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No. of Recommendations: 9
I've finally given up on Diablo 3. I have no regrets about buying it, but I have no desire to sink any more time into it. D3 is a lot of fun and I definitely got my money's worth. I think the graphics and sound are great, the character classes are all unique and fun to play, and the various skills are very well done. I actually like the new skill system, where you just unlock new skills when you hit a certain level and you don't put points into stats or a skill tree. I like the fact that you don't have to reroll a character from scratch to try out a different combinations of skills.

My main problem with D3 is the loot, or the lack thereof. It's way too difficult to get the really good stuff, such as legendaries or set items. I think that D3 really shines for casual players (due to the simplified stat and skill system) or for the serious gamers that can sink 100s of hours into the game. But for all those players in between like me, it's a frustrating grind with a poor reward system.

I didn't like the idea of the auction house when I first heard about it, but felt reassured when some of developers said in a Q&A on Reddit that loot drops would not be affected by the auction house:

The auction house has absolutely no effect on drop rates. There are conspiracy theories and misunderstandings but I do want to re-iterate, there is NO interaction whatsoever.

I like to play single-player about 90% of the time. I like to find all of the gear that I use so that was good news. As I wrote in an earlier post here:

To me, the whole point of the game is to advance further so that you can get better equipment, not get better equipment so that you can advance further, but to each his own.

I tried to stick to that plan, but I ended up hitting a wall at around level 50. I was at the point where it would take me 5-10 minutes of hit-and-run tactics to kill a champion mob. It started to feel like work instead of fun. So I finally decided to visit the auction house even though I swore I wouldn't, but I was done with the game unless something changed. I quickly discovered that I could buy pieces of armor that had literally 3 times better stats than what I was wearing for about 5K to 8K in gold (i.e. a pittance). That was when it really sunk in that Diablo 3 is designed around the auction house, regardless of what the developer say. With prices for great gear already that cheap, how could they do anything but keep drop rates extremely low?

I thought that I would give the game a chance with the auction house. But then it just becomes a game about getting more gold to buy the items you need off of the auction house. And that is not a fun game, IMHO. I tried it a little longer but I haven't played in about a month. In the end, I probably played for 70-80 hours total and I had a level 55 Barbarian, a level 41 Demon Hunter, and a level 28 Wizard. During all of the time, I did not find a single legendary or set item. Not one. And we are supposed to believe that the auction house isn't a factor in those low drop rates? I'm not buying it.

So along comes Torchlight 2. I was kind of sitting on the fence about this game, especially after having just sunk a lot of time into another dungeon crawler. Then I read another Q&A on Reddit with the developers of that game, and one of them said something was music to my ears:

re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there's a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that's so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

So I went from sitting on the fence to being a first-day buyer, which at $20 was not that hard of decision to make. And the loot is good. They did it right. I have a level 29 Engineer and so far in about 15-20 hours of play, I have found 6 uniques (legendaries) and 10 set items. That's about the right amount to keep me motivated. The game itself is very well done, with production values for graphics and sounds just as high as you find Diablo 3. It's a little too cartoony, but then again, Diablo is a little too dark.

I do miss the simplified skill system in Diablo 3, but there are console commands that allow you to respec your character. I guess that's because the developers believe in having fun and playing the way you want to play instead of creating an online-only, hack-free, loot-greedy game entirely designed for pi$$ing matches between the 1% of players living rent-free in their mom's basement that can play 100 hours a week.

The loot itself has some very fun attributes, much more entertaining than the same 3 or 4 attributes that everybody wants in D3. The socketable items are much more varied that the 4-5 gem types in D3. Beyond the loot, they've made some other great improvements. The skills have been very fun to play around with. I thought the pets would be gimmicky but they are very useful. They can run errands such as selling loot or buying potions, which means less time having to go back to town. And the non-traditional half-fantasy half-steampunk setting is also very cool.

If both these games were priced at $60, I might debate the pros and cons of each before recommending one over the other. But with Torchlight 2 at only $20 on Steam, recommending it is a no brainer. Great fun and well worth your time and money, particularly if you had some of the same disappointing experiences with the loot and auction house in Diablo 3 as I described above.

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No. of Recommendations: 1
That was when it really sunk in that Diablo 3 is designed around the auction house

Yeah, this is ultimately the biggest flaw I think the game has. All the drops are at least a few levels behind my level. So I imagine getting a character to that spot, where I can't advance farther without creeping and getting really frustrated. I can feel my character reaching that inflection point, and have been playing very little since because it's not fun.

That's the point. What fun is a game designed around the "OMFG HOW AWESOME IS THAT DROP I JUST GOT?!?!?" when you completely pull that aspect out of the game and make those awesome drops instead just items you buy? That's not fun. It completely kills the entire purpose of the Diablo game.

I don't really regret buying it. I had fun with it. But any future Diablo games with an auction house, I won't be buying.

- C -
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I'll be the third to say that I probably won't be playing too much, if any, Diablo III in the future. I've got one of each of the 5 characters, lowest is level 32, barb is level 59 and monk is level 60. From Nightmare on, in many cases I have had to purchase equipment from the AH in order to defeat each Act final boss. Most drops are 5-10 levels below my character, and when at level, the drops are still far worse than my equipped items 10 levels below and off the charts worse than what can be obtained in the AH. Not sure I agree with getting great items at 8-10k gold; stuff I want is rarely that low and often listed in the millions.

It's really too bad, because I play solo and spent incredible numbers of hours playing Diablo II and was really looking forward to Diablo III.

I tried the Torchlight II demo, and didn't like it enough to buy even at $20, and I don't buy anything through Steam.

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I was still enjoying Diablo III when I stopped playing. I know that sounds backwards. I just have almost no free time these days and right now when I do play I want something calming so I've been playing Sims 3 when I have a few minutes.

I have a feeling I also would have stopped enjoying the auction house/loot system at a certain point. I was mainly enjoying the badges.

Lara Amber
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My playing has been severely limited lately, due to real life hassles. My lvl60 wizard hit an absolute brick wall in Act 3, I can't do much of anything without significantly better gear. He's a total glass cannon, 35-40k dps, but gets 1- or 2-shot killed, even with diamond skin and other defensive spells. Only good for party play with tanks. He's on the back burner until the 1.05 patch drops, which is supposed to help level the inferno difficulty spikes.

In the meantime, I've dusted of my original barbarian, which I left around lvl20. He's up to 39 in NM difficulty. I'm trying to get him to inferno, I want to see if the barbarian is really as powerful as everyone in the d3 forums seems to say.

I agree that the loot system is poor. After 100+ hours playing, I've found just 3 legendaries, no sets, and 3 copies of the same blacksmith plan. None of the legendaries are above item lvl 40, so they're easily outgrown.

My main beef with drops is that upgrades are too just hard to find. Say I found a pair of low level gloves with a great strength modifier in Normal. I equip it. Now I'm halfway through nightmare, and I've found gloves with double the armor. But not an equivalent strength attribute. To equip the better armor I have to give up 100dps. Or, I can go into the auction house, and for 2k gold (might as well be free), I can get a better set of gloves with more armor and multiple better attributes. But why can't I reasonably hope to find something decent?

The RNG of the item calculation is simply too random. There are too many rolls, too many attribute possiblities, and too wide a range of attribute values. The odds of getting a decent item are so low that you need to find 100s to get a decent one. I almost think it would help if they put some intelligence and biased it towards constructing useful items. Maybe a bias towards class specific attributes (str for barbs, int for wizards, dex for monks). Heck, I'd settle for biasing weapon types for classes. I hate it when my inventory is 1/2 filled with bows and wands that I will never use on a barb.
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I think I hung on with D3 longer than a lot of players, but I yielded to the auction temptation early. I had a lot of fun playing the AH in World of Warcraft, and still do, but that is largely due to the utility of the Auctioneer add-on, which does a lot of bookkeeping and price estimates for you.

See, what I enjoy mostly is SELLING good stuff, but in order to do that reliably, you have to have a clear picture of what items are worth. For D3, the only stuff you can really sell is gear, and the gear all has wildly random stats, and clearly NOBODY who is selling stuff has the faintest clue what a fair asking price is.

For instance: I see an orange item drop, I don't need it, so I check the auction house. It's selling for a million gold, minimum, so I set mine to 900,000. It doesn't sell. I drop it to 700, 600, 500,000, then 400, 350, 300, 350. Doesn't budge. Typically I'll sell it for maybe 1/20 the price that the auction listings SEEMED to indicate.

Having played through to hell mode act 2, I had a pretty good grasp of what stats are needed at high levels. You want gear that has vitality and resistance, mostly, so you don't get killed in one shot. But the thing is, gear with a decent combination of those things costs obscene amounts, while the drop rate is incredibly low because you're looking for fairly unlikely combinations of stats.

I had hope that the crafting game would be fun, but it's not. If you're soloing a character, the probability that you'll get something you can use is so low that it's mainly a money sink. If you're playing the auction, the materials and gold you spend crafting nearly always mean that you're much better off selling the mats and buying the thing you need.

I thought maybe it would be good to sell high level gems, but you can't. Why? Because gems that can drop in any mode sell for, like, less than 1000 gold, rarely better than the vendor price. Gems that can only be gained through crafting sell for absurdly high prices, which seems great, right? Nope... the only way to acquire these gems is to spend that exact same absurdly high price at the gem crafter. There is no profit in creating gems to sell, and there is no profit in buying gems to flip. However, if you want to actually get high level gems and USE them, you have very little choice but to gain that much money, which practically requires using the auction.

Anyway, for the gameplay end of it, my burnout was complete late in Inferno Act 2. It's not just that you die easily... it's that there is a quest that takes a really, really long time to complete in one sitting. It's hard to solo because you die so fast; and if you're playing mainly through multiplayer servers, the quest resets after you log off, and you can lose a couple hours of progress.
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I do just want to note that 1.0.5 is now out -- the new patch adds a new way to manually tweak the level of monster encounters (and resulting loot drops), a new Event quest, and lots more balancing. In particular, Legendary and Set drops are now twice as likely....

I'm pretty sure Blizzard is just going to keep adding -- I bet the gems diversify over time (a big expansion), the crafting gets more interesting, etc.

Each patch has had some nice new features. While I'm not continuously playing the game, I'm always happy to go back in and sink more hours every time they upgrade....

... who'll really appreciate TL2 when it shows up on my Mac, as well....
... and don't forget FTL, Fools....
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Sharing this as well as stashing it for revisit later...

- C -
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