[Note that this post was written before the recent release of the 1.03 patch. While I’ve only played one night post-patch, things do seem improved.]
I enjoy Diablo 3 greatly and have played lots and lots of it, both solo and in groups, since its release. But there are flaws. I’m going to talk about two little ones, and one big one today.
First, there’s the issue of normal difficulty. The first lap through the game is trivially easy, even without twinking by bringing in gear acquired from earlier play-throughs. I have increasingly little patience for games that waste my time, and there’s no way to describe normal difficulty save as a waste of time. Torchlight was clever enough to include selectable difficulty right off the bat – Normal was, again, plenty easy, but the two higher settings provided some challenge.
The second issue is the loot. It is, frankly, dull. There’s a handful of stats that are important. They’re largely the same stats across all character classes. These games always come down to numbers, but the way the systems have been stripped down in Diablo 3 make this much more explicit. I can’t shake the feeling that the gear is duller expressly because of the Auction House. Having only a handful of important stats makes it easy to search for and value items.
I also can’t shake the feeling that loot drops are designed to push players towards the Auction House. The gear you find will always be below your level. The intent is that you sell the gear you find, and buy stuff that is actually useful for you. Again, in Torchlight, I loved it when I’d find an awesome piece of gear that was a level or two above what I could currently use. It gave me something to look forward to. Unless you skip ahead an act or two via multiplayer, that will just never happen in Diablo 3.
It’s not particularly apparent on the early laps that this is a problem, since the game is easy enough. But it’s really come back to bit Blizzard in the ass when it comes to Inferno. The game becomes so challenging that it’s impossible for many characters to advance without better gear, gear that they can’t find in the parts of the game they have access to. This leads to grinding for gold so that they can buy better, pricier gear on the auction house. It’s one thing to grind for gear. I’m not sure I like it, but at least there’s the chance of getting something cool and exciting. But it’s quite another thing to be doing runs to get gear that I won’t be able to be able to use, with the hope of being able to sell it. It’s just fundamentally unappealing to me.
These distortions of the game design to satisfy the demands of the Auction House make me unhappy. A game of this type should be designed and optimized with the intent of making it the most fun. And that’s just not the case here. It’s designed to provide Activision and Blizzard with an additional revenue stream. First push players towards the Auction House. Get them comfortable with using it. And then provide with a nice little button that they can click to pay real money for items instead of grinding away for in-game currency. This is simply not a game that has my best interests at heart. And that is, well, disheartening.