Players have always had a complex relationship with Diablo 3, this writer included, since it first released in 2012. The game departed so drastically from Diablo 2 in design that many felt it was a mistake, but for all the criticism levied against it, Diablo 3 did some things well after its initial release.
The Real Money Auction House, As A Concept
It may be counter intuitive to consider the Real Money Auction House (RMAH) as something done right, since in many ways it was a spectacular failure in its implementation. However, in spirit the intent was pro-consumer in its goal to provide players with a safe and legitimate space to acquire items rather than venture out to deal with dodgy third-party sites.
Now with Diablo 4 formally announced, and Blizzard taking an approach to the design of the game that more closely resembles Diablo 2, the implementation of an Auction House could have new life breathed into it again. We have already discussed what this might look like in a far more balanced fashion, and readers can click here for more on that.
Loot 2.0 Removed The Frustration Of Useless Gear
When the game first launched, gear was generated in a vastly different way then we see it now in Diablo 3. The biggest problem was that stats were almost always random, and with five or six different stats on a piece of gear, finding an optimized piece for your character was like finding a needle in a haystack.
Imagine playing a Demon Hunter, a class that needs Dexterity above all else, and most gear drops had an equal chance of having Strength or Intelligence, and then any combination of other stats that may be completely useless to your character.
Loot 2.0 broadly refers to the implementation of changes that made finding gear more satisfying than before. The biggest changes came in the form of smart drops, which meant that a Dexterity class like the Demon Hunter had items guaranteed to roll the appropriate main stat. Legendary items were also changed to have better stats in general, to avoid being outclassed by common and rare gear drops.
The Reaper of Souls expansion further expanded on Loot 2.0, especially with the introduction of Torment+ difficulties that added multipliers to the legendary drop rate, the introduction of the Mystic to enchant gear to be even more in tune with a players needs, and rebalancing of Blood Shard gambling with Kadala.
Players may think that gear is too easy to farm today, but they should remember how ridiculously difficult it once was prior to the change to 2.0., and perhaps more importantly, how tedious it was due to the lack of game modes.
Adventure Mode and Nephalem Rifts Added A Far Better End Game Experience
When Diablo 3 first launched, the only way to play the game was to progress through the story mode, and to access all the levels of difficulty, this meant playing through the story four times in total. Not only was this tedious, it was also extremely difficult for most players, since even with optimal gear purchased at the RMAH, Inferno difficulty would still one-shot most classes.
This left players in an awkward place. They wanted to progress by acquiring better gear, but all they could do was replay story mode. This led to certain areas being replayed repeatedly due to their high monster density, such as the three levels leading to the Butcher. It was somewhat efficient, but it was repetitive and uninspired.
Once again, it was the Reaper of Souls expansion that brought two new modes that made the game far better, and still exists today. Adventure Mode leaned hard into the idea of an open world, where the player did not focus on the main story, but rather was free to go wherever they pleased. In conjunction with bounties split across the five acts, players would be rewarded with materials and Rift Keystones for completing a broad range of content.
Nephalem Rifts further added replayability through randomized dungeons that would eventually offer far greater rates of legendary item drops, and were the precursor for Greater Rifts, which would become what today is the most challenging part of the game today for ranked ladder placement.
The introduction of both of these modes has since become an integral part of Diablo 3, and as much as Blizzard talks about returning Diablo 4 to its older roots, there must be plans to keep the core parts of these modes as well, otherwise players will have little to do in the end game.
Seasons Are Still Fresh With New Buffs
Despite being over seven years old, Diablo 3 is still enjoyable in short bursts with the introduction of new and creative Seasonal buffs. These seasons provide a clean slate for all players on both Normal and Hardcore mode and typically last about three months.
These buffs often add a single permanent change to the start of each season, yet their effects can sometimes result in completely new ways to play the game. Season 17: The Season of Nightmares was the most recent example of this, encouraging players to experiment with non-class sets to great effect at high levels of play. The result is that jumping in for each new season often feels dynamic, even if climbing through Greater Rifts quickly becomes tiresome, that is simply the expected outcome of having played the game since 2012.
While everyone is excited for the release of Diablo 4, it is important to pause and consider all the things that Diablo 3 did correctly. Not only is it an enjoyable game today, there are clearly strong points that would transfer over well to the new game once it finally launches.