ARPGs are not as fun as they make it seem

ARPGs aren't as infinitely replayable as they would have you believe because there's a Wall there. It might be similar in the tech industry as well.

Screenshot of Diablo 4 gameplay. A rogue character is currently fighting an elite boss on world tier 3.

When I was 12 or so, my dad went to Hong Kong for a business trip. I thought it was insanely cool, because for a little kid in Hungary in the mid 90s, Hong Kong was super far, very expensive, and just an incredibly unknown world. When he came home, he handed me my first ever actual boxed PC game: Diablo. The first one.

I was hooked!

Fast forward 27 (twenty-seven) years, and there are a LOT of ARPGs (action role playing games) around. From the freshly released Diablo 4 to Path of Exile, to Elder Scrolls Online, to World of Warcraft, you have a lot of choice.

Their pull is in the myriad different skills you can assign your little meeple and then go wreak havoc on the unsuspecting world they built for you where you can play out your power fantasy. Things you do have consequences, your actions are visible, and your brain gets that dopamine hit! There are hundreds of skills, thousands of items, and the way to combine them is limitless!!!

Or so would they have you believe. One of the main mechanics of all of these games is that you have a lot of skills, many levels in those skills, and only a handful skill points that you can put towards some of these things. You can’t purchase all skills and max them out. That’s what gives the game flavour, from a lightning sorcerer to an ice sorcerer, to a fire sorcerer, to different versions of rogues, druids, necromancers, what have you.

The problem is that eventually they’re all going to end up being all the same. Or at least one of a handful of different variations. At some point you, the player, who just wants to have fun, are going to hit a wall. You spent your skill points into skills that looked cool, but you've plateaud in damage and survivability. You can’t defeat that boss, you can’t go past that group, because your character just dies, again and again and again and again, and that’s disheartening, frustrating, and boring.

So what do you do? You go learn some stuff. You figure out that Diablo IV has “damage buckets”, that the different modifiers in skills and items within a bucket are additive, but the different buckets are multiplicative.

And then you learn about what those buckets are.

And then you happen upon a “build guide” that someone put together for a lightning sorcerer that maximises the modifiers within each bucket but also spreads them out, so your damage becomes high.

And then you learn about damage reductions, those buckets, etc.

And then 4 hours later you reassigned your skills, farmed equipment, imbued other stuff, and put the correct jewels in the correct slots for the correct items.

And then you realise your character is one of thousands of identical lightning sorcerers, because after a certain level, only lightning sorcerers that use that build survive.

Aren’t you having fun?

As a total aside, have you also noticed that in the tech world there are certain small number of set ways to do something correctly?

Weird, huh...

Header image is from a gameplay of a friend of mine. Used with permission, they didn’t want credit.