Can we talk Melee & Ranged vs Magic and 2H weapon balance in D4?

Allow me to preface this by saying I'll mostly try speaking from a SSF (solo self-found) perspective, though it does apply to online group play regardless.

As we know, Melee characters in D2 generally have it rather rough compared to Magic casters. The majority of Melee/Ranged's damage comes from their weapons and general itemization, while Magic casters can count on much higher damage numbers from the get-go, just by leveling up their Skills.

With the way itemization works in D2, meaning finding Legendaries/Runewords is generally very time consuming and can be a frustrating experience (again, talking mostly solo play), generally speaking you don't want to roll a Barbarian as your first character without having a Sorceress with a Teleport to farm with a Magic Find set, so to speak.

The early game difficulty is mostly fine for all classes, however the mountain grows much steeper for Weapon-dependant characters somewhere around Act 3 Normal or so (Duriel is still somewhat easy to kill but Mephisto becomes an actual problem if you lack good weapons), with Nightmare being a true Nightmare if your weapons lack damage, especially with the elevated health of all enemies/bosses there. By comparison, Magic Casters can still breeze through Nightmare pretty easily and only really encounter difficulties in Hell, so the general progression – at least in terms of difficulty – is far of a smoother ride for them. I believe anyone who tried to solo a Barbarian to Hell and a Sorceress can easily tell a difference in how long it took them to get there with each class.

In the absolute End Game, yes there are Melee/Ranged mechanics that finally elevate these classes more closer in line to Magic Casters, such as Crushing Blow, Deadly Strike and the like, but all these are pretty much limited to either rare Legendaries or the most expensive Runewords, meaning it will still take you a long-ass time before you truly start benefiting from them and will continue to lack behind the Magic Casters until you do so.

I do believe that Ranged/Magic classes should have that innate advantage over melee classes of the fact that they're ranged, thus safer and can kite enemies more easily. That is like the very fundamental difference in design that I think is not the issue and shouldn't be touched, however I'd like for D4 to bring Melee/Ranged weapon-dependant classes closer in line in terms of ease of progression to Magic Casters. Though, how could this be done, really? If we wish for D4's itemization to be based on D2, rather than D3 (and not have millions upon billions of damage with all of it being dependant on Set Items and so on), we will inevitably run into the same issue D2 has. That said, what can be done?

  • Should Magic Skills do less damage in D4 compared to D2, in other words scale less substantially per level and/or have their Skill Synergies lowered?
  • Should Melee/Ranged weapons have higher damage ranges in D4 compared to D2, so that those classes' Skills can elevate them easier with damage numbers?
  • Perhaps Melee/Ranged Skills themselves could or should have additional flat damage numbers on them if the weapon damage ranges are to remain relatively low, like they are in D2?
  • Should late-game mechanics, such as Crushing Blow and Deadly Strike be made more common (with lessened numbers) on Magic/Rare items in D4 compared to D2, helping Melee/Ranged classes this way?

What has been your experience leveling a Melee and a Magic Caster class in D2? What do you guys think?

The other thing I wanted to talk about are 2-handed weapons. It's basically a bane in gaming in general, meaning they rarely if ever are a better option than wielding two 1-handed weapons. This was more balanced in D2 before the existence of Runewords, but with their introduction, the sheer number of stats runewords provide switched that imbalance further into two 1-handed weapon setups' favor. I don't mean just dual wielding weapons, I also mean a single 1-handed weapon and a Shield or a Class-specific item in the other.

The other thing is that, if any character can equip a fixed number of items in general, say 10, then by choosing to use a 2H weapon, that number immediatelly can never be 10 but goes down to on less, thus 9 total, and with how Stat generation works in RPGs in general, that just means objectively less Stats and overall power more often than not.

It seems to me that the only or main appealing featuer of 2H is their innate higher damage ranges that is often counter-balanced by much slower Attack Speed, and that somehow is supposed to convince you to using them over 1H-ers. But we know that Attack Speed plays an immense role in the general balance between these two weapon types, and so in about 90% of RPG games, faster-attacking 1H weapons will always trump over the slower-hitting 2H weapons and I am… well, saddened by that fact, if anything.

Now, we know that in D4 the Barbarian is able (for now at least) to wield two 1H weapons and two 2H weapons, so that indicates to me that they are not afraid of reinventing the wheel and clearly have thought about this problem before. However, since Barbarian will be able to equip 12 total items instead of the usual 10 all other classes can, well, this can lead to a potential new imbalance with just how many more affixes and suffixes he'll be able to have. However, if I understood correctly, or rather to say I am not entirely sure, I don't know if Barbarian will benefit from the stats of all 4 weapons simultaneously or ONNLY when he will be attacking with them, so I'm not sure how they intend for that to play out.

With that said, do you think there's hope for Melee & Ranged classes to have an easier time progressing in D4 than in D2 compared to Magic Casters? What are you hoping for to happen? Have any ideas you'd like to share? Let's talk!


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