When Blizzard announced that they were recreating Diablo 2 last year, I was pumped. The remake was gorgeous, with graphics that brought the classic right into the 21st century.
But there were also concerns; chiefly that it was simply an upgrade, with little to show on the gameplay itself.
It was one of the questions I had as well. Since a new team was working on it, why not simply take the opportunity to redo some parts of the game? I posed this question at a media presser Blizzard held with journalists in the region when the game first launched, but the silence was deafening.
I’m super pleased that the developers have heard and have responded. They have made the game exciting again, fixing some of the problems that plagued the near untouchable classic.
For instance, in the classic version, the best setups for each class were predictable. Paladin’s most useful spell was Blessed Hammer so end-game Paladin was almost always a Hammerdin build. Same with Sorcs – FireOrbs builds are the most playable while a melee Enchant Sorc was fun but could never compete.
The latest 2.4 Public Test Realm Patch changes all that. The good people at Vicarious Visions decided to do some major fan service and released a mega patch that fixed everything from class changes to new rune words, NPC upgrades and even *gasp* new Horadric Cube recipes.
We took a spin yesterday and looked at the chatter online and rounded up the best of the changes.
There are actually too many changes to count. But one thing is certain: the possibilities are endless. If fans loved the original idea of having multiple builds in one character, the latest patch brings customisation to the next level.
What’s better is that the developers decided to buff, instead of nerf. Almost all the classes got upgrades to their skills, with different synergies added.
This means that instead of closing doors, many new options have opened up.
For instance, I’ve always loved Blizzard and Firewall. Both spells were powerful AOE spells but they all had a cooldown attached to them. This means that you had to wait before you cast another spell. The latest patch removed this. You no longer need to wait to cast Firewall after you are freezing the enemies butts off with Blizzard.
Druid shapeshifters are also rejoicing after major buffs to the Were builds. But Werewolf and Werebear attacks got upgrades which means that you can now run around in costume in Hell, tearing apart Mephisto.
Likewise, Necromancers’ Skeletal Mages will now be of actual use on the battlefield, poisoning and freezing enemies instead of your graphics card.
Two words. Insight. And bows.
Insight is probably the most useful, low-level runeword you can make. It gives the player near unlimited mana, helping mana-based builds immensely. The previous way players abused this was to stick into a polearm and hand it to an Act 2 merc, who were the most useful of the lot with their auras.
But now you can also stick into a bow, which means you can play Act 1 mercs as well. This frees up more possibilities, especially since rogues have also been given new skills for more effective damage.
At the other end, developers have also added new late-game runewords. I particularly like Flicker (Nef + Pul + Vex), a +3 to Fire Skills helm that will help Fire builds immensely.
Currently, you can upgrade Uniques to the higher quality version of that weapon. This adds higher damage and defence to the Unique. The Herald of Zakarum, for instance, is a Paladin shield that adds a +2 to Combat Skills and a +2 to Paladin skills. It’s a must have for Zealadins. But it is outlived once your character gets to the level 80s, as its defence is too low to protect you against the denizens of Hell.
The solution is to simply upgrade it using the Horadric Cube, so that its inherent bonuses can go along with the higher levels of defence required.
The developers are now also applying this to sets. To be fair, Normal Sets are not anything to shout at. Maybe you might want to spend some dough on upgrading Milabrega’s Regalia, which was also buffed in the recent patch, for its plus skills for the Paladin, especially for those on a budget. But Iratha’s? Not even worth a peep in.
Things start to get interesting at the Exceptional level type of sets. Bul-Kathos, which was fun to collect but ultimately pointless to use, could actually be playable. New buffs include 200 Fire Damage and 200 Defence for the full set bonus. To get both swords to the Elite version, you just need two Lum and Pul Runes plus two Perfect Emeralds. The downside? Both weapons are very difficult to find.
The patch is still a test in progress and there are likely to be further changes ahead and I can’t wait to see the final version. But what is more exciting is that developers are listening, and they care about listening to the fans who have bought the game and are relishing it now. They still need to fix the long queues for games and have to still nick the issue of lost saves.
But this new patch goes a long way to reminding corporate honchos that with a little effort and a lot of love, things can still change and for the better.