Editorials

5 ways the Diablo III expansion could improve upon its predecessor

Love it or hate it, Diablo III had some issues. Here are some things Blizzard could do to make the recently teased Diablo III expansion a better game.

Ari Margo

I might be in the minority here, but I actually enjoyed Diablo III. Sure, it had its issues—hence this list—but overall I found a lot to enjoy about Blizzard’s third game in the Diablo series. Since the game’s launch I have played around 225 hours and I have a couple of level 60 characters. Granted, that’s not all that impressive compared to the elite of the Diablo III community that have managed not only to get multiple characters to level 60, but to also level up an additional 100 times through the Paragon system! Still, I think I’ve played my fair share of the game, so here are 5 ways I hope the Diablo III expansion pack will be an improvement upon its predecessor:

Random Maps with Random Boundaries

Diablo II - Rogue Encampment with Western Exit

Did your Diablo II journey start to the west? Possibly not.

There are a few ways that Diablo III was a step back from Diablo II. One notable example is that in Diablo II the maps felt VERY random, but in Diablo III it was easy to become familiar with the many areas of the game. This is mainly due to a change in how the maps were generated. In Diablo III, the boundaries of the maps remain consistent while everything within the boundaries is a randomized collection of predesigned chunks (that also have further randomized elements within). As a result, on each subsequent playthrough, the player will have a growing sense of direction until it becomes clear that the boundaries of the maps never change and can in fact be memorized. Then, instead of wandering throughout the many impressive environments, playing through the game is simply a matter of making a beeline towards the known destination.

This issue is a major hindrance to replay value, and I hope that the Diablo III expansion will be more like Diablo II, which was far more random from the very beginning. For example, at the start of the game, the entrance to the wilderness from the Rogue Encampment would change from game to game, so even the most experienced player would still have to explore without an absolute sense of where to go. This is a very simple example of a much broader design philosophy that exists throughout the game. Diablo III feels linear by contrast, and linear is not a word you want associated with a game series that is known for its randomly generated dungeons. Hopefully the expansion will resolve this issue by randomizing map boundaries.

Remove Mandatory Storyline Content

Another change from Diablo II that is also responsible for the linear feeling of Diablo III is how the storylines are presented. In Diablo II most of the game’s story comes in the form of voice acted dialogue boxes while the player is in town. A single click dismisses them. They are non-intrusive and will barely interrupt a player that has experienced them before. But in Diablo III, Blizzard put a lot of additional time and effort into telling the story, and as a result, it is much more difficult to ignore if desired.

Storyline elements pop up with annoying frequency throughout the game, and though they can be skipped with the escape key, they often involve cinematics and character animation that cannot be skipped. It’s all fine and good the first time through, but becomes tiresome very quickly in later games, especially in multiplayer. Considering that the game was designed to be played over and over again, the numerous interruptions of the storyline are a major issue.

Diablo III - Jondar Meme

Black magic bars our way…

There are a few ways this could be addressed. They could go back to the way things were in Diablo II, though in this case, I don’t think that’s the best option. They could also go the Torchlight route and create a completely randomized dungeon (bottomless or extremely long—100 floors or more) that reuses many of the game’s assets and focuses mostly on gameplay instead of storyline content. But I think the best option would be some kind of storyline toggle that could be adjusted before the start of the game. With the toggle on, most of the major story elements would be removed from the game, but the bosses and events would still spawn as usual. Also, all storyline gates and locks would be removed so the player(s) can simply explore the world without the storyline putting up roadblocks.

Better Writing

Diablo III - Maghda

Maghda… More like… Maghd-ugh…

And speaking of the storyline, it simply needs to be better. I’m not sure the Diablo series ever had great writing to begin with, and this may be the nostalgia talking, but I enjoyed the setting, lore and overall story of Diablo and Diablo II a lot more than Diablo III. Considering the resources Blizzard put into developing and presenting the storyline of Diablo III, that really shouldn’t be the case. But I think for the classic games, it was a case of “less is more.”

The storyline in Diablo III went sour for me several times. If somehow you have read this far, but have not yet experienced the storyline in Diablo III, then consider this your MAJOR SPOILER warning for this section.

My first problem was the unceremonious slaying of Deckard Cain by an absolutely ridiculous villain named Maghda. Maghda is not an important character at all; she is a mere henchman of Belial, her voice is absurd, and she spouts some of the most cliché “evil character” lines in the entire game. She’s just a bad character. So why the heck was she the one that got to finish off the most beloved character in the entire series? And what were they thinking when they decided to use the in-game engine to render the scene? Deckard Cain deserved better! He’d have been better served getting crushed to death by the fallen star. But really, why did they have to kill him off to begin with? Killing him served no purpose in the overall storyline whatsoever, and unless something crazy happens in the expansion pack, it was a waste of a great character.

Then there’s Leah, who I failed to develop any kind of real connection with throughout the entire game, despite endless attempts by Blizzard via non-combat banter and essays of spoken dialogue to make her likable. Every single major plot moment involving Leah was predictable and underwhelming. Even the major event at the end of Act III could be seen coming a mile away and there was very little reason to mourn her loss.

All and all, the storyline in Diablo III did more to interrupt the pacing and gameplay than to actually add to the game, and that’s a major problem Blizzard will have to address with the expansion pack. Hopefully they will come up with an improved and less predictable storyline with better writing that is presented in a more passive way and filled with interesting characters and moments. Maybe they can actually pick up the broken pieces left by Diablo III.

Fun Loot

Diablo III - Lame Loot

What’s the point of a loot pinata if it’s filled with nothing but Candy Corn? …I hate Candy Corn.

The essence of Diablo addiction is in the loot. Unfortunately, the loot in Diablo III isn’t that interesting. 99% of the items that drop (maybe more) are completely useless, both in terms of stats and value. In many cases, they aren’t even worth picking up. The main reason for this is the item drop rate is very high, but the likelihood of discovering an item that is an upgrade for a particular character is very low, especially later in the game. The end result is a lot of time spent picking through the garbage instead of playing the game. To Blizzard’s credit, they have made improvements in this regard with recent patches, but there is still a lot of room for further improvement.

More importantly, the loot needs to be made more interesting and fun. Borderlands did a great job of this by creating some very unique and unusual weapons, such as weapons that fire strange projectiles, make bizarre sound effects or do other random and entertaining things. Of course, that sort of thing would be a bit over the top for the Diablo universe, but the point is that there should be much more creativity in the items that can be found in the Diablo III expansion. It shouldn’t just be about the stats, there should a lot of items worth keeping because they are fun to use or have unique abilities. That exists in the game today to a limited degree, but I’d like to see that much further realized in the next game.

Change the Difficulty System

Diablo III - Monster Power

An impressive bandage, but the wound still bleeds.

When Blizzard patched in the Monster Power system, it certainly made playing through the lower difficulties a bit more fun than it was before. The rewards were improved, the difficulty was (optionally) increased, and in general, it was a really positive change for the game. But it did not change the underlining problem: Advanced players still have no reason to play on the easier settings. Why should an advanced played want to start a new character on Normal? It would be completely boring compared to the more difficult modes! They’ve played and completed Inferno already. Even moving up the Monster Power to a high level will mainly serve to increase the time it takes to play through the game three times to get back to Inferno, which is already more tedious than fun. It’s just not necessary.

If only it was as simple as letting players choose a starting difficulty for their characters, but that’s impossible given that the difficulties are each tuned to a specific character level range. Of course, they could just adjust character levels accordingly, but that could frustrate players that spent a lot of time building their characters. It could also ruin the fun of growing a character from level 1 if you could just choose the Inferno difficulty from the start and have a level 60 character with all of its abilities already unlocked and a full set of gear.

I don’t think there is any easy or perfect solution to this issue. If Blizzard were to change the game so that the monsters’ levels were based on the characters’ levels, yes, it would then be feasible (though extremely difficult) to play a level 1 character on Inferno, thus giving the player the option of choosing a difficulty. But the problem with scaling every monster to the players’ levels is that it detracts from the sense of growth that comes with leveling up. If the monsters level up too, what’s the point?

Whatever solution Blizzard comes up with, it should be one that allows advanced players to skip the easiest difficulties and reduce tedium in favor of fun.

Conclusion

There are many other issues that could find a place on this list such as the horrible launch, the Auction House, Hardcore play, Player vs. Player, the visual style of the game and more. I chose to write about the parts of the game that I thought needed the most improvement, but I’m curious about some other perspectives. What do you think should be improved upon in the Diablo III expansion? Let us know in the comments below, and include your level of experience with Diablo III so we have some insight on where you are coming from.

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  • rpgmaniac

    LoL u forget the most important thing… that this fucking game doesn’t have character builds!!! this is why it’s GARBAGE! we don’t distribute stats points anymore, there is no skill points anymore, there is not even a skill tree we just farm/lvl & learn everything is that Diablo for u??? is there any reason to make multiple characters of the same class??? this game is not Diablo & something else the graphics is cartoony & there is no dark-Gothic atmosphere something the old Diablo games was known for, u know why? because this fucking J. Wilson was in charge of this game & he made it a WoW garbage with cartoony bright graphics to sell it to WoW little kids that’s why, he can take this garbage he made & stick it to his anus.

  • J.Lacan

    I’m not sure why but for some reason the leveling experience seemed slower and less exciting than Diablo 2. I’m not sure if that is because it actually took longer to level up or that on many levels you don’t gain any interesting new abilities (like in D2 you can always upgrade the abilities you want to) or that you don’t get to spend stat points on every level, but the leveling experience just did not captivate me like D2.

  • http://gamerhorizon.com/ Ari Margo

    Yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from. With gear removed, every character that reaches level 60 will be exactly the same as every other character of the same class that reaches level 60. Perfect mirrors. Of course, gearing up and equipping specific abilities allows for a variety of different play styles, and all of those styles are available without having to start the whole game over, so there are pros and cons. But it’s sad that there is really nothing unique about any one character or how it was developed.