I have been playing a lot of Diablo the past few weeks. I continue to enjoy the game, and I am having a good deal of fun with it. I have a barbarian that is part way through act three (normal), patiently waiting for a friend to have a some free time to smash faces with him; and then I have my “main” a level 60 witch doctor. I haven’t had a lot of time outside of those two characters (yet!) to play much else, but I do intend to try them all.
On Cooperative Play
Before I go much further, I wanted to take a quick minute to talk about cooperative play in Diablo. When the game first released, had you asked me, I would have told you that there was no way in hell I would participate in the cooperative play function. And, in fact, through my very first play through on normal, I did everything by myself and politely refused any offers for group play. However, once I hit nightmare Brade and I started to group together and I haven’t looked back. They play experience with a group has been something that has been pleasantly surprising to me. But not only that, it’s an enhancement of the game that I think I feel safe saying that if you haven’t tried it out, you are missing out on some of what the game offers.
As an example of that statement, I had my cake decorating class Friday night. When I got home, I found Brade reading (or passed out…maybe) on the couch. I was a little surprised by this, as he’s got a Hell level wizard that he’s been playing solo when I’m doing other things. But when I commented that I was surprised not to see him at the computer, he commented that he played his wizard a little bit, but really just found he had more fun playing the cooperative games with me. Now, ya’ll, as a complete nerd couple, this is almost akin to walking into a surprise candle lit dinner. But I think also speaks a lot to how much fun the cooperative play can be.
In short, if you haven’t given cooperative play a try yet, you should.
On the Witch Doctor
I’m going to talk a little more about my Witch Doctor. This weekend I hit level 60, finished Hell and started Inferno. I am still utilizing this spec for her, however if my Nephalem Valor (more on that in a bit) is reset tonight when I log in, I think I might try dropping Spiritual Attunement for Pierce the Veil and see how that plays out. I have made a minor tweak here or there, but for the most part this is the spec that I ran all of Hell with, and the first parts of Inferno with, and it has served me quite well. I do not know how it would fare as a solo spec, but it works very well for a group spec. It has strong single target damage, strong AE, decent CC and multiple magic schools. Plus, the range on darts is just obscene, I can’t even tell you!
As far as Hell went, I think that the hardest thing we encountered was Belial. I don’t know if this is just a Brade and I thing (as in we both just suck at the fight), or if the boss is really just that tricky, but I almost feel as if Belial is the hardest boss in the game. I think it took us three or four efforts on him, whereas Azmodan basically feel over and handed us loot, and Diablo (aside from being owed by my shade’s bear) was only marginally harder. Perhaps there are some other factors, like being level 60 for the latter, that played into it, but I will tell you that I’m cringing at the thought of getting to Belial in Inferno.
As for Inferno, we are about half way through the first act, and while we may find death a few more times, it doesn’t seem too bad (famous last words, I know!). I’ve heard that Act 2 is where you really start to feel it, so I will have to wait and reserve judgment until we get there. I imagine that we will be partaking in some Act 1 farming after having our asses handed to us by that first wasp pack. I did want to comment, though, that I feel that the difficulty of these levels isn’t really felt in the bosses as much as they are in the elite packs leading up to them. For example, we laughed at the skeleton king and that spider boss, but had our asses well and thoroughly handed to us by the event in the woods on top of the mound.
Did you know that some of those elite packs have an enrage timer? Or perhaps it was proximity enrage. I don’t know. But they can enrage. Did you know that when you die and are “corpse camping” a pack, that each time you die your rez timer increases? It can get up to over 30 seconds! I think that this particular pack is the worst one that we’ve come across. The elite had fast, minions, illusion and molten. I think. Regardless, we spent probably 15 minutes killing them. It included having to go repair in town because they’d killed us so much our gear broke! Good times were had by all.
On the Best Advice I Can Give For Late Hell/Early Inferno
There are a few pieces of advice that I feel comfortable giving for those who are finishing up Hell and starting Inferno. The first one is: Be Patient and Expect to Die. I cannot stress this one enough. I hear a lot of stories from people who have “quit” the game because they died a lot (I’ll touch on my advice on this in a minute). However, by the time you reach Diablo in Hell or are getting ready to start Inferno, you’ve entered into the part of the game specifically designed to challenge you as a player. You are saying “I want to do this in the hardest way possible” and you are going to be faced with crazy (and maybe impossible) challenges. I know that there are some class issues, and some melee/range issues that may cause additional frustrations, but as a whole at this level of the game you should expect to die, a lot. Figuring out how not to die is part of the challenge! Also be patient. You should not expect to clear Inferno with the same swiftness you cleared the other levels. It’s just not designed that way. Enjoy the ride and laugh at your misfortunes (they will be plentiful)!
The second piece of advice that I can give is: spend some gold on your gear when you hit 60. The number one thing you should make an investment in is a level 60 weapon. In fact, even before 60 I upgraded my weapons with some regularity. You don’t have to spend a TON on it (you should be able to find a significant upgrade in the 50k – 100k range), but making the investment in a level 60 weapon of blue quality (and OH if needed), will be like night and day at the end of Hell and the start of Inferno. Additionally, buy yourself some level 60 gear, and make sure it has Vitality on it. Again, don’t spend a TON on it, but going into these levels with more than 15k life is crucial to your survival and the ease in which you can succeed. For me, I didn’t buy anything over 5k gold (outside of a weapon) because I hit level 60 with something like 89k gold, and was able to find upgrades with both Intellect and Vitality for a good number of my gear slots (minus rings and amulets). By the time I killed Diablo and started Inferno I was over 30k life, and I can honestly say that even just the weapon upgrades at the end of Hell likely had so much impact on the ease in which we cleared Act 4.
The final piece of advice that I can give is: explore everything and expect to farm. By the time you hit level 60, your only increases in power are going to come directly from your gear. Don’t expect to rush from objective A to objective B straight to the finish line. Just like any other game, you have to spend time to grow in power (how many of you farmed levels in a Final Fantasy game? Same principle!). If you don’t take the time to “hunt” out elite packs for Nephalem Valor and loot upgrades, you are only going to find frustration the further into the game you go. You will likely have to repeat levels, specifically for the purpose of grinding out gear. Also, don’t neglect the auction house! Quality level 60 items will sell very well, which in turn means that you will have more gold to spend on quality items for yourself!
On Nephalem Valor
One of the perks that you get at level 60 is a buff called Nephalem Valor. It stacks up to five times, and each stack will increase your gold and magic find by 15%, up to a total of 75% (if you have five stacks). The way that you gain Nephalem Valor is by killing elite packs. Each time to kill a pack, you gain a stack. The buff lasts thirty minutes, and refreshes each time to kill a new elite pack. It will survive death; but leaving the game, changing your spec, and changing a rune will remove your stacks. Additionally, if you accidentally pull a button off of your bar, you will also lose your stacks (as Brade learned the hard way).
I rather like Nephalem Valor. I think it’s a cool way to spice up farming, and ease gaining gold. We specifically farm out packs to gain the buff, and try to hurry to a boss before the buff drops if we are close so we can kill the boss with the buff. Plus, seeing like 15 items drop from a boss is also kind of fun!
I’m sure that I will continue to have thoughts on Diablo as I continue through Inferno, but I’m curious your thoughts! Are you still enjoying the game? Do you find Inferno fun or infuriating?