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Diablo at BlizzCon 2015

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Check out our overview of all the Diablo III announcements made at BlizzCon!

 

It would be easy to dismiss Diablo's BlizzCon presence as it certainly wasn't the focus of the show - a brand new game, a fledgling e-sport, and three expansion packs for Blizzard's franchises deservingly eating up the majority of the stage time. For a second year and fourth patch in a row however, the Diablo team ensures that we not only have new free content to enjoy, but is of scope and quality that many other franchises (even within the same company) would be dying to receive.

 
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The reworked Shadow's Mantle will fulfill the melee rogue fantasy in Diablo. 
 

New Items, Sets and Redesigns

 
Loot is what Diablo has always been about, and the major source of excitement in this patch will be no different - tons of item additions and reworks, adding new ways to play or addressing previously unviable or outdated builds. The reworks of old class sets that have been previously hinted at were all present; we are looking forward to redesigns of Might of the Earth, The Legacy of Raekor, Thorns of the Invoker, Armor of Akkhan, Shadow's Mantle, Embodiment of the Marauder, Monkey King's Garb, Raiment of the Jade Harvester, Firebird's Finery - and possibly more! The designer's intention is to bring them all up to the power of sets released in 2.2 and 2.3 through revised set bonuses and complementary items. You can look forward to my impressions in future news posts, as well as detailed guides as soon as content hits the Test Realm!
 
Some non-class specific sets have also been added; Istavan's Paired Blades will apparently grant damage and toughness bonuses alongside their usual attack speed buff, and - more interestingly - the Legacy of Nightmares ring set has been revamped to boost your damage if it's the only set worn. The goal of that redesign is to address the long-standing gripe of the rigid 6 armor pieces set designs, potentially allowing legendary-only builds.
 
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Three new zones expand the universe with self-contained stories.
 

New Zones

 
Continuing and expanding on the example set by 2.3, the upcoming patch will add three new zones with their own look and feel, monsters, and plenty of bounties and events. The Royal Quarters is an Act I zone accessible through the previously blocked stairs in Leoric's Manor; the Eternal Woods is an Act III zone near the Ruins of Sescheron, overrun by the undead; and Greyhollow Island is the mysterious and isolated home to a now-collapsed civilization.
 

Set Dungeons

 
A new, fixed dungeon type will be added in 2.4 - the so called Set Dungeons, each of them tied to one of the 24 class-specific sets and meant to acquaint you with, or better - give you mastery over their respective set. To enter a Set Dungeon, you will have to own the full set and follow in-game clues from a tome in Leoric's Manor to locate the entry portal. Once inside, you will have to complete several unique challenges (i.e. Uliana's set dungeon - kill 21 different enemies at once with Exploding Palm, three times), and optionally, the Mastery challenge - killing all monsters within a time limit. Completion of at least one primary objective will grant you an achievement, mastering the dungeon will grant you another achievement, and completing all mastery objectives for a class awards you with a pennant. Unlocking all pennants awards you with a set of wings. 
 
Personally I find the idea charming, if a bit short-lived for the hardcore audience; it is nevertheless a great way to introduce people to new playstyles, and is an interesting first step into fixed, objective based dungeons outside the campaign - an idea I hope gets expanded upon into future competitive modes.
 

Seasons Revised

 
Perhaps the most significant news about Seasons is the decision to run a fixed length of 3 months for Patch 2.4; this is a length I am particularly satisfied with, since I have been proposing it as early as Season 1 as a good balance between finding great items to push leaderboards with, and combatting staleness of a Paragon farming meta. The team has expressed their intention to fix the 3 months length for all future Seasons, and I hope they do not change their minds.
 
Another step in the right direction is the removal of Season-exclusive items, a move that has been shafting non-Seasonal players time and again so far (Monk players particularly). Participation in Seasons will be (rightfully) incentivized by cosmetic rewards, achievements and the guaranteed reward of a full 6 piece set for the Season Journey completion.
 
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New systems are in place to combat gold inflation and non-challenging runs.
 

Empowering Rifts and Augmenting Items

 
The systems of Empowering Rifts and Augmenting in Kanai's Cube tie into each other, the former providing a fuel for the latter. Empowering Rifts is designed to be a substantial gold sink, speeding up Legendary Gem leveling by offering you an additional chance to upgrade at the cost of a hefty sum. This might seem a weak incentive, but it plays into the augmentation recipe of Kanai's Cube, Caldesann's Despair. The recipe requires an Ancient item and consumes 3 Flawless Royal gems plus a Legendary Gem, adding 5 main stat points per Legendary Gem level (main stat determined by the Flawless Royals you put in).
 
I believe this system is implemented to somewhat combat the endless runs of trivial difficulty GRs, replacing the repetitive dumping into main stat in your Paragon levels. This is further emphasized by the substantially reduced effectiveness of experience gear, with an example of 90% reduced effectiveness for Flawless Royal Rubies, and the shift of focus to 'massacre bonuses' - chained kills of monsters multiply your XP, incentivizing more of the group to run DPS gear instead of passive support builds.
 

UI Changes, Stash Space and Quality Improvements

 
The long-awaited buff bar improvements will arrive in Patch 2.4. Permanently active buffs like Crusader Laws and Monk Mantras will receive a shimmering golden border, notifying you of their effect. Timed buffs from your character's skills will be indicated by a progressively shrinking bar directly above the corresponding skill. Other players' permanent or temporary buffs will be stored into a single, collapsible button on your buff bar. On top of all these improvements, the bar will now hold up to 20 buffs.
 
One of the most commonly requested improvements is a bigger stash space, and will finally be delivered on in 2.4; starting with one additional stash tab as soon as the patch hits, and awarding you with an additional for each Season Journey you complete, up to a maximum of 10 tabs.
 
Damage numbers have been shrunken to their most important digits and give a suffix for their overall value, i.e. 100,000 will be 100K, 1,000,000 will be 1M, and 1,000,000,000 will be 1B. Your biggest crit values will be colored in orange and linger on the screen, giving you a better sense of your highest damage potential.
 
Additional quality of life improvements include: notifying you if an item is already cubed, ability to compare companion items, clarification on the Pools of Reflection effect and an improved visibility of Death's Breaths, including a recolor into teal.
 

Final Words

 
That about covers it for Diablo at BlizzCon 2015 - in my humble opinion, a great deal of changes cranked into a tiny preview window at the event. Given the choice however, I would trade BlizzCon spotlight for the quality work of a dedicated team, and it seems that once again we are in for a (free) treat - I couldn't be more excited about the 2.4 PTR, launching this coming week!
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