Beta and Beyond - Charis
Instead of a rambling
sketchy description of a character's development, today I want to share
a detailed look at a typical combat. In D2, it's MUCH faster pace than D1.
Server side gaming means what-you-see-is-NOT-what-you-get, to add to the
confusion. You likely know you can run in D2, what I can tell you is that
not running is really not an option. The *first* thing you do entering a
game is hit 'R' for auto-run, and you never take it off. Ever.
As far as friendly fire is concerned, you are "immune" to all fire (magic, physical, ranged) from all those who are not "hostile". These attacks therefore pass right through and on to the other monsters.
There are three modes: party, neutral, hostile. Party mode shares experience and gold, *AND* auras Neutral mode shares none of these. Hostile is the PK mode, or if for some reason you wanted to force friendly fire and disable aura sharing. (See "HostileCoop" page)
Why does lack of friendly fire make good sense in a 'server-side' game, where the game 'runs' on a server and actions are made and displayed on each client?
In "for now" typical lag, basically you see only an approximation of reality. In D1, with three people in game, there are three realities. In D2, there is *one* reality... the servers. So where earlier you had cases of "on my screen my fireballs are slaughtering you" vs "nope, i'm fine, no damage on mine." If lag is moderate you may NOT see the fireballs and yet be killed by them. Your partner may NOT see you at the time he shoots, and kill you. This is why non-FF is *essential* for server-based games.
As far as PK - it will NOT be trivial. You may end up shooting at a place where the foe was, not is. Reducing the lag problem remains the biggest challenge for Blizzard - it has a huge impact on the game now. One *advantage* of this setup though... more players does NOT mean more lag. Your lag is totally determined by you-to-Blizz and by your processer's ability to handle furballs. So eight in game is (theoretically?) no worse than two.
Is Experience Sharing a good thing ?
Why I like it: so far I have seen a lot of lag and my processor is just borderline being able to play, so frequently, I'm swinging at air, or having the BAR kill the room before I can get a swing in. Without exp sharing, I would get zero and be very frustrated. The good thing is, if you don't like, play "neutral" mode. (Alas, then auras won't share)
Enough intro... let me describe a typical battle:
Party of 4: Paladin with a Might aura to increase the whole party's tohit and damage, a necromancer who has passed on bringing a skeleton cohort, a BAR wielding two axes, and a sorceress. Paladin opens the door, and fireballs start coming out. He runs (literally! it's very very fast) up to engage the enemy. The Bar is right behind, and sees a shaman in the back, who will resurrect anything you kill (eep) if you don't get him ASAP. The BAR does a Leap still and stomps on him. At the same time, the Necro casts "Amplify Damage" on that boss. The Bar's blows will do about 250% damage on him (oof! :) The sorceress steps in and sees this crowd of a dozen running, whacking, casting, frenzied monsters, with "Wraiths" coming down the hall to join in the fun. She casts a Frost Nova - a brilliant graphic floods the screen and most or all of the foes turn blue. They are 'chilled' and moving much slower. (They also took some damage). Next she breaks out the heavy gun, "Static Field" which each cast cuts hp by 33% (picture Bone Spirit that works, on all monsters visible).
She casts this three times in a row. The Paladin and Bar hack away with violent rapidity. The Necro casts a poison cloud right on top of everyone (note if friendly fire... would be a big ouch for the two meleers), then switches to a high level "Teeth" spell, a virtual and gorgeous machine gun :)
Wait! I know what you're thinking. The monsters don't stand a chance! But no... they've got powers too, and the monsters described above were like seeing Fallen on dlvl 9, of course they're going down, and fast. But (to continue the analogy) here comes Sir Gorash to join the fun. (ie, something very much tougher than others on level). (Not Gorash himself but a...) Very-fast, cold-enhanced Spectral hit Extra-strong monster. The Bar does his leap onto Mogadishu, not realizing he is 'Cold Enhanced' each time he hits the foe, a blast of cold energy sweeps out. In two fast hits, before he knows what's going on, the Bar is dead from hypothermia, and his party members are hurting. The Paladin quickly, with his 7th hotkey, switches to a "Resist Cold" aura to help the party. The Necromancer throws an "Iron Maiden" spell on him (picture a "Thorns" effect on steroids") - Mogadishu is going to pay the price for beating on the Paladin. The Sorceress unleashes three more Static Fields, then picks Fireball via Hotkey and starts pumping them out. Just as it seems the boss is about to die, the Sorceress runs out of mana, and has no blue pots (you can't buy any, and she's used up what she has found). With the Paladin 'chilled' and slow, he eventually dies to the boss as well. The Necromancer looks at the Shaman corpse, and raises a Blood Golem, lest the new boss start beating on him. So Golly and Moga go at it, with the dmg the golem does stealing life ('blood') which is returned to the Necromancer. He's not poison resistant, the Necro notices, and inflicts a fatal poison wound just in time. By this time, the BAR is already back from town (!). On death, he hit escape, was back at full life and mana, and sprinted for the portal, one screen away. He arrived on scene (for they had a portal up outside the room), came in, and was clicking on his body to fully re-equip himself just as Mogadishu was dying (which itself unleashed a Cold Blast). Sound frantic? Sound fun? It is! :)
Followup question - That sounded rough, how would a solo character handle that mess ? To be comfortable as a party of three to five, the solo character would be about 3 clvls higher. So lets look now at each class individually.
Sorc - Static Field (SF), SF, SF, SF, SF, Frost Nova, everything is dead. Repeat on boss, but add in a few Ice blasts to slow him and do decent damage.
Amazon - Multishot high lvl. All dead.
This is considered the biggest cheese of D2Beta, with Static Field right up there with it. Not that they're bad spells, just way overpowered at slvl 6 or so. (Mind you, this is an Act I evaluation, hard to say if looking at the whole game this will be balanced or not.)
Bar - alone he we do well to do something like dual wield a wpn of the frost and a wpn of blight (poison) or leech (life, not mana steal). Hitting something with a cold wpn turns it blue and slows it. He kills the shaman first with Bash and/or Stun, then mobs up the fleeing fallen. Vs the boss it will be harder - he needs to take out the cohort *first*, then with FULL health, hit the boss - he'll take a cold blast (Cold Enchanted), heal if hp less than half - smack again... repeat. The downside of repetetiveness is offset buy the pace of the action - and add in some hilarious jumps for 'telekill' :P
Pal - use Sacrifice and pummel the Shaman, then throw up Holy Fire and start beating on minions, soon all will be cooked or hacked. For the boss, throw up a Resist Cold Aura and a Sacrifice attack. If hurt bad in the middle, turn up Prayer or Defiance (massive AC) for a while.
Necro - He'll have a lil army with him of a Blood Golem, 3-6 skels, and 1-2 Skeleton mages shooting poison and cold. On seeing the shaman, cast 'Amplify Damage' and he's toast - then he sits back and watches minions slaughter fallen. As the skels die, he targets a fallen corpse and raises a replacement. Vs the Cold Boss, he's in great shape. He can stay out of range of the nasty cold blasts, and has
'friends' so their beating on them, not him. Again add Amplify Dmg on Mogadishu, and you'll surely need to re-raise several minions as they die - but it's a losing battle for Moga. :)
Here's one concern now that i've described all this. This plays a LOT like Living-off-the-Land games (NO use of townsfolk whatsoever). Resource usage can be critical. When you find more than you spend (D2: regen and find more), it's pretty much easy. When you spend a LOT more than you find/buy/regen, it's impossible. You need to be at a lvl where the burn rate just about equals the find rate, if you want most challenge and fun.
Other differences from Living-off-the-Land: well, you can buy low strength health pots, and Akara will replenish mana as well as life when you visit her ('Mrs Pepin', hehe). Also, Bars can cast "Find Health Potion" which is great in rough games. Also mana and life regen items are more common and work on bows.