Last Monday Jay Wilson randomly announced via Twitter that they had doubled the monster damage for levels 1-13. This kindled a lot of positive feedback in the community as the most common complaint from beta testers seems to be how easy the game is. This notion forced Blizzard into making a promotional video for BlizzCon 2011 to promise players that in the later difficulties they will die, often. Despite that and their justification that the early game is a tutorial and should be treated as such, Blizzard made the call to beef it up.

The swift deployment of beta patch 14 caught us all by surprise as I expected to try these changes out around mid to late March at the earliest, not 3 days after the tweet. Not that I’m complaining, I was really looking forward to seeing how the difficulty has evolved with the sweeping buffs to all of the monsters in the beta.

My first go at the new patch was with a fresh Barbarian. Both the Monk and Barbarian received a passive 30% incoming damage reduction from all sources with this patch, which makes a lot of sense given that they will find themselves in harms way more often than the ranged classes. Blizzard has dabbled in trying to implement game mechanics that are more dangerous for ranged attackers (such as the Mortar modifier) which ultimately didn’t have the desired impact in practice, so this seems like an effective compromise. Although some may argue that 30% is overpowered, it’s likely an arbitrary number that will be adjusted as needed for balance if melee survivability ends up much higher than ranged.

Once I got past the introductory camp phase and onto Old Tristram Road, it was clear that Jay’s tweet and the patch notes weren’t just hot air. This beta test that I could previously play by resting my head on one side of my keyboard and rolling my face to the other and back was actually demanding my attention. The trivial AI found in normal kept the mobs from attacking in any sort of coherant or threatening manner, but the damage output is clearly more dangerous.

Where players will find the most risk will be against rare/champion packs and bosses. One particular scenario comes to mind where I was fighting a rare “Nightmarish” pack and got horrified into a group of champion Grotesque mobs. This was a near-death experience, even with my seasoned StarCraft 2 APM paying dividends in a swift and efficient striking of the Q key to consume a potion. Countless hardcore characters will weep and perish in similar unpredictable situations that different boss modifiers will throw them into, especially in later difficulties where rare packs can roll more than 1 modifier.

The wall shuddered again, and Nobundo cursed the ogre below, who had undoubtedly returned to pummeling the buttress. A second salvo of flaming meteors fell from the sky as Nobundo readied to meet the oncoming crush of attackers. He directed the fury of the Light into the first orc head-on. The green beast’s eyes dimmed, and he crumpled. Nobundo brought the crystal hammerhead down squarely on top of the orc’s skull, then yanked upward and swung left, feeling a satisfying crunch as the orc’s ribs shattered. He twisted and brought the hammer across at a downward arc into the side of another orc’s leg, shattering its kneecap. The beast howled in pain and fell forward off of the rampart. 

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