Each level grants you bonus stats, much like a regular level-up. What makes the Paragon System so awesome, is that each Paragon Level also increases your magic and gold find by 3% as well. So, once you cap your Paragon Levels, you will have 300% magic find and 300% gold find. All without one piece of find gear. The compromise here is that magic find and gold find is capped at 300% (Nephalem Valor ignores this cap; so the actual total cap is 375% magic find and gold find). This means you can ignore magic find and gold find affixes once you cap Paragon Levels, which gives you two more spaces on Rare items to get even more goodies to help you slay the denizens of Hell faster.
Why this will make the game better: Depending on which side of the fence you reside on, you either love or hate the concept of boosting a stat just to boost drop rates. I'm roughly neutral, as I can understand the give and take between having more find rates and more combat stats, but I dislike the fact that any game force you to choose at all. So, this will give people a reason to grind again and will also make the game more fun once you get more good magic items and gold to buy any items you may still be missing. It still remains to be seen what effects (if any) this change will have in the in-game economy, but I'm sure I speak for a fair amount of people when I state that we could care less about the in-game economy at this time. In other words, make the game lots of fun first. The rest will follow later.
In closing, I'd like to say that patch 1.0.4 for Diablo 3 gives me hope. I won't deny that I'm currently leery of Blizzard Entertainment. Too many of their recent decisions have been made in the name of uninhibited capitalism. However, for whatever reasons this patch is coming out for, it will make Diablo 3 a lot better. That, I hope, is something we can all agree on.
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)
P.S: I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to read up on the other changes coming in this new patch. I'm sure you'll be happily surprised. ;)