Multiplayer will always have an advantage in Diablo 3 because fundamentally one of Blizzard’s core values is on the social aspect of gaming. Thus, playing in a group would (and probably should) exhibit clear benefits. But having a solid group in Diablo 3 also means gaining a massive advantage both in terms of items from loot sharing as well as being able to push higher into greater rifts. While I feel that the former issue really isn’t that huge of a gap, the issue of being able to push higher greater rifts can be a massive problem just because a group has more abilities to offset affects whereas the solo player has a limited number of abilities for survivability, etc. Even with shrinking the damage output of monsters and their life at higher greater rifts in solo play, it still really isn’t enough overall. So how can we mitigate this issue? Is it purely a mathematical issue?
First, I don’t believe it’s purely a mathematical issue. Certainly, lowering the numbers helps but you still lose some of the mechanical dynamics that a solid group brings to the table. Most group dynamics provide scouting, crowd control and healing or defense. As a solo player, you’re most likely going glass cannon just to be able to kill things and might only have a single crowd control ability with one defensive cooldown. Without permastuns, defense and heals, you simply don’t stand a chance.
But there is one thing you have that a group does not: Followers.
As it stands, the Followers have very limited uses. You can provide them with some equipment but you only get a single follower with a few abilities and a couple of gear slots. More or less they’re an extra stat stick for all intents and purposes. So what about getting the ability to use all three followers? Right now, at least two of them just sit around and it’s probably the same two who have been sitting around waiting to do something meaningful forever (i.e. enchantress and scoundrel).
What if in the next patch (or two) they incorporate something like the Kanai’s cube where you perform a series of quest to unlock the ability to bring all three followers with a few more abilities that scale up a bit? Sure, this introduces a new power creep, but it does add a new dimension to followers as well as a different type of power creep. At the same time, it offers the ability to add a better backstory to these flat, boring characters who are just standing around, waiting to do something.
So say, you have a special adventure mode quest line that allows solo players to slowly unlock more abilities beyond the current 4 tiers that tops out at level 20 for the followers. The abilities don’t have to be magnificent, perhaps just a few more buffs or maybe every 10 levels they can gain a new gear slot and maybe their own paragon levels. On top of that you could introduce new follower gear beyond the relic slots and/or make some of the useless gear have more importance to followers. For example, what if by equipping each of the damage immunity amulets, you gain not total elemental immunity but a fraction? Like say 10% per element type. Also, how about giving followers the ability to use Legendary Gems? So rather than keeping all these gems stacked up in your bank (especially useless ones), you can give one gem to each follower.
Obviously, in a group setting, you won’t be able to gain any of these benefits but this idea does add the depth and rationale for doing something more for the followers. It is power creep, but done carefully and correctly it opens up more interesting avenues to a portion of the game that’s underwhelming at the moment.