I’ve just finished Diablo 3’s 20th anniversary content. I’ll give a very brief summary of it before getting into what I really want to talk about.
The new content is basically a greater rift with a unique pixelated filter applied. Everything looks like it came from the early 90s, the sound quality and animations included. That’s cool. For a couple of minutes, then you realise why you don’t go back and play ancient games on your high-resolution display all that often.
It took me just under two hours to get through. If you go into it not expecting a great deal, you’ll probably enjoy it – until the ending, that is.
Diablo is just a normal fight. An easy one at that, too. The rewards you get are bafflingly bad. Killing Diablo gives you a legendary gem, for your helm, that stuns you – at random, combat or no combat – and casts his multi-directional fireball spell for an OK-ish amount of damage.
I’m having a hard time coming up with a way to convey just how frustrating it is. It’s at the same level of getting to the bottom of a really nice meal and then finding a long, greasy hair in it. The stun lasts about two to three seconds and it triggers infuriatingly often when you’re trying to get from one part of a level to another. I had it equipped for fifteen minutes before I’d had enough.
The Bigger Picture
Back to the bigger picture. Back at Blizzcon last year, the hype going into the event was that there would be big news for the Diablo franchise. A new expansion - or perhaps even Diablo 4. the people hoping for that were left sorely disappointed. What we got instead was the announcement of this anniversary content (this taking up a big part of Diablo’s time at Blizzcon shows that the game is really not currently a priority) and the announcement of the Necromancer class.
One could be forgiven (well, I'll forgive you, at least) for assuming it would be coming either with this update or very close to it. No - sadly even that small hope is dashed - as it now seems that the Necromancer won’t be added to the game until the second half of 2017, per senior game designer Wyatt Chang.
Now that I’m on the other side of the anniversary content, I’m left to reflect on the state of Diablo in 2017. I can’t help but think this content would have been a great way to introduce the Necromancer, in the form of a pseudo-tutorial. New Necromancer players fighting through the retro-styled content before bursting out into the new age of Diablo 3 makes a much better story than randomly hopping about on an existing character to a new icon on the map.
I hadn’t played Diablo 3 since the start of the season – even that brief fling didn’t last long. Am I supposed to just wonder off and ignore the game again until the Necromancer drops? Or was this content somehow supposed to rekindle my and others’ love for the game? If it was, it’s done the opposite.
It feels like the team currently working on Diablo 3 is tiny. As if the game has been repurposed to allow for a series of automatic or set-and-forget mechanics to keep the hardcore players happy while the developers are off working on something else.
If we assume that they are working on major new content in the Diablo franchise, then the timing of the Necromancer doesn’t make sense to me. If something of substance is coming reasonably soon, why release the Necromancer separately as DLC for Reaper of Souls? It makes me think the worst – that nothing is coming soon.
It makes me think the worst — that nothing is coming soon. The Necromancer is Blizzard trying to mop up a leak with toilet paper; desperately trying to keep players around while they try to get the Diablo team out of the malaise they find themselves in.