Priests of Rathma

Call forth the spirits of the fallen.

Diablo III has seen two rather significant and quite exciting changes recently. The first of those is patch 2.6.0 which introduces six new areas (along with new bounties), hordes of new enemies, various quality of life tweaks, and Challenge Rifts. I’m most intrigued by the concept of Challenge Rifts. They’re presented as something different to both the Campaign and Adventure Mode, in which you use a specific build (based on another player) to complete a weekly static dungeon. The aim is to complete the dungeon faster than the original player.

It does make me wonder if they’ll include gimmicky builds, too.

Those could be interesting (and challenging) in their own way. Rather than just trying to figure out how to do the best with what you’ve got, you’d have to figure out what the gimmick is and how you actually use it. On the other hand, these gimmicky builds could also be ridiculously frustrating if their particular gimmick isn’t enjoyable or particularly viable.

The second of these changes is the introduction of the Necromancer. The class that everyone was secretly hoping would be carried over from Diablo II (like the Barbarian), but never made it into the original or expansion release. Though many felt that the Witch Doctor was basically a different kind of Necromancer. To access the new class you’ll need to purchase the Rise of the Necromancer pack which includes the class, two character slots, two stash tabs, and various cosmetic rewards. The Necromancer is fully voiced throughout the Campaign with new class specific items, new Legendary and Set items, an extensive set of skills, and the ability to raise legions of the dead. It’s also awesome. Definitely one of the best classes Diablo III has.

As an almost exclusive summoner they have the capability to summon a literal army, while making use of Revive as and when corpses are available to further bolster their ranks, or turning those corpses against their foes in an explosive cacophony of blood. As a warrior they’re able to bolster their defences with Bone Armor and regenerate health through Curses. Or, if you prefer, they can make use of an arsenal of spells such as Bone Spear and Bone Spirit to face foes from afar. They can even sacrifice portions of their health to deal more damage.

Flexibility is built into everything they do.

I’ve always been fond of Poison Dagger Necromancers in Diablo II and I had hoped there would be a similarly viable build here. Not only is it viable, but it’s incredibly enjoyable and requires an amount of concentration to make best use of. Mostly due to the unique mechanics of Bone Armor. But I was pleasantly surprised that the option was available and is actually useful.

I find myself arguing between Corpse Explosion and Revive on my first Necromancer. I could have a constant stream of newly resurrected minions with Revive, or I could have explosive corpses with Corpse Explosion. Explosive. Corpses. That don’t even cost anything to explode due to their finite nature. In fact, I love Corpse Explosion so much that both of my Necromancers use it. I’ll admit that I might have a problem. Maybe. I’m particularly thrilled with this class content pack, too. Entirely worth the price of admission. Which hasn’t always been something I’ve been able to say about Diablo III, but I’m hopeful for the future with the many content patches we’ve seen and the excellent quality present in this class a whole.

Have a nice week, all!


My Curse Upon You!

May you be consumed by the bloodthirsty swarm.

One of the more interesting achievements for the Diablo III 20th Anniversary Event is to complete The Darkening of Tristram with a freshly created Lvl 1 character. Not necessarily too difficult, but definitely something I had to think about (mostly because I have duplicates of most classes and don’t desire triplicates). That said, there was one class (and build) that I’ve been interested in for a while- the summoner Witch Doctor. My first Witch Doctor is more of a poison orientated caster that barely relies on his Gargantuan at all.

I only really use it to provide a small amount of damage.

The resulting new build relies heavily on pets but does do formidable cold damage without them. Focusing mostly on the damage over time aspects of both Haunt and Spirit Barrage, Firebomb (with the Ghost Bomb rune) is the only direct damage skill she has. Alongside her combination of Zombie Dogs, a Gargantuan, and a limited use Fetish Army.

The most surprising aspect of this build is the passive skill Fetish Sycophants. Originally taken just to have something in the slot before Fierce Loyalty became available, I actually opted to keep it even after that was available as it’s really fun to use. It has a chance to create an additional fetish pet (which seems to have a fairly high/no summon limit) when you deal damage. They’re only temporary- but they’re really useful while they’re available. I’ve seen the ability to summon as many as twelve at a time already. Fierce Loyalty would only provide a slightly better bonus, which is that I could summon an additional Zombie Dog (for a total of six). But I feel the overwhelming swarm of dagger wielding psychopaths is a better choice.

For they are legion.

For they are legion.

I’d considered this build to be more of a novelty than an actually functional progression build at first, but it’s proving to be anything but that. It’s a strong build both offensively and defensively. With pets holding back enemies so I can blanket them with damage over time skills, while the pets hold their own quite nicely and deal decent enough damage even when they’re not scaling with her damage. Then there’s the Enforcer Legendary Gem which makes them even more powerful. So, overall, they’re doing quite nicely.

It’s definitely working out better than I ever could have anticipated.

I’m also considering Zunimassa’s Haunt, which will eventually allow her to have Fetish Army available indefinitely once summoned. One of the few times I’ve felt that a set has actually fit around the skills I’ve chosen to use. Besides the Might of the Earth set which my Barbarian could benefit from. So those are things I can work towards acquiring to take the builds even further.

For as powerful as she seems at the moment I recognise that she’s lacking Intelligence. A substantial amount, too. So the next thing to work on would be to replace her Imperial Topazes with Royal Topazes. A matter of money mostly, which can be easily solved with The Boon of the Hoarder. I’ll also need to keep an eye out for items that boost her cold damage. But it’s a build I can definitely see going quite far. But, for now, the 20th Anniversary Event is complete and I’ll be working towards new goals. Like the acquisition of a range of high level Intelligence equipment for all of the classes I have that could benefit from that. It’d be nice if one of them could farm some of that up.

Have a nice week, all!


The Darkening of Tristram

Let’s go back to where it all began.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Diablo series Blizzard is bringing a unique event to Diablo III. This event hopes to recreate the town of Tristram, the cathedral where it all began, and even reintroduces some of the classic sought after items from the original Diablo. These items (as far as I can tell) are there for flavour, as only a select few can be used for transmogrification appearances or cosmetic effects. There’s also a shard of the iconic red soulstone available as a Legendary Gem for those who fell The Dark Lord.

It’s an event that lasts roughly a few hours if you’re looking to see it all.

It also features a rather interesting screen filter (and adjusted camera angle) to bring back the feeling of the original. Along with all of the original music, ambience, and sound effects which have given me more than a few pangs of nostalgia in my heart. That could also be my cholesterol. But I’m pretty sure it was the nostalgia doing its thing.

There are a handful of achievements available during the event, too. These are fairly simple things for the most part. The most interesting being that you brave the horrors with a fresh new character and complete the event. Which may be slightly more difficult if you don’t feel like completing the event in full in one run, as I don’t think there’s any way to leave and then to return to where you were. Which is slightly odd, as the original Diablo featured more than a few paths back to the surface from specific levels. It’s a pretty interesting event, though. If you’re a fan of several Blizzard titles you’ll be pleased to know that most of their major titles also have smaller time limited events. All with Diablo themed items and rewards.

Naturally it wouldn’t be a Diablo event without some mention of Wirt and that’s perhaps my most treasured acquisition from this event. The Royal Calf, a baby cow that bears a resemblance to the murderous cows you would encounter in the Secret Cow Level. Which is now safely nestled alongside my other pets. Following me into glorious battle and to great riches! You can also collect a special version of The Butcher as a pet. But he’s not going anywhere near my cow! I love that little guy.

I don’t care if the steaks are high- he’s not having him!

I am slightly disappointed that the event is only available during January (at least that’s the plan so far), but it’s a series which has always meant a lot to me and one that I’ve enjoyed for the past seventeen years. It’s also one that has influenced me both as an artist and as a gamer. So I’ve made a considerable effort in participating in (and enjoying) as much of it as I can.

I’m looking forward to the Necromancer, too. It’s going to be interesting seeing a seventh character class added to Diablo III, it’s also going to be interesting to see what kind of abilities they have besides those we’ve been shown already. I wouldn’t mind if this is how Diablo III played out, either. Small character class packs alongside minor content updates. Not to forget the refreshed content for Seasons that rolls around every so often. While I may have had my criticisms of Diablo III in the past (and they’re criticisms I still have), I like the new direction that it has been going since the release of Reaper of Souls. It’s improving ever so slightly with every new patch and new release.

Have a nice weekend, all!


The Storm Breaks

It’s time for something a little different.

I decided to go on a little Hardcore run in Diablo III. I already had a Hardcore Barbarian which has apparently (according to achievements) existed before I purchased Reaper of Souls, but I felt like creating a new Hardcore Monk. I like Monks. Plus, if she dies, I’m not too sad as I’ve only known her for a little while. But she’s not going to die, right? Right!

Monks (despite a plethora of survivability skills) still feel the squishiest to me. They do have healing, though. Which has saved her life more than once in the earlier levels due to some inexperience and misplays on my part. Like, for instance, who knew that the Jar of Souls event has changed? Not me! Probably a lot of other people, though. Still, I don’t want to rely heavily on her healing and so I’ve singled out one (technically two) skill(s) to help her along. Breath of Heaven is employed more as an offensive skill with the Circle of Scorn rune, while Mystic Ally with the Enduring Ally rune comes in as her second healing skill. When activated it gives her a full heal and passively it helps regenerate lost health.

Crippling Wave with Concussion builds into her passive choice of Resolve. Together, when using Crippling Wave, she’s going to reduce incoming damage by 40%, while with any other skill she’s going to take 20% off. Mantra of Salvation with Hard Target gives her a 20% boost to both armour and resistances (with a further boost on activation), while Dashing Strike gives her the mobility she needs, and Lashing Tail Kick with Sweeping Armada gives her an offensive capability that is almost unrivalled so far.

She also scored an early Rivera Dancers which is fantastic for her build.

"Ytar has raised me to new heights!"

“Ytar has raised me to new heights!”

Finally her passive choices of The Guardian’s Path and Alacrity play into a synergy I thought could be useful. One increasing her Spirit generation and the other offsetting the slow weapon speed, which, while it only affects Spirit Generators, is still incredibly useful as many of her other skills are one shot hits. They don’t need to happen quickly.

I’ve had my doubts about succeeding on this run. Particularly surrounding Act II (and Belial). I haven’t fought Belial in a long time, probably as far back as when I was levelling up my two Crusaders after the Reaper of Souls launch. I also had the ability to die in those fights and not lose everything. Act III I wasn’t really too concerned about as most of the enemies seem easier than their Act II counterparts. It’s odd how that worked out. Also, Act IV, and Diablo himself, are minor concerns at the point where I have the ability to attain that level of gear. The challenge now is to live long enough to see the end of Act V. Malthael, like Belial, is a fight I haven’t done in a long while.

Mostly ventured through this Hardcore run on Expert as that’s all they’d give me in the early stages. Had a lot of fun with it, too. She’s managed to build quite a tidy collection of Blacksmith, Jeweller, and Mystic upgrades along with a fair few Stash upgrades. Hopefully she’ll live to progress into Adventure Mode ever cautiously while trying to build more impressive progression. I thought this would be fun, given I’ve never really paid too much attention to Hardcore (or Seasons for that matter) in Diablo III.

Let’s hope she doesn’t die a horrible death any time soon!

Have a nice week, all!


Incremental Progression

Once more to the daily grind.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Darkest Dungeon recently. The full release is something I’ve been anticipating for quite some time and I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the story in its entirety, including, most importantly, the actual Darkest Dungeon. Wherein I expected to find mechanics unlike those we’ve seen before. Having been to the Darkest Dungeon already (admittedly on a suicide run) I was both surprised and disappointed at what I found in there.

That said, as a whole, I’m already getting bored with the full release.

I’m really impressed with the level of detail they’ve gone into balancing the classes on release. Many classes now work much better together and some of the more questionable abilities, such as Target Whistle, which used to be an exclusive debuff, now applies a mark to the target and allows more synergy across the party. Damage over time effects seem to have generally received a boost (especially for the Jester), and it’s now much more interesting deciding on a party. I’ll also admit that I’d undervalued and overlooked the Leper for a long time, until realising he hit like a freight train and had surprisingly useful survivability skills now.

That said, I’m not sure if this is an on release change, or a change some time during Early Access, but the rewards from quests seem to have been toned down. Very rarely do I find that even a Lvl 3 quest provides more than five to six thousand gold. (Once you account for provision costs, diseases, quirks, stress, and so on.)

"The ground quakes!"

“The ground quakes!”

I’m also finding that quests are providing smaller increments towards overall progression each time. Which one might argue is a natural depreciating curve as, as you develop more of the hamlet, or your roster, there is less and less to improve each time. Except there’s a lot to improve on- negative quirks to be cured, diseases to be cured, buildings to be rebuilt, and so on. But I find it hard to care about most quests unless they’re for a boss clear or I meet a Collector or something similar (for the gold boost) during the run. It feels like such a grind now.

Now that I’m taking on the Lvl 3 bosses, I’m finding it harder to want to come back each time I stop playing.

It’s similar to how I feel about Diablo III. You’ll get the occasional decent item, you’ll maybe score a few hundred Blood Shards and get lucky, or you’ll roll an Ancient Legendary at the blacksmith, and then you’ll be back to grinding out repeated content. Often times with very little reward, besides a few hundred thousand gold and a few salvageable Legendary/Set items to get some additional Forgotten Souls. Which has always been my argument even when the Auction House was still a thing. It’s not that the Auction House was a bad idea- it was actually a pretty good one- but the drop rate/quality of dropped items was so low that you needed it to progress. Unless you wanted to grind for hours on end.

However, most would argue that the grind was a prominent feature of the Diablo series (and ARPGs in general). But for Darkest Dungeon it’s become somewhat of a disappointment. It’s not enjoyable (to me at least) to spend all that time and effort for little to no reward besides the odd level up, trinket, or progression towards another boss.

Which is a shame. I really wanted to enjoy what Darkest Dungeon had to offer but I’m finding it hard to do that at the moment.

Have a nice week, all!


Anomaly Monk

Who exists outside the realms of normality.

The Monk is one of my favourite classes in Diablo III. I wasn’t too keen on them when the first pieces of pre-release information came through, though. They seemed to be heavily focused on a chain system which reminded me a lot of the Assassin in Diablo II (which I didn’t really enjoy playing). However, at release, they were a completely different beast with fast hits and heavy damage and a rather neat selection of martial arts type skills. I finished Inferno with them after the Barbarian in the classic release, too.

That said, they haven’t had too much love since the release of Reaper of Souls. Or mine hasn’t.

He’s always been trailing in the back of the ranks and hasn’t really accrued any great equipment. He’s also faced a rather crucial change to his build, in that, initially, he was dual wielding with a heavy focus on dodge. Which, since the change to Dexterity, is much less effective. It’s also the least effective (in my opinion) as while it negates all damage it’s not guaranteed.

Or even slightly guaranteed. Which means unless he can dodge- he’s going to take damage. Given that he used to be able to reach 75-80% dodge with his old skill set, it wasn’t really as useful as the straight damage reduction from armour. Even at those percentages he still got hit fairly often. There’s also the problem I have with finding a set of skills that share the same damage type (besides holy), and so I find myself limited in skills. However, I recently decided to do something a little odd with him and it’s working surprisingly well. Combining Resolve (one of my favourite passives) and Mantra of Conviction (with the Intimidation rune) means he should be able to reduce enemy damage by 35% fairly consistently.

"Break beneath the endless tide!"

“Break beneath the endless tide!”

By dual wielding he’s almost guaranteed to keep this reduction applied. This also gives him a rather high attack speed. Which with the Exalted Soul passive and the Mystic Ally skill (with the Air Ally rune) allows for incredibly high Spirit generation. However, the most important skill for this, and the first actual Kanai’s Cube power I’ve used, is Wave of Light. Which (with the Pillar of the Ancients rune) is a beast of a skill. I’m not entirely sure if every lightning bolt reapplies damage reduction, but, if it does, this is almost too good.

I’m also toying with the Bane of the Stricken gem for further damage application.

What is most incredible about this build is that he’s running <600k DPS and yet is comfortably completing things in Torment II-III, and he recently done a Torment IV Greater Nephalem Rift with time to spare. Considering he’s also lacking heavy defences I’m not really sure what to make of these results.

Wave of Light is certainly the biggest contributor to success that he has. However, Seven Sided Strike does do an impressive amount of damage to enemies and that’s only improved with an activation of Mantra of Conviction. Mystic Ally also allows for an instant boost of Spirit which means he’s got all the capability to fully unload on bosses immediately. The weakest link is Exploding Palm which I actually thought would help deal some damage over time. But, in his current state, it’s almost redundant as most things won’t survive a few activations of Wave of Light. That said, Wave of Light could be used as a catalyst to trigger Exploding Palm.

Have a nice week, all!


Basking in Torment

Wherein I explore the vast number of changes that have occurred in my absence.

In an unusual turn of events I’ve decided to explore these on my first Crusader. She’s built around two handed weapons, a shield, fire damage skills, and heavy defensive capabilities. This is unusual because I’m always looking to improve my first Barbarian who was (until now) the highest DPS character I had. However, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to improve his defensive capabilities in equal measure to his offensive capabilities. Whereas the Crusader is a beast.

Or (more accurately) has recently become a beast.

Fairly new and inexperienced but given the best start with the early acquisition of a Maximus that rolled fairly decently. Most important for her was the Fire Skills Deal 18% Extra Damage affix (which I believe is a guaranteed roll on this sword). This coupled with the overflowing amount of reasonably decent +Strength equipment (acquired between Torment II-III by the Barbarian) gave her enough to easily push into Torment herself. However, her limited success with making any progress through Torment led to her being left in Torment II. In the past week she has shattered almost every expectation I had by pushing herself into Torment IV (with ease) and Torment V (at a push).

While originally coming close to the Barbarian with 1.037m DPS she’s now completely surpassed him with 1.362m DPS (and rising). This is due to several good rolls on drops, reaching Paragon 160+, and upgrading all of her gems with the ridiculous showers of gold I’ve been getting recently.

"The crusade marches on!"

“The crusade marches on!”

These are mostly due to the (first) visit to The Vault along with two Gilded Barons that dropped an insanely high amount of gold (20m+) each. I could switch out one of her existing gems and give her the Boon of the Hoarder (of which I have two) to generate as much money as I need. That said, it’s not a priority as I literally have nothing to do with said money. Other characters on my account have all been boosted in several areas with the recent influx of Paragon levels. While I’m nowhere near the heights of Paragon 1000 (and/or above)- it’s an improvement.

The repetition has begun to set in, though.

Which is really why I’m not already at Paragon 1000 (or above). While I’m more comfortable with the changes, developments, and general improvements they’re making… it’s still not the Diablo III I think I wanted. It’s a good title overall. If it’s what you’re looking for. However, for me, there’s still too much repetition in the later stages. Upgrading is a slog and (for the Crusader’s weapon) there are few ways to make it not so. In Diablo II there were options to gamble for specific weapon types. Swords, maces, mauls, axes, and so on. Which is a change I’d love to see introduced for Kadala in Diablo III. Right now you’re gambling on every single class of weapon and possible drop every time you spend some Blood Shards.

It has been fun. To say anything otherwise would be a lie. I’ve also got more than enough hours out of it to more than cover the amount I spent on both the base game and the expansion- so anything extra is just a bonus now. Still, this is the pattern I’ve developed with Diablo III. Play for a couple of weeks and come back in six months.

Maybe I’ll feel differently in the future. But, for now, I’m enjoying what I’ve got in the characters I’ve invested time in.

Have a nice week, all!