Last week, Blizzard released the 2.0.1 patch for Diablo III. While it has been in development for a long while, the team behind the update has been relatively quiet leading up to its release. It might be a good guess that the developers of this patch wanted to virtually 'see' players' faces on seeing all that had changed.
On logging into Diablo III after the patch, the first thing that greets players is a new look, all blues and blacks, that herald the imminent arrival of the Reaper of Souls expansion set to hit the streets later this month. In fact, much of this patch is designed to get systems and features in place prior to the expansion's release and to give players a chance to get used to the massive number of changes it brings to the table.
It's difficult to pick any one change that is more impressive than any other so here is a list of things that came to mind after my first several hours playing and which I mentioned in the MMORPG.com Staff Blog last week:
This is by no stretch of the imagination a comprehensive list of things that have been altered with the patch, but is a decent list of things that are immediately noticeable. Let's take a look at a few:
Loot is finally better and more interesting than it ever was before. There are items aplenty dropping, though at a less rapid rate than before. According to Blizzard, the loot drops in fewer numbers, but better quality. Boy does it. Most of the rares and Legendaries are class-specific and almost immediately usable by characters for whom they drop. To keep things interesting, though, there is almost always a trade off between the three available item stats: Toughness, Healing and Damage. In addition, each item will grant secondary stats that can be quite beneficial too.
The way that loot drops is a reminder why many of us love to play action RPGs in the first place: The quest for bigger, better, more damaging loot that makes us look amazing while playing. Every item that drops these days is worth a look, even the blues and whites. The latter two are particularly interesting for salvage as even common debris will be required for crafting.
Legendaries drop and drop fairly often. I won't say constantly, but often enough and in strange enough places to make the quest to break every barrel and pot well worth it. In fact, most of the legendaries I came across did not come from bosses but most often from mundane monsters or from destructible items.
At the current time, leveling still progresses roughly along story lines. That said, players who have beaten the game with at least one character and hit level 60 can open up Torment level, a fifth difficulty level that joins Normal, Hard, Expert and Master. Higher difficulty levels also have a slider that can make them even more difficult, up to a multiplier of six. Interestingly, if the game seems too hard, the slider can be adjusted within the game to ease up on it.
Rising through the levels makes gold acquisition, quality item drops and experience gains higher. I took a level one Wizard through the first quest on Expert 6 and she ended up a level 10 by its end and was geared mostly in rare items as well. It wasn't fast, but it was effective.
Once the expansion hits, Diablo III will become something completely new and different as well. Gone will be the necessity of leveling along the story in any way, shape or form. Players will be able to go to Adventure Mode with its attendant challenges in order to gain phat lewt, experience and gold. In short, Blizzard has answered players who had a beef with having to work from 1-60 and progress through the same story four times.
For the record: Hardcore is going to be a lot more challenging. Some of the new auras on bosses and the near-instant death they bring is just...amazing. Trust me here.
Almost every skill in any character's arsenal has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Some skills have disappeared from the game completely, and skills that were widely used in "flavor of the month" builds have been altered or nerfed. Other skills that were ignored have been beefed up and made more effective. Going in with my finely tunes Monk was a learning experience on Torment 6 when she basically got hosed by the first pack of rare monsters. In fact, the past week has been a journey of discovery to find the best skills and runes to use. It's also worth noting that changing skills based on battle and party composition is also an important thing as well. My only wish is that Blizzard made multiple skill bars available to switch skill sets on the fly rather than having to go through them manually and change them.
Another small note specific to the monk is that mantras now stay on all the time. It's too bad, however, that a skill slot is still used rather than freeing it up for another attack skill.
But There's Still that DRM Thing & What About PvP?
While Blizzard has gone a long way to making Diablo III the game it should have been on release, there are still some of the same old issues that plague many people's impressions of the game. Most notably, the "always on DRM" thing is still required and there were no changes made to PvP at all.
The latter, however, while promised, has never been a major component of any Diablo game. While PvP has been in place, it's never been the centerpiece and never will be. But even saying that, I still believe that it is something that the team plans to address in the future. They seem bent on addressing players' issues with the game and, given that the (lack of a) PvP system is one of them, I am confident that it will get some love in the coming months and years.
This patch is a game-changer for Diablo III. There is so much more to do and so many more reasons to do it. Only more will be incoming with the Reaper of Souls expansion at the end of the month. To compare the D3 up to now and the post-2.0.1 patch D3 is like comparing apples and oranges: There is no comparison. It's worth every fan's and even every former fan's time to check it out. You won't be disappointed.
Have you played D3 since the patch release last week? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.