When Blizzard released Diablo II Resurrected almost exactly a year ago I assumed that they’d only do a couple rounds of bugfixes after that, if needed, and then leave the game as is for good.
This seemed likely to me because a) they’d made abundantly clear that they intended to give us the original, basically untouched gameplay experience of DII – a few minor QoL-improvements being the exception – just with a fresh coat of paint, and b) since they have no means to monetize the game beyond the initial box price (yet?) I just couldn’t imagine any ActiBlizz-exec greenlighting more work being done on the project than absolutely necessary.
Well, color me surprised, as the team has been working on the game continuously since then. Until a few days ago patches mostly contained fixes, more QoL improvements, the revival of the ladder system and a handful of new runewords.
The update we received just now however is one of the biggest game-changers the game has ever seen, probably only surpassed by the introduction of runewords and the implementation of skill synergies, which happened all the way back in June 2001 and October 2003, respectively.
The update’s main feature is the introduction of Terror Zones.
Until now no area in the game had a higher level than 85. That’s important because the level of a zone also determines the levels of the monsters in it. A higher monster level means more XP, and it also affects which items they can and cannot potentially drop. Since most players always want to get the most XP as well as the best items and zone levels never used to change this naturally led to the same areas being farmed over and over for many years. Also, as characters have a maximum level of 99 this also meant that getting there was a painfully slow process as monsters more than 5 levels below you give less XP, significantly so the bigger the gap becomes.
Enter Terror Zones. A whole range of areas throughout all of the game’s five acts can now become terrorized, always one main zone and the adjacent dungeon(s) – with some exceptions – for an hour at a time on a rotating schedule. The monster levels here will scale with the level of the character that created the game, like so:
- Base: +2 levels up to level 45
- Champion: +4 levels up to level 47
- Unique: +5 levels up to level 48
- Base: +2 levels up to level 71
- Champion: +4 levels up to level 73
- Unique: +5 levels up to level 74
- Base: +2 levels up to level 96
- Champion: +4 levels up to level 98
- Unique: +5 levels up to level 99
As you need to have beaten Baal on the respective difficulty level for the terrorizing to even happen I’m not sure whether this will have a big effect – or any at all – on playing through Normal and Nightmare, but for levelling and farming on Hell this is obviously a huge deal. More XP, more gameplay variety and potentially more high-level item drops; what’s not to like?
Apparently not being content with having only one ground-breaking feature up their sleeves they’re also adding a new type of unique charm when ladder season 2 starts on October 6th: Sundering Charms.
For a very long time encountering and dealing with monsters that are immune to at least one type of damage has been a big part of playing the game on Hell difficulty. You pretty much had to choose between either playing a build that can dish out more than one damage type, or just accepting the fact that some areas are not meant for your character to farm in solo.
Now, there always were a few ways to break immunities, but those didn’t necessarily work for every class and/or in every situation and were mostly rather cumbersome to utilize as well.
From October 6th onward you’ll “just” need to get your hands on the appropriate sundering charm, put it in your inventoy and boom, no monster will ever be immune again if you deal that type of damage to it.
So why did I put “just” in quotation marks? Well, there’s a whole bunch of caveats to getting and using these things.
The biggest one for me personally is that they will only drop for ladder characters. I’ve never owned a ladder-only item in Diablo II and I probably never will, because, well, I simply don’t play on ladder. It’s not that I dislike levelling new characters, quite the contrary, but I absolutely don’t fancy having to start over from scratch without being able to make use of the stashed treasures I’ve spent so much time collecting. Having good items to deck out new characters with is actually one of the things I like the most about ARPGs.
Of course once a ladder season ends those items do become part of the non-ladder ecosystem, but as you can imagine the good and thus sought after ones tend to be outrageously expensive to trade for, and I’m fairly certain that these charms will be even costlier than most ladder items that came before.
The second obstacle is that they’ll exclusively drop in terror zones, and only from Champion monsters and upwards, meaning that they’ll probably be pretty rare even if you are playing ladder.
If you do manage to get one you’ll then have to somehow compensate for the hefty debuff to your character’s resistance against the very damage type the charms sunder, which they all have as part of their “bonuses”. You can’t kill the monsters if they kill you first, right?
Lastly, they require a character level of 75 to use and you also need to make room for them in your inventory, but after all of the above this should be barely an inconvenience.
Despite all these hurdles sundering charms totally are game-changers though, make no mistake – which is why it’s probably a good thing that they aren’t too easy to get.
Want to play a maxed out Blizzard Sorceress or fire Druid without having to dump skill points into anything else and still be able to farm any area in the game? Get the appropriate sundering charm and you can! Too poor to trade for the runes to build Infinity but still want to play lightning only? Equip The Crack of the Heavens and you’re good to go (what a hilarious name is that, anyway?)!
I won’t even try to count the builds that haven’t been viable to solo Hell difficulty or were at least severely restricted in where they could farm for the longest time now, but there are quite a few. With the help of a sundering charm many of these will become very viable all of a sudden, and who knows, maybe some of them will even turn out to be proper powerhouses.
So yeah, these are massive – and in my opinion pretty great – changes to a game that’s almost a quarter of a century old now. I kinda hate to say it, but…not bad, Blizzard. Not bad at all.