Diablo 3 launched Season 14 last week. This in itself is a sentence that underlies one of the core principles Diablo has had from the very first: overkill. Just when you think you’ve plateaued, there’s another thing.
Diablo 3 launched in 2012 to less-than-favourable reviews, but after a serious overhaul and constant adjustments and additions, it’s become a game I can easily put in my top 10 of all time. For someone who tends to jump around a lot, the total of at least 600 hours I’ve put into the game (across three platforms) speaks volumes.
Again, overkill. This is what Diablo does best. It’s not merely a matter of throwing tons of enemies at the player, it’s the escalation of scale. The heart of it is a basic power fantasy whereby one builds one’s character up to a point where you can conquer the next of a proportionally more difficult tier. Very few video game things I’ve done are as satisfying as getting that perfect synergy of powers and equipment that lets me conquer a difficulty level that I previously couldn’t touch. Having absurd numbers of powerful enemies and at the same time being *ready* for that is sublime.
Moreover there’s a point beyond mere bragging rights. New tiers open up new equipment, and the motivation to move forward is always immediate. In this way it is the opposite of the Souls approach — they are both difficult, but Souls is all (mostly) stick and Diablo is (mostly) carrot.
While the loop is a basic dopamine reward injection, the fact that there are no microtransactions and only two expansions (which are now integrated) means that at no point is the player exploited for this rush. There is a holistic quality to Diablo 3 that makes it feel very much like a game out of time. It’s a complete package.
Word is that Blizzard is hiring for the next Diablo project, whatever that may be. After the goodwill they’ve generated from turning Diablo 3 around and supporting it well past it’s logical life span, we can hope that whatever the next iteration is will carry forward that same mindset.
See you in Sanctuary.