After weeks of hoping for something new in the Beta, Blizzard released Beta Patch 5 last night (full readme here), with major, massive changes to all the classes and much of the gameplay. I hopped right on and played a few hours with a Wizard, and when I started typing up my observations on what had changed, it soon turned into much more than a quick bullet point article.
It came in over 6000 words, actually, so for ease of digestion, I’m presenting it in two parts. Here’s the first, which covers the Interface changes, the new character animations, the Cauldron of Jordan, the Nephalem Altar, Dungeon Portal Stones, the changes to the experience curve, the many general difficulty adjustments, changes to specific Wizard skills, the new functions of health orbs, and more.
Part two can be seen here. It covers chests and other clickables, destructibles, bookshelf changes, Pages of Training drop rate adjustments, monsters, new and changed boss modifiers, the reworked Fallen Den level, and more.
You should also check out this thread where testers have added their quick reactions, and for much more on the new patch.
Update: Numerous screenshots added Friday evening, 10 hours after this post first went live.
Interface and UI
Everyone keeps asking for screens of the new UI… it’s not new, unless the differences are so subtle I’m not noticing them. (I had some amusing confusion with the interface and controls early on, since I’ve been playing Torchlight 1 for the past week in preparation for some imminent TL2 testing, and it took me a bit to figure what had changed in this patch and what I was just misremembering from TL’s controls.) The only new feature in the basic interface is in the Skills window, where your currently-selected skills now have a silver ornate border around them, which you can see here.
The log in and character creation and character selection menus are different. Anyone who has the beta client can see/hear those changes, to some extent. New music, at least. You need a valid beta log in to see the char creation screen, sadly. The biggest difference is on the character creation screen. Each of the classes does a cool little action animation when you select them, and these differ by gender as well. I will not try to describe them with words since someone will surely post a video of it soon, but they’re pretty cool. The female Monk’s one-foot stand and the male Barb’s angry spitting are the two that stand out most in my mind, in retrospect.
As for the in-game UI, the difference is that the devs have added a ton of tooltips. Now the first time you do anything, you get a little pop up box explaining what you did. Unlocked skill slot, picked up an item, it’s the Nephalem Altar, you’ve taken damage, quest monster spotted, even one telling you that you are in town. All very basic stuff. A few thumbs below; see the Beta Screenshots gallery for many more.
You can turn these off, thankfully, as I imagine most of us will after we’ve seen them once or twice, since their info is really for a person playing their first ARPG ever.
The Cauldron of Jordan
You don’t get one anymore. At first I thought I’d just missed the quest somehow, but others said the same thing in forum posts, so I guess it wasn’t just me. Previously you got one from Leah when you finished the little quest with her in Adria’s Shack, but no longer. And you never do.
This results in characters having a lot less gold in the early going, since you can’t just sell what you find instantly. Plus you don’t get the Nephalem Cube for a while after that, so there’s no salvaging either. As a result I found a lot of junk in my inventory during the Clvl 3-6 range. It’s not a big deal, as you have to go back to town several times on those early quests, but it was weird using those other town NPCs to sell stuff early on. I hadn’t gone to any of them in weeks, since since the items they offer for sale in the Beta were (and remain) worthlessly low level.
(The Blacksmith doesn’t buy or sell items; he just crafts, but I now realize that I’d gotten into the habit of doing my salvaging and CoJ selling while crafting with him, so it *felt* like I was using him as my merchant.)
I wound up with a lot less gold on the whole, since smaller stacks drop now, since gold rewards from quests are MUCH lower, since I didn’t have the CoJ to sell, and since a lot less blue items drop now (more on that later). Furthermore, since I didn’t have the CoJ I didn’t bother to pick up white items later in the beta, since there’s no need to salvage them, since they just give you Common Scraps 99% of the time and you always have more of those than you need from salvaging blue items.
I hope that last paragraph made some sort of sense. It’s very late as I’m typing this.
The Nephalem Altar
That’s it, right there in town near the stash and the NPCs. It’s kind of like a shrine in appearance, with blue glowing smoke billowing out the top and rolling down the sides. You click it and your skills window opens up, exactly like normal. You can then freespec any skills however you’d like, just as in the previous versions of the beta.
The difference, of course, is that you can only respec while at the Nephalem Altar. Elsewhere in the game you can open up your skills window whenever you like; you just can’t respec. When you level up to 3, 6, or 12 and gain a new active skill slot, you can open up the skills menu and choose a skill, but you can not change around your existing skills. Not without the NA.
There are a few other Nephalem Altars out in the dungeons as well, but only in the first few areas, and only right at the start of those areas. To the right you see one at the very beginning of the Tristram Cathedral.
They were only in the first few areas, though. No more NAs appeared later on, after I got the Stone of Recall, which is delivered less than halfway through the beta.
Dungeon Portal Stones
A minor change; most dungeons without an exit going further downward have a glowing stone crystal sort of thing at the very end, that will teleport you back to the entrance to that dungeon. Which is handy, since it saves you running through all those empty tunnels. Or taking the Stone of Recall back to town, then using the Waypoint to return.
These were formerly instantaneous portal stones. You clicked and were instantly bamfed to the start. They’re not anymore. Now you get the same casting a spell with a progress bar overhead that you do with the Recall Stone. It’s quicker, though. These only take about three seconds, while the Recall Stone is 10.
The progress bar changed from red to blue, also. Why? Dunno.
The Experience Curve
The experience curve has been tweaked a bit. I couldn’t tell if it was more exp per monster or more from the quests, or both, but my Wizard leveled up more quickly than I expected, early on. I noticed I was level 5 when I didn’t expect to be more than 4, and that kept up. I hit 6 well ahead of schedule, and enjoyed the 3rd active skill slot, and I was level 7 at a time I expected to be around Clvl 5.5. (I took screens of the level ups, but since they were lost I can’t cite exactly which area I was in each time, etc.)
Presumably this is a change to help new players, giving them more powerful characters more quickly. And it’s needed, since the game was MUCH harder early on. More on difficulty in a bit…
A full clear of the beta, playing solo, gets a brand new character to around Clvl 9.5. I’ve done about 20 brand new characters through the whole thing so far in the beta, and of those maybe 2 or 3 hit Clvl 10. All the rest were Clvl 9, and usually somewhere around 9.2-9.6. You can only get to 10 if you get lucky on which random dungeons and quests spawn, and if you clear out every inch of the game.
I didn’t do a 100% full clear with my Wizard today, nor did I get the biggest random dungeons early on, but the exp was just flying up anyway. I was well into Clvl 8 by the time I got to Cathedral level 2, and figured I’d hit 10.5 or maybe even 11 by the Skeleton King. To my surprise, the exp gain really slowed down around there, and I was around the usual Clvl 9.6 when I finished off Leoric.
I can’t comment in great detail after playing just one character, but the Wizard was MUCH more difficult early on. And much more fun, IMHO.
The weapon damage = spell damage is immediately obvious, since your starting weapon, a wand, does next to nothing. Even on those first few zombies on the way to Tristram, I was thinking, “Are these guys taking an extra Magic Missile each?” I wasn’t sure, but once I was moving away from Tristram and getting Wretched Mothers, it became very obvious that the zombies were dying harder. My Magic Missiles were doing 3-4 damage each, when they were 6-7 in previous versions of the beta. My firing rate seemed slower too, but I wasn’t positive about that.
The much lower damage grew more and more obvious as I moved up through the first couple of areas, and I was actually enjoying it. MM uses negligible Arcane Power even right from the start, so you can throw an infinite number of them. And my Wizard needed to.
(Generally, AP seemed more abundant/faster regen than previously, though that might just have been my perception, since no change to it is listed in the patch notes.)
I cast and cast and cast, enjoying the battles and not really rushing through things. (This might relate to my faster than usual experience gain, though I don’t think a few more zombies per Wretched Mother would really make much difference on the whole.) I could get in closer and use Frost Nova to freeze them all, but it was fun to just keep hurling the MMs and watch the zombies die.
Things were occasionally dangerous against the fat zombies, which took 4 or 5 shots to kill. Several of them in a bunch, plus a Grotesque, plus a Wretched Mother or two was fairly dangerous, and I often had to retreat, Frost Nova for protection, run around and take hits to put down the Wretched Mothers when I had an opening, etc. It was a blast, actually. Feeling somewhat challenged and having to use strategy.
That didn’t last forever, alas. I found my first blue weapon right when I got into Old Tristram. You see it to the right; just a shord sword with some +damage, but for my Wizard it was practically an Oculus-sized upgrade over my 1-2dmg starting wand.
Not only was the damage much improved, but the casting speed increased great as well. Greatly, like 33% or more, and suddenly the same monsters that had been challenging my MM hurling were going down to MM in short order.
The difficulty picked up a bit when I got into the Cathedral level 1, and that was about the most fun I had the whole time. (That level spawned in a layout very different than any I’d ever seen before, and got me excited for new, but then Cathedral 2-4 was virtually the same as always.) I was Clvl 6 by then so I added Arcane Orb, and while I was momentarily horrified by its seemingly low damage, (I was doing about 8-9 MM and 17-21 with Orb.) I soon found the splash AoE on impact more than made up for it.
I think Arcane Orbs travel slightly faster than they used to. I wouldn’t swear to it, though. At any rate, they can easily hit 5 or 6 monsters in a pack, and with each of them taking the full damage, which was nearly double the damage of my MMs, that made a huge difference. Not so much for individual monsters, but against larger groups it was awesome. Even with the 35 AP cost, I had no trouble standing my ground, letting the monsters bunch up, and killing 4 or 5 with a single Arcane Orb, then using MM to polish off a survivor or two.
Like I said earlier, I think AP was regenerating more quickly. It certainly seemed like it was, and I also had items with new mods. One of my first pieces of armor had a “+1 Arcane Power per kill” affix that I’d never seen before. And like they say at the bank, a little bit of that here and there really adds up over time.
The higher difficulty and strategy stuff lasted until about Clvl 8, at which point I had upgraded the Blacksmith enough that an Apprentice Wand recipe was available. I made one of those, plus a 2H sword for the sake of comparison. The Wand was about 11dmg while the 2H sword was 16dmg. Plus, with my hat it made me look like Gandalf… for like 5 minutes. Then I found an orb with +8-12 damage, and with that my one handed wand damage shot way past the 2H sword. Just like Wyatt said it would!
The orb added MUCH more damage to my output than the listed value would suggest, as you see in the two screenshots here, which show the orb equipped and not equipped. Realize though, that the damage listed in the Wizard’s character window remains entirely useless and meaningless.
I have no idea what it’s trying to say. It’s damage, but I’m holding a wand, which actually can not be used for a melee attack (Wizards default from Attack to Wand Throw, a ranged attack, when a Wand is equipped.) And the 50ish dmg listed is of no use in calculating how much damage any given spell will do. Basically Wizards figure their damage like snipers aiming via tracer rounds. You set up some equipment, you use some spells, you see the numbers of damage you’re doing, and then you try other equipment and see if those numbers are bigger or smaller. The damage listed in the character window will tell you if that new weapon will increase your damage, but you really have no idea by how much, until you actually test it out.
At any rate, once I had that bigger dmg orb, the challenge was gone. I compounded my mistake by adding Electrocute to my skill arsenal. (It’s a slightly higher Clvl req now that offensive/defensive skills alternate. It came in at Clvl 8 or 9.) Electrocute was the best skill in the beta previously. It’s now better. It seems to use less AP, it seems to chain further between targets, and it definitely shoots over railings better.
Previously you had to get at weird angles to shoot over railings, especially down or up a level. You could do it, but you had to move side to side to get at just the right angle, and some monsters were always out of reach. That’s changed greatly in this patch, and I had no trouble lighting up enemies with Electrocute whether they were up or down from me. I routinely cleared out whole rooms from completely safety up above them. (Not that I was in any more danger even in the same room, as easy as things got past Clvl 8.)
Health Orbs and Healing
Health orbs have changed considerably. The biggest difference is that they now heal over 1.5s, instead of 5s. I don’t think I’d ever died in the beta while I had health orbs filling me up, but many times I’ve had to drink a potion even after hitting several health orbs, since they were filling so slowly.
That was noticeably different today, as I could count on one or two health orbs doing for me almost like a healing potion. Not instant heal, but quite quick. This let me play differently in some places; I could allow more monsters around me, and stay more in crowds, since I knew the health orbs that would drop would be enough to keep me healthy. I had a great time doing the Jar of Souls event, since I could stay right in the thick of the horde, hitting Arcane Orbs as quickly as my AP would permit, and shoving my way back and forth, slurping up the numerous health orbs and healing up easily faster than the skeletons could hurt me.
That was not a tactic I’d have found safe for a poorly-equipped new character, in previous versions of the beta.
I also think the health orbs were less common, on the whole. That was fine, since 90% of them were always wasted for my other characters, and it seemed especially gratuitous when 10+ would drop from one big room full of action. I can’t swear to this, after just one character, but it seemed like orbs were less common from big packs than previously. I hardly ever had more than 2 or 3 sitting around after battles, when I’d grown accustomed to seeing half a dozen or more left over after such encounters.
Only from the Jaw of Souls, and in another game from the mob of skeletons by Leoric’s skeleton towers event, did I have maybe 15+ orbs lying around after the carnage. Somehow I didn’t have as many from that area in the other game, probably since I used more damaging skills and killed the towers before they could spawn so many skeletons, that time.
I just described Magic Missile, Arcane Orb, and Electrocute in some detail, since this is not an organized presentation.
Wave of Force, Ice Armor, Frost Nova, Shock Pulse, and Storm Armor appeared unchanged. I tried all of these, and if they were any different, it wasn’t enough to notice. See my mega-length Wizard Beta skills report for more details on them.
I said mean things about this skill previously, so I had to try it again. To my surprise, it was much improved. The twisters hit for more damage, they seem to hit more frequently, and they have a bit more adhesiveness, holding monsters in harm’s way. They still move slowly and erratically though, and remain useful only when you spam them against slow-moving enemies.
One of these against two weak monsters, right in front of you, is basically as effective as a single Arcane Orb. The problem with the Twisters is that they move erratically, and unless you’re in a narrow hallway with nearly-stationary targets, you can’t at all count on them getting the kill for you. The only scenario when this skill is better than say, Arcane Orb, is if you have a lot of enemies in the area. I mean a lot, like Leoric’s bone room or the Jar of Souls. In those type of scenarios you just hurl out several Twisters and know that they’ll do a ton of damage for the AP cost. They won’t kill any individual quickly and efficiently though, so you’ve really got to be playing the percentages and going for a damage vs. time/AP ratio.
And you’d have to pretend that you didn’t have Electrocute, which would do literally five times the damage to a huge mob in about one-third the time. Even with the improvements, it’s just there for variety. I can’t envision Energy Twister as the best strategic choice for any situation… at least in its un-runed form.
Delightful! I enjoyed this skill a lot, and did extensive testing with different types of weapons in my previous Wizard report. I didn’t test it out that much this time, but it’s definitely much improved by the weapon damage changes. Not in terms of damage, as best I could remember, but in terms of casting speed. The Wizard can now crank these out MUCH faster than before. I mean much, like 40-50% faster, and I wasn’t using any especially good melee weapons. If things stay as they are in the beta, I can easily envision melee-ranged Wizards kicking ass with this skill and a big damage, very fast weapon.
It’s not as good as Electrocute against a big group (but nothing is), but it worked very well all the same, for the reasons I covered in the previous report. Good range, hits everything multiple times, scales up considerably in damage against big packs since you land so many hits, etc.
I found it quite effective against single targets as well, and it was faster damage against the Skeleton King than just about any other skill I had, though of course he was hitting me while I was using it.
Other Wizard Skills
I didn’t use the Templar other than during his quest where he’s unavoidable. He seemed unchanged, and will require testing to see how he differs, since several of his skills are said to be tweaked around in the patch readme.
That’s it for part one. If you’ve got comments or questions about material in this report, hit the comments. I can clarify things later, if other beta testers don’t beat me to it.
Part two of this report covers: chests and other clickables, destructibles, bookshelf changes, Pages of Training drop rate adjustments, monsters, new and changed boss modifiers, reworked levels and areas, and more.Related to this article