For those of you who are chomping for some WoW insights, today is not that day. However, I will let you know that I do have a few drafts sitting in my folder that have to do with WoW. I’m hoping that I will have at least one of them up sometime this week. Maybe. I do still have things to say about WoW, I just haven’t put my thoughts together completely on them. That coupled with the fact that I haven’t played the beta since Diablo released, and I’ve only been raiding one or two nights a week, just means that I have less to say about WoW and a little more to say about Diablo. I won’t apologize for this, because, well, it’s my blog and I can pretty much write about whatever I want! But for those of you who are sick of listening to me talk about Diablo, rest assured that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the course of the weekend Brade and I continued our push through Inferno. At some point early Saturday Evening we managed to knock down both Cydea and Azmodan, without too much effort. Getting to them, on the other hand, is another story. I don’t really feel that I need to reiterate my feelings on Soul Lashers again, but let’s just say that depending on what you roll when you enter the spire, your journey through it will be relatively painless, or you will be more emo than a 14 year old Justin Beiber fan by the time you are finished.
We went through the spire in a group of four (2 DH, 1 Wizard and myself). I will say that I found Azmodan to be rather tame for having been the dude that taunted us for three full acts. But Cydea, at least in co-op, was slightly more challenging. Those little spiders can be rather beastly! I believe that I died once on each encounter – but I can also state that I was able to pull off some miracle rezzes of my own, so felt less terrible as a result. I believe that we had 5 stacks of NV when we pulled each boss – and if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think that any of them were and upgrade for me, or particularly good for anyone else. This isn’t overly surprising, considering that it is Diablo, but I will admit to having a twinge of disapointment when I collected up my loot from Azmodan and realized that I had a bag full of vendor trash.
Once we finished Azmodan we headed up and started Act 4. We hit the gate keeper guy with all of the shades and we quickly realized that it was imperative for everyone to move in the same direction, and relatively together. Once we figured that out, it was fairly easy to navigate the shades and then the boss. Once we passed him, the elite packs we hit were fairly managable and we soon found ourselves facing Rakanoth. Who, in an of himself wasn’t too terrible…until he spawned his adds. Our team of four ranged did not fair well with the encounter. We threw ourselves at him for an hour or so before the other members of the group stated that we could farm the same loot, with less pain, at the end of act three. And they were right. So off we went to hit Cydea and Azmodan again.
But, because Brade and I are stubborn, the next chance we got we decided to hit Rakanoth again. But after our ranged x4 experience last time, we decided to go at it with just the two of us. With the added benefit being that with just us we could throw ourselves at it as long as we wanted.
Vision Quest, Zombie Bears and Rakanoth
Before we took another look at Rakanoth, Brade and I did a little bit of independent research on the best way to defeat him. It turns out that the best answer to that is apparently “alone and as fast as you can” – but we weren’t interested in splitting off and winning independently; we’d gotten this far together, by golly we’d finish together. And so we each took a mishmash of the specs recommended for solo play, and went in to get repeatedly punched in the face. In fact, I became so delirious after dying so much that I made a joke about dying the “true death” (you see, because once every two minutes I can cheat death with Spirit Vessel, so even though I die, I don’t really die…I totally crack myself up!).
Anyhow….we tried to overcome part of the troubles we had with four ranged players (the teleport) by keeping me largely “in melee range” of the boss – with brief moments of panic when the adds spawned. And for the first time ever I ran a zombie bears spec. Basically our strategy was that I would go in, drop Big Bad Voodoo in the range of both Brade and I, hit spirit walk and stand in his face mashing down my zombie bears button. He would stun the boss after the first wave of discs, I would dodge the next wave (hopefully….) and spirit walk the remaining damage until the adds came out. The whole time using all the skill that holding down my right mouse button afforded me.
Assuming that the adds didn’t eat our face (a massive assumption), we’d basically rinse and repeat. Usually the “repeat” part meant we’d die and start over. But, you see, it wasn’t that simple because I was running this really fucked up spec with zombie bears and high damage, which meant that I was utilizing abilities with some significant cooldowns. Which in turn meant that if one of us ate it to the face early in the fight, we’d have to wait two minutes to make another attempt. So most of my night last night was spent smashing my right mouse button, screaming “FUCK!”, and subsequently running in circles around Brade while we waited for my cooldowns to come back up.
We did finally get him (I died at the end, got melee’d to the face 😦 ), and honestly, if it weren’t for our stubbornness we each would have been able to solo him in a fraction of the time it took us to achieve a kill co-op, but we both picked up special specs for the fight, and I’m not going to lie, it felt really cheesy.
Now, I’d never run Zombie Bears before, but I’d used vision quest regularly in my spec for some time up until last week when I started testing out a build with Haunt (which is really nice for kiting), so I could more easily support grasp of the dead in the later levels. I’d often read about how unengaging people thought vision quest was, and I’d never really felt that way. I used it with Dire Bats, but I’d also had Pierce the Veil and splinters in my spec and didn’t live on my dire bats alone. I didn’t find the spec boring or uninteresting, and didn’t mind trying to navigate through it. Until last night.
Lord, if I never have to look at Rakanoth again I’d be a happy camper. But last night I can tell you that I abused the hell out of both bears and vision quest, and it took all the skill of making sure not to be in the bosses face when he was about to attack and making sure that I hit the right four buttons at the start of the fight. Last night I realized that Vision Quest really was fairly boring game play. I realized that there really wasn’t anything engaging about mashing one button and making sure everything was on cooldown (I guess I never really “maximized” VQ before). And, honestly, it kind of pisses me off that I had to resort to this kind of game play to get past a boss who could have been fun and engaging if the adds were anywhere near manageable.
Sure, it was my choice to go in this direction. I could have continued to be frustrated with the boss in my usual spec – but seeing the boss go from ~55% health before adds to sub 30% before adds says a lot about the power of the changes that Brade and I made to our specs specifically for this encounter. And, you know, even strategizing to make sure I was in melee of the boss and timing stuns and invulnerabilities was kind of fun…until we got owned by the adds if they spawned in a terrible place or we stood a half an inch too close and their stupidly long tongues lashed out and smacked us. I really wish that the adds were more manageable so the strategy for the boss wasn’t “kill him as fast as possible to avoid as many add waves as possible”.
Anyhow, my experiences last night illustrated the complaints I’d been reading about with VQ, but that I’d not experienced myself. It also illustrated that Brade and I are both obscenely stubborn and that our pride gets bruised, and that things like having our asses handed to us by a boss get personal. I strongly suspect that Brade would like to kill Diablo before the nerfs – but I just don’t know if we are going to have time (there is speculation that the nerfs will be as early as tomorrow). I’m of two minds on this – say what you want, but the tuning on certain things in Inferno is broken, and considering that just as recently as today I was describing my latter Inferno experience as “pretty much un-fun”, I think that the retuning will be a good thing and will increase the enjoyment of my experience. But part of me also wants to be able to say that I suffered through that shit when it was broken and stupid hard.
Oh, and as for what I did after we finally killed Rakanoth? I hopped onto my barbarian, who is still working through normal, cleared Cydea and Azmodan and told Brade “I’m not going to bed until I have the opportunity to smash that asshole (Rakanoth) in the face”. Small, but so very important, things.