My most recent play through of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction is my third. (I almost exclusively play in a multiplayer setting on Battlenet.)
Playing a game for the third time is very different than playing it the first time, obviously. The first time you play anything, everything is new. Its when you experience the game’s story and settings. When I first went up to Arreat Summit to defeat the Ancients, I was awed by the parallax effect that was used to convey the height of the location. Its still one of my favorite spots in the game, but it doesn’t hold the same effect on me as it did before. Baal and his minions don’t make me stop and look at them anymore after I’ve massacred them dozens of times.
The game mechanics are no longer at a point where you are still exploring new ways of playing. This time, since I knew exactly what I should be doing to achieve what I wanted; the game became more mechanical. If I wanted to get to Act II, I knew that all I had to do was get someone to kill Andariel. A new player might have thought of actually doing the quests leading up to that encounter. The game became more about achieving ends than actually playing it.
I wanted to create the best character that I could. To that end, I started a sorceress, as I usually do. The advantage that comes with playing a sorceress as your first character is that it is much easier to advance in the game. This is because sorceresses are able to teleport, making survival and magic-finding easier. And having a good magic-finding character was my goal.
Magic-finding (mfing) is essentially farming bosses while wearing items that give bonuses to your chance to find magic items. The higher magic find you have, the better your chances of finding a rare or unique item. With some time you could mf Mephisto or another boss in hell difficulty and eventually replace your crappy gear with some shiny stuff.
As I was chugging along this goal, a stroke of luck presented me with a friendly player who outfitted me with practically the best items possible for an mf sorceress. Although I could now play more effectively, I was robbed of the experience of getting there.
My ultimate goal was to acquire items from mfing to trade for the items needed to make a Hammerdin. A Hammerdin is the epitome of a character in Diablo. Essentially paladins with some really expensive gear using blessed hammers to do ridiculous amounts of damage, they are widely considered the best character you can have in terms of being able to beat bosses into the ground.
Now, mfing comes down to repetitively teleporting to find the boss, getting him down to low health, switching to your high mf gear, and beating the pulp out of him. It equates to gambling time for a chance at good items. It can get pretty monotonous. Eventually, I muted the audio and put on this comedy radio channel I found online to keep me occupied.
If my goal was to make a Hammerdin, its was obvious that I was setting a high goal. And this high goal entailed nothing but mfing. This is probably why my third play through was not as fun as my others. I wanted a perfect character and I was not willing to make characters just for the sake of playing them. My first time, I made eight characters, all of which I developed even though I had nothing close to the ideal gear set that they required. And I had fun doing it.
I realized that and I started making more characters, just for the sake of it. I made a bone necromancer first because I already had a lot of the gear he needed. I’m currently in the process of making a Frostdin, an unconventional build that I think I’ll enjoy. Although I don’t play as devoutly as I’ve played before, it’s definitely a better experience.
The point of the story is that you can’t just do something with only the end in mind. The journey counts just as much, if not more.