You might think that there’s no “wrong” way to play a game like Diablo III. This is incorrect. Somehow, I figured out how to pull it off. Last weekend, while trapped in my apartment during the snowpocalypse that hit much of the US, Kirk and I marathoned the PS4 version of Blizzard’s latest hack-n-slash adventure game, which I had been meaning to try for a while. (I’d played a bunch on PC but heard it’s way more fun with a controller, which is true.)
I rolled a Crusader, partly because it looked fun and partly because I like the irony of a Jew being a Crusader. I was level one. Kirk was level 70. Things escalated very quickly.
Over the next few hours, as we mindlessly hacked our way through Act I, my stats shot through the roof. By the end of the act I was level 42, with several hundred thousand gold pieces and more rare items than I knew what to do with. Although we were playing on Expert-level difficulty, the puny skeletons and goatmen surrounding Tristram couldn’t do much against Kirk’s Demon Hunter, who fired crossbow shots like a machine gun at any creature stupid enough to get in our way. There was never even a threat that we might die; Kirk’s high level automatically boosted my armour and damage-per-second (DPS) rates, so even though my character should have been way under-levelled, we dominated everything.
Not long into the game, I realised that this was resoundingly unsatisfying and even kinda boring. Sure, my character was super-powered — I could summon a goddamn flaming horse — but it felt cheap and undeserved. I barely cared about the constant trickle of yellow armour that popped out of enemy corpses, and I didn’t even know what most of my skills did. I found myself constantly skipping over levels, reaching intervals like 30 without even realising I had hit 29. When boss monsters dropped legendary rings, I didn’t even care; I knew I’d find something better in less than an hour.
So when Kirk left, I started a new character, and I’ve been playing solo ever since. As it turns out, Diablo III is way more fun when you’re not just mindlessly crushing everything. When you’re making gradual progress, slowly finding new items and gaining new skills, the game is way better. Instead of just mindlessly watching names and numbers fly around, you’ll actually feel the thrill of collecting a cool new helmet or picking up a brand new spell for your wizard. Who would have thought?
It’s always tempting to look at levelling in games like Diablo III as nothing but a grind masked as an adventure, a ritual you must perform in order to get to the real meat of the game, the high-level content. But the journey is just as good if not better than the destination. It’s why I’d never recommend buying level boosters in MMOs like World of Warcraft or Destiny, and it’s why I’m not playing Diablo III with Kirk again for a long time. Sorry, Kirk.