We finally got another quarterly update from Blizzard about Diablo 4 and what the team is working on or adjusting. That's great, but what caught my eye is Blizzard's respec mechanic and...well, it's a problem.
In the blog (opens in new tab), Blizzard states that "In Diablo IV, you will be able to respec your skills and passives. The number of times you can do this will be unlimited, but it won’t be free."
Ugh, I have so many problems with this.
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Respecing in games should be free
First of all, there's no game out there that can truly justify a player having to do any extra legwork to respec their character. Players should be able to tinker and tweak their character however they want. An excellent example of this is Assassin's Creed Valhalla. No matter what tree you go down, you can just tinker and tweak your skills from zero if you want.
The post continues, however: "It will be easy to do when you first start a character; as your character grows, the effort and cost required to respec will grow too. In the end-game, changing your build will require a significant investment, to appropriately match the time and effort you’ve put into defining your character."
That last line is just ridiculous. Obviously, it's unclear what it'll cost the player to respec, so my complaints may be meaningless, but this goes beyond Diablo IV. Presumably, the player that makes it to the end-game has spent dozens of hours in this game, why should respecing their character come with a bigger penalty?
If anything, this discourages players from respecing their character, so why should it be difficult for a player to do so? This mechanic requires players to do a 180 and go for a completely different build, but what about those players that have one or two skills out of place?
Games are supposed to be fun. Players want to increase their enjoyment by fine-tuning their build freely. There is no fun in forcing players to put extra work in a game they already spent so many hours in. This is not a simple game mechanic, this is a quality of life issue.
And this isn't exclusively about Diablo 4. Dark Souls is one of my favorite video game series, but its respec system is garbage. In Dark Souls 2 specifically, there are items called Soul Vessels that you have to use to respec, and they are incredibly rare so they must be used wisely.
That entire system discourages players from ever using it unless they're committing to a drastic change in playstyle, but what happens if they don't actually like that playstyle? They're out of luck if they can't uncover more Soul Vessels.
The same thing goes for Diablo 4. I'm sure it's not going to be as drastic of a cost, but the player shouldn't have to waste gold (as an example) if they don't like the respec they're playing.
RPGs are all about experimentation with characters, as these games are typically long and offer deep, in-depth mechanics. It's fun to experiment, but not when it costs a "significant investment."
A world where respecing costs an arm and a leg is a world where players don't get to test drive or even develop creative builds. As a gamer, I'm not going to mess with my builds if it costs me. I'm just going to take a tour down Icy Veins (opens in new tab) to see what the best builds are. Hint: Players shouldn't have to do that.