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Diablo 4: The 3 Player Solution, Part 2

Does Jenbox360 think Diablo 4 is too easy, too hard, or just right?

Diablo 4: The 3 Player Solution, Part 2

Earlier this week I shared the first part of my recent conversation with the delightful Jenbox360 about the challenges faced by Blizzard when trying to satisfy multiple different audiences. We discussed the Developers’ decision to just flush out the existing game in order to make it more accessible to regular players. The result is that Season 4 is turning out to be more fun for a broader range of casual players. At the same time, however, the game is still not at a level where elite players can grind their way to fame and glory.

In today’s follow up, Jen and I discuss the pros and cons of Diablo 4 being added to Game Pass back in March. We also take a closer look at the biggest changes for Season 4 and discuss why they turned out to be so popular. Last, but not least, Jen offers her perspective on the upper echelon of Diablo players and the game system they feel is most conspicuously absent right now.

A More Affordable Game

Gaz: When I think back to this time last year, I can still remember how some players were complaining about experiencing sticker shock when the pricing tiers for Diablo 4 were first announced. As if to add insult to injury, the Limited-Edition Collector’s Collectors EditionBox, with its decadent price of $100, didn’t even include the Standard Edition of the game.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you that I immediately whipped out my plastic wand and swiped it twice for both the Ultimate Edition game and the Collector’s Box. Why? Because I’m a lifelong Diablo fan and they had me at By Three They Come. But that’s me, and I know I’m by no means typical in that regard when it comes to Diablo players.

Nevertheless, even I can now appreciate the sense of fiscal relief that’s associated with being able to play Diablo 4 as part of an annual service to which I’m already subscribed. That means not having to come up with any extra cash to purchase the original game, or maybe even the expansions. It also means that now any of my friends or family members who have Game Pass will also automatically have Diablo 4. Gone are the days when I, and everyone else I’d want to play with, would each have to purchase their own games. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this becomes the way of the future for more Triple-A full-service games.

You’ve obviously been around Xbox for a while, so please tell us more about what your outlook is regarding the most popular platforms for the Diablo game series going forward.

JenX: “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the Diablo 4 expansions will also be in Game Pass. Historically speaking, it’s been on a case-by-case basis, and the “Day and Date on Game Pass” promise doesn’t really apply to DLC. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Elder Scrolls Online and Minecraft Dungeons where the base game is available, but if you want the DLC, you still have to pay for it.

I don’t actually know what the case will be for Vessel of Hatred, and I’m just purely speculating at this point. However, I think it was a smart move to put the base game on Game Pass to grab a new audience of players who would never have paid the price of entry. Hopefully that will convert them to Diablo fans and then they’ll also want to buy the expansions. So, I think that Game Pass will turn out to be just the (Hell) gateway drug to everything else that Diablo 4 gaming will offer in the future.

I have friends who’ve never uttered the name Diablo before who now suddenly text me to say they’re trying it out and can’t believe how much fun they are having. Keep in mind that these are people who, if I started trying to explain about Tempering and Masterworking, would look at me like they’ve lost the plot. They just want to play through the campaign and have a good time, and it’s nice that they don’t have to pay $70 to do that. I think it’s great, and I’m happy for more people like that to join the party.

I’m sure plenty of Xbox Game Pass players may spend a bit on microtransactions too if they enjoy the game and perceive it as something they got at a discount. Dropping money on a Battle Pass doesn’t seem as unreasonable when you haven’t paid full price for a game. If you want more eyeballs on your in-game transactions, then Xbox Game Pass is a savvy way to do it, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I’ve seen some discontent about it being added to Game Pass so early. However, I’m personally still satisfied that I got my money’s worth by purchasing it last year, because I sure wouldn’t have been willing to wait nine months to buy the game (or Collector’s Box) even if I’d known back then that it would launch in Game Pass.”

Dialing in Gameplay

Gaz: Next, I’d like to take a closer look at what we actually got with Season 4. During your interview last month with Rod Fergusson, he discussed in more detail what he considers to be the most significant changes to the game. Of course, the Temperingfirst one he brought up was Itemization, and he said that, when trying to make a system-based RPG, the goal is to create enough depth and complexity to allow players to have that feeling of mastery. He admitted that the Developers overshot that mark when the game launched. The broad variety of Affixes, their management, and their conditional effects, were all just too complex, very granular, and overly detailed.

The recent Developer Update highlighted the new streamlining of item stats along with giving players more direct control over itemization. We also now have new, and more straightforward, ways to boost power in the late game in the form of Greater Affixes, Tempering, and Masterworking. That all sounds really good, but it seems to me, at this point at least, that it will still require a good deal of time and effort to effectively pull off these new systems. So, do you think the Developers have delivered on their goal of making it possible for more players to experience a greater sense of mastery, or will achieving that promise still prove to be impractical for most new and casual players, realistically speaking?

JenX: “I don’t think it’s impractical at all really. The Tempering and Masterworking systems are available to engage with as much or as little as you like. At the same time, it seems like most casual players can at least level up their characters and do the vast majority of the content without even engaging in these systems. I’ve comfortably just gone into World Tier 3 having only dabbled with Tempering my weapon and I levelled to 50 without using Tempering at all.

I think once you start wanting to push the real endgame Boss Ladder stuff and The Pit, then the new systems will become more essential. By that point, however, most new players should be completely comfortable with the content. Season 4 is really taking players on a journey of expanding complexity, within which they can choose whether or not they are ready to begin delving deeper.”

Best of the Best

Gaz: I think it’s safe to say that the quality-of-life improvements included in the Season 4 changes should make just about everyone a little happier. I do understand why the Developers initially wanted to make Affix management more granular, because doing so can add a more organic and hands-on feel to the game, if you know what I mean. The wrinkle, though, is that there are still too many Diablo 3 players around who remember having to extract a full-strength Legendary Affix only once, and all Affixes were fair game in that regard. Therefore, the requirement to repeatedly hunt down dozens and dozens of Affixes every three months in Diablo 4 got old pretty fast, as was also the case for Lilith Statues and the Fog of War.

Long story short, the updated Codex of Power UI is a very welcome improvement. Along with that are the modifications made to Helltides for both the early game and endgame. In my article, Diablo 4 Helltides are on Fire!, I made the case that the new Helltides are the best thing to come out of the PTR. Being the devoted ‘returning casual’ player that you are, please elaborate on how you expect these quality-of-life changes will impact the Seasonal gameplay experience for you and your fellow party members.

JenX: “I’d argue that the Helltides are the second-best thing, only because this new Codex of Power has solved so many issues with the game, at least for me. I hate inventory management and the process of extracting Aspects, and having to keep codex of powerthem all in your stash just wasn’t fun. To make matters worse, having to store all those Aspects restricted some players to having only one build because there wasn’t enough room left to keep enough items for another one. My partner has just picked up the game again since bowing out of Season 1, and this change blew his mind when he salvaged his first Legendary item and said, “Wait, did that just say my Codex has updated?” They’ve knocked it out of the park with the new Codex and, to me, this is the most meaningful of all of the changes they’ve made so far.

Now, purely from the perspective of enjoying the game, being able to do Helltides in the beginner World Tiers is ludicrously good fun. Especially when you’re levelling a new character and the monster density is noticeably juicier. This, coupled with the new activities in those zones, has made this the most fun levelling experience I’ve ever had in Diablo 4. I’ve seen some criticism that it’s a little too fast to level now, but I find that kind of fast progress, along with constantly switching gear to keep up, intoxicating. I’m almost gutted that I’m now reaching a point in my character’s Season 4 journey when I’ll have to start doing activities other than the Helltides, because it’s my favorite place to be right now.

For Seasonal players, I’ll say, too, that it’s great to have drops from the Season Journey caches and the Iron Wolves board that are actually meaningful upgrades. It’s the first time that I’ve really been motivated to complete those kinds of activities. The real test for players like me, however, will be whether the game will still be as much fun when I do reach the point of farming the Boss Ladder and doing Nightmare Dungeons. I’m hoping so, but I’ll have to report back on that.

For now, though, they’ve done such a good job with the front end of the Season that I know the newer players will all be still playing for quite some time. As long as there’s still a lot of people enjoying Diablo 4, then it doesn’t really matter whether “Joe Bloggs” starts to complain about not having enough to do after hitting level 100 in just three hours, or something like that. Making the game more accessible to new players will benefit all of us eventually, and they’ve absolutely smashed that goal with this update.”

Who’s Your Daddy?

Gaz: Okay, let’s wrap up our little chat by looking a bit further down the road for Diablo 4. The comments from the community about the lack of leaderboards in Diablo 4 got amplified even more following the start of Season 4. A lot of casual players have been having a good deal of fun these past few days, that much is abundantly clear. However, those top 1%-ers we talked about earlier this week haven’t been quite as thrilled.

Before the end of the first day of Season 4, a handful of the more well-known content creators were posting comments about how the game is much too easy now. Despite the fact that an easier game can actually be more fun for more people, that model fails to serve the business strategy that the pros rely on. They’ve got to be able to wow their audiences by accomplishing miraculous feats in the game, like achieving the top-ranked level 200 clear in The Pit. However, being able to only just say that they did it isn’t enough. Achievements like that need to be prominently enshrined somehow so competitive players can boldy display their gaming machismo. So, why doesn’t Diablo 4 already have leaderboards and what impact do you think this is having on the viability of the game?

JenX: “I do think adding leaderboards is a no brainer for activities like The Pit and, considering that it’s a feature we’ve already had in previous games, I can’t fathom why it’s taking so long to be implemented in Diablo 4. It’s these types of Leaderboardsdevelopment issues that are really the only head scratchers for me. If something worked well before, why isn’t it just in the base game right now?

A leaderboard is a feature that does appeal to all 3 audiences that I’ve mentioned. Casuals like to see how well they are doing against friends, and the streamers can compete to be the best in the world. I know at least in Diablo 3, if I saw a friend was higher than me for Greater Rifts, that gave me incentive to min-max my gear, or to keep rerolling for the perfect Rift layout so I could beat them. I don’t want to be the best in the world, but you better believe I want to be the best player out of my group of friends.

Essentially, The Pit already looks like a lot of fun to me, I like the idea of it, and it does give us something to push. However, if there are no leaderboards and comparisons to other players can’t be made in-game, then what is the reason to push levels? Right now, I’m not seeing that connection and I think it’s desperately needed to give players a clear incentive to push deeper into the endgame. This should be a concern for both the content creators and players like us.”

See You Next Time

I wish to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Jenbox360 for collaborating with me on this discussion about some subjects that are very topical for many Diablo gamers right now. Jen also writes gaming articles for Windows Central, so please be sure to follow her online column as well.

Do you have a suggestion for another collaboration with PureDiablo and one of your favorite gaming journalists or streamers? If so, please sound off in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter. Do also let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for future topics here at PureDiablo. In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on the news feed so you’ll have all the up-to-date info you need to get the most out of your game.

If you believe that any of the information shared above is inaccurate in any way, please let us know, along with a reference for the correct information, so we can update this document accordingly.

Gazerrick ArmsGazerrick is a staff writer for PureDiablo who focuses primarily on casual gaming interests and lore for the Diablo community. When not hacking and slashing his way through a new Season, he can be found participating in, and presenting at, various pop culture conventions in southern Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Gazerrick9000 for even more of his gaming indulgences. A collection of his creative media is also available at Cactus Palm Perspectives.

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