As you recently described, Diablo 2 was basically played in two stages: character progression, and endgame. In the progression stage, your character sucks. Your skills aren’t really powerful, you have to rely on health and mana potions just to stay alive and using your skills, and you have to be careful how you fight stuff.
Once you got geared up enough and finalized your skill point distribution, the endgame began. Playing as a weakling paid off, because now you crush everything effortlessly while leeching enough health and mana from monsters to make potions a thing of the past. This is the point where you farm for better and better stuff just because it’s so much fun to be OP.
To me, “endgame” is simply the answer to the question “what do I do with my maxed out character?”. In Diablo 2, there was farming, grinding to level 99, and pvp. All of which were fun when your character was maxed out and OP.
By giving Inferno a tiered difficulty, they destroyed its ability to feel like an endgame. It just feels like more of that crappy progression stage where your character is weak and striving to be powerful. Here’s what they should have done to make Inferno feel like an endgame:
1. Make Hell the primary difficulty in which to farm gear. It’s fun to farm when your character is OP.
2. Make Inferno challenging for an OP character, but the challenge curve should be flat. It should be fun to replay the entire difficulty over and over with a powerful character, and you shouldn’t be able to outgear it.
The flat difficulty curve is key, because if you have to grow in power too much during the “endgame”, then it’s not really endgame, it’s just more progression. I know Blizzard originally had Inferno as a flat difficulty curve… I wonder why they changed it to be tiered, and whether or not they regret that decision now.
I don’t disagree. There is a line when a game begins to feel like a chore. When this line is passed (it varies for many), the game ceases to feel fun and you feel ‘used’ by it. You could say it is the balance of the carrot (feelings of overpowered) and stick (reminders that you aren’t overpowered yet). The further you go in Inferno farming, the greater is the diminishing returns. What would it take to farm Hell Act 3/4 comfortably? Not much. How about Inferno Act I? More but that much. Act II? MUCH more. Act III? Way more than was needed for Act II. The gear gets ridiculously expensive. “But maybe this amazing gear will drop for you?” Hahahaha! You are funny, reader!
It seems like Diablo 3 is suffering from the same exact problem Cataclysm did. Due to feedback of Wrath being so ‘easy’, Blizzard said, “OK. In Cataclysm, we will have much tougher heroic dungeons as well as tougher raids. We only want to give the players what they want.” The result was a trainwreck and WoW losing millions of subscribers. Just because players SAY they want higher difficulty doesn’t actually mean they want it. When they say ‘more difficulty’, they actually mean ‘more ego’. What creates more ego trips than beating content that is more difficult?
Blizzard said that feedback from Diablo 2 said that players wanted a tougher difficulty. Blizzard said, “OK, here is Inferno.” What Inferno did was keep players forever feeling underpowered… even if they could clear Inferno it is another thing to farm it. Much of it does remind me of what occurred at the beginning of Cataclysm.
Diablo 3 is also compounded by the atrocious story. It is torture going through this story over and over again. And why did Blizzard put in so many story parts? One thing I was hoping for in the story was to kill the Diablo 2 heroes like how you killed the Diablo 1 heroes in Diablo 2. But nope.
My reaction to the content of the game:
Act I- It drags. Spider cave sucks big time. Only parts I like are the Halls of Agony and the Warden’s jail as well as a big plus to Leoric’s Mansion. I also like the Northern Highlands (and even that area where you get the two globes to put on a pedestal for whatever reason. It’s a nice area with nearly 5 elites in it). The Watchtower is really cool. And Wimsyshire is also super awesome. But Act I drags and is constantly boring.
Act II- This act is total fail. There is nothing redeemable in this act. Nothing! Everything sucks! The desert areas suck. The wasps suck. The burrowing monsters suck. The jumping lepers suck. The water system area sucks. The jungle area sucks. The dungeons are samey and suck. The only thing interesting is the Belial fight as it is the only boss fight that doesn’t feel like a WoW fight. It was really tricky killing Belial as a glass cannon character due to the three phases and all those adds.
Act III- I really like this act except for the repeating ‘downward staircase’ at the end. I like how you are turning the tide of a war. The snow areas on the castle to the underground tunnels to the snow plains to the giant bridge are all great stuff. It feels more fun participating in a war than in playing Indiana Jones with these crappy artifacts as was done in Act I and II.
Act IV- This zone is too short and samey all throughout. There’s not much to redeem it but at least it isn’t the complete craphole that Act II is.
Diablo 3 has some terrible worldbuilding which is a big contributor to making the game unfun. Why does this game take its story so seriously? Why do the NPCs talk so much? Why can’t I shut them up instead of hitting escape a million times?
You know what they should have done? Create the randomized story. Diablo is already well known for its ‘randomized levels’ so what not a randomized story? “Because it wouldn’t make sense, Malstrom!” As if the current plot makes any sense? “But it wouldn’t be logical.” The story would be FUN. It would be as funny as Madlibs. It would be more entertaining than what is being done now. A randomized story could be a pot of gold. Imagine different things Cain would do when he gets captured. He could ‘survive’, ‘start a rock band’, ‘move to Florida equivalent in Sanctuary’, ‘speak pig Latin’, anything. But no, the NPCs do the same thing, time and time again. Why doesn’t the story have affixes? Imagine having ‘sappy’ ‘violent’ ‘evil’ combination.
But a randomized story will never happen because apparently certain unions run Blizzard now and the writers think they are better than randomized stories. They aren’t.