While Diablo 3 Season 24 has not been officially declared over just yet, I figured now might be a good time to write up a review of the season since I managed to finally get my seasonal journey done as well as completing the prestigious Feat of Strength: Ethereal Recollection. At the end, I will talk about what I would like to see for the next season (or future seasons for that matter).
First, let me talk about completing the Season Journey. This was a pretty big deal for me because along the way, I made a Crusader who I was intent on using to complete the set dungeon. I went Invoker for this since I managed to complete it last season fairly easily. For whatever reason, I just never was able to nail the set dungeon this season and I ended up getting pretty frustrated, which put a bad taste in my mouth as this generally has been my Achilles Heel in motivating me to do more than collect the 6th pieces. Also, after obtaining a new stash tab last season and the pet, I felt pretty motivated going into this season in doing the same.
Along the way, I discovered that most of the Necromancer set dungeons were pretty easy. The easiest seemed to be Inarius. So I started thinking about gearing up my Necromancer for that set dungeon. However, I also just had trouble finding a solid Ethereal for my Necromancer and was fumbling with the Masquerade build that got a pretty hefty nerf, leaving me quite unmotivated to play a Necromancer. The Poison LoD builds I gave a try and ended up disliking because of the whole “damage rotation thing.” While putting together a basic LoD build isn’t difficult, creating one that exceeds your other characters’ difficulty levels can feel quite frustrating, especially when Ancients, which are badly needed for the damage reduction, just won’t drop.
In turn, assembling the right gear for each build you want to do or try just became a chore for me. It feels like an endless cycle of disappointments as you set out to accomplish a goal but end up holding an empty bag that should have been tools to get there.
Nonetheless, a pleasant surprise came my way when I ended up converting my Necromancer to a Rathma build. Now, I did say I hated this build early on. The whole cooldown aspect in Diablo 3 drives me crazy and the dependency on this build with Army of the Dead really sucks because of the 2 minute cooldown value. But I made a few key adjustments to the build like using a Messerschmidt’s Reaver to help with a lot of the cooldown as well as understanding that Revive is such a huge key to the build that things improved massively.
Better yet though, I learned that the set dungeon possibly was far easier than Inarius. And I managed to get comfortable with the Rathma set whereas I hadn’t played Inarius in quite a while. So swapping my current ethereal for an In-geom, I set out to handle this set dungeon and it ended up being quite easy. The hardest part was the cleanup since some monsters weren’t completely destroyed and it got down to the wire of 30 seconds or so. I was pretty pissed that there were stragglers but also elated that I managed to complete it in one go. In turn, now I think I’m going to have to create a Necromancer each season since I’ve found the easiest set dungeon.
Once I completed the set dungeon, I got my season journey and sighed in relief. I was quite happy for the pet, the extra tab and portraits. The tab most of all was the best thing for me because at one point, I just ran out of room as I went around collecting gear for 7 different classes. I believe this leaves me with 3 more tabs to grab, which sucks in that I now have to do 3 more set dungeons’ worth of conquests. But at least I have a viable path forward and a solid reason to playing Seasons.
For the Ethereal Recollection Feat of Strength, I felt quite proud of this accomplishment. There really was no particular strategy I used beyond accepting that I would need to delete 4 more characters to get this done and put the time and effort in grinding out gear, rifts and levels to get what I needed. I still would like to find Best-in-Slot level Ethereals for all my classes but that will take more effort. Right now, probably 3-4 of my people have a reasonable Ethereal.
So let’s talk about the various classes and where I ended up. First, let’s start with the Monk. The Monk is definitely the break out star of this season because of the revision to Innas, the related pieces and skills. But it did take a bit for me to understand how to play Innas in an optimal way, which amounted to using an In-geom and Water Ally. Those things plus having a solid Ethereal (which had the In-geom power) changed my view on this build and I just found it equally as fun as my GoD demon hunter.
But the initial part of the season was a pain. If anything, Uliana’s is my least favorite set because it’s just a physical pain to play. It takes way too much gear to setup and the items weren’t dropping. Once I had enough of the Patterns of Justice set, I immediately swapped over. However, Patterns of Justice proved to be quite frail. I think there’s a nasty bug with the set where turning the corner at the wrong time caused you to become vulnerable and you can die too quickly. I know the Sunwuko version makes use of some similar gear, but there’s just too much overlap in how these two sets are designed.
For me though, the next character I built was a GoD Demon Hunter. I knew right away that this was going to be my farming character. I got really lucky early on and found a good Ethereal to make the build work and it felt super fast in clearing bounties and normal rifts. The only thing I’m missing on this character is an Avarice Band for my follower. That said, I did find a usable Buriza which pumped up my sheet damage to over 6 million. I’m still farming out better ancient gear but I can clear GR100 no problem.
Next was my Crusader. Obviously, I wanted to go Invoker from the start and gradually work my way towards Invoker-Akkhan’s bomber. While I did find a good ethereal for the Valor set, I never had a chance to use it. Instead, I decided to go with just Fist of Heaven’s with the Norvald’s Fervor set. From what I’ve read, no ethereal can replace this set for Fist of Heavens and that’s probably true because of how fast you can go with this set. And I prefer this build to Heaven’s Fury just because it’s easier to build up stacks and not lose out on Wrath. I ended up just sticking with Fist of Heavens and Valor but lost motivation after a while to continue playing the class after failing the Invokers set dungeon a few times.
Next came Witch Doctor. In many ways, I regret not starting out with a Witch Doctor because the Arachyr’s set is a lot more friendly earlier on than Uliana’s. Also, Arcachyr’s paired with Manajuma’s Way is a hell of a lot of fun in lower difficulties just because of the speed and chaos it creates. Of course, the only path to go with a Witch Doctor this season is Spirit Barrage. While the build is still a bit sketchy to me, the Ethereal manages to help a lot. Unfortunately, my Ethereal is the wrong weapon type so I don’t get the bonuses for Spirit Barrage.
However, the basic build is solid. I did find group play a lot more fun with this build because the single target damage on this isn’t great. Also, I can do things like provide small buffs from Big Bad Voodoo or group up enemies through Piranhas.
On the other hand, I did want to give Poison Dart a try but still haven’t found a good ethereal for it. I read the LoD version is much better to run than Zunimassa’s. The problem with Zunimassa’s is that there’s simply not enough defense bonuses to make the build tankier. I think either boosting the number of fetishes somehow (maybe through revision Belt of Transcendence) or increase the damage reduction on the 4 piece (because once your fetishes die, you’re toast) then this build might be a lot better. Also, they need to take a look at some older pieces that were used with this build like the Tall Man’s Finger and Uhkapian Serpent because it would be nice to have other builds than Poison Darts for Zunimassa’s as a pet build.
Next, I believe I created a Barbarian. There really only is one build here to play and that’s Whirlwind. That said, I think I found a bunch of Immortal King’s gear for Seismic Slam initially so I used that to get my start. Once I had the Bul-Kathos weapons, I swapped but felt some pretty big problems along the way which ended up demotivating me from pushing my Barbarian very far.
The biggest is their raw squishiness. Even though Whirlwind still is one of the best, basic builds around, it feels really outdated, slow and clumsy prior to various nerfs, especially to Dust Devil. Even with a Wildebeest’s Molten Gizzard, the build ends up feeling weak and sketchy because it’s far too cooldown dependent. Most times, I use a combination of Ignore Pain, War Cry and Wrath of the Berserker to handle the vast majority of incoming damage. But it’s the dependency on Band of Might I think where most of the damage reduction comes from, which means you need to use another cooldown to handle damage reduction.
A lot of the top tier builds for this season used a Squirt’s Necklace in conjunction with The Grandfather ethereal and probably pylon farming to get their Greater Rifts down. But even down the list, the build just feels slow, clunky and pretty meh. I never found a good ethereal for Whirlwind to make this build come together like I did for the PTR. But that just goes to show that maybe the Whirlwind Barbarian needs a second major look at the basics.
I would try the Horde of the Ninety Savages build just because I do have a good Ethereal there. But I honestly never cared for that build. I felt it was clunky and weird with all the shouts (which means more cooldown bullshit) that I had to deal with. Also, it just was horribly slow compared to Whirlwind. I might give it another go if I feel motivated before the season ends but my goals are elsewhere now.
Next, I definitely know I did a Wizard. After making a solid Hydra build last season, I decided to go for another one. I did find an Ethereal with the Fragment of Destiny power which I’m using. So it’s quite great for normal rifts and farming gold, mats, etc. But I tried some Greater Rifts and for whatever reason, the build felt weaker even with ancients. Maybe I need to augment my gear because I’ll get into a situation where I just get bombed and all my shields go down at once. And in the previous season where I was doing GR85 on average easily, I’m doing GR70 and feel as though I’m struggling.
On the other hand, my Firebird build is much better. It’s horrible for farming mats, gold, etc. But as a Greater Rift pushing build, Firebird is incredible. Pretty much the way to play is skip what you can and search for elites and rares then bursting out with your Mirror Images. If it weren’t for that stupid dependency on crafted gear, I might find this build more motivating to play. But I can’t stand the fact that I have to craft ancients with bounty mats. It just doesn’t feel good.
Lastly, I’ll talk about my Necromancer. Oh boy. Where can I start? Probably, one of the worst classes to really get going. It’s not that hard to craft your weapons because of the limited number but I found it impossible to get what I needed early on despite having enough mats. And the gear that dropped mostly was Masquerade early on. Fortunately, I managed to find a build to make that setup work. However, getting certain pieces to drop like the amulet and ring were a nightmare. At this point, I really like Rathma’s a lot more. Feels easier to get setup. It’s still slow but the minions are really cool and you’re not out of resources all the time just sitting on your ass praying you won’t die. I still need to get a solid Ethereal for my Rathma’s build but at least I don’t feel obligated to play a Necromancer any longer with the set dungeon and ethereal hunt for the feat of strength over.
It did take me a while to get that last ethereal for my Necromancer. When I did, I was most pleased. Again, not difficult just tedious especially in experimenting with gear and builds in trying to find something palatable. I might try my necromancer a bit more in the future, but I wanted to relax since I got my season journey finished.
Overall, it was fun playing all 7 classes for a single season. I felt like I had a purpose the whole time and lots to accomplish. The Ethereal Hunt was fun up until the last one for my Necromancer. Getting the right Ethereal with the best passive probably was the most frustrating part. For instance, my Demon Hunter has a solid Ethereal with the Fortress Ballista ability. But it also has Custom Engineering as the passive. That’s completely useless for her and thus far I haven’t been able to get anything close to what I need.
The set dungeon thing continues to be a thorn in everyone’s side. I really wish Blizzard would take another look and just remove it or rethink it. I feel like Challenge Rifts are what people would have wanted except for using the gear from a set. I heavily dislike the meta game that they try to introduce in using set dungeons. Rather than being a useful teaching tool, it becomes forced labor by incorporating it into the season journey. So they either need to get rid of it (which they probably never will at this stage) or use something else like a different Conquest to allow people to further progress beyond Slayer in the season journey.
Post Season 24 Thoughts
Let’s talk about what we can possibly look forward to or what some ideas can be moving forward now that Season 24 had some time to play out.
Coming out of Season 24, the most tragic part is that Ethereals won’t be staying in the core system. Some people have mentioned that Ethereals might be a test for other things that can come to be in the future but with Diablo 2: Resurrected around the corner, we probably won’t get another season like 24 That said, the concept of Ethereals has been great. I think having items like this helps make playing fun as it gives a new layer to motivate players in continuing to play Diablo in the manner it was intended ages ago. The number of stats available, the drop rate, the additional passive and the random weapon legendary power along with a specific weapon type bonus or two made these things unbelievable. I for one (as many will be) am sad that this might be the only chance we have something like this in the game. Add to the fact that you can encounter one during leveling makes it very exciting since it can alter your experience early on during the most painful grinding. So I hope Blizzard does consider keeping a version of this down the line because it was one of the best things I’ve seen in a while.
I do think we should see more updates to followers. The most obvious things would be an Armory for followers along with Transmog. Both would require some asset changes from Blizzard but neither are things that would significantly impact the game. Also, the Armory capability will provide a nice quality of life boost for Followers.
And as I have said previously, we need more Emanate gear as well as emanating gems or an emanating gem slot. I still choose the Follower token as being given a special socket slot that you can use through a means like a Ramaladni’s Gift. Right now, I’ve got 19 Ramaladni’s Gifts stored up without purpose and I think they should be usable on more equipment in the future like Follower tokens and jewelry. Having that 4th legendary gem power through a Follower token would be incredible on certain builds that just don’t have enough defense on their own without forcing developers to use the damage reduction controls to arbitrarily boost the power of underperforming sets. Like I wish I could use an Esoteric Alteration in conjunction with a Wildebeest Motlen Gizzard on my Barbarian because he’s just too squishy.
Also, I’d love to see Emanate gear go beyond utility abilities and make use of other underperforming gear. I wrote a previous blog post on various items that could help out and are never used. And it would be great to see stuff unused sets like Asheara’s Vestments have a place in the meta by enabling them on Followers.
In addition, I want to see the 4th Kanai’s Cube slot make a permanent return. A slow build like Typhoon Hydra could be really aided by an Aether Walker for instance in being able to keep up with Firebirds. Or being able to use the Khassett’s Cord of Righteousness with Valor so you can use Fist of Heavens and Heaven’s Fury rather than starring at your dick while you scream for mommy as your wrath replenishes.
And I talked about my idea of the Bounty Cache item 5th slot. While most people will end up using the Ring of Royal Grandeur, I want to see stuff for LoD and LoN builds from that side of the powers too. It’s really all about diversity and using as much as we can from what we’re given.
I hope we can see more sets as well. There’s just too many under utilized skills out there as well as a ton of useless items. I get that some things are meant to be Forgotten Souls. But at a certain point, everything ends up becoming a Forgotten Soul. At this stage of Diablo 3, I’m more worried that items that have no purpose will just be worthless and barely even considered Transmog worthy. So more sets for under utilized skills and finishing up going through both crafted and dropped items with a fine comb will make this game complete.
Beyond builds and items, there’s things that need to be addressed with the basic game. There were a few new areas added that end up becoming tiles for rifts. For normal rifts, those tile sets are the worst. You end up walking for days trying to find an exit while encountering absolutely barren areas and nothing to kill to boost your speed. For a starting character, this is absolute murder. In addition, there are areas where monsters start right near the beginning of the entrance. I thought this was fixed? Same with areas like caves which generally are empty or too long. Weren’t these things amended a while back?
Lastly, let me talk about Blizzard in terms of all the recent publicity from the HR disaster. While Diablo 3 is old and not seen at the level of all their main IPs, especially with the revamped Diablo 2 coming out, the real issue is that Blizzard needs to gain back trust with the public. There’s just so many black eyes against Blizzard over the years that they need to do things for the community to regain their faith in what the company will do for their existing fans.
One of my problems is that I think Blizzard is perceived as a very stingy company. Comparing GGG’s approach to leagues vs Blizzard with these seasons, it’s easy to bash both companies. GGG’s advantage is that there’s a perception that they provide a lot more content for your buck. Whether that content is good or not is irrelevant to the community because they just want something new to do.
With Blizzard, it feels that the Diablo 3 team has been cut down to a single identifiable person (named Carlos apparently according to a bug on PTR). If they have more it really doesn’t show. It feels that anyone related to Diablo have been pulled off and placed under the Immortal Team (outsourced), Diablo 2: Resurrected team (outsourced) and Diablo 4 (cut because of sexual harassment charges).
This is pretty bad. Most likely we won’t see Diablo Immortal for a while and many feel that Blizzard with Tencent and Activision/Bobby Kotick fucking them in the asshole, Diablo Immortal will end up being mostly focused on the Chinese markets with tons of Microtransactions, which in turn will build even more bad will to the hardcore Blizzard fans and give them even more right to verbally pulverize them for allowing the Chinese to dictate what can/cannot be part of the game (especially after that stupid 3 hour for children mandate but that’s a different topic).
And Diablo 2 right now is just a graphically updated nostalgia trip. People already who have gotten onto Beta are commenting how good Diablo 3 is. So I predict within 3 months, that nostalgia will die down just like World of Warcraft Classic did as people quickly recall that the grind they experienced in their high school years isn’t the same as what they want in their adult, time reduced life.
So that leaves Diablo 4 as Blizzard’s only hope left in the ARPG market, right? Well, with all the cuts, I’m sure that game is pretty fractured right now too. And it wasn’t like they were anywhere near complete. Now with all these key people gone, I doubt we’ll see Diablo 4 in less than 2 years’ time.
In turn, we only will have Diablo 3 as anything modern from the ARPG market once the nostalgia factor wears off from Diablo 2. And here’s where Blizzard cannot be stingy. They need to continue giving reasonable updates and not go through nerf/boosts for the sake of nerf/boosts type of content patches. That really doesn’t do anything beyond satisfying a very tiny circle of fans that want to see certain builds perform. There’s still a great deal of things that they can do as I have suggested.
But the key is that Blizzard must not be afraid of power creep. People see +5 GR levels as power creep. I don’t. I see the 4th Kanai Cube Slot, along with permanent Ethereals, more Emanating non-utility items, emanating Legendary gems and a Bounty Cube 5th Kanai Cub slot as fun. It’s fun because now I have more to do. I’d gladly sacrifice the idea of power creep for just being given more to do and reasons to play and more ability to experiment and try things out rather than having some idiot producer in the back with a slider that modifies a percentage on damage in pushing out patches that they describe as content. Who cares if I can hit GR 150 in a day with shit gear as long as I have more to do or feel like I’m moving forward.
And if people don’t believe I’m mistaken here, just go read the Path of Exile forums and Reddit when it came to their last patch. That game got kicked down a lot of notches because people lost all the power they had been given over the years. But I’m dead certain that if people had been allowed the power creep to see all the content and feel that they can do more, they would have had their biggest league launch.
Growth means people feel like they can do more, which means more engagement, which means more players, which means more people telling their friends about how fun a game is, which means there’s a more positive vibe. That’s what Blizzard desperately needs. You cannot convince me otherwise.