2003-10-15 16:31:10 UTC
I arrived in act 4 of Hell at clvl 79. My first impression was, "Wow,
it's hard!". There is a significant increase of monster difficulty
between the critters in act 3 and those in act 4. This may seem rather
obvious, but even Crushing Blow seemed less reliable. I actually
wonder if Crushing Blow is less efficient if monsters have some kind
of physical resistance? Maybe I was just unlucky, but it's noteworthy
that I had an easier time killing Izual than a random Abyss Knights
My first trip to the Outer Steppe introduced me to the annoyances
known as Flesh Spawners and Corpse Spitters. The latter are immune to
poison, and seem to have physical resistance also, never stand still
and throw up all over you, making this not only tedious but also
painful. Flesh Spawners can be kept at bay with Cloak of Shadows (they
won't produce young when blinded), but each group of them, with a pack
of babies, is always a click fest.
After clearing the steppe the first time, I was rather fed up with my
character. Too little damage, too much clicking, slower experience and
just a feeling of stillstand. I took a break from act 4 and went back
to acts 1 and 3, just for fun and loot. Lower Kurast was easy and I
could play here on players 2 without too much trouble, and act 1 was
fun because of the large number of boss packs. I gained one and a half
a level, and made the decision to sink twenty points into Claw
Mastery. 1.10 grows on you, and act 1 looks a lot better once you get
the hang of the new Hell difficulty.
Okay, so now, why Claw Mastery? If you've read my older Beta Reports,
this may almost seem like a change of heart, but it's actually more
like the "best of the available choices". Essentially, this character
build really only needs 20 Venom, 20 Shadow Master, 1 in CoS, Fade,
Death Sentry and Mindblast. That, and a good amount of Crushing Blow.
The rest is optional and you can either max DS and LS, or get Dragon
Talon, or Dragon Claw, or a fire trap, or Weapon Block and Fade, and
My reasoning behind maxing Claw Mastery is that I'd like to be
flexible in the choice of my weapon. I'd like to be able to use the
weapon that is most appropriate for a situation. In some places,
especially in multiplayer, this promises to be a Crescent Moon weapon
with its Static Field and the ITD, in other areas a Chaos claw (which
doesn't have ITD) would be the better choice. Also, ITD doesn't work
on bosses, so having a potent claw with the hefty AR bonus from Claw
Mastery is decent option. Down the road, I'd like to replace my Malice
claw with a Fury elite claw, if I ever find the runes needed for Fury.
In Hell, I've also noticed an inrease of the killing speed, because I
need fewer tries to initially hit a monster (when the effects of the
Malice runeword kick in). The increased physical damage and the higher
chance to land a critical hit (which works with Blade Fury, it's
treated like a melee attack) is a bonus, though the purpose of maxing
Claw Mastery is getting the AR bonus.
In previous discussions about this topic, it seemed that a lower Claw
Mastery (slvl 10-12) might be sufficient, but I don't think it's
feasable. At clvl 81, with 4350 AR (the result of a slvl 24 Claw
Mastery, 460 AR from charms and equipment, and 141 dex after
equipment), I only had a 67% chance to hit monsters in the Chaos
Sanctuary. This isn't a lot and there's a clear, definite and
noticable difference between 67% and 89% that I have in act 1/hell.
67% "feels" far more sluggish and is a bit frustrating. Anyway, the
point is that AR is important for this build, unless you only use ITD
weapons, but then you have a problem with bosses. Without Claw
Mastery, the chance to hit is a little over 40%, by the way. I'm
actually tempted to get more dexterity than I had planned.
Speaking of dexterity -- after a discussion in AGD2 I decided to go
with two claws for the "claw mode" mode (and weapon/shield for
Crescent Moon mode, provided I ever find an Um rune, which I still
haven't). This means lower dexterity, at least so I thought before I
saw the pitiful attack rating in act4/hell, and more points for life,
but more importantly, it gives me some attributes of the off-hand
claw. Or one mod in particular: the 25% Crushing Blow of a Strength
runeword (Amn Tir) claw. Euqipping that claw gives me a 58% Crushing
Blow chance (Goblin Toe, crafted gloves, Strength claw in the
off-hand). Makes a noticable difference, too.
In claw/claw mode, I lose the resistances that the shield offers, and
that cuts into my protection quite a bit. It also might mean a
moderate investment into Weapon Block (~10, to get 50%). On the
upside, Weapon Block now also blocks certain elemental attacks such as
lightning bolts of LEBs, something shield blocking doesn't do. I'm not
quite sure whether I'll put points into Weapon Block. It's currently
at 1+4, which grants a 42% blocking chance. Well, when I find the set
Winged Helm and the +2 from the Harlequin Crest, I probably should put
a few points here. Right now, after maxing Claw Mastery, I have 17
unused skill points. I haven't decided yet, but a few will probably go
to each Fade, Death Sentry and Weapon Block.
Anyway, back to act 4 in Hell. I was extremely lucky that I didn't get
gloams in the Plains of Despair. Just more corpse spitter types, Venom
Lords and so on. Izual was surprisingly easy. He died so quickly, I
suspect that Crushing Blow worked on him -- or he just has a whole lot
less hitpoints. So, these were two easy skill points. The City of the
Damned was packed with Abyss Knights, happily throwing elemental
projectiles at me. Cloak of Shadows worked on them, so they weren't
more than papertigers that quickly died to Crushing Blows and Venom.
Experience in these areas seemed "okay", but things clearly slowed
down at 80.
The River of Flames was the most tedious, most annoying experience in
this character's career so far. The mix I got was as bad as possible:
Abyss Knights, Grotesques and Blood Maggots. It's not that any of them
were difficult, but the sheer number of tiny, little critters and the
inability of Blade Fury to pierce made this a long, boring and
frustraing trip. I found the waypoint before the forge, and as soon as
I was there, I exited the game and went to read a book. The next day I
went back to act 1 a bit for hunting boss packs and clearing out the
caves. Eventually I went back to act 4 and looked for the Hellforge.
This time, I got maggots (but fewer), Stormriders and Urdars. Judging
by the damage my Shadow Master took, the Urdars hit very, very hard.
I'm glad I wasn't a melee character.
Near the forge I ran into a uniqe Urdar who was extra fast, extra
strong, cursed and I think had spectral hit. He actually outran me. I
had 36% faster run, so not very fast for an assassin, but I wasn't
going to drop Fade for BoS, not with a spectral hitter hot on my
heels. When he was on me, I remembered to use Mindblast and pushed him
back while recasting the Shadow Master in front of him. Had to recast
her a few times. Surprisingly, my fire arrow rogue didn't die during
this at all. She rocks hard, despite not having a special bow (she's
only good with knockback). The Urdar eventually bit it. Thankfully he
wasn't poison immune or PI.
Hephastos, the smith at the Hellforge, was surprisingly easy. I don't
remember his enchantments, he was -that- unspectacular. The Shadow
Master tanked him without a recast. Did I mention how awesome the
Shadow Master is? She's even great in act 5, but this is for my next
spot report. The Urdar boss was definitely harder than the smith.
Perhaps just luck, I don't know. The Hellforge spit out a MAL rune for
my troubles. Wish it had been an UM, and I also wish we could
downgrade runes (turn a MAL into two UMs). Still, nice reward
It was time for the Chaos Sanctuary. As expected, Oblivon Knights
don't stop casting under the influence of CoS, but it did seem to
lower their defense. The monsters in here weren't hard, but killing
was relatively slow. I had hoped it would be easier. It's hard to
describe in what way it was slow -- things felt "sticky", probably due
to the relatively low to-hit chance. I also ran out of mana a few
times and had to carry a row of mana potions. The Grand Vizier died as
quickly as he always does.
Lord de Seis' pack has changed. His minions are no longer Oblivon
Knights, but Doom Knights. This means that not only Cloak of Shadows
works on them, but they can also be converted with Mindblast. This is
an awesome change. I just spammed Mindblast until three or four of
them attacked their own boss (and soaked up his attacks) while I threw
blades into him. He was so easy, not even my merc or Shadow Master
died. He also didn't drop anything. I was a bit wary about the
Infector of Souls, since the fire breath of Venom Lords really, really
hurts in 1.10, so I hoped the pack wouldn't run me over. Mindblast and
CoS prevented that, and he, too, bit the dust without much trouble.
I was very close to level 81 before Diablo, so I went to the Outer
Steppe for a few minutes and leveled up there. Just in case Big D slew
me. I know, it's such a softcore mentality, but losing experience *is*
the worst that can happen to you in softcore! :)
Now it was time for Diablo. I switched out the Strength claw in the
off hand for the Tiamat's and put a cheesy 6% fire resist small charm
into my inventory, so that I had about 25% fire resist, with Fade on.
Diablo killed both my Shadow Master and merc within a few seconds, but
at least I got in a few blades in and took down his defense a bit.
Then he boneprisoned me. This never happened to me in 1.09, maybe I
was just lucky, but he's never done more than prison my portals. Well,
this time he prisoned my character and started baking me in my undead
cage. I recast the Shadow Master and began to franatically attack the
bone prison while quaffing two full rejuvs.
Made it out just when the Shadow Master folded again. Phew. After this
incident it was just running in circles, throwing blades, recasting
Shadow Master and quaffing potions. The floor fire hurt quite a bit,
but there weren't any really close calls (950 life). Two minutes later
he went back to Hell and I was left with a bunch of rares, none of
which was even worth keeping. Doing the entire Chaos Sanctuary took 35
minutes. That's on players 1. Good or bad? I don't know, I haven't
played any other characters through 1.10 Hell. Seeing how safe it was,
though, I think that's not so bad.
I entered act 5 in Hell difficulty at level 81. Without redoing areas,
I would have been 79 or 80 at this point. Without experience runs,
this is actually pretty good. Lessons learned in act 4: nothing new!
Claw Mastery proved to be a good choice, and CoS and Mindblast are the
Assassin's best skills in 1.10. But, we knew that since nightmare! :)
More about act 5 in a few days, or a week. I'm wary of the Ancients
and don't think I can currently take them.