Trap Damage Oddities in Diablo 3

The first playable version of Diablo III debuted at Blizzcon 2008, and it featured an early, much-larger version of the Old Tristram village, two levels of the Cathedral, and Leoric’s throne room for the final battle. None of Leoric’s Torture Chamber levels were included though, a fact I just verified by skimming over some of the gameplay reports I wrote from that year’s show.

The 2009 demo was set in Act Two and ended in a smaller but more dangerous version of Alcarnus (there were several Purple boss Cultists in DiabloWikiThrall form, a bit like Travincal in D2, and no butterflies). In 2010 players returned to Tristram and that year’s demo featured one level of the Torture Chambers, the short connecting Highlands Passage, and then the Prison level which was almost exactly as we see it in the final game today. (If you were quick enough to free all 6 prisoners and beat the Warden, the demo ended when you ran through to the end of the level and down the stairs to the dungeon exit.)

This *should* really hurt.

This is not an entirely useless history lesson, since I bring it up to assert that one of the most memorable images from the pre-game demos was the gauntlet of huge chopping blades that players had to pass through to exit the Torture Chamber level in the Blizzcon 2010 demo. They were intimidating, and yet welcoming since they meant you’d found the exit hallway out of the huge first dungeon level, and as I played the PvM demo about a dozen times, all on the show floor, with the 15 minute time limit, I was always rushing madly to get through as much content as possible.

Though my close attention to the game and dozens of hours of play time on the Blizzcon demos built me a memory of the pre-launch Diablo III that is (probably) unsurpassed outside of the actual devs, I do not remember what sort of damage the big blades did back then. (Sadly, they’re not mentioned in my huge Dungeons & Quests report.) I’d like to say that they were massively deadly and would almost one-shot a careless player, but either I avoided them successfully every time, or I just don’t remember.

I know how much damage they do now though, and the absurdly low danger they pose has long vexed me. To the right you see the sort of massive danger they pose to a player on Inferno, MP1. Yes, that’s a whole 513 damage, from the largest single weapon-type attack in the entire game, on a difficulty level where the first zombie outside of Tristram can deal 10k with one clumsy, slow-motion swipe at your shoulder.

I’m not advocating a one-shot death from those blades, but all the same… would it be so wrong if that occurred? With a fatality, ideally — one that bisected your character and left the two halves wriggling on the floor, as left and right tried to pull themselves back together.

Why are these huge, frightening blades so nerfed in damage? And how do they compare to traps found later in the game, some of which actually are (almost) one-shotters? Click through to read on…

Guillotine Alley

Kormac: Not paid to care.

So yeah, 538 damage is laughable for those blades on Inferno, and that’s not some freakishly low damage hit. I stood under it for a while, and it was always around 550 at the most. This is pointlessly low damage; rare is the Inferno character who doesn’t regen that much in a few seconds, and when you compare it to monsters it’s even softer. The weakest monster attack on Inferno does thousands of points of damage, and not to run into the permeable wall of Diablo physics again, but this one just looks so much bigger than almost any monster attack. Maybe Siegebreaker’s charge is more “OMG that would so kill you!” …but of course it *does* kill you!

This huge blade, which makes the Butcher’s mighty weapon look like a butter knife, needs a zero added to the damage. Maybe two.

It’s not as if the scaling up is just broken on Inferno either. I took a level 40 character back to Normal difficulty and tested it out, and the results were equally unsatisfying. Average damage per hit was about 18 on MP1, and that skyrocketed all the way up to 35ish when I tried it in another game on DiabloWikiMP10. That’s working as intended, since MP10 doubles monster damage, on Normal. (MP10 is 250% monster damage on Inferno, and was 371% when the MP system first went live.)

So it’s not like this blade just got nerfed on Inferno; it’s irrelevantly-weak on Normal, and continues that trend throughout the other difficulty levels.

Do Not Anger Happy Fun Ball

Insert Golgor here.

While thinking about this nerf blade’s damage, I recalled the exploding towers of doom in Act Three, and loaded up another game to test them out. I’ve been one-shotted by them several times, while those exploding craters don’t seem anywhere near as dangerous. At least not to high level characters; one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was when Xanth told me that those are a bane and a terror of Hardcore characters being rushed, since it’s quite easy for the rusher to trigger the time-delayed bomb, which pops up the glowing happy fun ball just as the rushee races up, where he gets one-shotted thanks to being way too low level for the cheesy experience-soaking experiment.

Those crater mines aren’t the ones that usually get me, though. My hate is for the towers, and I’ve had a number of deaths that I never saw coming, since those dangerous mini-Eye of Sauron towers give very little visual warning, and they look just like the harmless fence post pillars you see all over the place in the Tower levels of Act Three.

WD and Donkey knocked back.

They’re easier to spot in the Crater levels, especially as they often appear in groups of 2 or 3, always warning of a Golgor spawn spot. (Sometimes the towers kill the Golgor as soon as he appears, like an internet security firm evaluating a new version of MIE.

The towers are nasty since they don’t give much visual warning that they’ve triggered, and they don’t usually show any explosion graphic or clear sign of how far the radius extends. They’re just “stay away” objects for me, especially if I’m playing a glass cannon type char on a speedy run, since I don’t have the hit points to absorb such a hit.

The do show some change; as soon as you get close enough to trigger them those orange balls drop down into the tower, which then explodes a second later. I’d noticed that a few times in the past, but it wasn’t until tonight, while testing before writing this article, that I realized that the ground turrets do the same thing, but in reverse.

Orange ball pops up, then explodes.

Those trigger when you walk over them, they make a warning noise, and their explosion is has a smaller radius. But it’s also triggered by the orange ball, except in their case it pops up out of the hole in the ground, exactly like an anti-personal mine; the type that’s designed to maim rather than kill, since it pops up to waist (crotch) level, rather than head height.

To my surprise, testing revealed another parallel between the two types of Act Three exploding ball bombs… identical damage!

I’d have bet anything that wasn’t true. My memory is of being shockingly one-shotted by the sneaky tower bombs, while the ground crater bombs are just a flesh wound, on the rare occasions I don’t avoid them. Yet while testing this with my 42k HPS Witch Doctor, I always took around 15.5k from the ground bombs, and exactly the same from the towers. Blame it on the happy fun ball.


So, is there a point here? I think the Act Four exploding towers need a clearer indication of imminent explosion, maybe something akin to the blue radius we now see around Frozen orbs as they’re forming and approaching explosion. I think the damage is okay, though.

My main complaint is the huge chopping blades in Act One, that do absolutely irrelevant damage. They’re so weak, compared to all other traps and especially their appearance, that I wonder if it’s a bug. If the damage is being calculated incorrectly, somehow. (Compare to the massive damage from the fires that burn through the grates on the same level, or some parts of the Keep in Act Three.)

Ground crater pretty explosion.

There aren’t a lot of other traps or environmental dangers in Diablo III, since most destructibles pass harmlessly over your character’s head. That said, it’s late and I’m sure I’m forgetting something impactful. So help me out; do you guys notice other traps or effects that should be more/less damaging? Or would you like some of the currently damage-free effects, such as the collapsing walls you get everywhere in Act One, to hurt if they fall on you?

I would, and I’d go with some more types of environmental damage in the later acts as well, if possible. How about more effects like Azmodan’s eerily-circular oil slick attack, coming out of trapped chests? Or lightning sparks here and there? Or more burn damage from the decorative fires, damage from falling rocks in the Act Two tombs, etc?

Even if these features only start to matter on Inferno, that would add some life and unpredictability to the play experience.


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  1. I agree that the towers could use some kind of indicator for their blast radius. Too many times, I thought I was out of radius and was still killed by them.
    I wouldn’t mind a buff to the ‘choppers. I think that would make them more intimidating -and possibly a better trap to use against monsters. It would be a lot of fun to kite several champion mobs into them.

    I’d like to see more exploding barrels and poison traps (yes, like that DII game).

  2. The exploding poison traps in a2 oasis feel similar to the exploding balls but with bigger radius and have killed me aswell. The flaming ground in a3 keep depths lvl 1 is my nemesis now though after killing my HC char because of how unpredictable it is when lighting up..

  3. I think the “Who designed this level” AKA “Why would we even have that lever” traps in Act 1 are a problem of damage not scaling well with dificulty. I remember playing normal and they don’t one-shot, but it was easily 1/3 to 1/2 the pool. That seemed reasonable, and it ingrained the habit of avoiding. Now, your right. I barely bother trying to avoid that trap, because the damage is meaningless. The fire pits can still be nasty, especially those corner/cross ones, but the guillotines of ridiculousness are now also ridiculous for low damage.

  4. There are a few more notable traps that would make this a comprehensive list:

    1) Moonseeds. I’m ashamed to admit I was killed by one, once. I wasn’t paying attention and using Spirit Vessel offensively to keep nuking an elite after death, using my last 1 second of the ghost form to retreat. I retreated, triggered a Moonseed, shot more Splinters at the elite, killing it. A second later, I died. Oops.

    2) The horrific burning floor in the Halls of Agony, with the burning zombies. This little room is always nestled away somewhere and has nothing of value other than some burning zombies. But the damage of the fiery floor is pretty crazy. I died once here after not paying attention — doing something like dialing a number on the phone while playing and stopping right over one. I was already a bit hurt from an earlier encounter and I died before I could reach my mouse to move.

    Some other things that are noteworthy but without big personal experience

    3) The Inferno machines in A3 that breathe fire — piddly damage
    4) The water towers in the Dahlgur Oasis – do these even do anything? They never drop items, but also don’t appear to damage mobs.

    I would definitely be down with buffing environmental damage for everyone – more fun to herd monsters into choppers, grates, or something similar, and more fun to avoid mobs and environmental hazards than just mobs.

    Also, trapped chests and barrels are a Diablo staple — I had forgotten about them (shame on me) until Softshack mentioned them, but I really liked the flavor. There are some trapped chests that are parts of events or “adventures” but they’re few in numbers — some dynamism in the randomness would be welcome.

    • 2) Yeah, the zombie room with the burning floor is absolute shit. Both the zombies and the floor hit like trucks, and the room contains nothing of value. It’s a good location for a golden chest or quest event, but until then it’ll remain one of the most pointless area in the game (right next to the A4 room with that magical tile floor).

      4) The water towers stun mobs in a large radius, so they’re actually pretty good when used against large packs of dangerous enemies, such as minions. Another good thing is that they’re often found out in the open, which makes them easier to use than the A3 lanterns and A1 collapsing walls/logs. Also, I don’t recall them knocking mobs back, so it’s easy to follow up the stun with an AoE skill.

  5. I find the rising fire walls in the third act’s foundry environments to be unexpectedly deadly for glass-cannon builds – especially after you have internalized that traps like the huge torture chamber cleavers deal ‘not yet implemented’-type placeholder damage.

    I’m under the impression that traps were more playful concept that didn’t get too much attention beyond act I. That one cathedral room that triggers skeleton spawns as soon as you try to open the chest, the Jar of Souls, Lloigor, the kahzra and lacuni ambushes – somehow that’s something they seemed to have started when they were still full of ideas and neglected as they had to rush other systems to finish (“no comment without a good AH cheap shot” ;).

  6. Yea me and my friends were testing the fire walls in act 3 keep depths, and I have 700+ fire resists, a pretty chunky barb with 50k hp and great survivability… They still like 3-4 shot me. Doing anywhere between 20-30k with each hit, this are definantly one if not the most deadly trap in the game, espiecally when I go hit a chest on the other side of the grates, and by the time I can run back im already either at 10% hp or dead

  7. I’ve gotten to dread the fire in the Act 3 Keep. Hate those things. The poison plants in the Oasis have gotten me a time or two, as well.

    But I agree, the blades are ridiculous.

  8. For those into tautologies, I think the reason why the fire traps are so crap is because of the development team.

  9. Maybe the big sword traps in A1, rather than doing HP damage, do damage to your gear? That is what I always assumed they did, anyway. And if they don’t, I think it would be a neat / realistic idea.

  10. I wouldn’t mind a buff to those falling blades also.

  11. I think the game needs a lot more of this traps through the acts. Act 2 dessert part has none that I can remember, except for the tornado that is almost nowhere near you.
    Also, I think we need more barrels with skeletons and zombies. Moar! MOAR!!!

  12. When I first saw the blades I thought I was going to need to negotiate them, time my runs under them. When I realised they didn’t pose any threat I stopped paying any attention to them.

    Disappointed, as I thought it would be a case of running the gauntlet and it isn’t.

    It’s not as if people could complain that they “were killed by a lame piece of environment” and Blizz would need to nerf to placate. I mean they’re massive bloody blades it’s reasonable to assume they’ll do massive bloody damage so I don’t know why they decided they should do bugger all damage.

    • I still try to avoid the massive blades because of the time it takes my character to recover from the animation. I suppose that’s the real punishment for getting hit.

  13. Just one more item in the “What were they thinking!?” file.

  14. I was watching a video yesterday of a level HC 60 with his hps at about 40% die to the fire trap in the 2nd Keep level.

  15. I’ve seen a player, and makes me laugh everytime i remember it. It was just in Act 1, when the time Inferno was SO hard. He was 1 shotted by a Tree trap inside a dungeon, the funny thing is after a few seconds of being ressurected, he was then killed again by a same trap, just a few yards away. He replied ._. Funny XD

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