Sonntag, 26. April 2015

Diablo 3 Expansion 2: Skovos and a new Druid-based Hybrid Class?


The Diablo 3 Content Patch 2.2 is out, and Season 3 will be running at least 4 months according to Senior Technical Game Designer Wyatt Cheng. This puts us at August 2015, when the world's largest computer games fair, gamescom, takes place in Cologne, Germany. Last week Blizzard announced that they will be returning for gamescom from August 5-9, where you’ll be able to play their latest titles, including Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. The absence of Diablo 3 in the list of hands-on demoed games led to wild speculations that there may be no Diablo news at all, but don't despair, dear readers, the exact opposite is rather the case here, and I'll tell you why!

The premiere of Reaper of Souls (RoS) dates back to August 21, 2013, when the first expansion was revealed during a press conference in Cologne, Germany, at gamescom 2013. We saw the marvelous opening cinematic, learned that the crusader is the next class, and we were told what the main features are, with more details to follow in fall at BlizzCon 2013. So, two years have passed since then, and you can be 99% sure that the same procdure will be the case for the Diablo 3 expansion 2. The early ending of Season 2 and the length of Season 3 are further hints that the devs want these four remaining months to prepare for the announcement. It's also no secret that the itemization of RoS has peaked with patch 2.2 and that the demand for news about future, expansion-size content is imminent.

Story & Features of the Diablo 3 Expansion 2

In my March blog I've made first educated guesses, mixed with some personal wishes, what the next expansion might have in store for us Diablo fans. Today I want to talk about another striking bit of information that's been on the Internet for a couple of years now, and which may or may not be future game content.

Skovos Isles

During the 2nd Diablo 3 Anniversary Livestream we learned that the Skovos Isles and the Golden City of Ureh were originally in the game but were cut due to their inability to "fit in". While there's only one official artwork for Ureh on the Internet, Skovos a.k.a. the Amazon Islands was internally fleshed out including a whole bunch of pictures by the Blizzard concept artists Peter Lee a.k.a. "Drawgoon" and Christian Lorenz Scheurer. Christian Scheurer also provided the dark, gothic vision of Westmarch which eventually made it into the first Diablo 3 expansion. Of special note is furthermore his Xiansai artwork, which may point to another expansion in Sanctuary's northern hemisphere.

Can you say that Skovos has been fleshed out?

The Skovos Isles are a group of islands located in the Twin Seas. They consist of four main islands (Philios, Skovos, Lycander, Skartara) and are the home of the Askari, a matriarchal society. The isles possess a gorgeous, Aegean-looking ocean, clear, Roman/Greek-style temples and architecture, and a dense rainforest, the hunting grounds of the Askari. Don't be fooled by the brightness, though, because Skovos has issues in common with Venice - it's a sinking city as you can see by the text descriptions in one of the concepts, which creates the potential for sunken and partially-submerged dungeon levels. The contrast between the majestic, brightly-lit Mediterranean setting and the gloomy, rotting ruins for sure promises a lot of fun for exploring adventurers.

What happened to the Horadrim sent to the Skovos Isles?

Skovos receives mention in Act 5, as Tyrael and Lorath Nahr discuss that a Horadrim expedition sent to the isles has not returned (see the picture above).

Smells like Mephisto's Spirit - A potential Durance of Hate v2.0 entrance?

The Next Class: A Druidic Amazon Elementalist?

The Druid is a class that became playable in Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction (LoD); however, the devs made it clear several times that they don't want to copy previous heroes unaltered. The barbarian and the wizard are the only exceptions so far, but every other class got a special "twist": The crusader and monk both have paladin "DNA", the witch doctor derives from the necromancer, and the demon hunter is a bow-amazon/trap-assassin hybrid.

Blizzard concept artist David Ko posted some Diablo 3 druid images -
Note that they are obviously able to use bows and spears

David Ko, a concept artist for Diablo 3, posted some druid artworks in his portfolio (see the pictures above). The left image suggests a barbarian kindred (as in LoD), but I'm inclined to believe that this was simply a personal deviation when the Diablo 3 barbarian was developed. That said, the usage of bows and spears may actually be planned as feature of a potential druid follower.

These watery temple concepts by Peter Lee may be related to the
deities of the Askari pantheon

How might a non-barbarian, shapeshifting hybrid class from Skovos look like, and what's the lore behind it? There are numerous possibilities how the devs could expand on the original LoD druid concept, and I'll therefore briefly address just some of them:
  • While we were busy fighting Malthael in RoS, Evil befell Skovos (quote Tyrael (ingame): "I haven't heard back from the Horadrim we sent to the Skovos Isles." - Lorath's answer: "Skovos is a dangerous land.")
  • Possible scenario for the Shapeshifting part: A werewolf curse spreads among the Askari, turning the inhabitants of Skovos against each other. In this case the devs could simply follow the well-known World of WarCraft worgen lore: Many Askari take up the druidic arts (with the help of the druids of Scosglen) as a way to cope with their transformation, to help control their new animalistic side or even to learn more about themselves and their new powers.
  • The Bowazon & Javazon/Spearazon part: The super-natural expertise in wielding bows, javelins and spears is second nature to the Amazons, the warriors of the Askari. In regards to magic, amazons can wield prime and holy magic, so that some of them take upon the path of the healer, a worthy path due to the toxicity of many native plant species in their homeland.
  • The Elementalist & Healer part: According to the lore, amazons are able to instill their shots with the elemental powers of their deities, e.g. Karcheus' freezing wind or Hefaetrus' destructive power of fire. The curse that befell Skovos, however, brought with it a powerful side effect: Afflicted amazons can, after intense training, not only take on the form of fierce beasts (werewolf, werebear), but also that of large elementals (elemental body, similar to Asendance of WoW shaman) or large plant creatures (healer body, similar to Tree of Life of WoW druids).
  • Alternatively, there may be no werewolf curse at all, and the Askari have simply developed a higher art of shapeshifting that combines druidism and shamanism. The Shirvallah shapeshift form (of the WoW druid) would be a perfect fit for the Askari high civilization.

So, the new class is - in the broadest sense - an amazon/druid/shaman hybrid, which in my opinion would be a very appealing "twist" on the classical druid as we know it from Diablo 2 or World of WarCraft. Additionally, the brightly-lit Mediterranean setting and the dense rainforest of the Skovos Isles would be a welcome visual counterpoint to the dark, gothic Westmarch in RoS. What do you think, sounds good? ^^

Amazon, druid & elementalist combined = The dream hybrid?

- Nobbie, the Lord of Construction

Related blogs:

For the latest gaming news follow my Twitter and/or Facebook!

Dienstag, 14. April 2015

WoW: Tanaan Jungle Preview Images (Patch 6.2)

The test realms (PTR) for the World of WarCraft Content Patch 6.2 just went live, and it seems that for the first time we're looking at a 2-tier expansion, i.e. Warlords of Draenor (WoD) and its story are coming to an end. The new content update leads us to the Tanaan Jungle and the Hellfire Citadel raid, where 13 deadly bosses await us, including Kilrogg Deadeye, the monstrous Gorefiend, a reanimated Mannoroth, and Archimonde himself. That being said, expect the announcement of the next, 6th WoW expansion at ‪‎BlizzCon 2015 in November and the premiere of the 2nd Diablo 3 expansion at ‪‎gamescom 2015 in August. More speculation can be found ‪‎here in my gaming blog.

Following are some Tanaan Jungle and Hellfire Citadel screenshots from the WoD patch 6.2 build. There's nothing overly exciting to see here because it's an early build and the events/quests are phased, but you get a first impression how the zone, which is nowadays know as Hellfire Peninsula, looked before Draenor was ripped into pieces. The green "fel" colors speak for themselves as far as the story is concerned. Klick on a thumbnail to see an enlarged version of the image and on an enlarged image to view all following images!

- Nobbie

For the latest gaming news follow my Twitter and/or Facebook!


April 16, 2015

YouTube user Khamúl has just uploaded this impressive, machinima-style Tanaan Jungle preview. Note, however, that it contains massive spoilers - klick at your own risk!

Mittwoch, 8. April 2015

Diablo 3: R.I.P. Mortick's Brace or Why Rushing Patches Is Bad

When the above tweet from Diablo 3 Associate Game Designer John Yang was published yesterday after patch 2.2 went live in the Americas, legions of barbarians stormed the official forums to vent their anger. What happened?

Removed until further notice: Mortick's Brace

Mortick's Brace (see the above picture) is a pair of legendary bracers that enables all runes of Wrath of the Berserker as soon as the barbarian uses this very powerful "Rage" buff. To give you an idea how much power this is for just one single item, here's the list with what you get by activating all runes:
  • [Arreat's Wail]: Activating Wrath of the Berserker deals 3400% weapon damage as Fire to all enemies within 15 yards.
  • [Insanity]: While active, gain 50% increased damage.
  • [Slaughter]: While active, Critical Hits have a chance to cause an eruption of blood dealing 300% weapon damage to enemies within 15 yards.
  • [Striding Giant]: Reduce all damage taken by 50%.
  • [Thrive on Chaos]: While active, gain 5364 Life per Fury spent.

As you can see, this would have made Mortick's Brace hands down the single most powerful legendary in the game and the single most important item for barbarians to excel on the Season 3 leaderboards. So, was the decision to implement this item or legendary power a bad idea in the first place? No, because multi-rune powers on items are now part of the game mechanics (see the Legacy of Raekor set or the Undisputed Champion Mighty Belt). Was the implementation on bracers a bad idea? Yes, because such immense power would belong as 6-piece bonus on a dedicated set.

If we know that an item is overpowered or unbalanced in the context of other legendaries/sets, you can be sure that the devs know it, too. I'm therefore confident that John Yang was simply caught in the middle of the second iteration of the new Wrath of the Wastes barbarian set, which is dedicated to the popular Whirlwind skill but felt more like a Rend set during its first iteration. In an effort to add more spice to the set and celebrate a sort of "Classic Whirlwind Barbarian" revival, the bracers were born but balancing both the set and the bracers couldn't be completed because he got the notice that Season 2 ends (way) earlier than originally planned (see my recent Diablo 3 Expansion 2 speculation blog for more about this). If Mortick's Brace would have gone live in its current iteration, the barbarians for sure would have wrecked the leaderboards and party play of Season 3 in almost no time, so the dev team really had to pull the plug. It's unfortunate that this came too late, because a lot of players had already spent thousands of Blood Shards to gamble these bracers after patch 2.2 went live, but the decison was absolutely correct.

All that said, barbarians are certainly not in a bad place now, as many angry forum posts about this incident suggest. They are just not "uber" anymore and have to resort to "conventional" itemization if they want a top spot on the leaderboards, e.g. a mix of Legacy of Raekor and the reworked Immortal King's Call set pieces (incl. its updated weapon) as well as Vile Ward, Ancient Parthan Defenders, Unity (in combination with an undying follower), and the new Convention of Elements (you can read more about this powerful ring in my recent Diablo 3 Wormwood Zoo Witch Doctor - 4-Element Edition blog). An update to Mortick's Brace and/or the new/reworked patch 2.2 barbarian sets will be coming for sure, but you'll likely have to wait several months for it until Season 3, which starts this Friday, is over. John Yang himself suggested that enabling a single rune probably would've been the most reasonable change to Mortick's Brace. We'll see - stay tuned, fellow barbarians! ^^

- Nobbie

For the latest gaming news follow my Twitter and/or Facebook!

Sonntag, 5. April 2015

Diablo 3: Wormwood Zoo Witch Doctor - 4-Element Edition

The following guide and video have been created on April 4, 2015 on the Diablo 3 Patch 2.2 PTR, build 30894. Note that anything shown here may be subject to change until the final release candidate build goes live. The item links provided here will be active or updated (for reworked items) once patch 2.2 went live on April 7/8.


The Diablo 3 Patch 2.2 will be released this Tuesday, April 7, 2015, heralding the start of Season 3. The synopsis of the latest content update is that it makes many more character builds viable for Torment 6 difficulty thanks to new and revised items as well as several new game mechanics. Especially hardly used primary and secondary skills including associated (older) legendary items will profit a lot, and defensive shortcomings have been addressed, too, to make such builds work in Rifts and higher level Greater Rifts.

The following guide for the popular witch doctor demonstrates how the patch encourages you to add more variety to your builds, in this case through the use of the new Convention of Elements ring. If you have been waiting for an update that allows you to effectively use all elemental damage types in one single witch doctor build, this guide is for you!


The new Convention of Elements (CoE) ring of patch 2.2 (see the upper left item tooltip in the following picture) is one of the most interesting Diablo 3 legendaries so far, and the central item of this build. It introduces a new mechanic that works as follows: Depending on your class, or rather the elemental damage types your class masters, the ring cycles through each of these elements and significantly boosts one of them at a time for several seconds.

The defining items/sets of this build

To use the witch doctor as an example, he/she can deal Poison, Fire, Cold, and Physical damage, and the ring cycles in exactly that order through these four elements giving each spell of the respective element a (currently) 150-200% damage bonus for 4 seconds. Assuming that you got a perfect CoE roll with 200% damage bonus, this means that each element gets an average 50% damage boost over the course of one complete 16-second cycle (4 elements per 4 seconds). This by itself is already a great bonus, which should make a good (Ancient) CoE a better choice now than the pre-patch 2.2 BiS (Best in Slot) Stone of Jordan (SoJ) ring. And it gets even better: Because each element is included in the rotation, you have now the option to pick the best spell(s) per element and combine them into one powerful build.
An example: Before patch 2.2, if you wanted to use the mighty Wrathful Protector with its massive fire damage attacks as "elite" killer, you'd focus on increasing your fire damage bonus through a SoJ, Cindercoat, Magefist, enchants etc. Now, you'd simply use the CoE ring and get a 50% average damage boost to fire for your Wrathful Protector who lasts 15 seconds, which is almost a complete ring cycle (16 seconds). Which "best" spells you could pick for the other elements (Posion, Cold, Physical) is discussed in the SKILLS section below.

The "base" of this build is Zunimassa's Haunt, which gains a lot of power in the reworked patch 2.2 version. The updated classic witch doctor set now consists of 7 instead of just 5 items (gloves & pants have been added), and we'll be using 4 items (see the above picture) to activate the 2- and 4-piece bonuses. 2 Zunimassa pieces grant us a permanent Fetish Army, and 4 pieces a big, sorely needed defense bonus depending on how many fetishes we have alive. Note that active Fetish Sycophants will be included here. The 4 Zunimassa set items will therefore be complemented with the new Belt of Transcendence, which does exactly that: It spawns Sycophants whenever we hit with a Mana spending spell, and it lets us get rid of the Sycophants skill to make room for another passive of our choice - a great pet doctor belt!

For the head slot we'll be using Carnevil, which is hands down the best pet doctor voodoo mask even without its perfect complement, the Dagger of Darts ceremonial knife. With Carnevil all of our fetishes (incl. Sycophants) shoot a Poison Dart every time we do, which lets us deal both great area and single target damage in a very convenient manner.

Instead of the (piercing) Dagger of Darts and a mojo, the Wormwood staff with its auto-cast Locust Swarm (at zero Mana costs) is my weapon of choice, and this has several reasons. First of all, the 2-handed Wormwood staff is much easier to find (and especially to gamble) than the very rare Dagger of Darts, and chances are very good that you get an Ancient, hard hitting one with 4.000+ DPS (damage per second). Secondly, the Locust Swarm auto-cast of the staff doesn't require you to have the spell on your bar (unless you choose to in order to get access to a special rune), and the auto-cast counts as Mana spender to spawn the Sycophants via the aforementioned Belt of Transcendence. Last, but not least, the new defense bonus of the reworked Zunimassa set finally allows us to ge rid of (defensive) mojos like the Uhkapian Serpent and use this great staff instead. If you combine the auto-cast Locusts with a spell like Haunt (see the SPELLS section below), you get great DoT (damage over time) and damage amplifciation in any situation, which are easily on par with, if not better than piercing Poison Darts (through the Dagger of Darts knife).

The second ring, which complements Convention of Elements (CoE) in this special zoo doctor build, is the new The Short Man's Finger (SMF), previously known as Little Man's Finger (Note that this ring will be an exclusive Season 3 Item). What the ring does is that it makes your Gargantuan spell instead summon three smaller Gargantuans, each more powerful than the original. If you choose the Wrathful Protector (rune) with its massive fire damage attacks and increase its elemental damage even further through the CoE ring, you get a trio of Gargantuans that is nothing less than an engine of destruction! Since we'll use a fair amount of Cooldown Reduction (CDR) for this build, this devastating fiery weapon is almost always available for use.


Two legendary gems (out of three max.) are recommended for this pet build: Bane of the Trapped because our spell arsenal involves control-impairing effects (Cold Zombie Dogs & Knockback Gargantuans), and Gogok of Swiftness to speed up our and our fetishes' Poison Darts. As third gem you may want to pick a defensive one like Esoteric Alteration or the Molten Wildebeest's Gizzard from Season 2.


As mentioned above, we're gonna choose some "best of each element type" spells (Poison, Fire, Cold, and Physical) because our zoo doctor is built around the Convention of Elements (CoE) ring.


The main attack is Poison Dart (Splinters rune) because we'll be using the Carnevil voodoo mask (see the ITEMS section above). With Carnevil all of our fetishes (incl. Sycophants) shoot a Posion Dart every time we do, which lets us deal both great area and single target damage in a very convenient manner. Fetish Sycophants damage, by the way, is now increased by your highest elemental damage type at the time of summoning, e.g. Poison, which is our focus for gear enchants.

The secondary attack is Haunt (Poisoned Spirit rune) which complements the auto-cast Locust Swarm of our Wormwood staff, providing great DoT (damage over time) and damage amplifciation in any situation.

The skills used for this build


In the fire department, the Gargantuan (Wrathful Protector rune) is hands down the most powerful direct damage spell since it got updated a while ago. This fiery monstrosity, which will be transformed into an incredible trio through The Short Man's Finger ring, literally crushes Torment 6 difficulty and hammers its way through (high-level) Greater Rifts while we and our fetishes pelt the foes with dozens of Posion Darts.


Patch 2.2 provides pet doctors with a wonderful new, Cold based Zombie Dogs rune called "Chilled to the Bone", which replaces the old "Final Gift" rune: Enemies who hit or are hit by your Zombie Dogs are Chilled and take increased damage. These chilling dogs, and the Gargantuans with their knockback fire attacks, are standing in the front line providing the control-impairing effects for the bonuses of the Bane of the Trapped gem.


The physical damage portion is provided by the Fetish Army (Legion of Daggers rune). While they, and their Fetish Sycophants siblings, fire Posion Darts at your command most of the time, they can also deal massive physical damage if you are otherwise engaged, i.e. have been trapped or flee.

Other Active Skills

The sixth active spell in our arsenal is Spirit Walk (Jaunt rune), the very efficient mobility and escape skill.

Passive Skills

Of the passive skills we pick the ones that support our 4-element zoo doctor best:

Grave Injustice:
Great Cooldown Reduction (CDR) in addition to the CDR you should have on your gear (~25-30%).

Pierce the Veil:
Great, cost-effective damage buff because the zoo doctor hardly uses Mana.

Fierce Loyalty:
Great movement speed buff (while not in combat), and 1 additional Zombie Dog.

Midnight Feast:
Another additional Zombie Dog (5 total in this build), and a great damage buff for your Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan.


The following test run has been recorded on the patch 2.2 PTR (without legendary drop rate buff) in a Torment 6 Rift.

Note how this build is able to farm high game difficulties very fast and efficently. It's good for Greater Rift farming up to level 40, but most importantly, it is FUN! Getting an ultimate, almost godly weapon like an Ancient Starmetal Kukri can take a very long time, and you want to enjoy playing until then as much as possible.

- Nobbie

For the latest gaming news follow my Twitter and/or Facebook!