Some changes have been made, but there are still plenty of phatty loots to gain.
I wasn’t able to experience Diablo 1 or 2 back when they were relevant and popular, so my eagerness towards Diablo 3 had been sparked mostly by Torchlight, which helped me realize what I’d missed out on by not playing these granddaddies of the dungeon crawler genre. Upon release however, Diablo 3 seemed (during the first few months to my knowledge) to be incredibly divisive among its player base, being both too familiar and yet too separated from the classic formula that made the previous entries so beloved and celebrated. Blizzard has since taken steps to improve the game through a set of numerous free updates the content in which greatly outnumbering that in the lone paid expansion, ranging from a new class to new equipment, new mechanics and even a new game mode. It’s certainly a change from the previous Diablos, but it manages to hold its own and then some when it comes to clones or competitors.
It took a long time and many hours of gameplay before I realized that the major removal of skill trees that made up most of the character customization (this does not include the Paragon system when you reach maximum level) was better in the long run. Leveling in the past would give the usual character enhancements like getting stat or skill points to shell out as the player saw fit, giving them free reign to enhance their strengths or compensate for weaknesses; Diablo 3 tosses this aside, and while leveling does increase your stats, it is done automatically, and skill trees are replaced with a vast array of abilities that can be further enhanced by modifying runes. Considering how in the early acts of the game your character will level relatively quickly depending on your choice of difficulty, it won’t be long until you have a full kit (as in a selection of hotkey abilities) and eventually have so many different choices for how to play your character that it can be a bit daunting at first. You may get a Barbarian ability that has him do a heavy melee strike on a single target, and with later levels you’ll get runes that will make it freeze enemies or do a shockwave to strike enemies behind your primary target. This is where Blizzard’s genius comes in; instead of skill trees, it’s your gear itself that more or less dictates how you play your class. For example, you may get a helmet that gives you extra gold drops or defense from a certain element, but it may also enhance the damage of one of your abilities or give bonus damage when using an ability with a certain elemental rune attached to it. You’re no longer stuck after making choices in a certain branch of a class’ skill tree, allowing you to change things up whenever you feel like, so long as you have the correct gear to enhance your strategy. In order to maximize your offensive output in later levels and difficulty, you are encouraged to build your kit around your gear effects, but by no means are you forced to do so, nor do you have to do so begrudgingly. Frequently changing your build not only has you experimenting to potentially find a new preferred playstyle, but it also helps to keep your class feeling fresh and lively, which is a problem I personally have in dungeon crawlers; being stuck to one class and never really feeling encouraged to try things out differently. You can certainly ignore these gear effects and simply wear what you like, but it does become something of a requirement in later difficulties.
Gushing about the fantastic idea of gear effects aside, it’s the Adventure Mode that comes with the expansion, Reaper of Souls, that really gives Diablo 3 its staying power, as while the campaign does feature some great set pieces, the story is quite forgettable (save for one major plot point early on) and is there just to push things along. Adventure Mode plus the leaderboard driven Seasons give so much replay value that the game pays for itself in spades, and it’s very easy to lose hours at a time once the hooks are sunk in. Adventure has you jumping from act to act across different maps to complete given objectives, and completing all five in an act nets you a cache that hemorrhages all kinds of loot, and Seasons gives you a limited time to level a character as far as possible in order to be on the top of the leaderboards, both in base level and Paragon, which acts as end game prestige that gives you skill points with limited yet useful gains. Both of these new modes can be played together, and it gives you constant incentive to go for one more bounty, one more boss run for that legendary item, one more Nephalem Rift run… The loot game is obviously strong, especially when Loot 2.0 was introduced, ensuring that players got more gear for their class in particular, especially when running the multiplayer although that can bog down at times with loss of frames and input delay, though the game generally recovers very quickly in order to avoid a cheap death.
While maps will randomly generate enemy packs and the occasional special event, there are also chances for elite mobs and champions with accompanying minions that act as mini-bosses. Obviously they are more powerful and threatening than their normal counterparts, but they also carry extra traits, like jailer which locks your character in place for a few moments, or desecrator that lays down plumes of flame on the ground that harm you. The problem with these traits is that some of them are less of a threat to your health and more a threat to your sanity; knockback merely punts you a distance, vortex tugs you around helplessly, portals laid down that zip you all about with no real rhyme or reason… Combine these with enemies whose AI routines have them evade you when in close proximity, and many of these elite/champion battles can be needlessly lengthy instead of a healthy challenge. It can become obnoxious, and even infuriating if you fail a special event because your targets are too busy dancing away and firing projectiles.
A weak story and at times frustrating enemy encounters aside, Diablo 3 is a game absolutely bursting with mechanics, challenges and of course sweet sweet loot. With the most recent update (at the time of writing this) allowing players to enhance, assimilate or re-roll their legendary gear, the game has found plenty of ways for staying enjoyable and fun since its rocky launch. It makes for an excellent dungeon crawler, and by all means I can recommend it, especially if you buy the bundled version that has both the base game and expansion.