When Diablo 3 released it was an infamous game, one that was loved widely by critics, yet despised for multiple reasons: late game imbalance (which those critics likely didn't see), the auction house diluting loot gain, not enough content to keep grinding, and just the issues with online-only. So much so that competing games of its ilk like Torchlight 2 and Path of Exile were able to gain real traction off of it, as people proclaimed them as the real continuation of the fun, the series initially began with. Worse still, the console version of Diablo 3 itself, unburdened by the inability to implement the auction house, became to many the "superior version" of this venerated PC franchise.
What I've noticed though in the almost 2 years since Diablo 3 first released, is how much the game has changed fundamentally, and for the better, due to patching. People are quick to look at patching as a crutch for lazy designers, especially console players who have only had to deal with it since the 360 first launched. While there are cases where it does excuse lazy or unfinished design, the fact remains patching allows devs to respond to feedback, and fix issues even the devs couldn't predict until a large user base has at it. I'm happy to report Diablo 3 is one of those games that doesn't just benefit from patching, but might be saved by it.
On the night of the 2.0.1 patch before going to sleep, I got to play about an hour of Diablo 3 with a mystical Witch Doctor known as General McFist. A lot of why I logged on was curiosity over the large 2.0.1 patch that bridges into the soon to be released expansion, and the other was because Mcfist was telling me this patch made the game amazing. I was skeptical going in of course…yet within about 20-30 mins I was right there on the bandwagon smiling. While the auction house still has a few precious weeks of existence before extinction, the new "Loot 2.0" has been released, and I can safely say IT WORKS! Within that one hour, I replaced over half my gear, gained 1/3 more health, and my damage per second literally doubled.
This is the same piece of loot, with the one on the left pre-patch, and on the right post-patch.
Heck, I found a legendary within the first half hour, and got an achievement since it was the first one I equipped…because it actually was GOOD for my class. The new difficulty settings made fights feel nicely balanced, with enemies scaling to your level by default, and you add to their power through 5 different difficulty levels (with 5 more scaling Torment difficulties for those that can't get enough at high level). Adventure mode and the new Paragon system look to give fans who want more after maxing out a character. Even little changes like dumping tomes for jewelcrafting/artisan upgrades, potions now reduced to one type that heals a flat 60%, UI changes everywhere, and even new runes for skills.
Whole new cleaner UI with the adventure mode and new difficulty levels.
In that fairly short experience, I felt like I was playing a different game, the version I wanted from the beginning, all thanks to patching being available. Blizzard, if anything as a company, is never one to just shove their product out, and leave it. All of their major franchises, undergo tons of iteration and polish time to better fine-tune the experience, or add in features that make the experience largely better after release. Even their expansions feed into this idea, not only adding in new content, but largely making the core play better. Starcraft did not become the sensation we know and love without Brood War, and the game Diablo 2 fans know and love was broken in many ways before Lords of Destruction. With the coming of Reaper of Souls, this trend looks to continue, and I'm actually eager to dive back in.