While Diablo III fans are eagerly awaiting the launch of the first expansion, Reaper of Souls, due to release on March 25th, it?s worth talking about the significant changes the core game has undergone recently. Patch 2.0.1 hit on February 25th, and brought about a series of major changes, all of which I?ve found to be quite positive, making this a vastly different game than it was at launch in 2012. There have been other significant changes to the game prior to this, but Patch 2.0.1 is certainly a game changer.
Also known as Loot 2.0, Patch 2.0.1 brings about a significant overhaul to the loot system. With the Real Money and Gold Auction Houses shutting down on March 18th, players will be entirely dependent on loot drops in order to gear their high-level characters properly. Prior to this patch, your ability to do so sans the Auction House was a crapshoot. While I?ve seen players that have been able to do so, it generally would take a significant amount of time and luck to properly gear your character for high-level play. While the series is no stranger to grinding for loot, the rewards were often incremental while being few and far between.
The new loot system does a few neat things to alleviate this. Patch 2.0.1 implements ?smart loot?, something that?s already been put to use when Diablo III hit consoles last year. Smart loot recognizes the character class you?re currently playing as, and tries to ensure that the gear drops you see are tailored towards that specific class. So instead of rolling a legendary with high intelligence while playing a Monk, you?re now more likely to see that roll turn into dexterity, a far more useful stat for the class. In my experience with the game post-patch, this seems to work the majority of the time.
Another change made to loot is that the quality of the items dropped is vastly improved. Even rare items, dictated by their yellow in-game text, have the chance to be significant upgrades for long-time players. Legendary items will drop more frequently, but not to the extremes seen in the console version of Diablo III. These legendary items are now more than just another Fiery Brimstone salvage component, as most have seen unique properties added and better stat rolls/ranges than before.
About every hour to two-hour play session would net me at least one legendary. I did an entire playthrough of Acts 1 through 4, and Act 4 alone netted 3 legendary items, all within a span of two hours. The last run I did against the Skeleton King boss in Act 1, which currently guarantees one legendary if you?ve reset quest status, dropped both a legendary weapon and green-texted set item. While not every drop was an upgrade for my 300+ hour Monk, I certainly found more improvements than I had seen in quite some time.
A final and significant change to loot is the type of affixes you?re more likely to see. While you?ll still come across your standard stats like dexterity, strength and vitality, you?ll also see a lot more plus percentage attributes to individual class skills and elemental damage. For instance, seeing something like +6% Lightning Damage wasn?t too uncommon for weapons prior to the patch, but you?re more likely to see both higher percentages on the affix, and to see it apply to other pieces of gear than just weapons. Likewise, with skill specific affixes, this patch makes more diverse character builds viable for the first time since launch. While flavor-of-the-month builds will surely still be a thing, a quick trip to the Battle.net class forums will show that a lot of players are actively experimenting and trying new things. Build diversity was a major part of the series prior to Diablo III, and it?s nice to see it make a return here.
Outside of loot, there have been a number of other changes worth mentioning. The Paragon system has been slightly overhauled, no longer capping at level 100. The Paragon system was introduced post-launch as a reason to grind through content past character level 60, besides just hunting down new loot. It provided a separate experience bar, and each level gained granted a permanent boost to Gold Find and Magic Find, along with some minor stat buffs. Now you?ll gain Paragon levels faster, but with no limit on how many levels can be gained. Magic Find has been removed as a reward, which makes little impact since Diablo III is clearly steering away from making that stat necessary. Instead, you?ll gain a single point per level that can be assigned to a variety of different secondary and primary stats, like Resist All or Movement Speed.
Cursed Chests are a new event introduced with Patch 2.0.1, which can be a bit scarce but net you both experience and loot rewards when completed. Attempting to open a Cursed Chest will trigger a random event, which typically involves killing a number of spawning monsters within a time limit. Completing the quest will net you experience and gold, and grant access to two Resplendent Chests filled with loot.
Difficulty scaling has also gone through significant changes. Gone are the Monster Power 1 through 10 settings introduced by Patch 1.0.5. Now we have something akin to the console version of the game with Torment, ranging from levels 1 to 6. Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno difficulty classifications are also removed, replaced with Hard, Expert and Master. Playing on anything other than Normal will give you increased experience and gold, and Torment difficulties promise specific loot not found on other difficulty settings. Enemy levels now scale as well, so when playing on Normal at level 60, you?ll encounter level 60 enemies regardless of what act your run.
This is a great time to jump back into Diablo III. Whether you played the hell out of it at launch and burned out, or if you stayed away due to negative word of mouth, this is a significant change from the original vision of the game. My only real negative thought here comes from the Bind on Account status given to Legendary and Set loot, which makes trading or selling virtually impossible. There is a small allowance given to players within a group at the time of the loot drop, allowing a window of opportunity to trade with players present. But I?d still love to at least offer up trades with other players, and hopefully that?ll be re-evaluated in the future. Outside of that, this is the patch that puts Diablo III back on track, and has reignited my love of the game in a way that I didn?t think would be possible prior to the expansion.