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    I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been up to my eyeballs in PTR stuff since Friday.

    As such, I’ll be covering the SF experience on the PTR and RoS beta (thus far), the crazy stat jump we’ve all been seeing with iLvl 61+ items, why it may be hard to determine whether an item is an upgrade from now on, and what I’m hoping to get out of the end-game when the expansion arrives.

    What Loot Feels Like In The PTR

    After jumping into the PTR for patch 2.0, I played a series of games with my Barb, Wiz and Demon Hunter. Since Patch 2.0 brings a change in difficulty levels, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of challenge – so I started out in Normal difficulty, and played a bit of each act.

    It took me weeks to find an upgrade for my Demon Hunter in the live game, but only around 30 minutes in the PTR (along with 7 similarly-good rare items). Two friends I played with also found upgrades of their own after only an hour of killing monsters.

    Unfortunately, almost all the gear we found was iLvl 61 – which in the current PTR, can’t be equipped by characters level 60 and below. The same rule means any items iLvl 61-63 that were equipped before swapping our characters over to the PTR were also locked, and had no effect.

    Even crazier: a few of the iLvl 61 items I found – including a magic quiver – actually had better stats than the Dead Man’s Legacy legendary quiver on my Demon Hunter.

    It seems clear that iLvl 61 items are meant for the expansion and not the core game (as even the weakest of items is much more powerful than our current gear). I’m thinking Blizzard will convert pre-patch 2.0 gear to iLvl 60 shortly, and set that as the new item level cap for the base game.

    An upgrade for my DH, but I couldn’t equip it, since iLvl 61 items are locked on the PTR.

    An upgrade for my DH, but I couldn’t equip it, since iLvl 61 items are locked on the PTR.

    A middling legendary item pre-Patch 2.0 is beaten damage-wise by the first magic quiver I found on the PTR.

    A middling legendary item pre-Patch 2.0 is handily beaten damage-wise by the first magic quiver I found on the PTR.

    From PTR to Beta: Watch Your Numbers Go Up, Up, Up

    Next up, I logged onto the Reaper of Souls beta. After sampling the expansion items, I can safely say that your gear is obsolete the moment you start off in Act V.

    As a DiabloWikiSF player who had never seen a Marquise gem in the wild before, I was glad to finally get one. I never expected to craft one in the original game – but they are common drops in RoS. As soon as I could, I popped my old gems out and slapped in Marquise gems, significantly upgrading my raw stats. It helped out a lot, especially toward the end of the act.

    Aside from being able to find higher-level gems, I found that all items including normal, magic and rare items drop less frequently in RoS, but are of better quality. Blizzard’s “less is more” approach to loot (combined with DiabloWikiSmart Drops) seems to be working. I mostly found items that could directly benefit my character – or at worst, an item another one of my characters could use.

    What’s more, for any bad roll you get, you can just take it to the DiabloWikiMystic to upgrade with an DiabloWikienchant. For any decent rare item that I find (and there are a lot), enchanting is a no-brainer.

    There are lots of rare items that serve as "almost upgrades" in RoS. Enchanting makes many of them worth equipping.

    There are lots of rare items that serve as “almost upgrades” in RoS. Enchanting makes many of them worth equipping.

    What Counts As An Upgrade Now?

    For those who like to plan ahead with gear, there is a welcome change with DiabloWikiLoot 2.0: the addition of the affixes “Reduced Cooldown” and “+X% Skill Damage.” While I’m not certain how game-changing these new affixes will be on rare items, I’m certain that clever players will use them to somehow create the next Zero Dogs build. Or at least try to, anyway. *fingers crossed for good luck*

    There is a downside to these affixes, however minor: it will be harder to know what counts as an upgrade. In the current live game, almost every item serves as a glorified stat stick, which has the advantage of making it easy to figure out whether an item is an upgrade. (More green numbers? More trifecta stats? Just swap it in and go back to killing things!)

    But with Loot 2.0, determining whether an item is an upgrade isn’t so black-and-white. Players must now ask: “Is this gear right for me, based on my character build? What could I unlock build-wise if I sacrifice some raw damage for more Reduced Cooldown and % Skill Damage?”

    It’s certainly got me second-guessing whether I should salvage an item. I’m also interested to see what kinds of builds players might produce using (of all things) rare items. For those who miss the plan-your-build-out aspect to D2, this is a welcome change.

    As a side note, I’m hoping the devs will let us see changes to skill cooldown and damage buffs in our gear comparison tooltips – or at least the option to see a more detailed comparison.

    The raw stats might go down - but if it buffs the right skills or reduces cooldown enough, it might be worth using.

    The raw stats might go down – but if it buffs the right skills or reduces cooldown enough, it might still be worth equipping.

    Hoping For Cooler Stuff In The End-Game

    I haven’t experienced the beta from the start as others have – so I couldn’t tell you how the changes from the earlier beta affect the feeling of finding your own gear. Still, after playing the PTR and beta, and comparing them both to the current live game, I’m quite satisfied. The loot hunt definitely feels more rewarding, and that’s all I really wanted from patch 2.0 and the expansion.

    Since I haven’t explored higher difficulty levels yet, I don’t know how well the end-game will play out. Word on the street is that Torment difficulty is where legendary and set items really start to drop, so I’ll be working toward getting enough gear to reach that point.

    I’m hoping the items that I find later are really worth it, and help me change up my play style.

    For now, I’d like to hear the tips you all have for builds (after recent skill changes), what cool new things you’ve found in the game (and what you hope to find), and what your experience has been like so far with the PTR and/or the beta.

    Ironborn is a column exploring self-found play and related topics by Waterfiend, who secretly hopes the devs will add a Zero Dogs set item group in RoS. Got an idea for a column? Share it in the comments!

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