It may sound strange, but with as many co-op games as we’re getting these days, there’s still no standard of what you can expect in terms of level scaling or player progression when you join a friend’s game. Some games dock you down to the host’s level, and others apply a percentage debuff to your power so you’re not one-shotting everything in sight.
Both solutions are… fine, so long as they’re clearly communicated to the player. But there’s a much better – and dare I say, perfect – solution that Diablo 4 co-op relies on.
Diablo 4 is, for all intents and purposes, an MMO. It’s an always-online game on all platforms where everyone connects to server hubs around the world to play. Running into other players in towns, and out in the open world, is a regular – and expected – occurrence.
Only really certain parts of the game are instanced, such as story missions, dungeons, and cellars. These server instances can certainly accommodate more than a single player, but only those in a party together. This is how co-op happens; you invite a friend to your party, and both of you can take on story quests, side quests, dungeons, and so on.
All of that is pretty standard, but what’s worth lauding here is how Blizzard chose to design level scaling. See, it’s never a guarantee that all players in a single party will have the same levels, or even be within similar thresholds.
Rather than artificially overpower under-levelled players, or debuff higher-level players, Diablo 4 instead treats each player as they would in their own game. It does this by making sure all the mobs you fight are at your level, without affecting the level of mobs other players in the party are fighting.
If you’re level 15, it’s going to take you the same length of time to kill an enemy in a party as it would in your own game. Likewise, your level 50 friend isn’t suddenly going to be able to clear an entire area before you’ve even loaded in. Their mobs will also be as challenging as they are used to at that level.
That is a brilliant decision, as it removes all the friction from the process, and spares players the needless calculations of who is best playing with whom, or which friend’s level is too high/low to join this particular group.
You click join a party, and you just pop up into your friend’s world and continue playing as you were, no fuss, no muss. There are, however, some caveats to this.
First, a low-level player is still going to struggle if they venture into an area of the map with a minimum level that exceeds their own. This is the same thing that happens if you try to do that in a solo game, of course, but the idea here is that co-op won’t save you. Certain dungeons, too, have level requirements – so it’s not a good idea to bring a lower-level player along.
When it comes to main story progression, all players make progress; but only if they are all at the same point in the quest. If a player is behind, they’re going to miss out on story progress, and XP until they reach the same point as the host.
Likewise, if you’re ahead of the host, you’re not going to get double rewards for quests you’ve already finished in your own game. That is why you should try to have the player with the least story progression be the host.
The good news is that all of these exceptions are clearly communicated by the game, both when you join a party, as well as whenever the quest reward banner pops up.
All that work, however, only serves people who already know each other. Diablo 4 does not have a way for solo players to find groups of others to play with, and there’s no ability to open up a dungeon instance to the public.
The two features are fairly standard in most MMOs, something Diablo 4 clearly wants to be. The best way to do that right now, outside of going to LFG forums/Reddit/Discords is to stand near a dungeon entrance and hope you run into another player trying to do the same. If one of you joins the other, you can co-op whatever you like until you part ways.
Needless to say, this is an awkward, and time-consuming way of doing things. The feature’s omission has been one of most discussed topics on Diablo’s Reddit communities. Since launch, threads bemoaning the lack of LFG have been popping up daily.
This is exacerbated by the lack of global chat, where players can LFG the old fashioned way, or really any sort proximity voice chat. Both of those, of course, are undesirable by players who want to play on their own, but they could still be options for others who want them.
Diablo 4’s first major patch is expected around the launch of the first season, which is said to be targeting mid-to-late July. Blizzard did not say whether we can expect anything in particular to be added – other than the compulsory battle pass – but the developer has indicated before that quality of life updates will be part of the game’s ongoing support.
It’s just such a shame that with a record-breaking launch, most players will likely be done with the game before the first season arrives, and many will miss out on what could’ve been a more friendly co-op experience for those who aren’t part of ten different Discord servers.