Diablo III - Demon Hunter Runes Overview
Today we take a look at how the Demon Hunter plays in the latest Diablo III beta update.
Since I saw a lot of comments about how many Diablo 3 fans plan to play Demon Hunter first, I decided to write up a "preview" about the class which I deemed to play last, or so had I thought. Ranged physical (nom-magical) combat is usually the last one I experienced in the Diablo franchise (Rogue in Diablo and Amazon in Diablo II) so I gave it a try. It blew my expectations out of the water. I wouldn't go too far if I said that it is the most overpowered class that I've played in the beta. Ihaven't played Barbarian so far, which is MOST unusual as I adore Brute stuff, but hey… the Monk was available.
So, if the Witch Doctor can be described as a combo of Diablo II's Druid and Necromancer, the Demon Hunter it the cross between Assassin and Amazon. Only more deadly.
For starters, there are three options for weapons. Bows, crossbows and my favorite – two dual-wielding hand crossbows. Bows and crossbows are two-handed (xbows are slower but do more damage - standard stuff), but the game allows you to also equip a quiver as an off-hand item to boost your stats. Also, one thing that sets DH apart from other classes is that you have two energy types worth considering - Hatred and Discipline. Hatred is filled mostly by using primary attack and is consumed by offensive abilities, while Discipline is a slowly regenerating energy source used for defensive and tactical maneuvering.
From this screenshot we can see how the Demon Hunter's skill-tree looks like. There are standard primary and secondary mouse-button bindings, along with four skill schools – Defensive, Hunting, Devices - and last, but not the least – Archery.
As for primary attack, you start with Hungering Arrow. First thing that you notice is - that it is a seeking arrow, meaning you don't have to aim it directly which is more than cool, while the second thing is that it has a chance to pierce target(s!). These two things combine in a really funny way when an arrow pierces a lonely mob, flies in a circle and shoots the mob again from the back. Chance to pierce isn't only limited to one target, so from time to time you shoot your primary attack, minding your own business and out of nowhere comes Massive blow – six targets down while you wonder what the hell did you do? Oooh, you were just filling your Hatred using dual wielding hand crossbows (with bow/xbow this ability is cool, with dual wielding it's just awesome) and looked as two arrows spiraled though the mobs. You can rune it with more chance to pierce or would you prefer to have a chance to split into multiple arrows upon initial impact? Or maybe increased damage with each target pieced? Goody.
Second primary adds the snaring effect to your shots, chaining and damaging two mobs. I found it pretty unnecessary in the beta as mobs die too fast so you don't need the snare ability on the primary attack (you have caltrops anyway); but later on in the game or on higher difficulties I can see this thing being super useful. Runes give the option to chain four mobs, or electrify the chains and do additional damage to affected enemies.
Third primary attack, and last one to be available in the beta is Bola Shot. I mentioned before about DH being overpowered, right? This is when that sweet, sweet feeling creeps in. In real life Bola is a weapon, usually aimed at the ankles, that combines three balls connected with a wire that entangles your foe. In Diablo III it carries an explosive that remains on your foe for a second and then blows up. If you ever had the experience with corpse explosions from Diablo II, imagine something like that, only being more controllable. For example, you encounter a group of six, seven monsters. Put two-three bolas on poor wretches and watch hell break loose. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Only ashes remain…
All hell breaks loose
From time to time it became so funny that I forgot to use my other abilities just trying to get a bigger effect with bola'ed enemies. With Runes you can make the area of explosion wider, change its effect to do poison damage or even make it do additional damage (arcane), but then it takes two seconds to trigger (this could also have it uses). I imagine this kind of primary attack prefers bows/xbows because of higher base damage thus making explosions even deadlier, but it is viable with dual wielding, at least in beta. And remember, this skill is (just) used to fill your hatred!
To spend it on what?
Secondary attacks! So far, from my experience in the beta, these are usually some kind of AoEs (eg. Monk's circle kicks, WD bats/locust/grasp) or in our case – Rapid Fire/Chakrams!
The first unlocked secondary is a throwing knife, runed to stun or snare a mob but not too effective against multiple enemies (at least not in the beginning).
This is where Rapid Fire kicks in. You fire shrapnel that deal less damage but you fire a shitload of them. It is channeled so you a remain stationary target, so use this one in close corridors of the cathedral where mobs come at you in a line and you'll get a lot of Massacre warnings. It also has sick range, so from time to time I fired down the halls and, despite the lack of visual contact with the enemies, found dead bodies somewhere down the line. Can be runed to make fire damage or slow enemies.
Next are chakrams, discs that fly in a circle and slash your adversaries to pieces. Although somewhat uncontrollable, these sharpened circles will cut though anything that comes from opposite direction by usage of sheer numbers as they will fill whole screens. First rune available lets you fire two chakrams simultaneously instead of one (I already managed to „fill“ the screen with three-four of them, imagine that doubled?), next rune makes them spin slower thus enhancing their chance to hit something and some other cheesy stuff.
Chakrams - spinning blades of death
What to spend Discipline energy on? Somehow you managed to find yourself in trouble, surrounded by enemies? Or you are facing a throng of mobs down the path? Use Caltrops, the first skill available from the Defensive skill tree.
Caltrops doing its job
This trap slows your enemies who approach too near thus triggering it and has nice a radius so it can screw quite a few mobs. It uses fairly low amount of discipline so you can set up two-three of them and be secure to rain down Rapid Fire upon the poor lads. Runes enable you to enhance its slowing effect; IMMOBILIZE opponents; damage them or even give you a boost to critical hit chance while standing in the area of effect.
Next available is Smoke Screen, a skill that enables you to vanish from sight for a short amount of time (two seconds), giving you precious time to run from danger and prepare for onslaught. Runes enable you to move quicker during its effect, prolong the duration or even leave poisonous gas in place where you vanish.
If that wasn't enough you have Hunting school at your disposal. Vault enables you to tumble though the mobs with great speed. So my favorite tactic in close quarter became to allow monsters to surround me, lay down caltrop, tumble out of snared enemies and pour Rapid Fire on. I must say I felt sorry for them after such a display of power and efficiency.
Bait them in, trap them, vault out and burn them all
Vault can also be used to shorten the time while exploring the map. Runes enable you to fire while tumbling is in process(!!), Rattling roll rune knockbacks and stuns enemies when you land and the last one enables you to leave a trail of fire as you move. Other skills in the repertoire of Hunting include Preparation which restores all of your Discipline, Raven pet or Marked For Death debuff which increases damage dealt to selected enemy.
After acquiring level 10, as usual you get to choose a passive skill. First one gives you the option to boost your speed for a short period of time after using Vault or Smoke Screen. That made previous example even more embarrassing.
Next passive immobilizes the target of your next attack (available every 10 seconds) which is quite handy as you usually come upon next pack in that time, so you can immobilize toughest target first. Others are even more intriguing but I won't go further into that.
As I said before, synergy of deadly firepower, range, escape abilities and snaring /immobilizing power makes DH way overpowered, at least from my recent glimpse into its gameplay. This will of course change as we progress deeper into Diablo III, but for all you fuckers who will choose this one as your first character – you'll have all your wet dreams come true and even more than that. As for me, I must say I really enjoyed this class even if it wasn't my preferred style; and left me only to wonder what it will look like with addition of Devices and Archery (Multishot!) skill trees.
I saved the biggest rant for the ending, but it has nothing to do with the DH. There was a change in the recent patch which mangled information given about how skills or runes work. If you look at the previous preview you can see that every skill shows how much percentage of damage it does in correlation with your base damage. Or it shows the duration of a skill, eg. two seconds with rune describing how much it prolongs the duration.
Nowadays, we are given just raw information on how skills work and its effects. Same with runes. For example, with WD I knew that my spiders do 16% of my base damage, blowgun does 100% damage with 40% damage as poison for next two seconds, while frogs do 130% damage (primary skills). So I knew exactly how things worked and which skill does more damage. I knew exactly for how long my runes prolong my skill. Or with DH I knew that my base chance to pierce with Hungering Arrow is 32% and with first rune it increases to 50%. Bolas did 110% damage to the target and 70% in burst. Na-a. Not anymore. You have to see it for yourself and you will not know exact numbers. While this is good from one point of view as it rests on your shoulders to test and judge what is better, little min-maxer in me is in uproar (as my friend teases me - numbers, numbers, NUMBERS!!!). I want to know it all, but then again, the little explorer in me says „fuck you buddy, you will not know every little thing and best part is to unravel it by yourself.“
Well, if DH can do it with Hatred and Discipline, I'll have to do it with min-maxer and explorer.