The Diablo 3 of today is very different from the one that launched in 2012. That game’s story was one of serious teething pains; of the controversial (and quickly jettisoned) Auction House, and of the much-needed Loot 2.0 redesign for 2014’s Reaper of Souls expansion. From there, however, Diablo 3 has gone from strength to strength. The game introduced a new and exciting layer for putting together builds in 2015 with Kanai’s Cube, allowing players to extract and equip bonus legendary powers. And since then we’ve also seen the arrival of the Necromancer class, new legendary and set items, a couple of new modes, and a few new demon-slaying locations.
Diablo 3 is now ten years old, and not only are millions of people still playing (which Rod Fergusson told us during this interview), but its identity has evolved to become a game that’s – first and foremost – all about having fun. The last expansion may have been long ago, but Blizzard continues to release new gameplay-focused Seasons featuring new toys designed to give players even more ways to find the fun. Diablo 3 is now a celebration of itself, its players, and what you can achieve, regardless of the class you choose.
The upcoming 27th Season “Light’s Calling” – going live on August 26, 5pm PDT – is the ultimate example of that, as it will introduce a new item called Angelic Crucibles. These consumables can give any legendary item perfect rolls (handy for running high-level Greater Rifts) as well as adding one of three new game-changing class-specific bonuses. With seven classes, that’s 21 brand new legendary powers that open up the potential-build flood gates with all of the power of a two-handed Mighty Weapon.
For the Barbarian, Hammer of the Ancients can hit in all directions and unleash a screen-filling shockwave that does massive damage. The Demon Hunter’s Strafe can cast hatred spending abilities like Multishot. For the Necromancer, the Army of the Dead skill can automatically attack all enemies within 50 yards. The list goes on, and if you’re like me, someone that has been theory-crafting and putting together Diablo 3 builds for many years, it’s eye-opening and mouth-watering stuff.
When you consume an Angelic Crucible, the legendary item also turns an ethereal white colour, becoming sanctified. You can only equip one sanctified item at a time – which puts a keen focus on these new powers for Season 27. What’s great about the new powers though, is that they’re not just limited to one specific build or playstyle. That and they’re really, really powerful. Insanely so. We’re talking screen-filling demon-melting pyrotechnics that are over-the-top even for Diablo 3. I’m the sort of player that loves nothing more than a Diablo light show, so that’s saying something.
Messing around with the Barbarian, Necromancer, and Demon Hunter in the PTR, testing out the new seasonal theme and sanctified items has made me want nothing more than to dip back into classes I haven’t played in a while. Seeing Hammer of the Ancients send out a massive screen-filling shockwave is so satisfying, it’s brought something new to a skill I’ve never actually used. Combining that with attack speed buffs and key Hammer of the Ancients items is the sort of stuff that makes Diablo 3 so much fun. Numbers stacking on top of numbers, percentages here and there and everywhere, and using the right legendary gems to send those damage numbers into the stratosphere.
Likewise, the Necromancer and Army of the Dead power takes the idea of commanding an army of undead fighters and makes it a screen-filling free for all. What was once a skill that triggered every now and then now automatically targets monsters in a way that amplifies the ‘pet build’ idea of just having to run around and watch the carnage unfold. For the Demon Hunter, watching Strafe fire off Multishot after Multishot is equally satisfying.
Combine this with Season 26’s addition of Echoing Nightmares, a new horde mode that is now a staple feature of the game, and Season 27 really does deliver on its promise of being pure, joyous fun. And that’s because Echoing Nightmare makes the whole augmenting process a relatively grind-free experience (buffing items with base stats like strength or dex), so you can tackle high-level Greater Rifts faster with more powerful gear.
Within the Diablo community, the excitement for Season 27 is palpable, but if you’re a newcomer jumping into Diablo 3 now, you’ll discover a game that’s warped to fit its existing, ongoing player base. In Diablo 3 the power creep has been very, very real, and while that’s actually been a good thing for those of us engaging with it every season, it’s not necessarily ideal for everyone else. Hitting the level cap and maxing the torment difficulty level can be achieved in a day or two now; the path from humble Nephalem to unstoppable demon-killing superhero on mega fast forward thanks to a few simple items.
Season 27 and Patch 2.7.4 will continue to ramp up the power, with overhauled set bonuses for the Crusader and Necromancer to help make a few of their respective builds more end-game viable. The revamped Death Nova set for the Necromancer in particular is not only powerful and tailor-made for speed farming, but a visual delight to boot. The ongoing move towards greater power may sound almost absurdist, but it’s actually kind of amazing. Apart from the fact that high-end damage is now measured in the trillions, it plays into what makes Diablo 3 in 2022 so much fun, while showcasing that buffing can be a superior option to nerfing. Raising weaker options up to the level of others levels the playing field and ultimately adds variety. And with Diablo 3’s immediate, explosive, and captivating combat, driven by a heady mix of skills, legendary items, set items, passive abilities, gems, and other elements, variety is the spice of life in Sanctuary.
But, it has to be said, talking with this much excitement about Diablo 3, right after Blizzard released its first new game in the franchise in years, is a little strange. As a long-time Diablo player and fan, Diablo 3’s upcoming Season 27 has me more excited than anything on the current Diablo Immortal roadmap. This is not to say that Diablo Immortal needs to be more like Diablo 3 and lean into the idea of power-creep – I’m all for Diablo 4 being more like Diablo 2 by the way, but contrasting D3’s Patch 2.7.4 with the new Immortal season, and well, the difference couldn’t be any clearer.
On one side you’ve got an update that celebrates the game and the player base. It introduces some unexpectedly fun new ways to play while putting a focus on creating new and exciting game-changing builds. In Diablo Immortal, meanwhile, the seasonal rewards come in a trickle and barely move the needle for players who are well into the game’s paragon system. And other than those, there’s a new boss locked behind a super high arbitrary combat rating with no way to earn legendary gems to increase said rating without spending a tonne of money. It’s baffling.
For many Diablo fans, then, the wait for Diablo 4 won’t be tempered by Immortal. It’ll be spent in the warm embrace of a game that only gets better with age, Diablo 3.
Kosta Andreadis is an Australian musician and freelancer who wrote this longform Diablo retrospective. Check out his tunes and follow him on Twitter.