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Reaper of Souls Beta Test First Impressions

Posted 20 Nov 2013 by

As you guys saw in the previous news posts, the Friends and Family stage of the Reaper of Souls beta test got off to a surprise start on Tuesday evening. I was lucky enough to score an invite as one of those (fansite) friends and as soon as I had the 16 gig download and install rolling, I leapt in with… my Monk. My Hardcore (formerly) Paragon 70 Monk. I was curious to see the end game, to play with Adventure Mode and Bounties and Nephalem Rifts, and while I want to do a Crusader too, it wasn’t my first priority. In that I seemed to be fairly alone, since I know six other people who are in the Beta so far, and all 6 went with a Crusader from level 1 for their first play action.

My first big legendary upgrade. Doubled my DPS.

My first big legendary upgrade. Doubled my DPS.

So, this is not a Crusader first impressions article. It’s an end game, from 60 to 70 report, with a bit of attention to Monk skills but mostly talking about AdMode, Rifts, Bounties, Paragon Points, but mostly Loot 2.0. I was very curious to see how the new loot worked, how I’d upgrade equipment as I leveled up, what Magic Find would do now that it’s been so nerfed in RoS, how much of a difference there was between pretty good gear in D3V and gear in Reaper of Souls, etc. And I certainly found out. There are huge differences, more in some areas than in others, and I found the growth curve very interesting.

So, here are some topics and issues of note, mostly focusing on items: enchanting, transmog, legendary finds, upgrades compared to D3V gear, new affixes and item scarcity, upgrading, gems, and other related topics. Before I start, bear in mind what Jason Regier urged when I interviewed him at Blizzcon, and don’t read too much into Datamining. This RoS beta is basically life-action datamining at this point, with some bugs and inconsistencies and many changes coming during the remainder of the beta.

Item Upgrading

So, I played a pretty well-geared Hardcore Monk from 60 up to 70, all in Adventure Mode. I collected bounties and did some Nephalem rifts, and played in all five acts. What was it like? How did the gear upgrades go in Loot 2.0? Should you throw away all your current gear in D3V? Will everything your using now be obsolete by level 65?

*pause*

ros-blood-shards1Yeah, pretty much. I’d upgraded 5 or 6 of my items by 65, all but one from finding new Rares, and once I got more organized, built up enough Blood Shards to start gambling and salvaged up enough other mats to start enchanting, I switched out all the rest of my gear save for the DiabloWikiMempo of Twilight helm, DiabloWikiWitching Hour belt, and DiabloWikiInna’s Temperance pants.

If you know the stats on the top items in Diablo 3, you already know why I haven’t found upgrades for those items yet. Technically I have.. I’ve found or gambled rare pants and belts that were slight upgrades on damage and huge upgrades on hps and res, but I didn’t want to give up the Movement Speed and Attack Speed bonuses, since neither of those were replicated on the rare “upgrades.” Soon, though.

Click through for much more. A discussion of general upgrade pace (300k hps by 70 is nice), then specific details on enchanting, gambling, transmogrify, the new mega-level gems, details on the legendary items I’ve found so far, and much more.


Upgrade Pace and RoS Monster Difficulty Scaling

How fast you upgrade your character’s gear once you enter RoS at level 60 varies greatly with the luck of your RNG, how assiduously you gamble and enchant, how good your D3V gear is, etc. I play HC in D3V so my gear is pretty optimized on resistance and vit, and there aren’t any bad pieces, but my raw DPS is a lot lower than a well-equipped softcore Monk.

Bear in mind that you lose your current Paragon level passive bonuses when you enter RoS, while gaining DiabloWikiParagon Points to spend as you see fit. My Monk was Paragon 70, so he lost 210 Dex and 140 Vit, and didn’t get back anywhere near that much stat from Paragon Points. I assigned the PPs cautiously, because Hardcore, so I sunk all of my DiabloWikiCore Tab points into Vit, and then most of my DiabloWikiDefensive Tab points into +%Life. Thus I entered RoS with around 85k hps and oh… 85k dps? I don’t remember exactly, and the DPS number is artificially lowered by my Monk using a Stone of Jordan. (For the skill damage bonus to Sweeping Wind, Spirit regen boost, and the huge boost to Elite damage.) Those points into Life % really paid off later though, when I doubled and tripled and quadrupled my Vitality, and the Life % multiplied that tremendously.

ros-item-bracers1At first I felt overgeared. I played on Hard (the 2nd level) and it was quite easy at level 60. It felt about like MP1 or maybe MP2, but with much lower monster density. The only thing that was harder were some of the Elites, as their damage seems considerably buffed, especially from elemental attacks, and some of the new Elite Affixes were tricky. (Wormhole teleports you to a random location, usually right into some huge Poison Enchanted explosion, Thunderstrike deals steady lightning damage to you while you’re near the monster, and Orbiter sends out dozens of little lightning pulses that whittle you steadily.

That said, most of those modifiers became nasty once I was closer to level 70. Right at the start, up to level 64 or so, I felt a little under on my damage, but over on my defense and res, since I was taking hardly any damage. The first upgrades I found were shoulders and bracers, neither of which were great, but with hundreds more to vit and dex, it’s easy to see green on the numbers for new items.

The general trend over time was pretty much that; huge stats offsetting loses to D3V stats, chiefly critical hit chance and damage. Critical damage more than anything; I found bracers and gloves and jewelry with CC, but CD is much less common in RoS, seemingly never appearing on weapons, and I only saw it once or twice in big numbers of jewelry. And since Ros Rares seldom roll more than 3 Primary stats, a trifecta is extremely unlikely in RoS, much less a quad or quinfecta with mainstat and/or +damage added in.

I didn’t track my DPS and HPS that closely, but they moved up steadily, and in big leaps. Around level 65 I was surprised to notice my hps were over 130k, and not long after they were at 220k, thanks to several items iwth 400-700 vitality. My DPS didn’t go up as quickly until I found my first legendary, a sword with 2800 weapon damage and 600 Dex, which instantly shot my total DPS from 130k to over 260k. (Screens of that sword and all my other legendaries can be seen below, in the Legendary section.) By level 70, when I’d replaced all my D3V gear except the belt, pants, helm, and amulet I was up around 330k HPs and 280k DPS. My toughness (the new EHP-style stat) had increased from 400k or so up to over 3.5m, though I join you guys in not yet having any intuitive sense what that number means or does.

The biggest trouble I had during the leveling? The big RoS nerf to DiabloWikiLife Steal. It’s cut 90% past level 60 and capped to zero at level 70, and for a Monk using Sweeping Wind with a Life Steal weapon providing 95% of my survival, that nerf was very obvious. By level 62 I had nearly died to several fairly simple bosses, just because I was slow to learn that I could *not* stand in Desecrator, or Plagued, or Molten, or other things I’d just have ignored in D3V where the Life Steal brought in enough hps to completely negate such attacks.

I found Bracers with LoH fairly quickly, but had no luck ever seeing any jewelery with that mod, and I couldn’t seem to get it on a weapon either. I went back to my old Unity ring for a while, just to get some, and generally played it safer, doing a lot more hit and run and movement, since I just could not stand still during Elite battles. (This was actually a pretty handy tactic to be forced into early on, since by level 68 and especially past 70, bosses were hitting soooooo much harder that any time standing still for more than a second or two became nearly lethal.)

One other weird thing; it’s really hard to fill up your health bulb when you have over 150k hps. It would be easy with Life Steal, but when your health is coming from 500 regen/sec and a lot of 1500 LoH clicks, it takes a looooong time to fill up. I kept getting down to maybe 1/3 in a boss battle, and then I’d mow through a few packs of trash mobs, and still have only 1/2 or 2/3 of my hps back. Which was scary going into the next boss fight.

Eventually I learned to use DiabloWikiSanctuary much earlier than in D3V. No more should it be saved until the last second as a panic button — I found it better to use much earlier in a battle, even if I still had high hit points, if I saw a situation coming where I was certain to take a lot of damage. Even if it wasn’t going to be lethal damage, it was better to avoid the the hindrance of dropping down to 1/4 hps and then needing to drink a potion (there is only one type of potion now, and it always instantly heals 60% of your total hps) or else scrounging along with low hps for the next minute or two, trying to find enough trash mobs to refuel naturally.

I have no idea how relatively powerful my Monk is now. He’s vastly stronger than he was in D3V, with like 250k more hps and 220k more DPS, double the Armor, much higher resistances, etc. But that doesn’t mean he’d done more than tread water in relative terms, since level 70 enemies on RoS are much harder than the monsters you get in Inferno now on D3V. I’d estimate that my Monk was about a 7 on a 1-10 scale of Hardcore quality gear in D3V. (Nothing I was wearing could have been replaced for less tan 50m, but nothing was really spectacular, 500m+, either.)

The Monk is probably a 3 or a 4 now, on the RoS scale. He’s only got one legendary in use, several items are still D3V leftovers, he’s got a Ruby in helm giving up 100k+ vs. an Amy, no socket in his weapon, no specialty RoS legendaries, etc. On the whole, RoS at level 70 is harder for him than D3V was on MP3, though part of that is surely tactics. I’ve tweaked my build a bit, changing to some new and improved rune effects, but I’m sure there are better Monk builds in Ros than a classic Sweeping Wind/Bell Dropper. I just haven’t put in the time or research yet to try out new permutations.

But he made it to 70 without dying, though DiabloWikiNear Death Experience triggered twice, and came clsoe to triggering several other times. The worst was in battle with a certain witch in Act Five, where I was actually expecting to die, since NDE had tripped and was on cooldown, the boss was hiding out of reach, there were no enemies to beat on to get hps back, and the entire level was covered in wriggling blood blobs that were dealing steady damage. Pro tip: lots of regen. Also, and especially if you don’t have lots of regen, do *not* hit either of the health urns on that level unless/until you absolutely must. Otherwise you’ll use them up too soon and die (or nearly die) during the last quarter of the battle when you’ve got nothing left to heal from.


Gems Are Uber

The biggest surprise? Well, maybe not the biggest, but a big one. Gems are way, way, way, higher level. Anyone who has been saving up gems for RoS? Hoping they’d be valuable, or hard to replace? Stop. Just stahp. Sell them. Throw them away. Whatever. They have no value in RoS, at least in the current version. (I saved my gems for a bit, before the onslaught of Marquise gems made me realize they had no purpose other than as twinks, so then I just dumped them, along with almost all of the other instantly useless and outdated gear in my stash.)

In D3V the highest level gems you find are Flawless Squares, which are level 8 out of 14. You have to cube up to get to higher levels. I figured that would increase a bit in RoS, with gems of maybe level 9 or 10 or 11 dropping. I was on the right track, but way too low.

ros-gems1That’s a shot of my Inventory after about 6 hours of non-rushing play time, and those on the bottom, the lowest quality ones, are Marquise! Yes, that’s the highest level in the entire D3V game today, and they cost 50-100m to create, depending on the type and whether you’re HC or SC. Guess what? Marquise gems drop all the time for a lvl 60-70 character in Reaper of Souls. So do the next level, which are called Imperial Gems.

There are some oddities about it.

The weird thing is there’s no scaling up, which makes me wonder if it’s just a bug or an experimental setting in the beta. When I converted over my Monk and leapt into Adventure Mode at level 60, I found some Flawless Squares, and then found some more at level 61. And then suddenly at level 62 I found Marquise, and never anything lower than that from 63-70.

There are drawbacks to Marquise, of course. For one thing, they’re 5m a piece to unsocket. I quickly dumped all the Flawless Stars and other lower level gems in my gear and stuck Marquise in, but then I was pretty much stuck with them, since I wasn’t going to spend 15m gold to change around the sockets in my chest armor. What I ended up doing was just burning my initial items by salvaging them, which destroys the item but removes the gems, for free, in the process. I did that since I quickly found big upgrades for almost everything I was wearing from D3V, but also since the beta is on a PTR-type realm where there’s no long term lasting consequences.

Upgrade costs are weird too. To combine 3 Marquise into an Imperial costs 50m gold. It must get higher from there, right? Like 80m for the next level up? Try 10. Yes, ten gold for the next level. Plus one scroll of “Scholarly Writing” which is like the higher level Tome of Secret. I don’t think this is a bug; I think it’s just not finished yet. I think the devs literally have not yet had time to go into the spreadsheets and enter prices for the gem upgrades above Marquise, since the second level above Imperial was 10 gold also.

So, is this the new level of gems or is this just a weird thing they’ve thrown into the RoS beta for testing purposes? I lean towards the later, but I still think we can expect to find several tiers higher gems in RoS, if not Marquise quite so readily.

ros-gem-diamond-imperial


Gambling

Gambling is done via a new NPC. She’s got no lore or dialogue or personality or style; Gheed has not returned. Even the gambling method and pricing is very understated (and I think a WiP). Her menu simply shows one of every type of item in the game (except for quivers), and for 5 Blood Shards you can buy one. (No gold cost, or any other mats.) I probably bought 60 or 70 gamble items, and got upgrades to several armor slots from them. About 60% were rare with about 40% magical (I never saw a legendary from gambling and have no idea if that’s even possible.) and as cheap as they were, and lacking other compelling things to spend Blood Shards on, the game is basically begging you to gamble.

I suggest you take it up on the offer.


Transmogrification

I tried out the Mystic’s toys right away, and did enjoy the Transmog even though it’s kind of WoW-style “dressing up the dolly.” It’s very easy to use and works just like you see in the RoS preview video. You only have a few Transmog options at first; all the low and medium level base items in each armor and weapon slot. If you upgrade the Mystic, which was quite cheap, she gains more recipes with each level. I pinged her up to level 10 right away, but higher than that required some mats which I hadn’t found yet.

Transmogged shield gleams in character selection screen.

Transmogged shield gleams in character selection screen.

When you find legendaries the Mystic learns those when you ID the item. You don’t have to take it to her or anything; you just ID it and then the next time when you go to the Mystic and look in Transmog for that item type she’ll have the legendary at the end of the list, and you can select that look for the item you currently have selected.

The prices were very low in this early testing, like 50 gold to transmog an item to a normal base item type and 500 to the legendaries I’d found. All very cheap and hardly even a gold sink, so perhaps the prices will be adjusted higher in time? I transmogged several of my items before I even started playing, turning my Monk’s mismatched shield, Mempo helm, Inna’s chest, and spiky Archon crafted shoulders into streamlined, complimentary, bronze-hued items from the highest base set available. They were level 70 items, I think. They weren’t item looks you can get in D3V, at any rate. Later on I TMed my shield into the look of the


Enchanting

ros-enchant-sequence1Enchanting was awesome in theory, but had issues in execution. It works just like they showed it in the RoS preview movie, and I put together a step by step image to show it in action.

The system functions okay, though the interface looks a little clunky and remedial.

  • It uses an dark blue text that’s not very readable.
  • It’s not clear which mods are primary and which are secondary in the Enchant display (you have to move the mouse over to your Inv to hover on the item).
  • Sockets are a primary stat, despite the fact that they display at the bottom of the list.
  • Items don’t display anything to tell you they’ve been Enchanted already, so it’s easy to forget when you’re finding new gear all the time. (Transmogged items get a little purple swirl in the corner.)
  • Items should show which mod was enchanted also, since again, it’s easy to forget.
  • There also needs to be an easier/quicker/more obvious way to decline the two offered affix rerolls. Currently you have to move the pointer to click on your current affix, or else hit Esc and just close the whole window. It would be nice if you could instantly refuse the options and roll again, since you generally have to roll several times to get an upgrade. (The price goes up about 15% of the current price each time you reroll the same item, and items vary wildly in price. I paid around 18k for a roll on my shield while my amulet was over 1.5m for the first roll.)
  • That said, I think the interface is an early version and will be spruced up in iteration and polishing. (Many things in this beta seem rushed; this is earlier in the dev cycle than I’ve ever seen a Blizzard beta test go public.)

    ros-enchant-awesome1The more substantial issue is a lack of affixes. I tried to upgrade secondary affixes on all of the Rares my Monk had brought over from D3V, and was seldom able to upgrade, or to upgrade to anything impactful. The image to the right was an actual roll I got on a newly-found item, but the others weren’t much better. There seemed to be only a handful of affixes available, especially in the secondary slots, and they were all crap.

    At one point I found a weapon upgrade, a Monk Fist weapon, and I rerolled it like six times, trying to turn one secondary slot into something more useful. I never could. There were only 4 or 5 possible affixes, none of them any good, and they just kept repeating and repeating. The options were something like:

  • +90-120 experience per kill
  • 1.5-2.5% chance to stun target
  • 1.5-2.5% chance to freeze target
  • +10-13% to Seven Sided Strike. (That skill was on the item to begin with.)
  • And it just kept repeating those, with varying values on them. SSS over and over again; never any different Monk skills, and plenty of rolls I’d get like +92 exp per kill, and +101 exp per kill for the two options. Which was annoying, and felt pointless. There were more affixes possible, I saw lots of them on other items that I found, but the game seemed to get stuck in the same few possibles in the RNG when you rolled and rerolled the same item.

    The larger issue is that enchanting is almost never a big fix or improvement. All the things you can change on secondary affixes are icing on the cake. At best. More like a sprinkle on the icing on the cake. With armor you’ll shift between different individual types of resistance, or add 1-2y pickup radius, etc. Very minor changes that hardly seem worth it. The big changes are in primary stats, but you hardly ever find anything with more than 3 primary stats and usually all 3 are pretty good. On a weapon you’ll get get +elemental damage, +mainstat, and a socket on those, with 2 secondary mods of no importance.

    ros-item-bug1

    Above you see my Monk’s current weapon, with a weird name bug on a wand I found. The rare Monk fist has the prototypical crap stats in the secondary slot. You could reroll that 10x and you’d get nothing but more of the same. +EXP, +some tiny % chance of cold/freeze/stun on hit, etc. Which mod did I enchant? The IAS in the primary slot. As you can see, it’s not a very good weapon, in terms of multiple mods. No socket, no +%damage… it’s just a really good roll on total damage, it has nice +Dex (that’s actually a quite common/average mainstat for level 70 weapons; only the DPS is standout quality). The lucky part was it spawned with a junk 3rd primary stat; Life for Spirit Spent, as I recall. So I rerolled that, hoping for a socket, and after a couple of rolls I got IAS and stuck with that, since it was a considerable DPS boost. It’s not great, but I hope to find a much better weapon so I wasn’t going to put too much effort into perfecting this one.

    You can get great things with Enchant, though. My chest armor is a pretty good example:

    ros-chest-armor1

    This rolled (via gambling) with a very uncommon 4 primary stats. The last one was +defense, which I rerolled several times until I got 3 sockets, and kept that. And yes, I should have put 3 Diamonds into it. That’s really an imbalance on value in socketing; this character has something like 3100 vitality and 550-650 resistances, so obviously there’s hugely more value from 70 more Res All than 70 more Vitality. I only had two diamonds at the time though, and I wasn’t putting a huge amount of thought into my item upgrades, since I was finding or gambling a new one every level or two anyway.

    Another imbalance is Item Set bonuses. They’re pathetically small now, at least the +stat ones. I was wearing Inna’s chest and Inna’s pants on my Monk before upgrading to that rare armor. Yes, Inna’s chest had some nice stats, but that rare gained me nearly 1000 in vit + dex, and 89 res all. And losing the +120 dex from equipping two items of Inna’s was almost irrelevant in the bigger picture. Even if a level 70 version of Inna’s chest had something like +700 Dex / +500 Vit, the set bonuses would need big buffs to remain relevant.


    Legendary Items

    I’ve found five so far, and I’m currently using none of them, though I’m going to switch to the Gift of Silaria when I play next. (I found it right at the end of my last game.) I used the Doombringer for a while earlier, and when I found it I gasped since it was a gigantic upgrade. The weapon I was using at the time is in the screenshot, and going from 1400 to 2800 damage on the weapon was amazing. My character’s DPS went from around 134k to 270k, and that was well worth giving up the LoH, especially since the Vit gain partially offset it.

    Speaking of the Doombringer, check out that legendary stat: +10% chance to block. As a Hardcore Monk who was using a shield, it should have been awesome but I honestly didn’t notice any real difference in my damage mitigation. That’s at least partially due to the fact that my Monk was low on resistances at the time, so my danger kept coming from elemental attacks by Elites, not by things I could block.

    Greater Horadric Cache contents.

    Greater Horadric Cache contents.

    I didn’t mention it in the overlong Enchanting section, but legendaries are tough to to enchant in RoS since that requires one Forgotten Soul material, and those are very rare. I’ve only found two so far, both from Horadric goodie bag drops (awarded for collecting Bounties). You also get them for salvaging new high level legendaries, and that’s tough since most legs you find in the early going will be huge upgrades over the rares you are already using.


    Conclusion

    Not a conclusion yet, since this is only scratching the surface. I’ve got a lot to add on overall difficulty level, new DiabloWikiElite Affixes (there are 5 I’ve seen so far), general upgrades to existing Elite Affixes and monster behavior, Adventure Mode and Nephalem Rifts, the new Clans system and interface, the Crusader, and much more. Those will have to come in another article though, since this one is overlong already.

    If you’ve got questions about the topics covered here, especially regarding items, modifiers, crafting, upgrading, etc, throw them into comments and I’ll reply here, or possibly collect answers to questions in another post, if there are enough to make for a juicy presentation.