Diablo 4 always said that they were trying to blend Diablo 2 and 3’s methods of buildcrafting. As in, mess up a skill point or two in Diablo 2, and your entire build would be wrecked long-term unless you started a new character. Then Diablo 3 was the polar opposite, where it was free and seamless to change around your build through rune selection.
But we’ve gotten to a place now where Diablo 4 does have many fun, viable, interesting builds. The problem is that players will only get to experience a small fraction of them because it’s just so damn annoying to switch between them, so almost no one will bother. The game needs loadouts, I’d argue more than anything else, and this is not the first time I’ve said this. But these days it seems more urgent than ever.
Say I want to switch my level 85 Necromancer Bone Spear build to a minion build. Farming up the loot to do so is one thing, and of course that shouldn’t be easy. But to actually switch over your build you have to delete hundreds of paragon points, one at a time, making your way back through the entire maze, then re-doing it with new points. Then you then reset your whole skill tree and navigate back through it, re-arranging the points as you go. Mess something up and you’ll have to undo the points to go backward through the tree again to reach earlier nodes. Then of course you have to swap out your gear one piece at a time, and put your old build’s gear somewhere in your stash grouped together if you want to return to it later.
And hey, what if you hate the minion build after all that? Well, time to do the entire process over again.
Yes, this all costs gold, and yet I don’t think that’s the main issue. The problem is how deeply annoying it is to do this. The gold costs can be decently expensive, but they don’t make it impossible to switch. It’s just an enormous pain to go through all this respec-ing every time you want to try a new build. This is why loadouts are necessary, even if Diablo has never had full loadouts before, and it goes against Blizzard’s stated “we want you to commit to an archetype” philosophy. That’s great in theory, in practice, it is not very fun. It does not make the game more “hardcore,” it just makes it exhausting and like you’re locked into a build not because you’ve “committed” to it and just love it so much, but because changing to experiment with something else is simply too much work.
The hard part of making a new build should be farming up the gear for the build. It takes a long time to find the the right uniques, the right aspects, the right affixes, the best rolls of those aspects and affixes. This is the investment players make in a build.
But once you have that, you should be able to easily swap back and forth between those builds. Not just your gear, as that’s the easy part, but yes, entire skill trees and paragon boards as well.
So far, Blizzard has only said that loadouts were something “on their radar,” and short term steps include things like mass deleting paragon nodes instead of doing them one at a time. But yes, Blizzard needs to go all the way here, and I would argue this is even more of a priority than class balance or endgame activities. The current endgame activities could instantly feel more fresh if suddenly you can play around with 3-4 builds with each class, rather than sticking with one for 50 hours at a time because it’s too irritating to change, and then potentially change back if the experiment doesn’t work out. This has to be an urgent priority.