That's about as far as she made it...

    That’s about as far as she made it…

    I didn’t have a chance to test out the newest Reaper of Souls beta patch Thursday evening when it went live, but I made up for it over the weekend, assisted by a once-in-a-decade level of snow accumulation that was more than enough to all-but-immobilize the roads around here, which are slow-and-go at best, choked as they are with always-tentative Oregon drivers. (I never miss California more than when I’m trying to make good time on any Portland area freeway, rain or shine.)

    That said, it was a good weekend to be snowed in, since the new Diablo 3 patch is awesome. Playing the last few days was a blast, as good or better than any play time since Diablo 3’s release, and that’s even with the handicap of playing on the test realm, where I know everything I find and every level I gain is going to be erased sometime shortly before March 25th. I was as skeptical as the show guests (see note for 1:11:11) just a couple of weeks ago, but Reaper of Souls really is rounding into form.

    The drop rates are good, the legendary items are fun, bounties and side events and Cursed Chests and Nephalem Rifts provide a huge variety of things to do in the game (if only PvP!), the exp gain rates are great (too generous, if anything), the benefits to playing multiplayer are solid, most of the classes are well-balanced and allow for a variety of builds and play styles, The patch optimized all of those things and added in quite a few layers and nuances as well. So let’s get into some details, starting with…

    Bounties and Nephalem Rifts

    The heart of Reaper of Souls’ play experience is DiabloWikiAdventure Mode, with DiabloWikiBounties and DiabloWikiNephalem Rifts providing the bulk of the play, and doing so with a great deal more variety than anything seen previously in a Diablo title. These features have been in Reaper of Souls since the beta started and they work much the same now as back in November (or Blizzcon in October) but Blizzard’s infamous iteration is very evident in just how these game features have been tweaked and improved and rebalanced over time. Bounties and Rifts are now quick and easy to get into, roughly-equivalent in overall rewards, and they are a lot of fun. They’re certainly more enjoyable than anything in Story Mode, to the point that I don’t know anyone with RoS beta access who can stand to play the live game now. It just feels so boring and repetitious, compared to the much improved RoS version.

    Cursed Chests are fun bounties.

    Cursed Chests are fun bounties.

    A perfect example of iteration during the beta is the rewards structure for Bounties. They started off very exploitable but fairly dull; most Bounties were a single Purple boss to kill which meant players would hit the nearest waypoint and then dash through the level, looking for the orange ping on the map. Once found the Purple was slaughtered, the player popped back to town, and another bounty was lined up. That basic mode was soon supplemented with a requirement that you kill 40 or 50 enemies on the Bounty’s level, which did a bit to slow the exploiting, but not enough. It was a lame one-size-fits-all feature too; you couldn’t help but kill 50 (or 250) on your way to a Bounty in a level like the Keep 2, while bounties in some other areas were much harder to complete.

    Months ago Elly and I wound up running back around the edges of the entire spiral staircase in one of the Cursed Tower levels in Act Three, as we tried to lure up a few more ghouls when we’d cleared the whole level and were only at 34/40 on our kill counter. More recently I was in a three player game with a bounty the Act One cemetery, but not enough skeletons spawned (we should have left some of the Skeleton Mages alive long enough to call up a few more bone dudes). We were at like 38/50, but rather than giving up the Bounty we improvised and used ourselves as bait to lure zombies in from the Weeping Hollow, since killing them in the Cemetery counted towards the 50 required for the bounty. (Zombies don’t walk so fast, you notice?)

    This new patch shakes all that up. Not only are the bugs and broken bounties all fixed (crossed fingers), but bounties vary in value with the more difficult or time consuming ones giving much larger rewards. (I have some issues with the point allocation, but later for that.) There are many more types of bounties now, with more variety in them. I saw several Purples I hadn’t seen before as Bounty targets, or ever seen at all, and the inclusion of Cursed Chests (Horde or Wave types) as bounty goals has brought a lot more potential levels and areas and sub-dungeons into the pool of potential bounty zones. I actually got one in one of the Act Four dungeons, which was the first time anyone had intentionally entered one of those levels since what, like July 2012?

    Click through for lots more screenshots, plus a bit more on bounties, and then coverage of Nephalem Rifts, Pools of Reflection (AKA Survival Bonuses), all the new legendary materials, interesting developments in Crafting and Enchanting, the new Hellfire Ring proc effect, and much more.


    Bounty Rewards

    Bounties vary widely in requirements and rewards now, and those changes made the system a lot more fun. There are still some issues though, and I won’t be surprised if these get iterated as well, between now and release. Hell, between now and next week, as quickly as the patches are coming of late.

    Bounty rewards for Gold and EXP scale up between the difficulty levels, and the progression seems pretty smooth. The amount of Blood Shards and Rift Keystone Fragments does not scale up as mathematically, since those are awarded in small amounts with some randomized variance (1-4 BS for most bounties) or are set values (1 Rift part per bounty). The following figures are the rewards for Torment difficulty, just since that’s what I played the most of and took notes/screenshots of the values.

    The basic easiest bounties are the ones with a single monster target and no kill counter. These award 18,800 gold and 2.9 million experience upon completion. Examples of these include all Act Bosses and special sub-bosses, such as Siegebreaker, Cydaea, the Skeleton King, Izual, etc. This reward level also includes some Purples on larger levels with 50 counters, such as the Aspects of Pain or Destruction in Act Four.

    Bounty bag and EXP/gold reward from Tyrael.

    Bounty bag and EXP/gold reward from Tyrael.

    The medium level of bounty has one Purple target and requires 100 kills on a larger level. I got this type in the Weeping Hollow and Rakkis Crossing. It awards 37,800 gold and 5.8m exp.

    The biggest bounties task you to find a Purple on a very large level with a 150 counter, or else they are “clear a dungeon level” which is always the not-very-big second level in some dungeon. These are worth 99,420 gold and 15,428,000 exp, 4 shards, 1 rift keystone fragment.

    Finishing all five bounties in a given act on Torment yields you a Horadric goodie bag plus an additional 5.8m exp and 28k gold.

    There’s a bit more variety than that; I got one level with a 75 counter and sometimes you get like 57k gold instead of 38k, but I haven’t done them enough to know every permutation yet. The bigger issue, IMHO, is that these rewards aren’t fair, in terms of time to complete. The Act Boss and sub-boss bounties are usually pretty slow, just since you have to run through an entire level or two on the way. Sometimes you find it quickly, but usually those take as long or longer than the “hard” bounties.

    The easiest, in time vs. reward, are some of the “clear a dungeon level” bounties. Some of these are long and slow to find, like level two of some Act Two desert dungeons, since you have to run and run to find the dungeon, then run through it to find level two. Some of them are absurdly easy though, with probably the quickest two in the entire game the two small crypts in the Festering Woods. Both can show up as bounties, each can be reached in 15 seconds from the waypoint, and each has only some easily-killed skeletons within. The long narrow one (Warrior’s Rest, IIRC) is just ridic, where the 15.8m reward works out to about 1.2m per skeleton.

    Ironically, the worst ones are the mediums. When I enter an area and see the 100 counter I moan and wail, since it’s always a medium-sized levels without much monster density and usually a lot of time spent traveling rather than fighting. The Pademonium Level 1 and 2 are special unfavorites here, since they are usually the worst levels in Nephalem Rifts as well. Very low monster density, lots of long narrow pathways, dead ends galore, etc.

    That ties into the other biggest issue with Bounty values… Act Five. I won’t belabor the point, but if you’re playing for rewards over time and you start a new game and see that one of your double bounty options is Act Five, you’re probably going to be starting a new game after just one Act of Bounties.

    Act Five areas are very well designed, they’ve got awesome monsters, and there is still some novelty in doing them, but the layouts are just death on Bounties. All of Act Five’s areas are enormous and slow to search, or huge spread-out mazes, or large and winding catacombs like the Act Three keep, or big and elongated and full of dead ends. There are a few quick/fun/easy bounties in Act Five, but most of them mandate a lot of exploration, and their rewards are far from commensurate with the time required. I don’t think redesigning the act for Bounties is in the cards, so maybe just doubling the value of all Act Five bounties (so they’d be quadruple when bonus’ed?) would be better than nothing.


    Difficulty Levels

    After showing 0% bonus for the past two patches, the display values for the gold/exp increase per difficulty levels are back. And for the first time Torment 2-6 shows values, scaling up impressively.

    • Normal: 0% EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Hard: 75% EXP/Gold Find bonus
    • Expert: 100% EXP/Gold Find bonus, Bounties award double currency.
    • Master: 200% EXP/Gold Find bonus, Bounties award double currency., Imperial Gems can drop from level 61+ monsters. (Applies to all Torment levels as well.)
    • Torment 1: 300% EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Torment 2: 400%, EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Torment 3: 550%, EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Torment 4: 800%, EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Torment 5: 1150%, EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Torment 6: 1600%, EXP/Gold Find bonus.
    • Previously there was tooltip text about special legendaries and crafting plans only dropping on Torment and above, but it’s not there anymore. Blue has said there are Torment-only legs, though. Speaking of tooltip lies… Imperial gems. I’ve found hundreds of gems in Torment 1 and Torment 2 in the last two patches, and not once have I found anything but Marquise gems.

    The Imperial is a lie.

    Pool of Reflection

    Pools of Reflection were added in the previous patch, but are much better explained in the game now than they were previously. They are found where health pools spawn, and maybe 1/10th of them is now a Pool of Reflection.

    They look yellow, but unlike yellow snow they are good to drink, as they grant a 25% experience gain bonus. The interesting wrinkle is that they can stack up to 10 times, with each additional PoR increasing how much more experience you can gain before the 25% bonus expires.

    You can see the display in the thumb here. The “Bonus pool remaining” numbers now seen in the game are wrong, I think, but the concept is sound. Just for example, say you need 200m for your current Paragon level, and you get a PoR early on. It will grant you the 25% bonus for something like the next 40m experience you find. If you don’t die over that time, and don’t find another PoR, once you’ve gained the 40m exp it will be consumed and your 25% bonus goes away. If you do find more PoRs the size of the Bonus Pool Remaining will be increased.

    You now get a visual on your exp bar, with an orange dot marking how far you can advance the exp with your current allowed PoR bonus. If the bonus extends beyond the current Paragon level the little orange dot shows at the far right of the bar, and then goes to the right place on the bar once you ding and the slider resets to empty.



    PoR Survivalism

    The Blues haven’t billed them as such, but PoRs are essentially providing a survival bonus, which is something many fans have suggested for years. (As opposed to just death penalties.) PoRs only grant a bonus to experience gain, but it’s a substantial bonus, and it resets if you die.

    I think it would be more fun if there were ultra-rare orange PoRs that granted Magic Find or Gold Find bonus as well, or perhaps when you got more than 5 stacks you’d start to get a GF/MF bonus on top of the EXP?

    This could be exploited, I guess. Players might go down to easier difficulty levels to avoid dying. They could even go down to Normal and just run through areas trying to get up higher stacks of PoR to trigger the hypothetical MF/GF bonus on top of the EXP. But given the way the higher levels of Torment scale up in exp and gold rewards, jumping FAR more than 25% per level, I don’t think low level PoR hording would be a real big deal.

    If you’re wondering, you don’t see how many stacks you have in the game. (That would be interesting, as the number would decrease as you leveled up and steadily depleted the remaining bonus pool.) Also, these pools aren’t super rare, but they’re not that common either. I’ll occasionally find 2 or 3 in a level or two, but with the crazy rate of exp gain in the new patch, I’ve actually had trouble finding enough PoRs to even keep my bonus pool from expiring between them. They could be a lot more common without being too common, and they way they are now you really regret it if you’re careless and die when you had a good half level or more of PoR bonus still loaded up.

    That fairly scarce rate of discovery makes me think they won’t be a big deal or difference for Hardcore. Obviously players there won’t be expiring them as often, but it’s not like you find 10 a game and only reset the bonus if you die. On Torment I usually exp out of mine before I find another one to add to the pool.

    Also, I assume skills like DiabloWikiNear Death Experience and DiabloWikiSpirit Vessel will not reset the PoR since they work before death. There are a few new legendaries that have a resurrection proc, but those only trigger when a character actually does die, not just drops below 10% hps, so in theory those would not preserve Pool of Reflection bonuses. Though it if did that could be an interesting wrinkle and some reason for softcore character to care about those items.


    Legendary Crafting Materials

    One pleasant surprise in the new patch was all new graphics for all of the legendary materials. These had a grab bag of graphics earlier in the beta, before all turned to pink “No icon” squares in the last patch. Now they’re all good though, with pretty new graphics. Really “new” graphics; even the few that had what seemed like proper graphics a couple of patches ago have new graphics now.

    The main result of this was that many RoS players who had been collecting them opened their stash expecting to see the usual pink screen of bleh, and instead got an explosion in a pawn shop. I had 23 of the leg mats in my stash before the patch, and you can see them in the screen to the right. They are three wide down the left side of the stash, then turning to the side just above the gems. All the other mats to the top right are non-legendary materials mostly obtained from salvaging, and virtually all of them are found in vast quantities. (Though this patch mercifully turned down the drop rates of the comically-overabundant Deaths Breaths.)

    The full list of the mats, and the types of purples that drop them, can be seen in this great thread in our community forum. It was even updated this weekend with info on the newly-added leg mats in this patch.

    And yes, they’re now gold when they drop. They do not put a star on the map though, the way legendary items and legendary crafting plans do.

    Crafting materials, once again properly orange.

    Crafting materials, once again properly orange.

    You want to see them all, don’t you? With their names and hover descriptions and flavor text? Okay, fine. I took screens of them all for the wiki anyway.


    Legendary and Set Crafting Plans

    Just briefly, these are now *much* more common drops. I’d only found a single one during the “no legs for you” patch we suffered through all January, and that was after finding them like candy earlier in the beta. They’re not candy again, but the do drop pretty regularly. And they look awesome, especially then green set ones. Like legendary items, they *CLANG* and put a star on the map, plus the beam of light into the sky. It looks best in a dark area, though I’ll understand if you don’t actually try to concentrate your monster killing in those areas to maximize the chances of the pretty glowing dark drop.

    Also, Blue hasn’t confirmed this but I think they might be a sort of smart drop now. Since these plans are all BoA, and can’t even be traded or given to others in the same game when you find them, there’s zero reason to ever find the same plan twice. (This is stupid, IMHO. They should be tradeable like other legs, in the same game they are found.)

    At any rate, I’ve found 8 or 10 crafting plans in the new patch and none have been duplicates. I haven’t seen any jeweler plans drop in a month+ in the beta, since I’ve already found all of them for the higher levels of gems. (Though I did find duplicate crafting plans weeks ago, even when I was not finding any duplicate gem plans, so maybe my no-dupes crafting plans this weekend was just RNG.)

    • We have a quick vote on our Facebook page asking what should happen with duplicate crafting plans.


    While we’re here, how about a legendary crafting effort? Here’s some shoulders I made for my Demon Hunter. Nothing amazing, but they did roll an upgrade over her rare. The recipe was just 6 random affixes, nothing guaranteed at all, and no legendary powers either. This is true of a lot of of the legendary crafting recipes now; they’re basically just potentially really good rares. A bit better than that since their stats will roll higher than rares can, as you can see on the shoulder comparison, but they aren’t like many of the found legendaries, which can have those special orange stings that do special orange things.



    Legendary crafting uses those odd legendary materials you saw above, and some of the better recipes now require a Flawless Royal gem (which costs 9.8m and 27 Marquise to make). Not all of them, thankfully. Here’s a quiver I’m trying to make for my Demon Hunter, and like all the legendary crafting it requires a white version of the item as part of the raw materials.

    This is problematic since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white quiver. I’ve got a pretty good collection of white weapons and armors, most of them found from weapon/armor racks, but quivers? Off hand white items are not something I can remember many examples of.

    That’s too bad since the quiver has some interesting inherent properties, and I’m curious to see how it would work out. Would the added CC stack with a random roll of Critical hit Chance, potentially giving you up to 12% on the quiver?



    Speaking of Quivers, here’s my pet peeve. Legendary quivers that don’t have CC as an inherent property. I’ve found 2 so far in the new patch, both while playing my fairly kick ass DH, and neither had CC. That’s what enchanting is for though, right? Well… not so much with quivers. Since those items can roll with a bonus to almost every single Demon Hunter skill, the field of properties is just insane. Which means the odds of getting Critical hit Chance, which is basically essential for a quiver, is terrible. And since they’re legendary, each roll costs a Forgotten Soul, and then things don’t grow on trees. (Just Rift Guardians.)

    To be fair, your odds of CC are much better if you roll something other than the skill bonus. Since the Quiver can only have one skill bonus, all those affixes will leave the pool, and you’ll only have 6 or 8 possible rolls, instead of 30ish. But that assumes you actually get a bonus to one of the skills you are going to use, and with a decent % damage, in the first place. Good luck with that.

    I don’t say that every legendary Quiver should have guaranteed 8-10% CC (even though pretty much every leg mojo and orb does), but at least 4-10% or something like that, given that CC is basically mandatory on a quiver for quality end game gear.



    Enchanting Efforts

    Enchanting is cheaper and the display of possible affixes seems to be bug-free. As Blue said pre-patch you can’t enchant any legacy items anymore, and that includes (just now during the beta) everything found before this patch. Thus it’s odd to visit the Mystic now, since all your gear, unless new-found, is sort of grayed out when you’re at the Enchanting interface.

    That aside, players who aren’t in the RoS beta often ask how enchanting works, how much it costs, and what affixes are worth enchanting. Here’s a brief two-shot tutorial, starring a new pair of green boots for my Demon Hunter.

    In almost every instance, you want to enchant one of the primary stats. You might one day find an item with an almost perfect seed, with all the affixes you want with great rolls on each. I’ve never done so thus far, but it’s possible. In that case you might want to roll a secondary stat, though about the best you’ll ever do there is to add 2y of pickup radius, or perhaps change a single resistance; cold to physical, or something like that. (But only on an item that didn’t roll ResAll, since you can never have that with a single res anymore.)

    I’d question if that was even worth the enchant, too. Obviously it would have some value, but usually you’d be better off rolling your mainstat or vit to add another 40 or 50 points, since you’d get more benefit from that than from any secondary stat. And even then probably only on a Rare, since that only costs gold. (And much lower gold costs in the new patch.) Enchanting anything on a Legendary item, even a secondary affix, costs a Forgotten Soul.

    All that said, you’ll usually be enchanting an item with 3 or 4 (or very rarely 5) primary stats, and there it’s a question of what you want more. Enchanting is much more difficult and complicated on jewelry and gloves since those items have dozens of primary stats. Armor and weapons are a lot simpler. Usually there are 4 or 5 other primary stats, plus another 4-7 possible skill bonuses. (Which skills you can get in bonus vary by item type, and the classes are divided up so you can only get a bonus to the same skill on 1 or 2 items.)

    That’s what you see with these Natalya’s Boots. They rolled with Dex, Res All, Armor, and Movement Speed. Dropping movement speed is a real option in RoS since you can add it via Paragon points, and any account with at least 197 paragon points could reach the 25% MS bonus entirely via Paragon points. (MS is in the DiabloWikiCore tab now, along with mainstat, vit, and +max resource.)

    That said, these are for a Demon Hunter where Armor is not real important, so that’s what I chose to remove. You see in the screenshot the other potentials for that slot. It took me 3 tries, but I hit the jackpot and got +14% Rapid Fire, which was probably what I most wanted for my current build, and even with a good % bonus on it. I’d have settled for Vitality or Regen also, as upgrades from Armor.


    Nephalem Rift Guardian Buffs

    I wrote a long and extensively-illustrated article about Nephalem Rifts last week. It covered all sorts of details about how rifts work and what they’re good for, with a lot of pros and cons vs. Bounties. I didn’t post it yet since the patch was coming, and when it came it completely redid all the values for Rifts vs. Bounties. So I’ll have to rework that part of the article once I’ve played enough to get a sense of the new economics.

    In the meantime, on top of Rift Guardians getting big buffs to their drop rates… they got new toys. Toys to kill you with.

    They do not have enrage timers, but they do have new and very dangerous talents. The ones that could summon were summoning a variety of minions, and far more quickly than before. The ones that could cast spells were doing more spells and more quickly, and especially during the last 1/4 or so of their hit points.

    Here’s Blighter and Rime showing off new talents I’d never seen before this patch. Others probably have other new tricks as well, though my research has not yet brought me into contact with them.



    Other New Stuff

    I had a lot more in my notes, but this has gone long enough.

    One last thing briefly is the coolness of more variety and shuffling of monster types, especially in special appearance by purples. Entirely new purples, or else purples that didn’t used to be in Area X.

    One example I remember was a purple Unburied as the Bounty target in the Weeping Hollow, where never before did such enemies reside.

    One that actually got me to hoot with surprise was doing a “clear level” bounty. It was level two of one of the Act One caves, and I’d done all but one enemy on the level. While running to the last corner of the level, and expecting just another scavenger or bat, I got to the dead end… and a purple tunnel worm popped out of the ground, and ate me in a single bite!

    Okay, it didn’t actually do that, but it was there and it was purple and glorious. I had never seen any tunnel worms elsewhere in that area, and I wasn’t doing a Rift, where weird monster combos are the rule. This was just a cool surprise, and the fact that it was the last monster for that entire Bounty made it all the cooler.

    It’s nice when a game you know quite well hits you with cool stuff, and I think it’s going to be very cool when Reaper of Souls launches. Not just for the lucky few beta testers who can start finding gear and earning experience for real, but for the vast majority of fans who are not in the beta and have never seen a bounty or a rift except in a YouTube video. They’re really cool. Really fun. More now than before. You will freak, used as you are to the slow and predictable game play of Story Mode as you see it in the live game today. Six weeks and counting!


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