Diablo III – Beta Patch 10 first impressions

by ParadiceNZ @ Paradice Software for DontCritMe.com

After a mammoth 11-hour battle.net maintenance, the servers came back up late last night (New Zealand standard time, folks!) and delivered unto the faithful the long-awaited Beta Patch 10.

 

So, what’s the big deal?

This patch shows us for the first time what Jay Wilson was talking about in his announcement post last week. You can see my initial evaluation of his announcement here <https://dontcritme.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/diablo-iii-game-system-updates-announced/&gt;. However, there are also a few further changes listed in the Beta 10 patch notes <http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/3123246179 > that weren’t covered in Jay’s announcement. And also, playing the game reveals some further, more subtle changes that aren’t even listed there.

To recap, here’s a quick summary of the more noteworthy changes in the patch, with a handy “NEW” flag for those which weren’t discussed in the original announcement (although some of them, like the simplified tooltips, we knew were coming at some point):

  • Core character attributes changed – now Strength, Dexterity, Intellect, Vitality
  • The blacksmith is now required to salvage items, not the player
  • White (non-magical) items can no longer be salvaged
  • Magic and Rare item (blues & yellows) drop rates tuned (now harder to find)
  • NEW – (although it was announced separately)-  Tooltips simplified
  • NEW – (although I spotted it in a screenshot) – more detailed player Details
  • NEW – Pages of Training gone, Common Scraps gone, crafting re-tuned
  • NEW – No more Nephalem Altar – skills can now be changed in the field
  • NEW (although also old) – Achievements Re-enabled
  • NEW – Some spell effects upgraded
  • NEW – Monster densities changed
  • NEW – Other sneaky changes

From my initial playthroughs with the new patch, my impressions from the last article all seem to remain sound, so for the remainder of this post, let’s concentrate on the new stuff.

Tooltips Simplified

I’ve put this first, because this is the only thing (yes, the ONLY THING – spoiler alert!) in the new patch that I don’t like.  We knew that they were going to make these simpler, so grandma could understand them… and they really, really did. To the point where, for some skills, fundamental, or even critical information isn’t shown. Let’s take a look at an example:

Ok, what’s wrong with this picture? It’s missing VITAL info! Let’s say you were this hypothetical grandma and you were just reading  the simplified tooltip. After reading, here is what you DON’T KNOW about Fists of Thunder:

  • It deals 100% weapon damage (maybe players like to compare damage between skills?)
  • It generates Spirit faster than other generators (isn’t this kinda GOOD to know for a noob?)
  • It deals AOE+knockback every 3rd hit (grandma knows not why mobs explode sometimes)
  • It’s damage type is Lightning (there are monsters with immunities. Kinda important?)

The same story is repeated across all skills. In the simplified tooltips, there are NO numbers (damage numbers or timing info), NO damage types, and NO mention of secondary effects like knockback, stun or root (a friend I was playing with was initially angry that his favourite Witch Doctor skill, Grasp of The Dead, no longer rooted monsters. It still does – the tooltip just no longer shares that).

As you can see, while trying to help grandma learn to play, Diablo III is also establishing a very low ceiling for her to play within. Without info about what her skills actually do, she won’t get far.

The good news – you can hold down Ctrl and the useful information is displayed – although this doesn’t help grandma. I am hopeful that this will become a permanent option in the Options menu in the actual release.

More detailed player Details

OK, rant over! Let’s start with the good changes. As spotted in the initial announcement screenshot, there are now more details in the Player Details tab. As a true stats-loving RPG player, I expect everyone to love the extra statistics now available. Here’s a screenshot of all the available info:

Some interesting new stuff here. “CC Reduction” doesn’t have any hovertext, and I haven’t seen any gear or abilities that can affect it. I am assuming the CC is “Crowd-Control” (a common term for effects which temporarily neutralise an opponent, like Blindness or Stun). If so, this is probably the first PvP-centric stat we’ve seen, although some mobs might have abilities like that too. Nice!

Pages of Training: gone, Common Scraps: gone, crafting re-tuned.

OK, so the announcement that white items could no longer be salvaged meant that Common Scraps’ days were numbered. They’ve been removed altogether. Now there are only three levels of crafting materials (Magic, Rare and Legendary) multiplied by the four difficulty levels. Crafting recipes have been tuned to match. Instead of say.. 11 Common Scraps and 3 Subtle Essences (the Magic reagent), a simple recipe might now just be 5 Subtle Essences (plus a small gold cost).

Pages of Training is a more interesting change. You previously had to collect 5 of these, and could then use this to level one of your Artisans (in the beta, just the blacksmith) in conjunction with some crafting mats. Pages of Training are now removed entirely, and the only thing required to level the Blacksmith is gold. The gold cost has increased to match too, making this more of a gold-sink than it was previously. This is a good change: the more gold sinks D3 has, the better chance it has at a viable long-term economy.

No more Nephalem Altar – skills can now be changed in the field

So, skills can now be changed mid-dungeon. The only limitation is that you can’t use a skill for 30-seconds after you swap it in. If you had any active effects from old skills active (like say, Ice Armor), the buff is immediately removed when it’s swapped out.

Also, you can’t swap out any skill that’s on cooldown. (So, no using an emergency 2-minute cooldown skill, then swapping it out and having another useful skill 30 seconds  later).

Blizzard have stated in the patch notes that this implementation isn’t final either, and expect it to be changed again. But already this new system is a VAST improvement over the Altar. It’s now a player choice: “I just levelled up and got a cool new skill. Do I swap it in now, and deal with mobs with one-less-skill slot for 30 seconds, or should I wait?” (30 seconds is a LONG TIME in a co-op game. You feel the effect of the cooldown, especially at low beta levels when you might only have 3 slots total). Before, this wasn’t a choice at all, it was a chore. “Yay. I got a new skill, apparently. I’m not allowed to look at it yet. Remind me next time I’m back in town lol.

 

Achievements Re-enabled

Ok, so nothing “new” new here, since they were enabled before. But I didn’t have beta access back then. Now I do, and it’s awesome. Sorry for wasting your time on this one… moving on!

Some spell effects upgraded

This is one I didn’t see in the patch notes. Blizzard has been tweaking! Before, “Lashing Tail Kick” performed a directional AoE attack and added in a small knockback effect (just enough to push a mob out of melee range). In the new patch, the effect is the same, but the knockback is A LOT bigger. I quickly rigged up a Jar of Souls event, and captured it for Youtube. The frame rate isn’t perfect (I need practice on Youtube), but you can see a few skeletons flying off-screen after being bashed.

No doubt Lashing Tail Kick isn’t the ONLY skill that has been tweaked. I haven’t tried all the classes yet… if this skill is an indication though, things just got more fun!

 

Monster Densities changed

A nice change that didn’t make the patch notes – there are now more monsters in your average monster pack. They also stick closer together than they used to. I think (although I can’t be sure since there are no notes about it) that the AI has also been slowed a little to compensate. Net change = same difficultly, but much more fun with AOE attacks! This change in particular really makes it feel more like a diablo game, where a well-placed Blizzard could kill 20+ mobs.

Other sneaky changes

There are other changes that haven’t made the patch notes. Scrolls of Companion (which summon little creatures to collect gold for you) no longer seem to drop. It’s unclear as to whether they’re removed from the game or now just drop in some later levels outside the beta. Bashiok has mentioned that other changes “sneaked in”, expect an updated patch notes / separate announcement from Blizz sometime in the next couple of days.

 

Summary

Aside from the simplified tooltips, I like pretty much all of the changes in beta patch 10. As to whether I think these changes justify the 3+ months delay we’ve seen so far… hmm. Well there’s no use arguing about that, since it’s done. I am looking forward to the full game more than ever though!

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