Choose your class and stuff your stash: a new Diablo 3 patch is on the way, and it’s a doozy. With the introduction of Kanai’s Cube and its Legendary extraction ability, among others, patch 2.3.0 is set to open up a wealth of new builds, not to mention areas and difficulty settings. And despite Blizzard’s tight lips on the matter, we know it could hit as early as this month.
For context, let’s look at patch 2.2.0, the biggest among the most recent updates. This patch introduced and overhauled hundreds of Legendary and Set-tier items which ultimately flipped the Diablo 3 meta on its head, giving virtually all classes a much-needed boost. Patch 2.2 was first introduced near the end of February 2015 with a PTR (public test realm) build on PC, but only released in the first week of the following April. That’s about six weeks in the oven. Patch 2.3 entered PTR around the tail of June—roughly seven weeks ago (at the time of writing). Considering the amount of content that 2.3 has on offer, late-August is a feasible release target, even with it launching on PS4, Xbox One and PC simultaneously.
(Update: Blizzard has since confirmed that patch 2.3.0 will release either Wednesday, August 26 or Thursday, August 27. Hooray for estimations!)
And oh, does it have content on offer. The option to extract and equip the passive abilities of Legendary equipment is the Cube’s headlining act, and for good reason. Adding a weapon, armor and jewelry (one ring or amulet) effect to existing character builds will invariably confer a significant power boost, but the potential for new builds is even more enticing. It might not sound like much on paper, but in practice Skill-specific passive abilities can be incredibly potent.
As theory-worthy as Legendary extraction is, its greatest upside is its impact on the game as a whole—one that can be felt even now. Because the Cube lets you use any Legendary ability without sacrificing your favorite equipment, far more Legendary items have merit nowadays. Belts and swords and so on that would have instantly been deemed worthless two months ago now inspire countless what-ifs. A 2.2 man’s trash is a 2.3 man’s treasure. This makes playing the game much more enjoyable because more of your loot is worth getting excited about. That all extracted items roll with the highest possible skill level only adds to this.
This reinvigoration has resonated with the entirety of Diablo 3 due to its vertical design, which continually builds upon central mechanics. That might sound obvious in the sense that all games have some central pillar, but Diablo is practically wearing carriage guards.
Diablo has always been a game of numbers, and it behaves as mathematically as it plays. The hunt for ever-higher stats on your gilded pants is mirrored by the system in the background. The strength of your gear and the skills you equip dictates what Torment level you play on, which decides how difficult your enemies are, which ultimately shapes both your loot forecast and your goals, repeating the cycle. And as in math, changing an earlier step can have widespread, butterfly effects on the whole process. Such is the case with patch 2.3.
Kanai’s Cube touches every facet of the game. Crafting, for instance, will be more user-friendly than ever. The Cube will let players convert gems and miscellaneous crafting ingredients into different materials of the same tier. Got a stack of amethysts sitting around but you’re hurting for emeralds? The Cube’s got you covered. The option to upgrade Rare items into Legendaries of the same type (i.e. bracers to bracers) lets players further their hunt for slot-specific gear, much like the existing Blood Shard model.
The overarching message is constant: everything has value when everything has use. Patch 2.3 eliminates waste on a scale that, if replicated in our time, would cure world hunger and resolve the energy crisis over night. You can even Reforge (re-roll) Legendary gear to reset its perks and potentially upgrade it into an Ancient piece.
And the ripples don’t stop there. End-game Nephalem and Greater Rifts (Grifts) are getting a face-lift as well. The former is ditching key fragments altogether and letting players farm as much as they want. Grifts, meanwhile, are losing their Trial run, wherein players defeat increasingly difficult waves of enemies on a timer to determine their Grift starting point. Instead, players will be able to manually select what level Grift they want to tackle, up to one above their record, by offering a generic Grift key. This will make upgrading Legendary gems much easier, as they require speedy Grift completion and a Grift level at least 12 higher than theirs for a 100 percent upgrade chance (i.e. Grift 37 to guarantee an upgrade to a rank 25 gem).
Grifts also echo the changes to Torment levels that 2.3 introduces. Torment seven through 10 will up the game’s overall experience gains and drop rates as much as they do enemy strength—a necessary change given the impending jump in player power levels, which already far oustrip Torment six. Torment 10, quite notably, is roughly on par with a rank 45 Grift.
Grifts, too, are extending. A raft of adjustments to boss health, Elite abilities and base enemy damage output will ensure that players can reach higher Grifts, even with current builds. To compliment this, 2.3 is also increasing the number of Legendary rewards that Grifts of 50 or higher dole out.
Diablo 3 patch 2.3 seeks to deepen, not strictly expand. Though it does add several new items, the patch prioritizes getting more out of the existing game by nesting mechanics within it. For me, this represents a whole new Diablo. I’ve always approached the game from a puzzle mindset rather than an RPG one. Customization is key, certainly, but only as a means to the end solution of getting maximum efficiency out of your current build.
Diablo 3 is less about creating your own arsenal from a broad one, as you might in Dark Souls, but rather selectively applying a relatively limited pool of Skills, Runes and so on. And as we’ve already established, changing one thing in Diablo 3 can have a cascading effect on multiple in-game systems. The same is true for puzzles: by changing the first step of the process, you create a whole new solution. And with patch 2.3, we’ll have plenty of square ones to go back to.