Blizzard is gearing up to release patch 1.0.4 for Diablo III and the patch seems (so far at least) to be focused on widening the variety of useful play styles. While the game’s rune system makes a wide variety of skill combinations possible for every class, players quickly managed to zero in on a relatively small number of superior builds after the game’s launch. This led to the vast majority of players locking in on a small number of optimum play styles.
From the looks of things Blizzard is determined to change that by buffing weaker skills to make them more attractive alternatives. So far Blizzard has only provided a class preview for the Barbarian, but if the changes to other classes follow suit then 1.0.4 should provide a lot of new options for Diablo players.
Ostensibly Blizzard is going to avoid breaking skills the player base already loves, instead buffing lesser-used skills that might be more fun for some players but (mathematically speaking) a less powerful choice. Probably the best example is the Barbarian's damage-over-time effect Rend. In order to make it a more noticeable and attractive skill in a game where enemies often die too quickly for you to care about damage-over-time abilities, Blizzard is buffing the damage of Rend from 210% over 3 seconds to 700% over five seconds.
A smaller complaint voiced by a large part of the Diablo III player base was that the game’s legendary items were anything but, often shown up by rare or even plain blue magic items if your stats were rolled badly. While the 1.0.4 patch is dedicated to buffing Legendary items to combat this, even these changes are built to promote build diversity.
The new legendaries are packed with new powers that occasionally allow you to steal enemy effects (like shielded and fire chains) that were previously reserved for unique monsters and which interact in new and interesting ways with your class skills.
The 1.0.4 update has a lot of other smaller tweaks (further encouraging group play by buffing magic find and lowering enemy health in group games, for example, which is very interesting) so head on over to their System Preview blog to get a full sense of what the next patch has in store and keep checking back with Game On for further coverage of Diablo III and all your favorite games.