With a new patch, here’s my usual mega-post of quick reactions. I played a new, untwinked Wizard through the whole content, tried out the one new skill rune effect (Sleet Storm in Ray of Frost), and took note of the general play balance changes.
The game is much more challenging and fun now, and there are big increases in gold drops, many changes to blue drops, and huge changes to crafted items. There’s a new boss type, new options menus, slight improvements to the chat interface, huge improvements to the skill UI, Hardcore enabled (almost), and more. All these topics are covered in detail and usually with a screenshot or two. Here’s the start, click through for the full article.
Diablo 3 Beta Patch 14 Changes
Hardcore is in… it just doesn’t work.
The first bug is due to them hot patching this in, without doing a character wipe. (Which they probably should have, after making so many other changes. See the comments on item requirements below.) You must have a character above level 10 to create a HC char, but existing characters over 10 don’t count. You don’t have to make a whole new one, though; just level one to ten.
Site reader Zephron mailed in with word about this and screenshots of the bug. Lucky him had a level 9 from the last patch, so in 5 minutes he was ready to try his one life to live. Sadly, Battle.net was not.
You can create a Hardcore character, and they look all epic with the orange light shining down, and after you click okay you get the big pop up scroll to scare away the HCurious noobs, (I’m surprised it doesn’t actually play a warning sound and maybe shine some flashing lights also.) but then when you click okay on that, you get the error message. Something broken on Battle.net, obviously, but I bet/hope it’s just something minor and we’ll see Hardcore characters soon enough. It’s a good patch to add them in too, since the game is actually fairly challenging now.
I did a full play-through with a new, untwinked Wizard and it was a lot of fun. The increased monster damage makes a very obvious difference, as does the decreased item quality, and I had to drink 3 or 4 potions to survive, while scrambling for health orbs at least 8 or 10 other times.
That might not sound like a lot, but during the previous patch I played one char of every class up to 13, all untwinked, all playing very recklessly and hurriedly since I wanted to test out the new skill rune effects, and I never had to drink a single potion, while ignoring 90% of the health orbs. Diablo 3 is *much* harder now, and it feels almost like a real video game, rather than an extended tutorial/training mission.
I certainly didn’t think the beta would ever be this challenging, and I’m afraid it might be too real, and that the casual/noob audience they have so often said they’re making Diablo III’s Normal difficulty for will find it too harsh. I sure hope they keep it like this, though.
So why is it harder?
Several reasons. Monsters hit for more damage, monsters are more numerous, character skills do less damage, blue items drop less often early on, blue weapons do less damage, crafted items have less powerful mods, many crafting recipes have been removed or greatly increased in level requirement, plus um… intangibles.
A big change is the skill damage, which is most obvious for the early Wizard from the Arcane Orb skill. In the previous patch that skill came in at level 2, and dealt 250% weapon damage to targets within 10 yards. It got MUCH better at level 7 when the first skill rune effect came in. That was Arcane Nova, which kept the damage at 250% while increasing the radius to 20 yards. Best I recall my geometry, the area of a circle is pi x r squared. (No, I’m not looking up math notation to type that properly. Deal.)
I’ll save you any further bad math by using an online tool. A 10y Arcane Orb has an area of 78.5. A 20y Arcane Nova has an area of 314.2. So no, 20y circle isn’t twice as big as a 10y circle. It’s closer to 4x the size. That was a gigantically-powerful skill in the last patch, basically letting the Wizard fire Wave of Force projectiles, with no cooldown time and only the high resource cost to limit it.
This patch? The base Arcane Orb has been cut to 175% weapon damage, and the first rune effect is Obliteration, which increases the damage (without changing the radius) to 228%. Yes, the base skill did 250% last patch. So now you’re doing considerably less damage with the first rune effect’s +damage, than just the base skill did previously. Not every skill has been nerfed this much, but a lot of them have. The full stats for Arcane Orb can be seen in the pics below.
These changes worked so well that I stopped using Arcane Orb, since it wasn’t getting the job done. Too much Arcane Power cost for not enough damage. Compare it to Magic Missile, which does 143% weapon damage with the first Rune Effect, with zero resource cost. No splash, but it’s not a lot less damage, and you can cast them forever.
MM isn’t useful against big packs though. What is? Shock Pulse‘s first rune effect, Explosive Charges. That works very well, with monsters killed by the spell blowing up in 10y radius cones of electricity (Yes, the same radius as Arcane Orb.) and it’s a signature spell, so it’s free. Zero resource cost. The range is much less than Arcane Orb, but the damage is very comparable, and you can cast an unlimited number of them. This quickly became my main anti-crowd spell, with Ray of Frost the best single target attack until Arcane Torrent at level 12.
Another big change comes from the items.
My wizard used a bow from about lvl 4 until 8 or so, when I finally crafted a wand, largely so I could start using it with a shield, as I was taking too much damage playing with a two-handed weapon. Bows work quite well for a Wizard item; the attacks per minute is comparable to most one handed weapons, and if you run out of resource and left click you’ll fire an arrow, which is pretty much the same thing as the usual Wand Throw no-AP default.
Using a bow isn’t that odd, but the fact that I kept doing so for so long was unusual. I can’t draw too many item scarcity conclusions from just one play-through, but I found a LOT more armor and a LOT fewer weapons than I expected from my past experience, and many more of the weapons I did find were two-handed. These were wildly-unrepresented in previous patches, where not only were one-handed weapons + shield or off-hand item better, just the one-handers themselves were usually a lot better than comparable two-handers.
There are numerous big changes to crafted items as well, and by “changes” I mean “deletions.” It looks like about 1/3 of the recipes are gone and another 1/3 are much higher level, leaving maybe a third as many crafting options for levels 1-13 as there were previously.
Numerous item types, weapons and armor, now offer zero crafted recipes that are less than level 15 or 20. There’s not a single rare crafting recipe you can use in the beta. You can make the items; you just can’t use them since they’ve all got item requirements higher than 13. Previously there were about 6 rares you could craft and use.
This might be a bug, and more are supposed to show but aren’t; possibly since my Blacksmith was already trained up from the last patch? The other possibility is that characters will be finding lots of crafting plans to teach additional recipes to their Blacksmith, and that those aren’t enabled to drop in the beta. (A few patches ago there was one rare plan that could be found on Leoric’s level that the smith didn’t know otherwise.)
In any event, there are way fewer crafting recipes now, and the ones that remain have much lower bonuses. This is a good thing, since previously beta players were joking that the monsters all might as well just drop materials, since it would save players the trouble of picking them up and salvaging them, as we did with 100% of the items we found once we’d made some crafted gear.
This is no longer the case, and while it makes finding a good item more fun, it’s going to take some getting used to. I actually had to force myself to slow down and read the stats on the blues, which was weird after the past few months have trained me to salvage everything as quickly as I can click.
The screenshot above shows the lack of any Wizard off-hand orbs. You can find some, with very low stats, but the old recipe, that made a rare orb that looked like a book, with a level 8 requirement, has been removed. My lvl 13 Wizard from the last patch had one of those equipped, and when I loaded her up today, it was gone. Just gone; empty inventory slot for the shield. Lots of other items, mostly crafted ones from the previous patch, now have much higher level requirements, and thus show up in your inventory with red/locked icons.
You see the inventory views of 4 level 13s below, with their unusable gear, thanks to changes in the Beta 14 patch.
It’s not all harder/fewer/weaker, though. While blue items drop very seldom early on (I didn’t find any rares at all, which is typical. I’ve found 2 or 3 during the entire beta, other than from Leoric’s quest drop.) they drop more frequently towards the end of the beta content. A bit like the gold drops (covered below), blue items now pop in greater frequency in some places.
In the screen below you see the remains of a boss pack and a champion bunch I got side by side, which is a pretty rare occurrence. Both dropped two blues, which never happened in the beta until this patch.
If you’ve not played the Diablo III beta, realize that champions do not drop an item or a jumbo sized stack of gold as they did in Diablo II. Champions in Diablo III are sort of linked on the drop, and when you get a pack of 3 or 4 or 5 champions, only the last one drops anything. This gives champions the feel of a boss pack, if you somehow always wound up killing the boss last.
Other special quest bosses and events can drop multiple blues now, which is a new thing. This shot shows the loot from the trapped skeleton room’s resplendent chest on Cathedral 4. Four blues is not something I’d ever seen in the beta prior to this patch.
Speaking of bosses, I saw a new modifier in the beta. Nightmarish; if one hits you, it has some % chance to put terror on your character, which cases you to run in a random direction, away from the boss, for a couple of seconds. This is a pretty unpleasant effect, as you can’t control your character at all, and may get slaughtered by other enemies while the effect lasts. (No screenshot; I only got one such boss and the screen I took my cursor wasn’t right on him so no hover display. Yes, I realize pics or it didn’t happen.)
Gold drops are radically different, in quantity. They are way more variable; the last patches had really turned down the variety in the stacks, and it was boring and predictable. You’d always get 1-2 gold early on, and then slowly see stacks increase in a very linear progression. By the lower levels of the Cathedral almost every drop was 5-12 or so, with occasional 1s and 2s, and very few 15-20s.
That’s all gone, now. Much larger stacks appear earlier on; the pic below shows two stacks my level 3 Wizard saw, and these weren’t especially large for the area. There is no way you’d have ever seen more than 4 or 5 in a stack in that area in the last patch.
There are fewer total stacks dropping, but the total gold pick up was much higher; at least 4-5x more, in my estimation. You see some other shots in this post with stacks over 40, and I saw a few 50+ stacks late in the beta. Previously that was impossible without 150% gold find gear on, and I had maybe 5% on my Wizard today.
I got several bugs in the patch, which is unusual. Seldom do I see any bugs in the beta patches, even minor ones, which makes me wonder just how much they’re rushing to get new stuff into the beta for testing with the release date approaching.
Aside from the obvious issue with creating a Hardcore character (mentioned above) I got this odd graphics glitch right outside the gate of Tristram, 30 seconds into my first play session. There’s a normal view, and then the zoom for a closer look.
Another bug I’d never seen before happened in the Damp Cellar, one of the early dungeons. It appears about every other game via the cellar of one of the houses between New and Old Tristram, and usually when you go inside 8 or 10 zombies tunnel up through the floor and attack. This time I just got… an empty room. No zombies appeared, and nothing else was there. I ran around the posts a few times to see if something would trigger, then gave up and ran out. And yes, I was playing alone in the game; it wasn’t like someone else got there before me.
This plus-shaped intersection of Tomb Guardians is found most times on Cathedral 4, and it’s become fairly challenging now that these monsters spawn new skeletons so quickly. They’re pretty handy with their Arcane Missile attacks as well, and I had to use a health pot to get into them, since the skeleton archers and the Arcane Missiles were pounding me as I worked my way into range.
The Explosive Blast rune effect in Shock Pulse is the best low level Wizard skill against a big pack, now that Arcane Orb has been nerfed. You can see the explosive dome of lightning it creates in this shot, and the flying, charred-black zombie it created. But as Shock Pulse has a fairly short range, you’ve got to get quite close to use it, which puts you well into range of spells and arrows.
New Skill Rune Effect
A newly-available runestone effect in this patch, this is Sleet Storm. It’s made in Ray of Frost, and is now available since that skill got moved down to level 2, so the first runestone comes up at level 8. It’s an interesting choice for the first effect in Ray of Frost, since it totally changes the skill from a long ranged beam attack into a defensive swirling cold storm. Monsters that move into range are chilled and take considerable damage from the Sleet.
There are limits, of course. It doesn’t have much range, the Wizard can not move while casting it, and the resource drain is pretty fierce. This makes it quite situational, useful only when numerous enemies are coming into melee range, but very useful then. You can be hit while using it; small monsters die almost instantly, but larger enemies like Grotesques and Unburied take 5 or 6 seconds to whittle down (depending on your equipment and damage, obviously) and they will whack you several times before they die. The Skeleton King will smash you if you try it on him, of course.
If the hit is hard enough to knock the Wizard back, she stops casting it. (All skills and attacks are interrupted by knockback.) You can start up again as soon as you recover from the impact of the hit, though.
Somebody at Blizzard finally got sick of players exploiting the quest continuation system to do quick Leoric runs, and they moved the Royal Crypts Waypoint to the start of the level. This is way back by the entrance from Cathedral 4, before you reach the long urn room, the Leoric’s execution ghost play, or the four pillars skeleton room.
New Options Menus
Finally, the least interesting thing. New menus added to the main Options Interface!
More details on the new patch: