Friday, May 18, 2012

D3 Marathon - Day 3

It seems that I'm slowing down with each day. If on the previous day I managed 8 hours, on my 3rd day I only pulled 7 hours on my Demon Hunter. In my defense, I spent some time leveling a Monk and Barbarian to 11-12. I had to do that because their inventories were overflowing with items passed down from the DH.

Performance metrics
I have, so far, played my Demon Hunter for 20 hours 40 minutes. He's level 32 in Act 4. I don't know exactly where, but it must be past the middle of the act.

My DPS has increased from 228 to 406 but it's still quite low. Protip: buy the highest quality Ruby you can afford from the AH and socket it in your weapon(s), if they have slots. To give an example, at one point, with a Chipped Ruby which gives +2-4 damage, my DPS was 228. Switching to a Radiant Ruby (for which I paid about 12K on the GAH), which gives +12-24 damage, my DPS jumped to 277. That's a pretty big increase.

At the end of the day I had 265K gold, after buying another 10K worth of shared stash space.

Items and Gold Auction House
Rares are dropping quite often now. In fact, my stashes are overflowing with hand-me-down rares for my other characters. Many of them are useless and I simply vendor them off.

I had the chance to flip some items on the GAH, namely gems. For example, I found some Chipped Rubies posted for 50G, bought them immediately and sold them back for 800G. I also sold all the chipped and flawed gems I had found. It's much better this way because higher quality gems are much cheaper to buy on the GAH than to craft yourself so there's no point in hanging on to low level gems.

I also managed to sell a bunch of weapons/armor on the AH, many of them rare. To keep myself from being frustrated I decided to sell them for very low prices. So if you find decent level 10-20 rares at < 2000 gold, or even < 1000 gold, that might be me. Otherwise they just won't sell. Yeah, call me crazy but it's hard to sell stuff on the AH when everyone and their grandma is doing the same.

In Act 3 flawed gems start dropping and toward the middle/end of this act you will start seeing normal gems.

Story and followers
In Act 4 I decided to switch to the Templar. Survival became a lot harder and the Templar actually managed to save my life a few times with one of his skills which heals you instantly when you are close to dying.

When I was still running with the Scoundrel, I took these screenshots of some of his dialogue. This guy is so hilarious, I can't even describe it.

The story takes a nasty turn with a vicious plot twist, around the end of Act 3. Suffice to say, without spoiling it further, that...

Hmm, that's a mighty fiery Portal to Heaven.

Build and skills
My build at level 32 is almost the same as the day before, with the addition of the Bandolier rune for Spike Trap. This is a very cool rune because you can litter the place with traps, as long as you have sufficient Hatred.

Monsters and bosses
Here are some interesting sights you will encounter in Act 4.

I managed to kill the Act 3 boss (won't tell you who he is though you probably know by now) at level 31, 18 hours and 20 minutes into the game. The fight was one of the most entertaining so far. I didn't die on it but it was challenging. It kept me on my toes, constantly moving and avoiding whatever he threw at me. Actually, Act 3 has a couple more bosses that were very fun to kill.

In comparison, Act 4 is very annoying. I've started to become seriously frustrated with some of the monsters' mechanics. I don't mind enemies with interesting abilities but in Act 4 it seems that Blizzard's favorite monster mechanic is to have them materialize right on top of you and then hit you for 50% of your health, without the least warning. If you get "lucky" and get two of them instead of one, it's instant death.

If you ask me, this is poor design. I don't mind it if monsters are very quick or even if they teleport to you, as long as I can see them coming. But when they can pop up out of nowhere right on top of you and take a massive chunk of your health in an instant, that's not funny. And this is Normal difficulty! Do I really have to start stacking Vitality this early in the game?

Apart from this annoying mechanic, there was one boss that I couldn't tackle on my own. I won't say his name but he's very cool looking. You might have seen him in one of Blizzard's art showcases. He has a shark head and twin blades for arms. Anyway, this was a very frustrating fight. On my first attempt he killed me in 2 hits. This wouldn't be so bad if his main attack wasn't a charge with a hit at the end. So he charges and hits you in a fraction of a second. Traps or slowing debuffs don't work and, as a Demon Hunter, there was no defense against his charge. I did a pathetic attempt at kiting him but he charged me while I was running away and killed me.

On subsequent attempts I got killed in the same way. I decided to join a group for this boss. The first group I joined had already killed him so I just grabbed the quest credit. Later, I joined another group and found myself with a Monk, on the same boss. We managed to kill him together but even then, I came close to dying. So, I don't know, this seemed like another failed encounter design. Note to Blizzard: it isn't funny being 2-shotted without any possibility to defend against it, as a ranged character, on Normal.

I'm sorry to say this but I am starting to become disappointed in the zones as I progress through the game.

In Diablo 2 the acts got better as you advanced. In my opinion, Act 5 > Act 4 > Act 2 > Act 3 > Act 1.

In Diablo3, Act 1 > Act 2 > Act 3 > Act 4. I am actually finding that I am enjoying Act 1 more than all the other acts! Isn't that weird?

Seriously, Act 3 is very bland. Most of the time is spent around that fortress, on the ramparts or inside endless corridors. The little time spent outdoors is very boring. The scenery is drab and uninspiring. There's nothing to see there and the quests aren't even enticing. It's clear to me that Act 3 was designed to mimic Act 5 from D2, but in D2 Act 5 was really cool to be in. Here, I couldn't wait to finish the act. To be honest, the part inside the volcano wasn't bad, but a lot of it was repetitive.

Unfortunately, Act 4 feels even worse. Endless walkways and marble columns and halls. Granted, I haven't yet finished Act 4 and I have hopes that the scenery will improve, yet I feel a bit let down that the zones, instead of improving as you advance, become more boring.

On day 4 my goal is simply to finish the game on Normal. From there on I can finally start grouping up and perhaps some of the frustrations with certain monsters will end.

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