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    I hopped on the PTR last night and tested out a lot of new stuff. This isn’t one of my mega-reports since I only had a couple of hours to play, but I was able to try out new things with Nephalem Rifts, Demon Hunter skills, the gold interface, Cesspools, and more. So here’s my first, quick, Diablo 3 Patch 2.1 PTR Test Report.

    Gold and the Gold Counter

    Gold counter, lower right.

    Gold counter, lower right.

    Gold counter, lower right. Gold stacks still just have a little scattered heap of coins graphic, which makes it impossible to discern between 1000 and 50,000. (Bring back the gold bricks graphic!) But there’s a little gold counter on the lower right of the screen that shows how much gold you’ve picked up in one sequence of grabbing.

    It’s most obviously seen in one of the new screenshots we got of DiabloWikiGreed’s Domain; that’s what that “692,775” number means in the thumb on the right. Because the DiabloWikiTreasure Realm = riches!

    Golden chest drop.

    Golden chest drop.

    You get that in normal situations as well, and if you play with the icons instead of item names (highly recommended), every stack of gold now shows a little white bag icon. Previously the bag icon only showed for crafting recipes, (and Follower items?) and they were orange or green, so it’s odd seeing a white one. And I’m used to only seeing a white icon for a white item drop, and those aren’t something I generally bother to pick up as I’ve already got 1000s of DiabloWikiReusable Parts. (Materials still do *not* auto-pickup. Bleh.)

    Here are a couple of shots from my play last night, showing what it looks like on the PTR with icons for item drops. These shots are from an early game when I was just rushing around checking things on a low difficulty, so the gold drops are tiny, but you get the idea.

    Below are 2 shots of the same drop, a Rift Guardian’s full drop, and then what it looked like after I ran through and vacuumed up the gold. You can see how similar the gold icons are to the common materials icons.

    Rift Guardian drop

    Rift Guardian drop

    Rift Guardian -gold.

    Guardian minus the gold.

     

    The Cesspools

    My second rift I found one level of the new tile set, the DiabloWikiCesspools. The were different and interesting, but not exactly “leap out of your seat in excitement.” Not that Blizzard said they would be.

    Cesspools dungeon exit.

    Cesspools dungeon exit.

    They are a sort of nighttime docks area, kind of reminiscent of parts of the Act Three Kurast docks and jungle huts from Diablo 2, but also with the rotting bamboo elements of the Bogan caves you get in parts of Act Five. It’s a great area for a ranged attacker since there are very few walls (just a few ramshackle buildings here and there) and you can constantly blow things away on adjoining piers and stone wharfs before they can reach you.

    The tilesets are mostly narrow, short walkways that change directions constantly, always at right angles. There was no elevation other than a few short stairs up into the rotting huts, and if it used the same level generation grid as any other area, (the way the Passage and Ruins of Corvus in A5 are reskinned A3 Keep levels) it wasn’t apparent to me from one level of it.

    The level I got was quite large with no major dead ends and I never went more than half a screen without the pathway branching off multiple times. It’s basically a big maze, but outdoors and without walls, so it feels open and easy to navigate.

    My spawn had some zombies, but was mostly blue Fallen of all type except hounds, and the density was pretty thick. Maybe a 6 or 7 out of 10 on density, and it took me quickly from about 30% to 100% complete on the Rift. (I got this as level 3 in the Rift.) After doing the Guardian I finished exploring the level and there was a lot more of it.

    Screenshots below, and yes, it’s quite a dark area. You get a better sense of what it looks like as you play it and move around with the lighting following you. My monsters were green and blue, so not hard to see, but if you got really dark colored enemies it would be a challenge to see them until they were right on top of you.

     

    Horadric Cache

    The Horadric Cache has a new graphic, with what looks like a little golden hat on top of it. Only zooming in on the screenshot afterwards showed me it was actually an opening lid with golden light shining out.

    Personally, I like the idea of Caches with hats better than that, so I’m going to pretend that’s what it is. Feel free to join me.

    New Horadric Cache graphic.

    New Horadric Cache graphic.

    The PTR resets all of your tooltips, custom keys, and “don’t show this again” type pop ups, so you get deluged with annoying, “won’t close when you hit Esc/Space” reminders the first time you pick up anything and everything.

     

    Nephalem Rifts

    I’d love to write about DiabloWikiGreater Rifts, but I didn’t do any. I cleared 4 or 5 Rifts, several quick ones on lower difficulty, but the last two on Torment 1, and didn’t get a single greater rift key to drop from any of the Guardians. I don’t know if this was just really bad luck for me or if it’s the design.  There is a thread in the community forum where people are reporting their drop rates and it’s mixed results so far.  I was playing Hardcore and very late night so no one I knew was on, so I played solo. Other people I know who found Greater Rift Keys were in multiplayer games. So maybe that’s required, or it greatly boosts the drop odds? Nothing in Blizzard’s Patch preview says anything about difficulty level or multiplayer impacting the GRK drop odds.

    To access a Greater Rift, simply complete a regular Nephalem Rift in any difficulty. When you defeat the Rift Guardian, they’ll have a chance to drop a Greater Rift Key. You can then use this new key at the Nephalem Obelisk, similar to other Rift Fragments — this will open a Greater Rift. If you have members in your party, each player will be prompted to use one of their own Greater Rift keys to join the fun!

    As for entering DiabloWikiNephalem Rifts, it’s a little inconvenient now since you have to have a Rift Key in your inventory. It won’t automatically pull them from your stash as before. This is because you have to choose to do a normal rift or a Greater Rift, so you click the Nephalem Altar and get a pop up window asking what kind of rift you want to do. Right click on your the type of rift key you want to use (I only had the normal ones) and it auto-pops into the big statue’s head, and then you click okay to open it.

    Screenshot030Screenshot031

    Everyone seems annoyed by the clunkiness of this interface, so I expect it’ll get streamlined and you’ll get buttons or something, each one listing the rift key options you have, with buttons for types of keys you don’t have grayed out.

    Tooltip popped up when I collected my 5th key.

    Tooltip when I collected my 5th key on the PTR.

    Regular Nephalem Rifts now require 1 key to enter, and that’s one key from everyone who is going to enter. (Same rules for entering Greater Rifts.) So it seems that DiabloWikiRift it Forward is done, though with just 1 key required it hardly seems necessary. Anyone so addicted to RiftRiftRifting that they can’t take a few minutes to pop off a few quick bounties for keys probably needs the break anyway.

    Some of the tooltips weren’t updated yet, as you see to the right.

    Now if only we could trade Rift Keys, there’d be something resembling currency! Not that there’s anything worth buying or selling, with everything BoA. Pay Rift Keys for power leveling?

     

    Demon Hunter Skill Changes

    I didn’t have long enough to play to do anything like a thorough testing, plus the PTR wouldn’t let me transfer over my EU account. Just the US one, which I’ve played much less in RoS and not for about 6 weeks. Thus I had trouble estimating how much better/worse/different things were working since I was playing a character I hadn’t played in weeks, who was much weaker geared than my DH on EU.

    That said, I tried out multiple new skills that had been buffed, and compared them to the previous options, and liked the new stuff quite a bit. Since I hadn’t played this DH for some time she wasn’t very customized. She had plenty of damage to do find in T1 (solo and HC, so even on the PTR I had to be a little careful) with 850k DPS and 25% Lightning Skills damage, her gear didn’t have any useful +skill bonuses until I rolled +13% Cluster Bomb on some new boots. (One benefit of the PTR; since it’s not “real” you can just salvage everything you’re saving for other classes to get Souls, which I did so I could upgrade some gear.)

    When I saw the patch notes I was EXCITE for the buffs to a number of DH skills, and most of all Rapid Fire. I really enjoy using that skill, and it’s my favorite part of rolling a new Demon Hunter (an experience I’ve savored all too many times, because Hardcore), knowing that as soon as I hit level 5 the machine gun will be active, and then at 11 when Withering Fire comes in it’s even better.

    Unfortunately, Rapid Fire is just too weak to use in the end game. It’s great for a single target, but DiabloWikiCLUSTERBEAR or Multishot or even Ball Lightning puts out so much more DPS so much more quickly, especially when you need AoE.

    And yet, the Patch 2.1 notes gave me hope.

    Rapid Fire
    * Weapon damage increased from 525% to 685%

    * Skill Rune – High Velocity
    ** Pierce chance increased from 40% to 50%
    *** Damage type changed from Poison to Lightning

    So that’s a big buff to the base skill, a big improvement to the piercing, and a shift to Lighting damage type, which is the bonus element on my (not so well-geared) US DH. Can has?

    I tried it out, of course, and compared it to CLUSTERBEAR (780% damage, fire), Cluster Arrow: Shooting Stars (buffed to 600% damage, lightning ), Multishot, Fire at Will (not buffed, 360% damage, lightning), and Elemental Arrow, Ball Lighting (not buffed, 300% damage, lightning). (My DH on US doesn’t have a Kridershot, so everything cost Hatred.)

    ClusterBear dealt the biggest damage, even though it’s Fire and my DH had Lightning damage buffs. The base explosion created the biggest crits, plus the following grenades add excellent damage on top of that. But it’s very Hatred expensive, which is why many DHs were vexed by the nerf to Preparation: Punishment.

    Shooting Star does good damage, but the rockets are auto-targeting and hard to put where you want, so it’s not my fave.

    Multishot was very good; the best for clearing big screens full of dudes much faster and for less Hatred than either Cluster Arrow, but it’s not great for single targets.

    Compared to all of those, I actually felt the newly-buffed Rapid Fire: High Velocity was the best. It was not the best on big screens of action, since it doesn’t hit everything at once the way Multishot does, but the bigger damage and the big increase to piercing makes it awesome for any sort of narrow corridor or enclosed space, and I usually use it with Grenadier to get all those extra seeking rockets, which add good damage and are very helpful to polish off the stray monsters that get behind you or scurry off to the sides.

    It’s not the hands down best skill, but balance doesn’t want there to be one that’s obviously the best, as CLUSTERBEAR is currently, partially since Fire Damage is so easily obtained. (Fire and CLUSTERBEAR is why Demon Hunters are the leading users of Cindercoat.) In a better world different skills have different utilities, and that was definitely how it felt testing out my DH on the PTR. That may change, of course, with more specialized gear and higher difficulty levels.

     

    More Testing

    There’s so much more I didn’t get to check out, so hopefully you guys are getting some PTR time and can share your findings with the class. I really wanted to test some Monk, as that class got a lot of big skill damage buffs, and the improvements to Sweeping Wind and Fists of Thunder make me hope my fave D3v build might be viable again.

    I’m dying to find a way into DiabloWikiGreed’s Domain I definitely want to try out some Greater Rifts as well, but that’ll have to wait. How many of you guys are on the PTR already, or plan to hop on this weekend? And what’s your chief testing goal?

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