There aren’t a lot of changes in this patch, at least not in the early content we can see in the beta.
At no point during the Diablo III beta test have I needed healing from an NPC in town. The option has always existed though, courtesy of Brother Malachi, who can be found ranting and raving on the path between the stash and the front gate. Presumably he’ll become more necessary later in Act One, and other NPC healers will be handy in later acts, so to make him easier to find, he’s been given a big red heart on the minimap.
Incidentally, if you’ve not spoken to him, try it some time. He’s kind of annoying with his screeching doomcrying whenever you run past, but I like that he’s a pessimistic healer. According to him, everyone’s going to die and the world is doomed… but at least you’ll face that fate with a full HPs bar!
Captain Daltyn’s Frozen Upgrade
One very noticeable change is Captain Daltyn, the zombie that crawls up out of the floor in Adria’s Cellar, now has a boss ability where five little frozen rocks appear in the air, all around the area, during the battle. They grow in size for about a second, then explode, each dealing a Frost Nova that damages and freezes any characters in the vicinity. Amusingly, they have no effect at all on Leah, who keeps plinking away with her useless little arrows while you are blue and motionless.
Most likely this is a preview of the sort of attack that Frozen bosses will have later in the game, since each of the little ice balls looks just like the one you see now when you kill a Frozen boss, champion, or minion. Those appear right on top of the boss though, and only when they die.
New Boss Modifiers Enabled
I haven’t seen it myself yet, but some players have reported finding bosses with Waller and Jailer boss modifiers in the Den of the Fallen level 2. Previously these mods had only been seen in the “Beyond the Gate” levels that are reached after the beta. Other higher level boss mods had previously been found on that level as well (and nowhere else) so beware in the Den of the Fallen, since level 2 is potentially the hardest content in the entire beta.
Update: Several players in comments say they got those guys in the previous patch, so not new to this one. (I didn’t play much in the last patch thanks to the new B.net 0.2 patcher with the infamous agent.exe rendering the beta unplayable for WinXP machines 3 weeks ago.)
Skill Interface Unchanged
The biggest non-change is the Skill UI. Despite the fervent hopes of many (most?) players, the same clunky, screen-filling, six-category, console-style skill interface remains. The “Elective Mode” is still there, and it enables you to assign skills from any category, but there’s no escaping the annoying, “six clicks to set a skill” interface.
The NPC merchant over on the left side of town now sells rings, via a new “Trinkets” tab, once your character has reached level 6. They’re fairly price, but can offer huge bonuses, for the level. See the screenshot below; +2-4 damage and +3% attack speed on a ring is fantastic for that early in the game. OP, even.
Rings were a very common drop throughout the entire beta, until the previous patch raised their item level considerably, thus making them almost impossible to find in the early beta content. So now you can’t find them until after the Skeleton King, (with some farmable exceptions) but you can just buy one that’s got better stats than 99% of the found rings in previous versions of the beta?
A few skills changed around, and we got some rune effect shuffling as well.
The first rune effect in the Wizard’s Ray of Frost was previously Sleet Storm, at level 7. That one has been swapped with Numb, which was previously available at level 38. Numb increases the movement speed debuff from 40% to 60%. This is probably a more useful rune effect for the low level, as Sleet Storm was a powerful defensive ability best used against multiple melee attackers. It also made nonsense of the annoying skill UI category system, turning your first “Secondary” skill into something that should have been in the “Defensive” or “Conjuration” categories, though I doubt that was a relevant factor in the skill rune reordering.
The Monk’s first rune effect in Fists of Thunder got shuffled as well. Bounding Light was previously at level 6, and it created a powerful chain lightning effect on the money hit, that was very useful against large groups of enemies. That’s been moved miles away, and the rune effect at 6 is now Thunderclap, which was previously found at level 52. It causes the Monk to teleport to the target and release an energy shockwave that deals lightning damage over a 6y radius.
Another obvious change is the first rune effect in the Witch Doctor’s uber-useful Grasp of the Dead. It was previously Groping Eels at level 7, which increased the damage. That one was switched with Unbreakable Grasp, which does nothing to the damage but increases the slow debuff to 80%. As even the plain GotD is hugely OP in the early going, I can see why they decided to move the +damage one to a later stage.
Numerous players report the knockback property on bosses is much more noticeable than previously, and that it sends your character and minions staggering back a much greater distance.
If you’ve had time to play some, feel free to stick your observations or additions into the comments, and I’ll update this OP with other new stuff as the day progresses.