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 Thrall 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 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 AlleySo 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 MP10. 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 BallWhile 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.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.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.)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.