Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Good Game: Gearing up for Diablo 3 Season 2

Early last week, Tim Kae reporting on Yahoo finance unleashed a bevy of Blizzard insider information citing a reliable source. Following Activision-Blizzard's financial report earlier this week, it seems likely that the leaked information is indeed reliable or, at least, not pure fabrication. While most of the news was unsurprising (Hearthstone is making a ton of money), I was disappointed to learn that the Diablo team has been gutted with key developers moved to other projects. I interpret this to mean that another expansion for Diablo 3 isn't coming any time soon and that the current state of the game is, more or less, how it's going to be. With this in mind, I thought I would go through the most recent patch and give a general blurb on the viability of each of the classes and list a few features I think a reduced team of a few developers could still add in.

More stash space
The current amount of stash space is perfectly sufficient for collecting and organising gear for one or two classes but is wholly inadequate to keep even a basic set for all six. I find myself frequently destroying items to make space for new drops and have found that I often end up getting rid of items with unique properties that just don't fit into the current meta. In short, because I can't hold on to all of the items I find, I'm less encouraged to keep items that are of situational use and thus less likely to complete sets of gear for fringe builds. I would like to have a minimum of seven tabs of stash space; one for each class and another for miscellaneous items. 

Unified followers
I'm not sure why this wasn't implemented in the latest patch as it was heavily teased as an upcoming feature but the gist of it is that followers persist between characters. This would mean that I would only have to collect a single set of gear for my followers and not have to worry about managing a clunky inventory system every time I want to switch to a different class. I'm a bit worried that this not being already implemented indicates a development hurdle that may be insurmountable with a stripped team.

This class is in a pretty decent spot right now. The recent changes to Raekor's set have given the class a viable greater rift build and the season two exclusive frenzy belt is semi-interesting (though probably not best in slot for serious builds). For more casual play, leapquake is pretty fun and even variations on whirlwind are viable to reasonably high torment levels. I wouldn't mind seeing some changes to call of the ancients to make for more competitive rune choices but, all in all, I have few complaints about this class.

Of all the classes, crusader's probably have the greatest build diversity even if they all depend on the same set (Akhan's). Depending on what weapons you find, you can run condemn, holy shotgun, or lord commander builds in greater rifts. For casual play, everything from fist of the heavens to blessed hammer is acceptable. Roland's set is also a ton of fun for lower difficulties though it's complete lack of defence has a hard time competing for leader board spots. If Roland's set was given an additional defensive bonus at six pieces I would play a crusader every season.

Not actual gameplay.

Demon Hunter
I like the recent changes to the Marauder set; demon hunters actually need to play the game now instead of sitting back. It's ultimately a bit of a nerf in the sense that the skill base has gone up but I don't see the forums blowing up with people claiming they will never play the class again. Unfortunately, the Marauder set offers only a few different variations of play with the only difference in gear being element and skill damage rolls. The Shadow set is trash and doesn't even open up casual build options and needs a complete reworking to make the class interesting. Personally I would like to see set bonuses emphasizing strafe or hatred builders.

If patch 2.1.2 was aimed at any class, it was the monk. They got the biggest set overhaul and the best new item. Monk's are now viable at higher greater rifts without requiring an obscene amount of micromanagement and are arguably the best class. That said, gearing for a monk is a pain as you need to collect a few specific items (incense torch) and mix and match a bunch of sets together to maximize potential. Also worth mentioning, proposed changes to the Raiment set haven't been implemented and build diversity is consequently a bit lacking.

Witch Doctor
I love this class. Pet builds are torment viable with lacklustre gear and scale extremely well. Find a Carnevil, Grin Reaper, or complete Zunimasa's set and each pet variation feels distinct but powerful. Further, Jade Harvester is a completely different play style but holds it's own. Even a support role is available for group play! If I were to make one change it would be to give the Jade Doctor a bit more survivability but otherwise this class is fine.

Last and least, the Wizard is in a pretty bad place now. Firebird's set is the only option for doing damage and it is boring as anything: approach monster, use two skills, run away while monster dies off screen. At lower torments the Wizard has a lot of interesting skills that are a lot of fun to play with and I would like to see these buffed in the future (straight damage here would be fine).

Given that we are unlikely to see any changes to core mechanics at this point, I'm pretty happy with the overall state of Diablo 3. Since the expansion the game has really come into it's own and a lot of solid work has been done to make each class interesting and viable. The rifts system is a blast and buffs to drop rates make each run feel rewarding. If you haven't played in a while, give the upcoming season a try - you might be pleasantly surprised.