Diablo IV – Why did Blizzard release a good game, then start ruining it?

Diablo IV released last week to positive reviews, including a 9/10 from yours truly. Whilst there are a few niggles that can be ironed out, mostly related to the change to an MMO-style structure, Diablo IV feels, plays, and looks like a worthy sequel. It’s certainly the best state a Diablo game has launched in, with Diablo 2 and 3 both only really becoming the classic people think of when they got their expansions, Lord of Destruction and Reaper of Souls, respectively. Now the game is available, Blizzard have already begun balancing some things. As with any RPG, there’s lots and lots of numbers in the background that can be adjusted to improve and balance the gameplay, but, unfortunately, Blizzard are falling into the same trap they always fall into: nerfing.

Diablo 4 mount

Players want to have fun, so they go and do the things that are the most fun. At the moment in Diablo IV, that’s the dungeons that have the highest mob density (meaning, the most monsters to fight) and the least backtracking through empty, desolate caves with only the corpses of your vanquished enemies and a tumbleweed made entirely of metaphors for disappointment to keep you company. So Blizzard are lowering the mob density in those dungeons, because more monsters means more experience earned, which means people level up too quickly which affects the delicate economy of their live service. An economy that relies on using as much of the players’ time as possible so they’re more likely to spend additional money on microtransactions for horse armour like it’s 2006 again. So you can understand their incentive, I suppose.

Their methods leave a lot to be desired, though. There are a wide range of ways they could improve this situation without ruining the enjoyment. First, they could ignore it, because players having fun means they are playing the game and don’t need to be manipulated into playing it more – if you’re worried about power-levelling or something, fine-tune the XP rewards. They could increase mob density in other dungeons and reduce the amount of backtracking (please!). They also seem to want players to spend more time in the overworld where they can team up with each other and fight world bosses or, alternatively, do the opposite and fight each other in a PVP area. So how about, once again, increasing the mob density in the world as well? “Mob density” isn’t my phrase of the day or anything, it’s just a bit all over the place in Diablo IV – imagine trying to complete a timed mission to kill 20 Wood Wraiths, only to find just three of them after circling the entire mission area for fifteen minutes?

Diablo 4 open world

It’s shocking just how long you can run around Sanctuary without bumping into enemies. If I ran around the Cold Plains in Diablo 2 for fifteen minutes and only encountered a handful of enemies I’d think the entire game had broken. Blizzard wants you to explore this world, but have done a few things to make it a pain, to say the least. First, there’s not enough stuff to fight of course, second, their incentives for doing so are tedious – nobody wants to hunt down 160 Altars of Lilith in areas that only have a few small groups of enemies in them. There are two points to an aRPG: loot, and slaughtering hordes of enemies, and neither of those things are traipsing through empty, if pretty, environments. They have conceded that you won’t need to redo Altars of Lilith after the first time, but at the moment you will need to redo all the side missions and re-explore the whole map to get all that precious renown for each character, as it adds to your stats.

There’s a few other things as well, like class build variety – at the moment there are a few skills for each class that are basically essential if you want to survive in World Tier IV. This limits your options, which is an issue that can be fixed, but not by making the powerful skills less effective. They should be improving the underused skills to make them viable in the endgame. In fact, call me crazy but all skills should be viable in the endgame. Nightmare dungeons don’t offer substantial additional rewards compared to regular dungeons, they’re just harder. Come on, Blizzard, this is an RPG – a bigger challenge means a bigger reward, this is basic stuff.

Diablo 4 Dungeon

So Diablo IV is very good, but Blizzard seem to be trying to fix it into something that’s less than that to preserve an avenue of revenue in a game that had a £100 Ultimate Edition. Somehow the most frustrating part is that Blizzard always does this. Every time they release a Diablo game they have to relearn the same lessons, but let’s hope we don’t have to wait until the first expansion for them to figure it out again.