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Diablo 3 Patch 2.0 Completely Revitalizes the Entire Game
It took 12 years after Diablo 2 to finally see a sequel; turns out the correct number of years it takes to make a proper sequel to one of the greatest Action-RPGs of all time is closer to 14. After years of passionate player feedback and with Reaper of Souls, the first official expansion looming on the horizon, Blizzard Entertainment has implemented the sweeping changes and improvements of Patch 2.0.1. And it’s a doozy. We’ll go over the big changes this update adds (and removes) as well as why you should care, and why Diablo 3 could finally be the proper sequel you’ve been waiting for.
Full patch notes for 2.0.1 can be found here.
RIP Auction House
The single biggest change of Patch 2.0 was to set the stage for the removal of the auction houses (on March 18) by making them obsolete with the addition of “Loot 2.0.” The auction houses, both in-game gold and real money, were heavily criticized throughout Diablo 3’s launch. The idea was for Blizzard to be able to control the inevitable second hand market that crops up where players create a marketplace for items, which then devolves into a less-than-scrupulous black market of selling rare items for real money.
Blizzard had good intentions but, appropriately enough, the road to hell is paved with ’em. The built-in auction house completely destroyed the magic of randomized loot drops – you know, the backbone of most ARPGs. Players could find halfway decent items and sell them, using the combined profits to buy a great item for their character of choice. Likewise finding a great item that wasn’t suitable for their particular character or build could also simply be recycled into the auction house and a more suitable item quickly found and bought.
The item balancing was horrible, and even fancy-looking Legendary items often paled in comparison to that perfect rare you could easily obtain on the auction house. Even without ever having to set foot in the slippery slope of the Real Money Auction House, the auction houses held a firm chokehold over one of the most cherished aspects of the genre.
Instead of simply abruptly doing away with the auction house, a slow winding down began with the implementation of Loot 2.0. This new loot systems is designed to fix the loot drops of the entire game while rendering the auction house obsolete – and it completely works.
Loot 2.0 features a “Smart Drop” system – a chance that items will roll stats that specifically compliment the current character you’re playing as, as well as finding numerous class-specific gear. Wizard characters will almost always find items high in Intelligence, as well as items that increase elemental damage, Arcane Power and specific skills.
Items have also been given specific Primary and Secondary categories, so no more finding junk that only gives Level Requirement Reduction and Ignore Durability Loss. Primary stats include all the important ones you’d expect, and you’ll instantly notice a difference in overall power to each and every piece of loot you find.
With this new system comes a natural arms race – Blizzard basically buffed every item in the game, including reworking every Legendary item (time to clean out the stash). It’s completely normal to quadruple your character’s damage and vastly improve his life expectancy after only acquiring a few choice drops with this new system. Rare (yellow) items drop numerously and frequently – every elite and group of champions will now often drop multiple rares, and thus far I’ve obtained a handful of orange Legendary items (which are now fantastic) in every play session. Legendary and Set items are now account bound, and can only be traded to players that were playing on the same server when the item dropped, and even then only up to 2 hours after it dropped, making them the rare and precious items they always should have been.
There is one unfortunate side effect to this new system – since the smart drops tailor specifically to your current character, finding useful items to outfit your other stable of heroes can be a bit trickier than before, often forcing you to play as that particular hero in order to see suitable drops. Of course, it also serves as good motivation to switch up your hero, and since Paragon levels work across all level 60 heroes (more on the revamped Paragon system later) it can be a good excuse to change it up to look for different drops.
Loot 2.0 successfully makes me care about item drops again. Finding new loot is a constant joy of upgrading and tweaking. Items can have fun new effects like causing all enemies to run in fear whenever you open a chest or augment and enhance specific skills like changing Ray of Frost to pierce foes. Many items also have skill improvements, causing me to agonize (in a fun way) over whether I wanted to keep a particular helmet that raised one of my favorite skills’ damage by 30%. Most importantly it makes me completely forget about the debacle that was the auction house.
Torment is the New Inferno
With great power comes even greater enemies. A massive global increase in character skills and loot required an overhaul of the decades-plus difficulty settings that have helped define the Action-RPG genre. Like its predecessors Diablo 3 originally launched with Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulty, as well as adding an insane, basically completely unbalanced higher-tier difficulty called Inferno.
Although the point of Inferno was to be a wall that high level players slammed up against repeatedly – it turns out that was more frustrating than fun. It was eventually tweaked to be more in line with the other three, but Patch 2.0 finally eliminates these old variations of New Game+ and creates five new difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, and Torment.
Each level is progressively more difficult than the last, as fans have grown used to, but more difficulties allow for more fine tuning, and experience and reward bonuses grow exponentially greater with each higher difficulty. Torment, the highest difficulty where only decently-geared level 60 players can begin to survive, has its own slider that can further increase its difficulty up to six times, essentially doubling the amount of difficulty levels just for max level players.
Torment already feels much improved from Inferno, and the constant high rate of great drops keeps you glued in to beat Diablo and company again and again. Speaking of which, many of the boss battles were redesigned with new added mechanics, making some of the simpler fights much more engaging and interesting.
All New Paragon System
While the Paragon system – a leveling mechanic designed for max level heroes to continue to gain a form of extra levels – was introduced in a previous patch, it too received the Patch 2.0 treatment. The previous cap has been removed, allowing max level characters to presumably level their Paragon as high as they want. Instead of dishing out static rewards for each level, skill points are now given with each Paragon level, one category at a time. Categories are Core, Offense, Defense, and Utility, each containing four passive skills that you can pump points into, such as Life on Hit, Armor, or Area Damage.
Most welcoming are that Paragon levels are now account-wide and shared between all your characters – even those that are less than level 60. Only level 60 characters can earn new Paragon levels and thus new points, but once earned you can then assign these points for each and every one of your characters as you see fit. Of course each point is a fairly miniscule increase – one point adds +5 Dexterity or +0.50% movement speed. Functionally it works similar to Borderlands 2’s Badass Rating which also rewarded infinitesimal passive buffs with the idea that you accumulate a lot of them over the course of standard gameplay and they begin to add up.
It’s a not a game-changing system but it does give the very important benefit of allowing you to earn a form of experience even after you’ve technically hit max level. While the hunt for loot has always and will always remain in the forefront, it’s still enjoyable to continue to essentially level up throughout your Diablo career.
The Little Things
Other little enhancements have been subtlety added to improve the entire experience, and are further examples of great additions that really should’ve been there from the beginning. Experience pools called Pools of Reflection are a new welcome sight – providing a 25% boost to experience gain for a set amount of your total bar. A new globe drop called Nephalem Glory has been added, causing a temporary buff to movement speed and damage. Quests now grant item rewards upon completion, many of which can roll those awesome new items.
With so many sweeping changes, global updates, and general game improvements, it’s important to remember that Diablo 3’s basic structure remains intact – killing lots of monsters for progressively better loot. Blizzard doesn’t try to reinvent the genre that they made popular so many years ago, and their elimination of skill and attribute points still irks many a long-time fan that have since moved on to other great ARPG titles like Path of Exile and Torchlight 2. Let’s also not forget that Diablo 3, like all of Blizzard’s titles, still requires a constant online-only connection to Battle.net, even just to play single player.
If, however, you were at least a passing fan of what is still considered the marquee franchise of the genre, Patch 2.0 is absolutely a much needed adrenalin shot and impressive fix to many of the major problems that plagued the 2012 title. The new loot system is amazing, the reworked skills are fun, the much improved menu UI is intuitive and impressive – everything combines to make this nearly two year old game brand new again.
On March 25 Reaper of Souls will bring a new Adventure mode, sixth character class, and fifth act, and if Patch 2.0 is any indication, now is definitely the time to jump back into the world of Sanctuary and get your demon-slaying on.