While The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom continues to rule headlines across media outlets, Diablo IV fans had a celebration of their own too. Last weekend’s Server Slam event was remarkably smooth for a game whose release date is nearly a month away. Gone were the frustrating wait times that plagued the game’s beta a few months ago. It barely took a minute for me to step into the world of Sanctuary, down from the 45-minute wait I experienced last time. There were hardly any bugs, and a host of balance changes refined an already solid experience. But it wasn’t long before players discovered a nerf that had gone too far: Reddit and Twitter had a meltdown over the new Necromancer nerfs that turned their overpowered minions into harmless toys.
The Necromancer’s powerful life-steal abilities went well with a horde of skeletons that ironically acted as meat shields. These allies come in three types: melee warriors, ranged mages, and sturdy golems. Each category also features subtypes designed with unique scenarios in mind, from the icy skeletal Cold Mages to the tanky Bone Golem. Your minions are designed to be disposable, and new ones can be summoned without a second thought.
A nerf made sense, especially since the Necromancer class coasted through higher difficulties during the Diablo IV open beta. The devs wanted the minions to exhaust quickly and be repeatedly summoned during combat. This wasn’t the case during the beta, with minions that rarely dropped to the ground. But with the Diablo IV Server Slam bringing a significant drop in the skeleton warriors’ health, elite enemies and bosses quickly turned them into bone piles.
They had the durability of sticks strung together with duct tape. World boss Ashava would sneeze and — poof — poisoned piles of bone. Your minions aren’t the smartest around, so area attacks began to make short work of them. And against large bosses, it was a chore to find corpses and resurrect a whole bunch of them to defend yourself. While the Necromancer wasn’t completely useless solo, most minion-dependent builds were now irrelevant. It wasn’t long before Blizzard got word of the problem. Diablo GM Rod Fergusson was quick to reassure fans that a fix was in the works.
In under six hours, a hot fix was deployed to resolve this situation. Blizzard handled this on the server side without a new download being sent to players. It’s a refreshing change to see a developer be this reactive to player feedback. Considering that Blizzard is a AAA studio that operates on a massive scale, I was genuinely impressed as a player when I saw the changes kick in. I’m happy to report that I did much better against the terrors of the Fractured Peaks after the hot fix. The devs have promised to fine-tune things even further before launch.
The nerf hammer did its work a little too well this time, a decision not uncommon while balancing video games. The devs will certainly take a more measured approach to perfect Sanctuary’s many paths of survival. I’m optimistic about Diablo IV’s roadmap, especially since it isn’t going to be a one-and-done kind of launch, thanks to expansions and events filling up the calendar. There are always going to be metas that need reshaping and bugs that need squashing, so I’m excited to see how Blizzard’s trigger finger reacts.