Patch 1.04 is out for Diablo 3. Much was promised for this patch and I must say that Blizzard delivered. The biggest innovation is levelling - again! Paragon levels have been added in as a replacement for the crazy high level grind of D2. Characters stay at level 60 but earn XP towards Paragon levels which each grant 3% MF, 3% GF, and a few basic stats. It isn't much in terms of raw power boost but it gives us something to grind away at again and fixes a fundamental flaw that came with D3 at launch: The fact that playing a character didn't make that character better. It used to be that when you were level capped the best way to get better was to sit on the Auction Hall refreshing the search function over and over... heroic gaming it was not.
Filling up a XP bar is fantastic! I played for just a half hour today but even in that time I fell in love with the game again. Just knowing that I am not entirely at the mercy of the RNG but can get better by playing and that every monster I kill puts me closer to nirvana makes life wonderful. The implementation they have chosen is very much like the old level 99 grind which took hundreds or thousands of hours to finish and which gave small rewards along the way. The crazy grinders had a grind to do and the regular people didn't miss out on much power wise. Blizzard didn't listen to the forums prior to launch when they were all clamoring for a near infinite grind and I think it cost them; this new system is probably better than a simple 1-99 grind because it avoids power issues with defensive stat scaling in pvp but it really needed to be there at the start. The new grind should take me between 1000-2000 hours to complete - on each character!
Every class got a lot of buffs and a few nerfs and for the most part I very much approve. Witch Doctors needed their pets and mana fixed in a major way and needed buffing in general and all of those things were addressed in ways I approve of. WD base mana regen was increased to 45 from 20, the ridiculous and problematic Vision Quest was completely rewritten and pets are now tough as hell. I did some trial runs today and was shocked at how sturdy my dorks were. I think that WD pretty much are all going to run builds with both Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan now because they are so stone cold awesome but the rest of the spell choices have opened way up and there are a ton of great things to try. Just gotta say: I called it about Vision Quest. Broken, broken, broken.
Overall I give 1.04 a big thumbs up. Unfortunately we still lack the ability to form chat rooms (I am going to keep harping on this until it happens!) but I think character balance is very much improved and basic class concepts like spending Fury and being a summoner class seem solid now. Now I just need to convince a bunch of friends to start playing again and we can all smash monsters together. Did I mention that grouping is awesome now? It is!