Bearly Visible was the first character that I played in Diablo 2 Resurrected and the variant with the zoomed-in camera was a perfect way to experience the updated artwork. The visuals are so much better in D2R that it's almost hard to believe how good the old game looks with the new coat of paint. I kept discovering small details that had been impossible to notice in the original game since the artwork didn't run at the same resolution. For example, the Druid character model has a ponytail to hold back his long hair and I never noticed that before. (It was part of the concept artwork but not part of the actual game.) This was intended to be more of a journey of discovery than a serious variant and I hoped that it would be a relaxing way to play the game.
The early stages of Normal Act One were as easy as usual despite having the restricted camera visibility. Bearly Visible beat monsters to death with his club while waiting for the arrival of his Werebear skill at CLVL 6. I discovered right away that the game was beautiful to experience but it was tough to see what in the world was actually going on. Frequently I could hear the sound of enemies somewhere nearby without being able to see them. Shamans were particularly difficult to deal with because they would be reviving the fallens and Bearly Visible had no idea where they were! I ended up having to track their fireballs backwards to discover the location of the actual shamans. Cold Enchanted proved to be the worst boss modifier early on since Bearly Visible's attack speed dropped to non-existent when he was chilled. Coldcrow was the first difficult opponent and highlighted the need for Cannot Be Frozen equipment down the road somewhere.
The initial skill points went into Lycanthropy for lack of other options, followed by Werebear once it became available, with Bearly Visible then leveling up the two of them simultaneously afterwards. Lycanthropy added to health while Werebear added to damage and the duration of the transformation; both of them were definitely needed for this character build. Early stat points were split between Strength and Vitality with a bit more in Strength since Druids only start with 20 points there. Bearly Visible gained his Rogue mercenary Abhaya once he completed the Blood Raven quest and I found that she was helpful in terms of spotting monsters out of vision range. I would often notice the Rogue start firing away at things that I couldn't see and then follow the arrows towards the next opponent. I gave Abhaya a Hunter's Bow with three sockets and stuck in some chipped rubies/emeralds/sapphires to add various types of elemental damage for the time being. Bearly Visible was using a rare Scepter that had 19% enhanced damage on it which was the best weapon he'd managed to turn up for the moment.
Maul unlocked as a skill at CLVL 12 and I placed a single point into it. The plan was to max Werebear and Lycanthropy first before coming back to Maul to max it out later. Bearly Visible didn't have enough mana to use Maul on every attack yet (nor did he have any mana leech on his gear) so I found myself mixing some Maul swings with normal auto attacks. D2R really needs a tooltip here: there's no indication on when Maul will time out and need to be refreshed, no numerical indicator of how many stacks are in play currently, only the swirling green orb. There's also no tooltip for how long the werebear transformation will last either and I found myself refreshing the skill constantly out of fear that Bearly Visible would revert back to his weak human form at a critical moment during combat. Diablo 3 has spoiled me in this regard with its many small icons indicating the duration of every stackable ability.
I tend to take a look of screenshots while playing and the zoomed-in camera allowed me to capture some incredible moments at times. D2R has an amazing level of detail that gets missed when playing the game at the much more reasonable default zoom. I love how this image was taken at exactly the right moment to experience the shaman collapsing backwards as a spray of gold coins fountained outwards from its body. In gameplay terms, Bearly Visible didn't run into anything particularly dangerous or challenging during the back half of Act One. He upgraded to a Crystal Sword that had equivalent damage but faster attack speed and that was about the only notable find. I did notice that the spiders in the Catacombs were absolutely enormous when seen up close; those things were downright terrifying and I am very glad that nothing like them exists in real life! Andariel didn't rise to the level of being a threat and Bearly Visible tanked her down without trouble.
Lut Gholein at the start of Act Two had significantly better equipment for sale and Bearly Visible switched over to using a two-handed Voulge with 44% enhanced damage and 5% lifesteal. That was clearly better than anything else that he had available at the moment and I found myself going with mostly two-handed weapons to take advantage of the extra damage. That may have been a mistake since Bearly Visible did plenty of damage already and a shield would have been helpful for extra safety even without Dexterity for blocking. Anyway, there was a beetle boss pack immediately outside the entrance of the city which was genuinely dangerous and forced some (minor) rejuv drinking, killing the Rogue mercenary and Oak Sage with their sparks. I found that the Oak Sage fared poorly against beetles any time that they appeared; it had been holding up pretty well against most opponents but not against threats that could fill the screen with projectiles.
Normal Act Two was mostly a case of steady progress without much in the way of real danger. The average monster died in one or two swings from Bearly Visible and he had so much life in werebear form that it was almost impossible to die. I had to drink a ton of red potions just like my Nature's Cabal druid and it often felt as though I was back playing Bearlin Wall once again. Life never fell very far (almost never going below 350/450 HP in Act Two) but Bearly Visible had to drink potions constantly to stay topped off. I was slowly improving at using Maul over time, a skill that I had never used on previous character, getting better at keeping the stacks up indefinitely by interspersing Maul uses with normal autoattacks. Having more total mana as Bearly Visible's level increased also helped here. As for the monsters, beetles were the most dangerous opponents simply because of their sparks. Greater mummies were easier to track down than shamans by following their unholy bolt projectiles backwards to their position; these were more visible and faster-moving than the similar shaman fireballs. Resurrecting undead weren't much of an issue because Bearly Visible could walk right into the middle of rooms and kill the greater mummies without worrying about the damage he was taking.
I followed my normal path through Act Two by racing to the Horadric Cube as fast as possible and then went back for Radament and the Sewers afterwards. Along the way, Bearly Visible turned up his first Tal rune and created a Stealth armor. Even though Stealth is better for casting characters, it was still far superior to anything else that I could purchase in the stores at this stage of the game. The outdoor desert areas continued to be easy outside of the occasional beetle boss pack; amusingly, they curved around so that the Valley of the Snakes wound up being close to the Palace as the crow flies, if not as the bear walks. I didn't even get a screenshot of Fangskin since the speedy snake died in two swings of the werebear's paws.
The Summoner was actually kind of dangerous! I didn't expect to meet him in the first quadrant of the Arcane Sanctuary and Bearly Visible didn't have any cold resistance. The Summoner amusingly died in a single Maul swipe but put a hurting on my character with cold element damage during the approach. It can be tough playing an all-melee character in Diablo 2 as the game still remains enormously biased in favor of ranged builds. The path through the False Tombs saw a lot of Bearly Visible standing in doorways to limit the number of monsters that could attack him at one time. Fights were lively without being particularly dangerous. I also captured the artwork when opening up Duriel's chamber in the True Tomb and it looked pretty awesome. Everything looks a bit like a watercolor painting when viewed close up in D2R.
The fight against Duriel did not go very well. I was planning on drinking reds from inventory but he did far more damage than the slow red potions could keep up. I ended up having to rely entirely on purples and tanked through the fight while going through 7 full rejuvs. This was a failure from a tactical perspective and I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do about the act end bosses as they scaled up in damage on the higher difficulties. I needed to do better on a return trip in Nightmare; Bearly Visible really needed to turn up Cannot Be Frozen gear somewhere to stop attack speed from dropping to a crawl. Thank goodness for the Rogue mercenary who survived the whole battle and probably did 80% of the damage!
This led me to a stray thought about the whole character build: Bearly Visible really wasn't intended to be a solo character. This build would be infinitely more viable with a larger party or even with as little as one other human player who could stay at a distance and DPS in safety while the werebear tanked. I was trying to bring about that gameplay by using the Rogue mercenary but those things tend to be pretty dumb and can't ever be the substitute for a real person controlling their own character. Now obviously that would never be possible since Bearly Visible was an offline character who didn't live on Battle.net's servers but it would have been nice if possible. Oh well.
By contrast, the jungles of Act Three were easy as usual. The first two outdoor areas were especially routine thanks to lots of open space and weak-hitting opponents. The Flayer Jungle was a tricky area though as Bearly Visible ran the risk of getting swarmed by too many flayers. I had to drink a rejuv off belt once when there were too many of them. Shockwave unlocked at CLVL 24 and was very helpful at running out of dangerous situations using the area of effect stun. One point in that skill was plenty for the moment as Shockwave was needed only for the crowd control and not for damage. In terms of equipment, I was able to gamble a very nice rare Maul that had 32% enhanced damage along with +9 to minimum damage for a total base value of 39 to 65. After getting fed through the Werebear and Maul modifiers that was coming out to several hundred damage per swing, enough to continue downing most foes in one or two attacks. Bearly Visible also found Sander's Taboo set gloves which had 20% increased attack speed and +40 life on it, excellent stuff! Unfortunately the gloves had a level requirement of 28 which meant that they had to remain in stash for the time being.
None of the temples in Kurast were particularly bad, no stairs traps for once. Undead flayers were annoying and forced lots of red potion drinking but didn't do enough damage on Normal difficulty to be too dangerous. I didn't hit the next real threat until reaching the Council at the end of Travincal:
The Council members were legitimately tough opponents. Their Hydras killed the Oak Sage immediately and I couldn't keep it alive for any length of time. The Council also liked to target my Rogue hireling and she died several times. Cold Enchanted on Toorc was particularly bad news, I had to pull retreating moves to split up the Council members and their minions to kill them. All of this was doable but required some legwork to pull apart the Council and defeat them one at a time. Then Bremm rolled a Holy Freeze aura down at the bottom of Durance 3 which was also really bad, I had to park him at the stairs and return by portal to kill the Blood Lord vampires, with Abhaya dying again, then finally defeat the sparking boss by himself. These were tough fights made more problematic that I couldn't see what in the heck was going on half the time. It wasn't exactly fun to have meteors dropping down out of the sky without even knowing where the vampires calling them happened to be.
Mephisto was extremely easy by contrast and barely even worth mentioning. It's crazy how much easier he is than Duriel; I don't think that the designers intended one of the hardest bosses to be located at the end of Act Two but that's the reality. Bearly Visible was able to get up in Mephisto's face where the demon relies on his weak melee attack and where I kept drinking red potions with no need for any rejuvs. I did shift gear around slightly to get up to 50% cold resist and I'm sure that helped. This is one of the few places in Diablo 2 where cold resistance is actually useful as opposed to the constant need for fire and lightning resistance everywhere.
The Outer Steppes at the outset of Act Four could be slightly difficult when large groups of enemies swarmed me. The Oak Sage once again had a terrible survival rate here against the Venom Lord infernos since it was too stupid to dodge properly. I did discover that Oak Sage can be recast in werebear form though - for some reason I thought the Druid had to be human to use the skill. Nope! The Plains of Despair and City of the Damned were both much easier. Izual took some time to kill but represented no danger; just keep drinking red potions until he drops. He was the first opponent I hit with Prevent Monster Heal item on weapon slot 2 to make sure that there was no monster regen in play. I also found my first Ort rune in the Plains of Despair and created the Zephyr runeword for the Rogue hireling. The base item was a Short Battle Bow so the raw damage was poor but the real benefit of Zephyr is the increased attack speed and 1-50 lightning damage. I figured that Abhaya could use this for a while until the lightning damage eventually became obsolete. It was definitely better than her previous bow with three flawed gems socketed inside and Rogue damage went up noticeably.
The River of Flame wasn't particularly difficult and Bearly Visible was able to knock out the Hellforge quest in straightforward fashion. I wanted to include at least one picture from this area because it looks downright amazing in D2R with the sea of lava swirling around sluggishly in the background. The River of Flame is my favorite place in the whole game from a strictly visual perspective here in D2R. That led up to the Chaos Sanctuary where everything went well in terms of clearing out the place and defeating the seal bosses. I thought that I might have to portal park the Infector and it proved not to be necessary as Bearly Visible tanked the front end of the Venom Lord mob while Abhaya shot them down. That left Diablo as the last opponent remaining:
The battle against Diablo went even worse than the previous encounter with Duriel. I tried to out heal the damage from Diablo with red potions and they proved to be woefully insufficient, lots of running around in circles (where I was unable to see Diablo!) while waiting on health to refill. The Rogue was useless and died instantly to the boss, and that was a real problem because Abhaya had been doing a huge portion of the damage against both Duriel and Mephisto where she was able to fire away in safety. This turned into a long and slow and dangerous fight. I ran into trouble when I kept weapon swapping to hit Diablo with the Prevent Monster Heal weapon on weapon tab two. What I didn't realize was that swapping weapons would change the skill hotkeys on right mouse button. When Diablo was almost dead, I swapped weapons and this changed the skill hotkey from Maul (W) to Werebear (Q). I tried to hit Diablo with a Maul attack and instead swapped back into human form... just in time to eat a full Lightning Breath of Doom attack and die like an idiot.
Argh!!! Why did the game have to work like this?! I was caught completely off guard by this happening, suddenly my right click skill had changed from Maul to Werebear without me hitting any of the hotkeys at the worst possible time. It was the unplanned reversion to human form that had gotten me killed here and I never would have died otherwise. I was furious at myself for letting this happen even though my unfamiliarity with how weapon swapping works was largely responsible for the disaster. This was even dumber because Diablo was about 90% dead if you look at his lifebar in the screenshot above. I could have easily stood in place tanking his damage while drinking rejuvs rather than trying to do the whole fight with red potions. In fact, as soon as Bearly Visible revived and reclaimed his gear, he walked right back to Diablo and three or four more hits killed the demon lord just like that:
What a messy fight this had been. Furthermore, the problems with Diablo spoke to larger issues with the whole variant: I really had no good way to kill the act end bosses aside from meleeing them and that didn't feel viable longterm. This was a neat idea to check out the new D2R graphics but pretty clearly not a viable character build for higher difficulties. And with Bearly Visible having already died once and made it through the first four acts, I didn't feel much of a compulsion to keep playing further. I had already seen everything aside from Act Five (which has always been my least favorite act in the game) and this was a marvellous way to experience the new artwork up close and personal. However, I've learned over time that I'm much better at playing ranged characters than melee characters and I think that I'd rather try out some other character builds that I've never done than continue further with this one. As neat as it was to see the updated visuals once, I can't say that I wanted to keep going through repeated playthroughs of the game with this tiny frame of view. It turns out to be genuinely quite hard to play the game from this perspective!
I'm sorry that this character didn't make it further, sometimes things work out that way. These games are intended to be for fun and there's no real point in continuing onwards if the variant has hit the point where it ceases to be entertaining. Think of this as a Hardcore character who met his end against Diablo. Until next time, thanks again for reading along!