A significant balance patch for D3 landed this week and my impressions of it are very favourable. There are still a reasonable share of fixes that make me laugh but overall the job they did is very good. The standout example of hilarity is Toad of Hugeness. It's damage was upgraded from 24% to 580%. It is still rubbish. That's right, an increase of more than 2000% in the damage of an ability was insufficient to make it worth going on your bar. Admittedly the Toad isn't solely used because of its damage but that is still a pretty outrageous increase.
Blizzard changed things so that there are more ways to get the rare, high powered set items that are restricted to Torment difficulty and higher. The most important change to my mind is that they allowed players to specifically target items they want, albeit in an inefficient way. Players can now gamble for any item in the game instead of having to rely only on drops. I think this is a very good change as it makes waiting for that very last set piece much less absurd without increasing the amount of stuff people get in general. It makes completing sets and getting particular gear much more reasonable and reduces the need for people to run in groups all composed of the same class. Gambling for my Star Metal Kukri is still a ludicrous proposition but at least I can *try* it instead of simply killing random mobs hoping against all odds that it drops.
They are also taking steps to improve build diversity. Because the internet exists there will always be some degree of homogeneity as everyone rushes to copy the build of the week but Blizzard is taking some big steps to open things up by changing what element specific abilities are. It isn't much good to say that Barbarians can build around cold damage when they have only two cold abilities and neither is remotely competitive. There are still going to be balance disparities but at least they are actively trying to make sure that Barbarians have a variety of cold based attacks and they are applying that philosophy to all the classes.
There was a complaint in vanilla D3 that there was absolutely no point in having more than one of a given class on your account. After all, why bother having two Witch Doctors when you just put the best gear on one character and they all had the same build anyway? I think this complaint is actually less valid now but it is based on gear rather than the character itself. For example, if you want to be a cold based character you want Frostburns while fire wants Cindercoat. That changes which sets pieces you can use, which changes which other unique bonuses you can get, all of which changes your build. Many other items, notably Stone of Jordan, have specific elements on them so they shouldn't really be shared between builds. I think building a cold Wizard and a fire Wizard, for example, is totally reasonable even if the characters themselves could be swapped back and forth if you wanted. They likely use very different paragon setups and very different gear so you actually can level up multiple characters to have different builds if you like. That said, I don't think very many people actually use this functionality, but there it is.
So while there is much yet to do to make the game perfect it is clear that the direction Blizzard is taking is a good one. The forums will always be full of hate but the incremental changes are good ones. If you want them to speed it up though, tell them to hire me. I will get that shit DONE.