Diablo II Resurrected – Now with extra terror!

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.

Click here for full patch notes

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:

Normal difficulty

    • Base: +2 levels up to level 45
    • Champion: +4 levels up to level 47
    • Unique: +5 levels up to level 48

Nightmare difficulty

    • Base: +2 levels up to level 71
    • Champion: +4 levels up to level 73
    • Unique: +5 levels up to level 74

Hell difficulty

    • 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.

“Immune to Fire”, my ass!

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.

Keep your monetization out of my gameplay, ffs!

So, Diablo Immortal is out. What a shitshow, eh? Yeah, this is going to be a rant, however a slightly different one than you might think right now.

I wish I could truthfully say that I’m not at all surprised by the game’s nefarious monetization schemes, but the reality is so much worse than even the most cynical of us were expecting that it boggles the mind. Turns out that in exchange for not needing a phone to play after all one needs a humongous credit limit instead.

Here’s the thing though. In my personal opinion the fact that players can spend bazillions of dollars on a game if they so desire is not a problem in and of itself.* When the entire game is designed to incentivise said spending as aggressively as humanly possible – that’s a problem, because that kind of design unavoidably makes the gameplay experience worse, more often than not even if you are spending.

* Of course spending lots of money on a video game can become a huge problem for some people, and it’s not my intention to downplay things like gambling addiction and debt. However, in this piece I’d like to focus solely on whether or not a game’s monetization has negative ramifications for its gameplay.

Here’s just one little example. Black Desert Online has an elaborate system for taming, breeding and training horses. It’s pretty fun if you’re into that kind of thing, and I’ve spent a lot of hours with it. However, it’s also one of the game’s many systems that not-so-subtly try to make you spend some money.

If you’re lucky (or you’ve spent a couple bucks already to help make it happen) and your horse learns one of the more desired skills like Sprint you might assume that you’ll be riding like the wind right away. Alas, you’d be mistaken.

You see, your steed will need to become proficient with the skill first, which means that for the next couple of hours your gameplay loop will consist of repeatedly playing an annoying minigame which either stops you dead in your tracks (the best possible outcome, believe it or not) or outright throws you off the horse every few yards. It’s completely unfun, and it undoubtedly only exists so they can sell you a ticket that instantly trains a horse’s skill to 100%. Or all of its skills, which is the more expensive option of course.

Stuff like that I can just barely stomach in a F2P or cheap B2P game – it’s terrifying how much bullshit we can somehow get used to, isn’t it? – but I’m going to draw a line now, and that line is where a game tries to a) make me pay money and additionally do specific things at specific times to actually get what I’ve already paid for, or b) make me pay money in order to get something that’s actually supposed to be an integral part of the gameplay experience.

I’ll start with the latter as it applies more to Diablo Immortal than any other game I’ve ever seen, and I also feel it’s not even the slightest bit debatable. A no-brainer, as they say.

What we have here is a game series that’s always been about killing monsters to get shiny loot, so we can kill even more monsters for even shinier loot. Only now the loot is going to be complete crap 99,9% of the time unless you spend real money to “enhance” your dungeon runs. Let me think about that for a second…yeah, fuck the hell off!

I know this is something where opinions will differ, but I for one despise the other scourge I alluded to, namely stuff like “Premium Battle Passes” and their ilk, almost just as much.

I’m not a fan of login-rewards and battle passes at the best of times because I don’t like the feeling of pressure they induce – either log in and do stuff every day or miss out on rewards you could be getting. And there’s even more to it than that, which I think is what many folks fail to realize.

Because if those login- and battle pass-rewards are to make people log in and do stuff even if they weren’t going to anyway, they need to be rather generous. They need to make sure you really don’t want to miss out on them. Which in practice means that they often shower you with more power/wealth/glamour than you could possibly gain by just playing the game whenever you want and doing whatever you want. In other words, the game’s designers need to keep much of that stuff off the game’s normal loot tables, or at the very least be pretty stingy with it. See the problem?

By the way, I consider login-rewards and free-of-charge battle passes as part of a game’s monetization scheme because they’re basically there to keep you logging in and interacting with the game, thus increasing your “opportunities” to part with your money. In this sense they are another case of monetization impacting gameplay in a negative way, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

As for “premium” battle passes…let’s see, I pay for something up front, but only if I log in and do specific stuff every day for weeks on end I’ll actually get the stuff I’ve paid for? Yeah, thanks, but no thanks.

Which is why, although I was moderately interested before and will even get access to it for free as I own its predecessor, I have absolutely no intention to play Overwatch 2 anymore. The other day I got an email informing me about the opportunity to buy the Watchpoint Pack. For “just” 40 bucks I would get (emphasis mine):

    • Two all-new Overwatch 2 Legendary skins: Space Raider Soldier:76 and Cassidy
    • The Season 1 Premium Battle Pass
    • An exclusive Overwatch 2 Player Icon
    • 2000 Overwatch 2 Virtual Currency

So what’s the problem? I don’t need to buy this, nor the individual premium battle passes (plural because after a Season 1 more will surely follow), right? Well, as I said, the mere existence of this crap turns me off, because it does have a negative impact on the gameplay experience. On my gameplay experience, anyway.

All the talk about Diablo Immortal was good for one thing though: it made me feel like playing Diablo II Resurrected again, which I’m totally hooked on right now. And the best part: this is a game that couldn’t care less whether I actually play it or not, and it doesn’t try to dictate my course of action when I do play it either.

How do I know what to do then? Well, I just do whatever the hell I feel like at any given moment. You know, whatever I deem the most fun.

Just having fun playing a video game, fancy that!

Games I’ve played for 500+ hours

The other day Wilhelm had a post up about games he has played for at least as long as the developers of Dying Light II claim it takes to play their game to 100% completion. It’s a good read, and thinking about it I realized that it might be interesting to have a look at my own gaming history from this angle too.

The difficulty here is that I’ve never actively tracked how much time I’ve spent with any particular game, so if I haven’t launched it through Steam and the game itself doesn’t have a /played function either I can basically only guess. Hence I will sort them into categories of differing certainty, like Wilhelm did.

So let’s see…

Definitely have played for 500+ hours

    • Everquest II

This one is a no-brainer. EQII is easily my most played game of all time. I was the most active between 2006 and 2008, when it was pretty much the only game I touched, and I tended to play very, very long hours more often than not. Additionally, even before and after that particular time period I’ve spent a lot of time with this game over the years, and I can prove it: EQ2U says I have clocked 1,959 hours on my Warlock alone, so…yeah.

    • EVE Online

I created my first account and main character in December 2005, and while I’ve taken numerous breaks over the years only one of those was actually long enough to say “I’m not playing that game anymore” – and even then I eventually returned to have my longest and most active streak yet. Consequently, even without having any hard evidence, I’m absolutely certain that I’ve played a lot more than 500 hours of EVE.

Most likely have played for 500+ hours

    • Diablo II

As I’ve said numerous times Diablo II is one of my all time favourite games period. I actually wasn’t quite as hooked and therefore didn’t play as extensively as I’d expected right at launch, but by the time I’d burned out on Ultima Online towards the end of 2001 the Lord of Destruction expansion had come out and improved the game in every respect. This time there was no stopping me. It then became and remained one of my most-played games up until about 2010 – in fact it’s one of the very few non-MMORPGs I’ve played at all during that time period. The recent release of Diablo II Resurrected added at least another 30-40 hours to the tally, so yeah, it’s highly likely that I’ve crossed the threshold here.

    • Ultima Online

Speaking of UO, hoo boy, was that game a revelation. My gateway drug into MMORPGs, if you will. Starting in June 2001 I was late to the party, but I more than made up for that by playing every waking moment (literally, except when I was at work) for the next six months or so. Unfortunately I was so into it that I couldn’t stop myself from trying to level up dozens of skills on multiple characters each and every day, so I burned out and bounced off of it pretty hard. I returned after a thorough break and played on and off until a little game called Star Wars Galaxies came out, and that was that. Regardless, in total I should be over 500 hours of playing time, though maybe not by much.

    • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Weirldy enough I almost forgot to include this, although I’ve assuredly played it for more than 500 hours. The thing about this game is, my itinial enthusiasm waned pretty quickly, and I most likely would have quit much sooner had it not been for the great guild we were in. Except for some really well designed and fun raids all good memories I have about the game have almost nothing to do with the game itself and everything with this group of people. Anyway, it makes the list easily.

Probably have played for 500+ hours

    • Star Wars Galaxies

Like UO this is another game I really loved but still didn’t play for as long as I initially thought I would. As much as I like sandbox MMOs, turns out activities like gathering, crafting, housing or (light) roleplaying alone can only entertain me for so long, and unfortunately SWG didn’t have much else to offer at the time (at least to me). Again, just like with UO I played very extensively during the first few months though, so I assume it just about makes the cut.

    • ArcheAge & ArcheAge Unchained

I’m lumping these together because, well, they’re basically the same game with different business models. I’ve played each iteration quite a lot for the better part of a year, so I’m actually pretty certain that it’s been well over 500 hours in total. However, in this case I have next to no “feel” for how long I’ve really played for some reason, and no way to verify it either, hence its appearance in this category.

    • The Secret World

One of the truly great and unique MMORPGs, unfortunately underappreciated by many players and mishandled by Funcom, it never had a chance to reach its full potential. I loved it exactly like it was however, and consequently played it an awful lot.

    • Genshin Impact

My most played game from fall 2020 to summer 2021 by a wide margin, so yeah, pretty sure it’s been over 500 hours.

And there you have it. Which games did you ever play for 500+ hours?

What I’ve been up to lately

As you might have noticed I haven’t been posting a whole lot as of late. Or more precisely, even less than in previous months.

The main reason is that I’ve been looking for a new home. In real life, that is. Finding a place in Cologne – or any other major city, really – that’s nice, located somewhat conveniently and affordable is quite a challenge, and it took about six weeks and almost a hundred applications just to get viewing appointments for a mere handful of places that weren’t complete crap.

In the end I found the perfect apartment though. Still a bit more expensive than I would have liked, but I feel it’s worth it. I’ll definitely show off some pictures once it’s all done.

Which it isn’t yet, of course. Far from it. Tomorrow the keys will be handed over to me, then the real work begins. Out with the flooring and wallpapers, new wallpapers in, painting the ceilings and walls (maybe also the doors and/or radiators), replacing part of the kitchen, in with the new flooring. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget shopping for furniture and of course the move itself. Le sigh…

No, this is not it. Despite what you may have heard we have actual buildings and stuff in Germany

In between all of that I still got a bit of gaming done though, because of course I have.

My main game right now is Arknights, which I stumbled upon a while ago when I went through my favourite Genshin Impact content creator’s backlog.

It’s a tower defense Gacha game for mobile platforms, and it’s surprisingly great.

Why are we beating up a giant tentacled flower, you ask? It’s evil, that’s why!

It’s by far the most complex and motivating tower defense game I’ve played. Not that I’ve played many. Anyhow, I’ll go into more detail in another post; for now all I’ll say is that it’s a lot of fun and also fits my current schedule perfectly because it doesn’t require a big time commitment.

For the record: No, I technically still don’t play mobile games, I use the Android emulator BlueStacks to play it on PC. 😉

The one time we both weren’t dressed like complete lunatics

I initially didn’t intend to buy New World because not much of what I’d seen and heard about the game up until launch made me feel like it’s a game I’d enjoy.

Lakisa and a couple of our friends were pretty keen on playing it though, and once Amazon Game Studios had assured us that we’d eventually all be able to transfer our characters to our friends’ servers I ultimately got on board so Lakisa didn’t have to play on her own until then.

Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that the server transfers indeed worked out as planned for our whole group, because otherwise Lakisa would now be playing on her own regardless.

It’s not the queues, bugs and exploits that bother me. I mean, sure, those were/are huge problems, but stuff like that can and hopefully will be fixed. The game just doesn’t manage to make me want to play it, is all. Which is kinda weird since, on paper, many of its individual design aspects do seem right up my alley after all. Only, as it turns out, it doesn’t do any of them in a way that appeals to me.

As you know I’m a huge fan of virtual worlds. Having to get to places on foot never bothered me in other games – it even enhanced the experience more often than not – but in New World I got sick of running back and forth while questing well before reaching level 20. I like action combat, but here it feels clunky and cooldowns are too long for the few abilities we have. I like tanking, but aggro management in this game is a complete clusterfuck. I like gathering, but the long gathering times and severe weight restrictions suck the fun out of it. I like the idea of players fighting over towns or regions, but being at the mercy of other players regarding whether or not I can craft certain stuff in “my” hometown and how much taxes and rent I have to pay isn’t something I appreciate.

This could almost be a real photograph though, couldn’t it?

The world of Aeternum looks exceptionally good, I’ll give it that. However, right now that’s pretty much the only nice thing I have to say about it, and that’s obviously not nearly enough. Lakisa and our buddies are having a blast, and I’m happy for them, but I’ve called it quits for now.

Behold the Argonath! Err…no, sorry, wrong game

The title I would be playing the most right now had its launch not been delayed is, of course, Lost Ark.

I didn’t want to spoil the actual launch experience by playing last week’s beta too extensively, but at the same time I was too curious to not play at all. In total I got seven hours in and played two characters to about level 14 or so, the Striker and…err…a gal with two pistols, a shotgun and a sniper rifle. I can’t remember most of the classes’ names, now that I think about it. There’s a Bard on offer though, should you be so inclined.

To be honest, my first hour playing the Striker was rather boring. After that the game fortunately picked up the pace and I started to have quite a lot of fun. Combat, obviously the heart and soul of any ARPG-like, felt pretty good once I’d gotten used to it, and had me coming back for more. I chose to skip the prologue with the second character and consequently had fun with her from the get-go.

Strangely zoom levels are either very far out or very close, nothing inbetween

Had it not been for the fact that all progress was going to be wiped after the beta ended I certainly would’ve tried to get some more hours in, so I was clearly enjoying myself a lot. Can’t wait for the actual launch.

At the end of the day nothing beats the classics

Lastly, we’re also still playing Diablo II Resurrected from time to time. Our duo of Fireclaw-Druid and Frozen Orb Sorceress has just defeated Baal on normal difficulty, and my solo Skellymancer has arrived in Act II on Nightmare, which means that he now finally has a mercenary with the damage-boosting Might aura under his command.

Baal kicking the bucket never looked this good

And there you have it.

As I said in the beginning, posts will most likely continue to be thin on the ground around here for the forseeable future, but once things have settled down a bit I’ll not only be the annoying acquaintance who can’t shut up about his fancy new place with the great view, I’ll probably also have ample time for gaming and thus more stuff to talk about again.

‘Voting with my wallet’ works both ways

It’s no secret that I’d been hoping for and then looking forward to a Diablo II remaster for ages. Again, it is and always will be one of my favourite games period. Even so, with Blizzard being the trainwreck of a company that we now know it to be I initially wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the release of Resurrected.

After the Warcraft III Reforged debacle I definitely wasn’t going to preorder or buy on launch day, no matter how good people’s beta-impressions had been. That much was certain, and I wasn’t tempted to relent for even a second.

But now it’s been officially live for a while and, some server issues during the first few days aside, all reviews I’ve read since then pretty much boil down to “It’s exactly what you wanted, mate. Buy, you fool!!”

So Lakisa and I did just that a couple of days ago. And what can I say, I don’t regret the purchase in the slightest because it is exactly what I wanted.

Which means, the way I see it, that I did in fact vote with my wallet and that, despite rather not wanting to support a company like ActiBlizz for numerous well-known reasons, it still was the right thing to do – maybe not from a moral standpoint, but certainly from a gamer’s standpoint. Not that these are mutually exclusive, mind you, but in this case there’s a big difference in my opinion.

Let me try to explain.

The act of “voting with one’s wallet”, when proposed by gamers to other gamers, usually means not to spend any (or any more) money on a product, thus sending a message of discontent to the developers or publishers – the assumption being that this is the only kind of message that will actually be heard.

For the most part I can’t disagree with this, and I went with that approach myself in some cases, not the least of which when I decided not to give Blizzard – yes, the same Blizzard – any more money unless they’d finally manage to deliver a product again that I’m really, genuinely happy with. That was almost three years ago, right after the infamous Diablo Immortal Blizzcon, and at that point I already hadn’t bought anything with the Blizzard logo on it for at least a year, probably longer. Which means that the forty bucks I paid for Resurrected just now marked the first time in over four years that they made any kind of profit from me.

Of course I could have gone without buying it, thereby not breaking that streak. The original’s still there to play after all, and touched-up graphics, or lack thereof, don’t make or break a great game for me.

But here’s the thing. By not buying any of their stuff for so long I basically told them “You’ll only get my money if you make exactly the game I want”. Now, much to my surprise, they actually went and did just that.

So had I refused to buy this product now, not only would I’ve denied myself the pleasure of playing one of my most beloved games with a really great-looking fresh coat of paint, I’d also have made a mockery of the stance I’ve been taking for years: that I’ll not spend money on their games if I don’t like them, but that I will if I do.

If there’s any hope at all that publishers will continue (or start again) to greenlight and fund the development of games that I want to play, I feel that I’ve got no choice but proving to them that it’s profitable to do so by, well, voting with my wallet.

Here’s hoping that it really does work both ways.