With the patch a couple of days old, numerous beta testers (and their friends and relations) have had a chance to play through a few times, and some consensus is beginning to form on the latest changes. You guys know about the big documented changes to crafting, the removed cube and cauldron, and so on. What about the more subtle stuff that you have to play to appreciate?

    So We Heard You Like Hit Points

    The most obvious change in gameplay is the huge boost to character life. Every point in vitality now yields around 10 hit points (it was 4 previously), and as a result characters feel like they are way above the hit point curve, even without making any effort to stock up on vitality gear. Numerous players reports can be seen in this forum thread, and the numbers are crazy.

    Players are reporting upwards of 2000 hit points on well-geared level 13 Monks and Barbarians, and this against monsters that are hitting you for 4-6 damage. Even without gear the difference is huge; I played a Wizard through this morning, and with zero crafted or bought armor (just the junk that dropped from monsters) my Wizard had over 450 hit points at level 8, which robbed the Skeleton King battle of anything resembling suspense. I hardly noticed the damage from his attacks, and as a result didn’t even bother to dodge his teleport hits.

    For the sake of comparison, I ran a Clvl 9 Wizard through shortly before the last patch went away, and with zero equipment improvements (just wearing found gear) that char had around 150 hit points against the Skeleton King. That made for a very exciting battle, and I even died in it, for the first time ever against Leoric, when I was careless and let him get in two swiping attacks without drinking a potion between them. It was quite possible to get a Clvl 9 Wizard up to 400+ hit points in the previous patch, but only with a lot of equipment specialization. That you now get it by default is crazy, and makes the beta play like you’re wearing a life vest the whole time. I don’t think my new wizard was ever below 75% health, and I was making very little effort to avoid being hit.

    Better yet, there are also considerably more health globes than in previous patches. That you don’t actually need more than like 1/5th of them, thanks to the huge hit points boosts, is another issue.

    Click through for numerous additional beta play test observations…

    Monster Improvements

    Another hit point issue is in regard to random boss monsters, which seem to have a lot more life than they used to. Player feedback differs on this one, and I’m sure some of it is the fact that equipment is slightly rarer now, so damage is lower. That said, I had my three or four longest boss fights ever in the beta, in the early going in this patch. One DiabloWikiFrozen zombie pack I got in Catacombs level 1 forced me to retreat at least 3 or 4 screens, backing up and firing DiabloWikiMagic Missiles all the while, with an DiabloWikiArcane Orb cast every time I had enough DiabloWikiArcane Power to let one rip.

    I don’t think I’d ever retreated more than one screen in the entire beta prior to this patch, and those were only when I had to dodge huge mobs, or else the early version of DiabloWikiArcane Enchanted.

    I also saw numerous packs of monsters that were much more numerous than I’d come to expect. This was most obvious in the Cathedral levels, where I routinely got 10-15 zombies bunched up in one room, when in earlier patches there would have been no more than 4 or 5. The monster pack spawns were increased in the previous patch, but seemed further boosted this time.

    These were in no way difficult to kill, as they’re slow and stupid zombies, but it’s fun to have larger groups of enemies for your puny low level character to wipe out.

    Items and Crafting

    The removed Nephalem Cube means you have to return to town to salvage items with the Smith and that’s annoying. Especially since he doesn’t buy white items, so you have to pick through your inventory, clicking only on the magical gear while salvaging, before you run over to one of the merchants to sell your white items. (The salvageable items display with a slightly brighter outline while you have the salvage icon active, which helps, but it needs to be a more obvious indication.)

    As promised, white items sell for very little gold; from 1-15 were the prices I saw. Since the average gold stack by the end of the beta is 10+, and you find hundreds of those during each Cathedral/Crypts run, you can do the math. I took most everything back to sell in the early going, but that was largely due to my Nephalem Cube training conditioning me to pick up everything for salvaging. Over the course of the game, as I got used to the very low value of white items, I began to avoid picking them up on purpose, and only grabbed some during quick clicking moments after numerous items dropped at once.

    Having to sell white items isn’t all bad, since it gets you to the merchants, and they’re not entirely useless anymore. In early beta patches they were bugged, or at least poorly designed, since their items on offer didn’t scale up with the level, remaining completely useless 1-2 damage type junk all during the beta. That’s changed, and the merchants now sell all kinds of really good loot, as good or better than what you find from monster drops, and not awful in comparison to the crafting creations. The patch notes said that merchants would sometimes spawn with rare items to sell. I checked them all several times, but never saw anything yellow. (Though others have.)

    Despite all the hype the crafting system changes got in the new patch, they feel almost unchanged from the previous versions. The recipes no longer require any white materials, which feels like kind of a cop-out, to me. Like Blizzard had this crafting system that made sense, with the input of Common Scraps and Subtle Essences that seemed roughly equivalent to the resulting item. Now that you only need some of the blue or maybe yellow materials, it seems like you’re paying the artisan to make it from his own stores, rather than providing him with the ingredients. A site reader named Lordbrute has been emailing in his outrage over this change, so I’ll give him some quotage:

    I have to tell you, I was really looking forward to breaking down items and using that material to make new items. They took away the ruin stones and words. Now with the change, I think the game is greatly lacking. I have not been fortunate to play the beta, but played more then my fair share of D2, and its common sense, you need common scraps. How do you expect to make an item with out it? You need the leather scraps, metal parts, pieces of wood, etc… To make an item, and then the magic substances. It’s going to take more then some magic powders, hoofs, eyes , and tooths. Even if only the blacksmith does all the work. He will still need base materials and a some of gold for the labor.

    What can you say? He’s got a good point. That said, I doubt any of us would notice this if the crafting system were brand new, and we’d never heard of Common Scraps. We’d just accept the blue and maybe yellow material costs without complaint, though it might seem kind of lame how often you get blue and nothing else. The white materials made a nice pairing with the blue, since you needed a ton of white as the base for all crafting recipes, which made the blue or yellow or orange feel like the bonus ingredients that created the magic.

    As for the results of the crafting recipes in the new patch? They’re damn near identical to their previous versions. A few have the attributes changed around, with different stats instead of Attack, but there are still plenty that grant vitality, which is quite OP, as mentioned above.

    Difficulty Changes?

    Not so much.

    There are more monsters, and the bosses have more hit points, but the damage from monsters remains very low, as does their attack rate and accuracy, there are many more health globes, and all characters have a huge boost to their hit points. This results in more monsters to kill and a slower killing speed, but almost no danger to the player. It’s thus something of an illusion, with the game seeming harder or more dangerous, while it’s actually safer. More of the D3 Team’s efforts to make the game welcoming to noobs and casuals, I’d wager.

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