When Diablo III debuted on PCs back in 2012, it was met with praise by critics, but incredible disdain by exceptionally vocal players. While a 3.9 User score on Metacritic might amount to thousands of jerks with far too much time on their hands, there was an undeniable problem. The controls hadn’t changed, and there were more bad guys on screen than ever; so what was the problem? Some blamed the loot system. Others pointed fingers at the skill progression. I think the folks worked themselves up over the fact that Diablo III was brain-paralyzingly easy.
Starting up Diablo III back at launch meant you and your teammates had to plow through anywhere from 12-15 hours in order to get to the next level of difficulty. That’s just not acceptable for a game where you can punch the actual Devil. Bosses possessed unique abilities, such as creating pools of poison that made you take damage, or shooting lightning all over the screen when they got hit, like some sort of really, really staticy balloon. However, it didn’t much matter. Your demon-puncher could stand in the poison all day while it did negligible damage to their health, assuming your hero wasn’t stark naked. Additional heroes in the world did make the enemies slightly more difficult, but it just wasn’t enough. Beating back the forces of hell wasn’t difficult, and the game suffered for it.
Fast forward to 2014. Diablo III got a brand new loot system, and no longer requires the slog through Normal in order to play on higher difficulties. You can jack the thing up to Master with a fresh level one toon. Suddenly the game requires dexterity and skill. Standing in the poison doesn’t cause a mild rash anymore. Hang out too long in the green stuff and your Nephilim’s ankles will straight up dissolve. The game asks you to pay some attention, rather than snooze your way through hell before a big sign that says “YOU WIN!” scrolls past.
The game’s change from a mindless click-fest to a mentally engaging skeleton-killing romp definitely improved Diablo III’s standing. It requires you and your friends to communicate in order to kill a particularly monstrous boss which would eat you without any assistance. Could you die over and over again, and eventually whittle the beast down solo? Sure, you could, but then you’d look like a fool who refused to learn from their mistakes.