While we still are not in seasons, I want to talk about the current grind and the state of the game. I’ve lost track of how much time I’ve spent on this game but I would say that the last week or so, I’ve been pushing harder just in terms of the number of hours I’ve got on the game compared to my usual time in any game. That means, I’m mostly having fun with the current group of activities. But I do think that I am seeing a lot of cracks in the armor, particularly when you start getting towards the real end game grind.
I managed to get my Rogue to around level 63. My Renown is probably over 60% complete where two regions have four of the unlocks. The last one providing the Paragon +4 point bonuses feel distant with trying to track down every quest, dungeons and especially Lilith Shrine something that feels better casually done. A lot of what I’m doing with my Rogue is gearing, leveling up Glyphs, progressing my Nightmare Dungeons, some World Bosses when they arise and farming Tree of Whispers for my Druid (where I’ve learned an invaluable gearing trick). Also, I’m occasionally doing leftover World Quests and try to pick up anything that I might’ve missed. There’s a few strongholds too that I’m working on, although one has a nasty bug that won’t complete without doing it in a specific manner. My goal for my Rogue is trying to hit enough of a level to get into World Tier 4/Torment although I’m hoping that my friend(s) can help carry me through that annoying Capstone dungeon.
But this past week I mostly was focused on getting my Druid to level 50. Actually, 51 because I wanted to try an experiment that worked quite well where I would save my bounty caches and hand them to my Druid to open from my Rogue. But let me take a step back for a moment to talk about the journey of my Druid to level 50. Originally, I used a horrible leveling guide that made my Druid a bizarre companion/Pulverize hybrid. Early on, this build worked fine because I had a lot of Aspects unlocked as well as the skill point advantage from my Rogue. Once I got to level 40+, the experience drastically grew very painful. In fact, upon hitting 50, I switched my spec to a Companion based one because my damage was abysmal. Part of the reason I switched was that I had discovered a +1 Companion Aspect 2H Mace that really didn’t help the build much because I couldn’t salvage the Aspect and reuse it elsewhere. So that part of the build suffered and it didn’t take me long before purely swapping over to Pulverize, knowing that I was handicapped by the key missing Aspect of the Shockwave as well as the Helmet that allows you to use Earth Spike. Yet I had most of the relevant Aspects for Pulverize along with a +2 Pulverize on my Gloves which made the transition relatively smooth. Now, I’m finding the damage far better.
Along the way I decided to use a trick that I wasn’t certain how it would turn out. The trick is to have my Rogue farm Tree of Whispers bounties then put the caches in my stash so that my Druid can open them. Being now level 51, I can actually get Sacred items. My first item was a 2H Axe, which isn’t perfect for my Druid, but the damage was such a massive increase, I couldn’t refuse. Also, I found Sacred gloves and am saving them just in case I am able to switch. But the pattern I’m seeing is to do 2 dungeons so that you can get +5 activity points quickly while progressing on Aspects, etc. Then do the hand-me-down trick.
Of course, people might ask, “Why not just do your Capstone dungeon?” I just found it to be annoying and wanted my friend to finish it up for me. I’m seeing if I can quickly do these Grim Favors and gear up my Druid, thereby overpowering the content in the Capstone dungeon on my own (that is, if my friend is unavailable). A similar question was asked about my Rogue for the T4 one and my reply is that I’m still at level 63. Whether or not one can do it is irrelevant. It just makes more sense to get to the appropriate power level if you’re forced to do that content if you can’t rely on friends.
But that does tell me that a full reset for seasons, which I expect is what will happen, will end up making game play super dull. The current grind is okay for now just because I know that I don’t have to reset and can reuse my current power. But seasons set you back to zero. That means, you’ll have to do all the stupid fights and renown grind again. I don’t know if I would want to do any of that in the same manner. If you’re forced to do the Campaign in seasons, I would prefer to shoot myself with a grenade launcher than endure that whole setup again. And normal leveling even with world quest gets repetitive. So there needs to be a better mechanic than what we’ve been given to make the leveling process less of a snoozefest for seasons.
With the paragon grind, it’s really a marathon than anything enticing. You do the same areas and dungeons to the point where everything begins to blend together. There’s not much variety in the dungeons themselves and you’ll encounter an annoying side event. But eventually a dungeon just devolves into a stupid, boring boss fight that I’d prefer to take down in a single hit rather than wade through phases, etc. Sure not all dungeons end up being a boss fight, but the game just becomes very repetitive.
I do think people will end up checking seasons out so we’ll see a revival of interest when that comes around. But I don’t know if the end game grind as it stands makes it worth repeatedly coming back. D3 would add a seasonal mechanic and the game would last a few good weeks for me. The last season was really great and I think Blizzard stumbled onto something that should be integral as part of a season. So I’m hoping to see more of those types of elements that keep players engaged. I don’t want to see a “Defeat Uber Lilith” type of thing without an appropriate power compensation that comes with a season. And i want to see more variety in what classes can do. You do have less structure than D3 but not everything is great such as my Druid’s companion build.
Yet even if all these issues exist with the end game grind, the main gripe I have more than anything is the terrible lag and bugs. It makes the game unplayable. There’s no easy way to say that the game cannot be higher than a 6 or 7 at best in its current condition. Part of it I estimate is my PC. But I’ve seen others with similar issues. It’s a very painful game to play as a result.
Then there’s QoL issues that really are horrible UI/UX decisions. The Horse/mount aspect is the worst I’ve ever seen in any game. You’ll feel like you’re on a drunk/coked out horse. The idea that the distance between your horse and cursor determines the speed of your mount makes no sense. Talking to anyone while mounted dismounts you. If you’re outside, your cooldown might be reset. The fact that there’s a cooldown sucks. And there’s a stupid speed cooldown too. Why? I’ve never seen any game do a mount experience this wretched. And I don’t know what people in the QA department approved this decision.
Then let’s talk about the limited inventory space. It’s always been an issue with ARPGs. But this is the most offensive I’ve seen. 4 slots for 10 potential characters. Why? Are they intending to monetize stash space? The fact that gems, sigils and potions can take up stash space in 2023 is mind boggling. Even more jaw dropping bad in terms of just simple ideas that are now common place is that there’s no search in your stash. Why?
And the map is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. There’s so many god awful decisions on UI/UX that I’m surprised people are still employed.
While I didn’t really want this post to turn into a review/rant, it’s hard for me to ignore these issues with this many hours put in. I’m still enjoying the game but the number of issues make me believe this current iteration is the actual public beta test. I’m worried that even with the first season, we may get some people giving the game a chance but it’s turning people off left and right very fast. Here’s the problem: we don’t need seasons. I don’t understand why this game wanted seasons outside of Activision’s desire to exploit a common paradigm in gaming. But the base game shouldn’t already have chased people off in two weeks.
I feel this game just took a bunch of safe ideas and threw them against a wall to see what would stick. There’s some good stuff in there somewhere but I know my interest is going to end up diminishing over time once I get the 5 basic classes up and running.