As the title suggests, they need to focus on making more interesting unique and set items instead of focusing on making boring, uninspired Runewords. Full disclosure this topic comes from someone who was never a big fan of Runewords to begin with.
My personal opinion Runewords have been a blight on the game ever since D2:LOD came out. I’ve been a hardcore Diablo 2 fan ever since someone came into my Diablo 1 battle.net game, typed in all caps “DIABLO 2 IS COMING!!!1!!!” and left my game. Diablo 1 and 2 have been my favorite games since their inception, and will probably continue to be for the rest of my life. As such I was there when vanilla D2 first launched. Don’t get me wrong I love Lord of Destruction too, and it’s the pinnacle of what I think an expansion pack should be and it’s the standard by which I hold other games’ expansion features to.
That all being said though I do believe Runewords kind of ruined what Diablo was supposed to be. Once Runewords came out you no longer got excited for random rares with good rolls. No longer was finding that unique item a complete game changer or something that made you want to completely redesign your build for. Most sets became useless, only worth the few pieces of gold you could vendor them for and not items that progressively gave you large spikes in power. Now a days it’s all just Runewords.
Now for basically every class it’s use the Stealth Runeword up until you’re high enough level to use Enigma. Use Steel/Malice/Ancient’s Pledge/Leaf/White until you can use Spirit. Don’t bother with any merc aside from the Act 2 Nightmare one because Insight is so OP it makes all the other mercs useless by comparison. Use Nadir or Lore until you get a Circlet with a class skill and sockets to stack resist runes in, and so on and so forth.
Yes yes I hear some of you now. “Well you can just not use them hurp-a-durp!”. And that is true, but doing so deliberately handicaps yourself because the runewords are just so good compared to anything else you could use at those level breakpoints. “Just play vanilla then and shut it!” I hear others cry. That’s an option yes but not a very good one as vanilla, or classic as it’s called, isn’t getting any of the new content updates. Hell they’re not even giving singleplayer LOD the new content updates, so that idea is kind of garbage.
What they need to do is make more interesting unique/set items that both actively compete with the meta runewords as well as encourage people to use them. Like how about a 2h unique that has a 5% chance on landing a killing blow to cast a level 15 Corpse Explosion at the target? Like you hit that thing so damned hard it exploded and hurt everything around it. Or a unique chestpiece that grants 25%-50% bonus move speed and casts level 18 Charged Bolt but only when moving? Like you’re moving so fast you’re creating static that jumps out and shocks things nearby.
Those are just two super basic examples as I’m not a designer by any stretch of the imagination. But just make interesting sets and uniques that can compete with Runewords so you don’t feel like Runewords are the only way to go to.