I’m only level 65, but I’m ready to quit Diablo 4 until the first season arrives later this month: I’ve had enough of the endgame grind, even though I’m not even close to the game’s level cap. No one is forcing me to play, I know, but it feels strange to let the most fun part of an ARPG play itself out before you hit max level – what’s left to look forward to?
If this were Diablo 3 I wouldn’t think twice about quitting now because I’m at the exact same point I’d be progressive if I was level 70 with a few hundred paragon levels under my belt: I’ve got the gear I need for the build I want so now it’s just a matter of getting stat upgrades from higher power level pieces or a lucky unique drop – basically fine tuning what I already have for extra increase or mitigation damage . But those new to Diablo or ARPGs may be knocked out when they finally reach level 100 and realize that aside from an admittedly difficult repeated boss fight, the endgame things have already happened.
I’ve played Diablo 3 a lot over the years and the speeding up process is always the best part; I love the excitement of dropping a Legendary item and seeing if I need it, and I love watching my damage numbers skyrocket as I piece together my build. Still, my interest usually diminishes considerably once I get my gear and the novelty of being able to instantly vaporize hordes of enemies wears off. That’s fine – it’s a cycle I’ve repeated with most seasons since Diablo 3 first introduced them, and the journey is fun, even if the destination is fleeting. But this not Diablo 3 – in Diablo 4 I have another 35 levels to slog through.
I understand Blizzard’s attempt to get away from the “Have a friend boost you to level 70 in 20 minutes flat so you can jump right into the endgame” mentality that Diablo 3 got every season: ignoring most of what the game has to offer can’t feel right for the people who worked on it for years. But Diablo 4’s solution presents the opposite problem. Leveling now feels more meaningful as you have to get a working build fairly early on to get through the difficulty spikes, but have to craft the same piece of gear multiple times to allow for level progression, and the natural gear upgrades you get are incredibly annoying when forced to to do it over and over again.
Gearing is no longer the fun endgame activity it was in previous games, because you’ve done it for the last 30 levels or so, and you’ll be doing it for the next 40. If the level cap books the acceleration process, you’ll feel less comfortable opting out at any point, as it will make you feel like you’re quitting.
In a sense, level 50 is the real maximum, I think. That’s when you stop getting skill points and the game switches you to the paragon point system for more attributes and bonuses. But Blizzard has superpowered some of those paragon boards – and the glyphs they contain – for many builds, so you’ll want to unlock these nodes to deal even more damage on the demonic battlefields. That would be fine in theory, but XP slows down to an actual crawl from this point on, and just looking at the number of nodes (and levels) you have to unlock to get there is enough to make me feel sick.
The power level of items also clouds post-campaign progression. Stats increase significantly if you can find (or upgrade) gear past the 725 power level, which makes me feel insecure about investing in crafted legendaries for gear lower than the highest current break point. But then it’s hard to complete the content to get the gear, and it goes on and on. It’s a shame some of the better unique items are locked away behind higher levels too, because it feels like you have to do a ridiculous amount of grinding to even have a slim chance of getting what you need for your build.
Despite all that, I enjoyed Diablo 4 – I just think some of the progression is pretty skewed. Anyone who has played Diablo 3 will recognize the endgame stages that start after level 50: paragon boards/paragon points, Nightmare Dungeons/Greater Rifts, Glyphs/Legendary Gems. Still, Diablo 3’s paragon levels felt more organic. They were a welcome consequence of looking for your set pieces and crafting your gear, not something to specifically aim for. And they certainly didn’t let you religiously track your XP bar progress unless you min-maximized the absolute crap out of your build.
It’s not even about time; I’m always willing to spend way too much of it playing games I love and I have no problem doing so, provided I enjoy them. The problem for me is that Diablo 4 got pretty stale once I hit level 60, and I spent the next handful of levels trying to convince myself I was still having fun.
Obviously, the ARPG’s gear grind isn’t exclusive to Diablo 4 – it’s the part that kept me going back to the previous game, but you can have too much of a good thing. Diablo 4 basically did away with the “endgame” by making it part of the leveling process, and therefore mandatory if you want to get to level 100. will have to do it all over again. And again, and again.