Set items functioned more as a precarious past time than battle armaments in Diablo II, often only assembled in full in the end-game or after the point at which they would be any use to a player. These and other issues have troubled the folks behind Diablo III for some time, especially since they still have every intention of including them in the newest game in the franchise. For some time, we have been very much in the dark as to how the team actually intends on addressing the complex issue:
Official Blizzard Quote:
Jay Wilson: We understand the problems with item sets. We want to solve them. Set items are under work now, if we cant’ find a way to solve the problem it won’t be in the game. But we’ve got a couple of ideas on the table and we think it’ll work out.
With Diablo III's development nearing 2011, Bashiok posted one of the ways that the team is trying to get around some of the drawbacks of set items as faced in prior games and their own experience with Diablo III:
Official Blizzard Quote:
It's looking more and more likely that set items will simply be something you chase in the end-game. And realistically that's really where they simply work the best.
We have a few ideas still that could allow them to be available while leveling, but each of them have sticking points that would require their own solutions. One is expanding sets out so that it isn't just one item in each slot, but a group of items all separated by level requirement. So there could be, say, five pairs of pants that all work as part of the set and are each better than the last. While leveling you could be wearing the first pair of pants and then find a new and better pair that still work to benefit your set bonus. That isn't without its problems though.
We of course like and intend to keep partial set bonuses, by the way.
Anyway, sets are actually in the game right now in very limited forms, there's a bit of design left on them yet, but as I said they work very well at end-game and that's where we're leaning toward them appearing.
With any luck, we won't be completing Sigon's Complete Steel in Nightmare mode this time around, and the nearly impossible to find sets won't be useless in Hell. But will tuning set items to work in the end-game only replace the old conundrum of mass Runeword abuse in Diablo II? As is just about everything concerning the third installment, we wait on the question of balance. Hopefully they implement a better item game play not the same ol same ol lightning, fire, ice, and poison.