Reaping the Chocolate State-of-Mind

In case you’re not already a follower of mine on the Tweeters, last night I had my first table-flipping moments with the Reaper of Souls Friends and Family beta. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic; I was frustrated, but clearly not to the point of flipping a table. What was I frustrated about? I was still approaching Reaper of Souls with the mindset that I was still playing Diablo III Chocolate.

You can’t do that, or at least you shouldn’t. In the conversations I had with Wyatt Cheng at Blizzcon I should have been better prepared for what I was going to experience, yet clearly hearing about the changes coming and experiencing them are completely different things. You will likely fall into the same pitfalls and experience similar frustrations as I did, yet if you take my initial experiences to heart then you will quickly adapt and overcome the shift in combat pacing.

BUT before I go into that, I should preface everything that I’m about to jot down that this is still Friends and Family BETA. BETA. Things can and will change and we could very well see some major overhauls still as Reaper of Souls is still very much in development. So while some of myimpressions will remain true when we all are reaping monsters and demons for really reals, things will be different when everything is live.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to what you all are clamoring for, my impressions so far.

You’ve heard me state it on the post-Blizzcon Live From Anaheim episode of the Shattered Soulstone and I will restate it here for emphasis: ADVENTURE MODE IS AMAZING. Ahh-maze-zinggg-geh. Being able to jump from act to act and kill any boss solves many problems we experienced in Chocolate. Adventure mode is probably responsible for the death of Nephalem Valor since jumping in and out of games to farm bosses (well, who actually farmed bosses anyways?) is moot.

Forcing us to get five stacks of NV was merely a means to prevent quick game creation and now with adventure mode, why would you want to? Adventure mode allows everyone to play as little or as much as they want and ALWAYS have something productive and rewarding to do. Between Bounties and Nephalem Rifts there is a lot to do in a single session. Some bounties are super quick and easy and some take a bit more time to complete, but they feel meaningful and rewarding yielding sizable chunks of gold and experience, Blood Shards for gambling (yes, gambling is back though sadly Gheed’s personality isn’t), Horadic Caches that yield random and varied rewards, and chances for Rift Keystones to open up Nephalem Rifts.

Phew. That was a mouthful. Yes, bounties yield quite a bit of rewards for your efforts and if you’re looking to get from 60 to 70 as quickly as possible, stick to adventure mode as the experience boosts from completing bounties is pretty absurd at the moment. Granted this is still early beta, but as things stand at the moment, bounties seem to be the quickest way to grind experience.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when RoS is live Act V will most likely be locked in adventure mode until you complete it in the campaign. And let’s be honest, we all want to see what Malthael is up to right? I should also state that for my own sake of avoiding story spoilers I will NOT be touching the campaign mode AT ALL until I have my Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition in my hands. I don’t want to ruin that experience for myself with the beta. Playing the game and learning the ins and outs of all of the new mechanics and systems introduced is one thing, but spoiling the story is another.

Anyhoo, let’s move on to my actual personal experiences with the gamplay itself since there will be better sources of information to familiarize yourself with all of the new mechanics and systems in the game. I haven’t dug into all of the new crafting stuff enough to give you in-depth reports on them, but I assure you that should you want to dig into it, there are plenty of resources out there. I will say this though, HOLY MOLY there are a lot of new crafting materials to start worrying about.

OKAY. FOR REALLY REALS I WILL GET TO MY IMPRESSIONS NOW.

After I copied my characters from live over, I quickly got to work with my main wizard, Malnevicent, that recently hit paragon 100, (good thing too ^^). Her gear isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but she was able to easily handle MP6 and could handle MP8 decently enough by switching to a hybrid CMWW build. With this in mind, I decided to embark my journey to 70 at Expert difficulty. It’s hard for me to say what the equivalent monster power would be, but given how easy it felt early on I would say MP3-4 would be a good guess.

In case you’re wondering the current difficulty selections go Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, Torment (which has multiple levels, I-V, but is locked until you hit 70 with one character). So there is some parity with the ten levels of monster power, but obviously in going from ten settings down to nine, there are some differences especially since the benefits are quite different from the monster power system.

Going from 60 to 66 was an absolute breeze for my wizard and in retrospect I am wishing that I had gone with Master initially as it yields the added benefit of increased chances of legendary recipes to drop (that I would assume would have very little chance, if any at all, to drop at a lower difficulty). As soon as my wizard hit 67 things changed, dramatically.

With the removal of the difficulty modes (Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno) monsters will automatically scale to your level no matter where you are in the game.

Up to this point I hadn’t found much in the way of upgrades for my wizard, or at least what I thought were upgrades for her. I was unwilling to give up some of my bonuses for Toughness and Healing upgrades and in retrospect was my initial undoing. At Expert (67) things start hitting HARD, very very hard. And the poop on the ground? OUCH.

Suddenly I was having lots of issues staying alive against elites and champions, but I could power through them without too much difficulty if I played more conservatively and employed kiting tactics. BUT bosses? OMG. My wizard’s lack of focus on improving those toughness and healing metrics became CRYSTAL clear. It was one-shot city. I couldn’t even briefly skirt through one of Araneae’s poison puddles without being gibbed.

At this point having sub-100k HP and 700 AR wasn’t enough to survive in Expert. Toss in the nerf to life-steal (which honestly I no longer had at all since I never had a LS weapon and Magic Weapon – Blood Magic is no longer a thing) and having very little Life on Hit or Life Regen and the issue I was having was apparent: I needed survival gear, again.

Remember in the old days of Diablo III Chocolate when you needed survival gear and defensive abilities? Yup, those days are back. Or at least they probably will be depending on inevitable number tweaks that we will experience as the beta matures.

Once I hit 68 and then later 69 it wasn’t only bosses that were giving me problems. Ohhhhh no. Now elites and champions were getting their share of one-shots on my poor defenseless wizard. I also ran into a new monster affix that has become the bane of my wizard’s life: THUNDERSTORM.

Holy moly does Thunderstorm hit like a truck and worst of all, it strikes randomly from range with little you can do to avoid it. YUP. It’s pretty much the most devious monster affix that I’ve ever experienced and I think, or at least hope, it will be changed or tweaked to bring it more in line with other affixes.

So what was my poor wizard to do? Gear wasn’t raining down upon her and with monsters becoming increasingly dangerous with her prospects of farming gear looking more grim with level 70 rapidly I realized there were two options, dropping the difficulty level or making use of the blood shards she had been saving up.

As I mentioned earlier there are new NPCs in town that accept blood shards as a currency to buy ??? gear. Costs are pretty reasonable for most gear slots (most armor slots save jewelry are 5 blood shards each) for the shot at rolling a random piece of gear. Yup, gambling is back. I probably spent about 60-70 shards and upgraded my wizard’s chest, shoulders, belt, and pants and now she’s sitting at ~420k DPS, ~260k HP and an effective Toughness of ~1.4 million (whatever that means).

I haven’t taken her new gear out for a spin yet, but I am hopeful that she’ll be a bit less squishy as she inevitably hits 70 today. I’ve seen some chatter that you will want ~1mil DPS for Torment but I haven’t hit 70 yet to give it a shot yet.

As for legendaries, I’ve only had one drop from a random mob in the world and had two drop from (mini)bosses earlier in the journey to 70 (back when bosses were trivial for my wizard). So I haven’t had much luck on the legendary front, but I’ve only dumped maybe three’sh hours into getting up to 69. Still too early to make any assumptions on drop rates, but I can state that it feels weird to no longer have NV stacks and guaranteed rares from elites and champions.

I have dabbled with the enchanter a little bit and, again, while I don’t have enough experience to give solid advice, I can state that for those of you chomping at the bit to enchant your amazing legendaries from the outset, think again. To enchant legendary items you need a new material, Forgotten Soul, which you get from salvaging legendaries. I salvaged my stash of existing legendaries which only yielded ONE.

If this remains the case for when RoS goes live, there’s ZERO reason to hold onto your existing legendaries for enchanting purposes. Besides, as previously stated, you really should aim to replace most, if not all, of your existing gear by level 68 or so.

Another thing that caught me off guard was that almost as soon as my wizard hit level 62 marquise gems started dropping like candy. Seriously. I’m not joking. So if you, like me, are hoarding gems for RoS, don’t. Just don’t. They will be utterly pointless in RoS unless the way gems are currently handled is completely broken; it is definitely not finished as the costs associated with removing and combining gems have clearly not been touched yet.

So yes, you should probably take everything I just said with a massive grain of salt, but I would say with near certainty that hoarding gems right now on live is a waste of time and effort.

Alright, now on to skills and runes.

As you all know I am a huge lover of lightning spells and I am loving the direction that the wizard is going right now. Being able to easily create elemental synergies is fantastic with almost every spell in the wizard’s repertoire having numerous elemental flavors to them. Lightning meteors? Lightning arcane orbs? OMG. YES PLEASE. And the lightning flavor to the new Wizard spell Black Hole is just amazing. Crowd control and damage? YES, YES, YES. I love it.

I have given a fire build a shot, but I didn’t like the synergy with Spectral Flame Blades. 1% bonus per monster hit seems pretty cool, but it only lasts as long as you have monsters to constantly hit (buff lasts 3 seconds) which leaves little room to weave in big hitters and creates a massive warm up period if you really want to apply the hurt. Going fire also doesn’t give you any of the CC opportunities that going frost, arcane and lightning easily yield.

Sorry budding fire wizards, you’re probably not going to have fun, at least not without some help from gear that can provide some CC. But don’t give up all hope, there is a fire variant of Black Hole, at least I think so, and the small amount of CC it provides is pretty fantastic.

Currently Paralysis feels fantastic, perhaps a bit too fantastic though as a 20% chance to stun can stop a lot of monsters and even some bosses in their tracks. It synergizes amazingly well with Electrocute – Forked Lightning at the moment as forked lightning dumps a TON of charged bolt sparks on the ground (though this could be a by-product of my wizard having ~60% crit). Either way I do expect that we will see some tweaking to both paralysis and forked lightning as my wizard can pretty much lock down large packs thanks to stun procs going off almost constantly.

In addition to that I am loving the synergy between tossing out an Arcane Orb – Spark to give my Black Hole – Supermassive a boost. It’s a ton of fun to toss a spark through a large pack of monsters and then drop a black hole in the middle and watch them all convulse and melt as they get sucked in.

It’s just so much fun as a lightning wizard right now. And you have other options with Wave of Force getting a lightning flavor that almost feels like Lightning Nova from Diablo II but gets the added benefit of causing all monsters hit by it taking additional lightning damage for 4 seconds. Like I said, lots of new elemental synergies that will likely fit a number of different play styles. And this is just from runes, imagine the possibilities with build-changing legendaries (I can only imagine right now since I haven’t found any yet ^^).

All in all so far my preliminary impressions have been overwhelming positive. There are a few detractors and critiques in there, but it is still early and I guarantee there will still be a lot of tweaks made in the coming weeks and months as the beta matures. I am extremely excited with the direction that Josh Mosquiera and crew are taking Diablo III in and I don’t think I can go back to Chocolate anymore.

And with that folks, I think I need to get back to it. I’m amazed I took the time to actually blog about my impressions so far, but rest assured I will probably be back more frequently to apprise you of how things progress in the beta. Closed beta is quickly approaching, so you too will soon have the opportunity to join in on the fun, (especially if the Shattered Soulstone gets some keys to give away). So until then, stay tuned!

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