Tag Archives: Reaper of Souls

Diablo III – Done with Act V

Well, that was fast.

I might have to revise my statement from Monday’s post, as Act V wasn’t as long as I expected.  The Act V in Diablo II seemed to be much longer, at least in my memory. But it has been a long, long time since I last ran it, so that might just be a false perception.

Thanks to a suggestion in the comments on Monday’s post, I figured out how to bump up the difficulty, so went to Expert.  At that point the game was pushing back on me enough so that it didn’t feel like a walk-over any more, but I didn’t have to adjust my play style, equipment, or skills I had selected in order to be more effective.  If I had gone up to Master I would have had to look into how I should be playing a Crusader as opposed to just picking the skills that had cool effects.  I then launched into what I would call the second half of Act V which, as my character pointed out, didn’t even follow the usual route out of town.

Great moments in self-referential humor #277

Great moments in self-referential humor #277

Again, I remain impressed with the scale and detail of the graphics in Diablo III.  Out on the the Battlefields of Eternity the size of things and the terrain coming apart and the details were all very impressive.  And the cut scenes then emphasize where you are.

Facing the ram before the Pandemonium Fortress

Facing the ram before the Pandemonium Fortress

Yeah, it is just a painted backdrop of a giant battering ram… which you go and fight on later… but that is my character as equipped in the scene.

Anyway, I did that, got into the Pandemonium Fortress, found the necessary points, and was directed toward Maltheal, the main boss.

Go get Maltheal

Go get Maltheal

I figured that this might be one of those decoy battles, where you show up and then the main boss runs off and you have to fight a major henchman… though they hadn’t been building up such a henchman as they sometimes do.  So when I finally went through the last portal, I did indeed find myself facing Malthael.

You're the guy from the box art!

You’re the guy from the box art!

The fight was drawn out and I did have to use a health globe, but was mostly just able to persist by staying out of the worst of the bad stuff he lays around the scene of the fight and just chipping away at him as best I could.  Eventually I wore him down.  He died, a sizable pile of loot showed up, then Tyrael wandered in from stage right and uttered his lines, after which a dialog came up asking if I wanted to exit.  I clicked on yes and got the #winning screen.

You and how many other people...

You and how many other people…

As the credits began to roll I was feeling a bit “that’s it?” about the whole thing, though on reflection there was a good act worth of content there to be played.  Usually I make a point about exploring the whole map in each area, but it just so happened that in the Pandemonium Fortress I stumbled along the most direct route the the end and, once there, stepped in for a look, so actually left quite a bit of that map unrevealed.

Now I am left with what to do now.  I could go chase achievements I suppose.  I am only 25% done on that front, though a bunch of them require you to do things in a multiplayer setting.

The achievement board

The achievement board

And then there is adventure mode.  I wasn’t sure what that was really about.  It appears to be a return to the map from the game in order to accomplish specific objectives.

The Act I map for Adventure Mode

The Act I map for Adventure Mode

I do want to get my Crusader to level 70 at some point, and the choice appears to be between Adventure Mode and just restarting the whole story over again.  I am not sure I am up for another full run through the story.  But then again, moving through the story is something I find motivating, while Adventure Mode at first glace looks to be a very WoW-like series of standard murder for hire quests.  I will give it a try and see how it plays out.

Meanwhile, the events of the final battle in Act V and Tyrael’s final statements makes it clear that there will most certainly be further titles in the Diablo franchise.  While it is possible there could be a second Diablo III expansion, I would lean more towards a Diablo IV being announced at the BlizzCon keynote address.

Blizzard seems to have learned their lesson when it comes to the Diablo franchise, so I will more than likely buy whatever comes next in the series.

Diablo III – Into Act V

I had some time this past weekend to play Diablo III.  I got out my crusader and, since I hadn’t seen Gaff in the game for a week or more, decided to just push ahead without him.  I finished up Act III, went through Act IV, and got a ways into Act V, which puts me square in the Reaper of Souls expansion.

Diablo_III_Reaper_of_Souls

As it went with Diablo II, there is a definite change up in pacing as you pass through those three acts.

Act III, as with the previous two acts, is all about building up the story and giving the player a tour of the countryside, various dungeons, all with minions and mini-bosses and significant NPCs to discover.

Then you get to Act IV and it is boom, boom, boom oh hey, it’s Diablo… get him!

Not that there aren’t various bits and pieces to explore, but it is a much shorter experience, something emphasized by the player being put up against the game’s namesake.

And then, if you don’t have the expansion, you’re done.  But if you do have it, then you launch into Act V which, by its nature of being the meat of the expansion content, runs much longer and feels more densely packed with side paths and events.

So the tempo of acts is soft of medium, medium, medium, short, long.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  You want some meat in an expansion.  But having the expansion already and jumping straight into Act V does make Act IV feel all the more brief I suppose.

So far I really like the crusader.  I found a set of skills for him that fits my play style well enough.  Of course, he is only level at this point, which means he is still getting unlocks, and will continue to do so through level 70.  It does sometimes make me question the wisdom of the slow unlock progress, where you have to play until level cap to get all the skills.  But then throwing all the skills at a player at level 1 is never a good idea either.

The flip side of the crusader being pretty well matched to me… and the post-patch 2.0 changes to drops and itemization… is that after a certain point the game got pretty easy.  I had swapped up to the Hard setting way back in Act I and felt I had to put in some effort early on.  But by the time I got to Diablo himself I was so well armed that he was a push over.

Seriously, I was never once in any peril when fighting Diablo.  My setup meant my health never dipped more than a sliver below 100% and I was putting out enough damage that the fight went by very quickly.

Likewise, going into Act V I have been slaughtering all before me with impunity.   I think the only difficult bit has been simply accumulating enough gold to combine or move gems around or unlock various items.  I never have enough gold.

I gather from Google that I am not alone in this opinion.  It seems that any real level of effort doesn’t come into things until you finish up Act V, hit level 70, and start in on the whole adventure mode aspect of the game.

The Diablo franchise has always been more about story and atmosphere to me, so hard being easy isn’t a deal breaker for me.  I will push on and finish up story.  The game looks good, plays well, I like the story, and there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be taken in the ability to clear a room with one well-timed AOE attack.  I think my record at this point is killing 39 mobs with a single attack.

However, I tend to be done with Diablo games once the story has been completed.  I will be interested to see if I find any hook in the post-story aspects of the game.

Diablo III – Reaper of Souls Goes Live

The day has come, the Diablo III expansion, Reaper of Souls, has launched.  Death is here, or so they tell me.

ReaperDeathIsHere

It had the big midnight launch, like so many past Blizzard games and expansions.  And I am not buying it.

Well, not today at least.

I have been enjoying Diablo III since the 2.0 version dropped.  The changes improved the game for me a great deal.  I am happy with that, and I do not miss the auction house one bit.

I also like a lot of what the expansion has to offer.

Reaper of Souls info

Reaper of Souls info

But I am still playing through the main campaign.  While the prospect of a 100% experience bonus weekend was somewhat enticing… that was there last minute, pre-expansion hook… and I would like to be level 60 just to have all the skills and such unlocked before I hit the expansion… other games came first for most of the last week.  Diablo III isn’t at the top of the list, so I play it when I am done with other things.  World of Warcraft still has the top spot, so I get to Diablo III when I am done playing with my daughter, or the instance group, or Gaff, or doing more of  ‘Operation Mounts & Bags’ with Earl.

I did find some play time… I had a big chunk during our EVE Online corp meeting, though I had to play with the sound off so as not to interrupt tired jokes and whining… and managed to get well into Act III and up to level 46.  I got past Ghom, the Lord of Gluttony, and into the fields before Bastion’s Keep.

Ghom is just gross

Ghom is just gross

Loot drops have also continued to keep the game interesting.  When you get something epic, it is time to stop and consider how you are playing your character.  I have respec’d for a good two handed weapon in the past.  In Act III I got an epic one handed spear that made me go back to spear and shield mode.

Arreat

Arreat’s Law

Not only is it a powerful weapon, but the model for it looks really good and the way my barbarian wields and strikes with it sells it in a big way.  Plus, it has a pulsing enchant effect on it that I would pay a lot of gold to have in WoW.

But I am still in Act III all the same, maybe two thirds of the way through at this point.  And there is still Act IV to face.  Once I am done with that I will probably look into Reaper of Souls.  But for now I am happy with what I have.

Diablo III Auction House, Going Once, Going Twice…

Gone.

Today’s Diablo III patch is set to pull the auction house out of the game.  There is, of course, a FAQ for this.

Look out

Look out

Some are building this up as a really big deal.  And maybe it is.

The combination of the auction house and the questionable itemization of the game led to a situation where the auction house got out of hand, much to Blizzard’s surprise.  Or so they claim.  It seemed to me that the itemization was going to drive people to the auction house almost immediately after launch.  Others were saying it in beta.  But we all came with the outsider’s point of view, and I have been in enough organizations where the prism of focus has distorted our view of the world as to be unable to see the oncoming train.

And the quote in that link above points to what Blizzard’s goal, which was to control/eliminate third party sales of game items and currency.

Diablo II Shop

Maybe the last time I use this graphic

People who use “Legit” in their site names are clearly evil. *cough*

And a noble goal that was, given that such third parties often end up causing problems for the game.  It even appeared to work.  Pity about the hyper-inflation.  When your game is compared to Weimar Germany, it is never a good thing.  That wasn’t helped by a bug that let people create gold out of thin air.

So, after much consideration, Blizzard came up with a plan.  As part of their shipping Diablo III for consoles, they redid the itemization and did not include an auction house.   When that seemed to go well, they moved to roll those changes into the PC version of the game as part of their ramp up to the Reaper of Souls expansion.

At the end of February we got Diablo III version 2.0, which included a number of changes.

Splash Screen of 2.0 Features

2.0 Features

Itemization… or Loot 2.0…  was clearly the most important, and it looks good so far.  I have not been back to the auction house… nor have I felt any need to go there… since we got this.  I am also pleased with the change in difficulty levels.  Being able to go straight to Hard mode was good.

Today we say farewell to the auction house.  Whether you loved it or hated it, it is now in the past.

And in a week we get the Reaper of Souls expansion.  Sales figures on that will be the test for these changes.  When you just sell the box… and Diablo III sold very well… and are not worried about subscriptions of cash shop sales, your work is pretty much done.  You want to support the game, but as sales taper off, there is little financial motive to make big changes.  Unless, of course, you want to sell an expansion.

People have been coming back to Diablo III to check out the 2.0 changes.  And things have looked pretty good.  But sales of the Reaper of Souls expansion will be the referendum on the whole thing.  Diablo III sold 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours (a number which I am guessing counts the million World of Warcraft subscribers who got the game for “free” by committing to a year long subscription) and 12 million copies in the first year. (Which also points out how important the PC platform is to this game.  XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions came out well after the 12 million mark, and the last quarterly report pegged Diablo III sales as reaching 15 million units.)

So this will be something of a referendum on the game and its changes.  If Blizzard cannot move a couple million copies next week… if they don’t have a press release out about sales… that won’t be a good thing.

I am still torn on the expansion.  I was leaning towards getting it, thinking that at my rate of progress I would be ready to jump right into a brand new Act V at about the time it went live.  And then my Diablo III play time got interrupted with one of those “always online” issues again.

Latency - Smaller is Better

Latency – Smaller is Better

Other online games were fine, including WoW.  But Diablo III was unplayable.  So I went and played WoW.

Now I am about a third of the way through Act III.  I could still catch up and be done and ready for Act V if I pressed hard, but that strays into making the game work, and I like to explore every corner of the map as I play.  So I will likely hold off on the expansion until I am ready for the content.  And I probably won’t be there next week.

In the mean time, according to the shut down FAQ, you have until June 24th to claim or clear out anything you have sitting in the auction house.  And it will remain a legend and cautionary tale, as well as proof once again that economic efficiency can transcend fantasy.  Or as Edward Castronova put it:

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

We are what we are.

Report from New Tristram

Wasn’t 2012 going to be the year of the heir to Diablo II?

We had multiple contenders.  There was the designated heir, Diablo III and all the weight Blizzard could bring to bear.  There was Torchlight II, from a team that included many of the people who actually made Diablo II back in the day.  And then there was the dark horse candidate, Path of Exile, planning on a free to play experience and the grandest skill tree ever seen.

So many skills...

Yet not really overwhelming…

Each of them managed to hit a few marks.  Diablo III carried on the Diablo story line and was polished in that Blizzard way.  Torchlight II clearly had the upper hand on price and play options.  And only Path of Exile managed to replicate the dark atmosphere of the past Diablo games.

However, in my opinion, each of them failed in some fundamental way.

Diablo III had always online problems at launch, but the real issue became itemization.  Gear drops, ever the life’s blood of a Diablo game, were huge in quantity and very bad in quality.  The only way to reliably find some gear close to your level was either via a higher level alt or through the auction house.  I didn’t really want to play via the auction house, but felt I pretty much had to when it came to end of act bosses.  Tired of being pulled out of the actual game to upgrade gear, I stopped playing.

Torchlight II was better on itemization.  It still had huge quantities, but quality wasn’t as universally awful, though without the auction house to fall back on, comparison of at-level gear wasn’t as obvious either.  However, colorful and well lit graphics hampered any feeling of atmosphere and the story line felt very weak to me.  I can give you a synopsis of the story line in all three Diablo games, but couldn’t begin to tell you what Torchligh II… or Torchlight… was really about.  That and the dev team punting on the Mac version of the game… and just about anything else it seems… thus killing off any chance of playing with my daughter, put the game pretty low on my play list and I haven’t been back to it in probably a year.

And then there was Path of Exile, which certainly won on price.  It is about a free as free to play can be I suppose, though a friend of mine who played a lot of the game says that there is a point after which you pretty much have to pay to progress the grind of leveling becomes unbearable.  That point is just much farther into the game than I managed to get.  While winning on atmosphere, it also had “always online” problems.  Basically, melee classes became pretty much unplayable at peak times, and I always play the melee classes and I apparently play at peak hours.  That ended that.

So three contenders, all of which I felt I was pretty much done with by the end of last year and none of which I could whole heartedly recommend for one reason or another.

But the dev teams were still working on at least two of the three games.  The Blizzard team, while slow to acknowledge that they had a problem, eventually owned up on the itemization front and last week those of us on the PC got Diablo III version 2.0.

It was time for a return to Diablo III.  I rolled up a new barbarian and played through act one.

The first thing I was looking at was gear drops.  And, hey presto, they did in fact seem to be better in quality and more likely to be relevant to my character.  Quest rewards for various stages of the story seemed to be better tuned, mini-bosses along the way seemed much more likely to drop something useful, and even the vendor in town seemed to be stocking a higher quality selection of goods.

In fact, that was going so well that the game started to seem a bit easy.  I was blowing through masses of undead or goatmen or whatever without much effort at all.  That looked to be the downside of the boost to itemization quality.

But I had another 2.0 feature available to me.  I was able to jump directly from Normal to Hard with my character.

This was actually a big win.  One of the 2.0 changes was to remove what was effectively level ranges for various areas of the game and, instead, make all of the content scale to your current level.  No more out running content and hitting a wall that could only be cured with a serious injection of new gear. (Itemization problem strikes again.)  And no more playing through the whole story in normal mode just to get to a higher level of challenge.

While loot quality, experience gained, and gold dropped all went up with this change, difficulty went up enough to more than offset those and made the game much more of a challenge.  Rather than cutting through mobs like butter, I actually had to start working for a living.  I couldn’t just rush into a room and collect everybody the way you can in a 1-60 dungeon finder group in WoW.  I found myself in trouble and in any number of close-run fights if I didn’t take care.

Still, I am not sure that “hard” is really the right term.  It is closer to “not easy” in feel.  While I got down to the red screen of limited health now and again, I never once died.  It is just the right level of resistance to keep the game interesting.

It was also fun rediscovering some of the cool bits of the game after a long absence.  While the atmosphere isn’t close to the play of light and shadows that was such a deep part of Diablo II at times… and honestly, none of the three games got all the way there… it isn’t the bright and colorful beast that some people were afraid it would be way back when.  The atmosphere is pretty good.

About as bright and colorful as Act I gets

About as bright and colorful as Act I gets

Then there was the dynamics of the game while playing the barbarian.  For a full on visceral experience, this is the class.  I love how elements of the world react when he is pounding out a big attack.  Furniture disintegrates, shelves tumble, tapestries whip and swirl, and corpses fly.  Oh, and how corpses fly.  Ending on a big pound can send multiple foes dead and sailing through the air, sometimes headed completely off screen. (Note the flying goatmen in the screen shot above.)  It never gets old.

And the game itself is as well put together as one would expect from a Blizzard product.  And the game is divided up into nice, bite size chunks via the waypoints, so you can get in and play for a bit while making it to the next stage of the story.  Of course, this can still lead to the “one more waypoint” urge.  Not nearly as strong as “just one more turn” is in a Civilization game, but it is there.

There were a few other small features added.  We now have a map for the various waypoints as opposed to the old listing that the game and its predecessor used.  I guess this adds a bit of immersion, or a sense of place, though it does also point out that I was traveling in a big circle as well.

Act I Map

Act I Map

I made it through to the final boss and remembered enough of it to get through the fight on the first try.

In this corner, The Butcher!

In this corner, The Butcher!

I had rather optimized myself, my skills, and my companion (the Templar this time) for healing, so it was more a matter of building up fury for big hits and staying out of the fire.  I did not end up using either of the health shrines in The Butcher’s room.  And then it was through to Tyreal and the wrap up of Act I.

Me, Tyreal, and the Templar

Me, Tyreal, and the Templar

So far, so good.  Now it is on to Act II.  We shall see how well the game sticks this time around.

I also managed to get quite a few levels in, as there was a pre-expansion experience boost in effect while I was playing.

D3CommBuff

That wasn’t a big deal to me.  I guess it will get me closer to the level cap sooner.  Is that a good thing?

And the question remain whether or not I will pick up the Reaper of Souls expansion given what it offers.

Reaper of Souls info

Reaper of Souls info

I like the idea of Act V, and the Crusader class feels much more like my favorite Diablo II class, the paladin.  But is that enough to justify the cost?  Has Diablo III version 2.0 changed things up enough that I will make it through Act IV?  I have time left to decide.  And to play.  We shall see.

Diablo III Version 2.0

Blizzard dropped… after a fashion… the 2.0 patch for Diablo III yesterday.

That was the first of the three events planned for the next month or so for Diablo III.  There is the patch, the removal of the Auction House on March 18th, and the release of the (first?) expansion for the game, Reaper of Souls, on March 25th.

I am completely in favor of the removal of the auction house which, even by Blizzard’s own admission, hasn’t worked as planned.  I feel I know why they put the auction house in, but the way they coded loot drops for the game seemed designed specifically to drive people to it, so I remain a bit skeptical at their protestations that they were surprised by its popularity.

But it is going away, so water under the bridge.  It won’t be a problem soon.

And then there is the expansion.  More content and a new class, the crusader, that sounds interesting.  I am not willing to buy it quite yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out eventually.  It depends on the 2.0 patch.

Because the patch, the 2.0 version of Diablo III, is where the meat of the changes are coming.  This was the reason I wanted to patch Diablo III last night.  And once I was able to log in, Blizzard was keen to let me know what was new. (Patch notes here.)

Splash Screen of 2.0 Features

Splash Screen of 2.0 Features

Of all of that, I think Loot 2.0 is the most important.  If they are going to dump the Auction House, they need to make the loot you do get much more viable.  Some of it sounds like it came from the loot lessons they implemented in Mists of Pandaria and what they have planned for Warlords of Draenor.  “Smart Loot” includes more drops appropriate to your class and no class items with stats that are not important for that class any more.

Of course, they have also made higher quality items bound to your account.  No trading, because Blizzard still wants to keep the real money market down.  The whole point of the Auction House, to my view, was to eliminate that market by controlling it.  With the Auction House gone, other methods were required.

Diablo II Shop

It burns…

There are a host of other changes.  There were changes to classes, to monsters, to difficulty scaling, to bosses, to the paragon system, along with the addition of community items like guilds.  I am actually quite happy about that last bit.  While I am kind of past having to be in a guild in every game, we had to create our own ad hoc guilds back in Diablo and Diablo II.  Nice to see that Blizzard has finally acknowledged that this is a thing.

And, of course, Blizzard also had a splash screen in the game about the wonders of the new expansion as well.  Always be closing.

Reaper of Souls info

Reaper of Souls info

With all of this, I thought it might be time to return to the game and see how these changes feel.  I rolled up a new character… best to start from scratch I think, with all the changes… to try it out.  I did not actually get very far, but I want to try to find some time this weekend to at least get through the first act to see how it goes.

How about you?  Does the 2.0 version of the game have any appeal?