Diablo 3 Patch 1.0.4 — Too Little, Too Late, or What the Doctor Ordered?
Diablo 3‘s highly-anticipated patch 1.0.4 is the light at the end of a tunnel, a tunnel that’s taken longer to traverse than most players expected. But three months after the game’s launch, is this patch just the shot in the arm that Diablo 3 needs, or is it too little, too late?
Apart from the expected bug fixes, the patch contains a number of welcome changes: the ability to search for up to six stats in the Auction House instead of just three; the removal of gem bonuses from AH search results; the addition of a repair function for the blacksmith; the reduction of drop rates for quivers. Blizzard even went back and reworked some of the aggressive changes (ie nerfs) previously implemented by reducing repair costs for high-level items, returning weapon racks to a drop rate of 100%, and giving destructible objects a chance to drop items once more.
Class balance has been revisited in a positive light, seeing significant buffs to underused skills and runes rather than simply the nerf-batting of popular combinations into oblivion. That said, a few nerfs did work their way into the patch, with one notable repercussion being the death of the “tanky” Demon Hunter build. Overall, the balance changes are positive, with the underused Witch Doctor receiving some much-needed love.
Aside from the all-around class buffs, Blizzard has continued its trend of rendering the game easier with significant nerfs to many Champion pack affixes and the outright elimination of the Invulnerable Minions affix. It can be argued that the game really didn’t need to be made any easier, however some of these changes are geared more toward the reduction and elimination of annoying elements, such as the removal of “Enrage timers” from Champions and Elites.
Blizzard is addressing the issues that discouraged cooperative play by removing the Magic Find equalization mechanic and further reducing the damage and health multipliers of monsters in co-op games, but the minimization of penalization is likely not enough to encourage the community to play co-op, which is generally less efficient in the endgame — we need incentives.
1.0.4′s most anticipated change was the overhaul of Legendary items so that they can live up to their name. Apart from simply making them more powerful, Blizzard added custom effects to over 50 items, such as granting players a chance to be Shielded, as per the Champion affix, the ability to Charm enemies like the Enchantress, and leaving a wake of fire wherever you walk. These are the Legendary items the game should have shipped with.
However, while all these changes are positive, they fail to address the primary concern of the player base. It is not skill balance issues that led gamers to stop playing. It is not the difficulty level. It’s not the underwhelming co-op experience. It’s not even the lackluster Legendaries.
It’s the endgame, or lack thereof.
Fortunately, we arrive at patch 1.0.4′s saving grace: the Paragon system. Once you hit level 60 — which you undoubtedly have weeks ago, if you’re reading this — further experience gained will count toward “Paragon levels,” of which there are 100. Every paragon level you gain will reward you with a permanent increase to your Gold Find, Magic Find, and core attributes.
Yes, Blizzard has created a way for players to continue to level up beyond 60, and the devs claim it should take approximately as long to max out your paragon levels as it takes to reach level 99 in Diablo 2. This is the long-term goal that was so obviously lacking from Diablo 3′s endgame, which otherwise consists of farming items and hoping the fruits of your labor can allow you to at least break even with the costs of repairing your gear.
Of course, the Paragon system is not a permanent solution. But it doesn’t need to be — it just needs to hold players long enough for Blizzard to create new endgame content, like it did with Diablo 2.
Would Diablo 3 have launched in the state it is today, with the improvements brought by 1.0.4, there’s no doubt the game would have had a higher player retention rate. Now, three months post-release, too many new games have hit the shelves or are on the horizon for D3 to recapture all of its lost players, but some will undoubtedly return. We’ll likely see a small recovery and stabilization of the player population until patch 1.1 and the promised PvP component — which has the game’s entire future riding on it.