Welcome back to my series on Path of Diablo where I chronicle my first experience with the mod and hobble through as a new player without any gear to speed along the process!
If you missed the first part of the series, you can check that out here.
Before jumping into my experience through Nightmare difficulty, I wanted to go over a few things I found out in between articles.
In Part I of the series, I mention at one point that finding runes for ‘Stealth’ armor was brutal. I wanted to dive a bit more into this for those that may not be familiar with Diablo II and to give more background on that comment.
There are 30 total runes in Diablo II ranging from the most common ‘El’ to the rarest, ‘Zod’. Each of these runes has specific bonuses if socketed into a piece of equipment. For example, if you socket the ‘Tal’ rune into armor, it gives you 30% poison resist. If you socket ‘Eth’, you’ll receive 15% better mana recovery rate. If you socket both ‘Tal’ and ‘Eth’ into a two-socket armor, in that order, you create ‘Stealth’, a runeword that gives you many more bonuses such as faster run/walk, faster hit recovery and faster cast rate. All of that is incredible for a low level character and makes, at least Normal difficulty, much more trivial.
Tal and Eth, though lower, more common runes, can still be difficult to obtain early in Path of Diablo.
‘Stealth’ is one of many lower level runewords that can help you, and always one I aim for. Now that runes and runewords are covered, you may be wondering, where do you get runes? One of the qualities, for better or worse in these types of games, is the item hunt. In general, item drops are random. However, certain enemies, bosses, or zones, have a higher chance of dropping certain items.
‘Stealth’ runeword, incredibly useful in most early builds in Diablo II.
In Diablo II, the Countess, an optional boss in Act I has a higher than usual drop rate for runes. In particular, she has a chance to drop up to six runes per kill in Diablo II, though netting two or three per kill is much more common. In Normal difficulty, The Countess can drop rune numbers 1-8, (Tal is #7 while Eth is #5).
With the drop rate that high, and both ‘Stealth’ runes being in the drop pool, it shouldn’t take more than 2-4 Countess kills to acquire one Tal and one Eth rune so that you can move on.
Path of Diablo does something funky that made me look into this further. During my Act I Normal play through, I did my usual stop off at the Countess to grab Tal and Eth. When I killed her the first time, I received one rune, which was pretty uncommon in my experience. My second kill, same thing, one rune. When I looked into this further after my Normal difficulty run, I found that Path of Diablo is always set to ‘Players 8’ which tells the game that there are 8 players in the same game, as opposed to just yourself.
‘Players 8’ is a command that you can type into single player games to increase the health and difficulty of the monsters you face. What’s also increased, is your experience received and the drop rate for better items. Setting the game to ‘Players 8’ limits the Countess rune drops to one per kill. The caveat to this is that there is a higher chance of rarer rune drops as opposed to many rune drops of lesser rarity.
Overall, it’s a win for you as the player because across the entirety of the game, you get better drops, but for rune hunting on the Countess in particular, it may not be worth it to repeatedly kill her for early rune drops.
Aside from the ‘Players 8’ revelation I had, I also discovered an extra character sheet that shows you a lot of useful information. In Diablo II, you could press ‘C’ to open up your character sheet, listing information like your character name, level, stats, skill damage and more. While housing good information, it really lacked many aspects of, or bonuses from equipment you wore.
Extra character sheet tab, helping inept math users like myself count things for me.
I’ve spoken about faster cast rate a few times already in pertaining to the Druid and casting ravens. In order to get a faster cast time, you need to reach certain breakpoints. Not to dive too much into the numbers, a Druid in human form needs to reach 10% faster cast rate to reach a breakpoint. The next is 19%, then 30%, then 46% and so on. Each breakpoint reached increased the speed of your casts; in this Druid’s case, my ravens that I was constantly needing to throw out.
If I made ‘Stealth’, which nets me 25% faster cast rate, and I found a 10% faster cast rate ring for a total of 35%, I’ve reached that 30% breakpoint and have a ways to go before I hit the next at 46%.
The old fashioned way of figuring out if you reached a breakpoint for faster cast rate among other bonuses, is to scroll over each of your items or charms one by one, then counting in your head for the total. By pressing the ‘8’ key while having the original character tab open, Path of Diablo gives you a new sheet that totals these types of things out for you, something that many modern games now have, including Diablo III.
Phew, now that those bits are out of the way, onto my Nightmare run.
The first thing I was able to do after finding a four-socket long sword, was create a ‘Spirit’ runeword which helped out my Druid dramatically. Along with getting +2 to all skills, you receive a huge boost to faster hit recovery, mana per level and faster cast rate per level. There is also a shield equivalent for ‘Spirit’ but I have been unable to find a four socket shield to create one.
While not being the end-all for this build, ‘Spirit’ features some great bonuses to all skills, faster cast rate, mana and faster hit recovery.
I went into great detail regarding the benefits of the raven changes in Part I of this series, as well as some of the downsides which included constantly renewing your raven total. As you level up your Raven skill to level 20, you increase the amount of ravens that you can summon at one time, maxing out at 20 ravens. This is great, and looks super cool, but I noticed throughout my normal play through that if you go to a different floor in a dungeon or use a town portal, the ravens all disappear.
This wasn’t a huge deal in Normal difficulty because re-summoning less than 10 ravens, while not fun, isn’t a huge deal to re-cast. When you have 20 that you’re trying to maintain to stay effective, it starts hurting. During my Nightmare play through, it became more of a nuisance, especially for areas such as the tower in Act I which has five floors and small layouts.
To dive deeper into this, Flame Dash, the Druid’s teleport, also erases all ravens that are summoned. This one is less forgivable to me. In most cases, it eliminates a lot of time you were trying to save because you then have to stand still and re-cast your ravens to move on. It caused me to use Flame Dash in fewer scenarios and only when I decided it was worth it to have to re-cast 20 ravens.
That being said, ravens are incredibly strong and Nightmare difficulty was largely smooth sailing. After maxing out ravens, I pumped Cyclone Armor, giving ravens a 17% physical damage boost each skill point, while increasing my Druid’s survivability. This was more enough to beat down anything in Nightmare difficulty.
Early in Nightmare, I was still utilizing Werebear before switching to cyclone armor as it leveled up and provided me with more of a defense bonus.
Duriel, who is usually pretty scary and known for one shotting summons and players, predominantly stood still smacking my bear, allowing me to keep summoning ravens until his death. For Mephisto, I lured him to a section of the Durance of Hate Level 3 where he couldn’t physically reach me, and kept re-casting my bear to distract him while ravens pecked away his health.
However, I did experience my Druid’s first death in Act III Travincal when I flamed dashed into a group of council members guarding the Durance of Hate. See previous complaints about Flame Dash above.
Diablo received the same bear treatment, as did Nightmare Ancients and Baal. Baal was the most welcomed change from Normal considering the 20 minute kill time was reduced to about two minutes in Nightmare.
Nightmare Ancients went down without a fight; something that I’m sure will change in Hell difficulty.
Gear-wise, I haven’t really found anything worth noting. I’m still using ‘Stealth’ as my chest armor, recently created ‘Spirit’ as a sword and also created ‘Lore’ for my helmet slot. The rest of my items are scattered magic and rare items.
It will be interesting to see where ravens go from here, and if I continue with them or make the switch to wind/elemental. Hell difficulty features many, many enemies with multiple immunities. If I hit one with physical and cold immunities using this build, it could turn into quite the slog. Particularly, I’m looking at Hell Ancients being a stone wall with three bosses at once, all with a variety of immunities.
Alrighty, thanks for checking out this entry into my Path of Diablo series.
If you want to check out a different Diablo II mod, check out my first thoughts on Median XL Sigma, here.