Hell Part Three
Act V, last act of the game. This had been a painstaking, brutal treck for the Rogue variant team - but that had been the case all throughout Hell difficulty. I had no doubt that the superior firepower of the druid team would see easier going, and I was right.
Bloody Foothills held archers, lots and lots of burning dead archers. Thank goodness those things are immune to poison and not fire. (They're Fire Immune in Nightmare, but Poison Immune in Hell. Does that make any sense? Of course they're something like 90% fire resist in Hell.) Not much Physical Resistance though, so Tornado tore them a new one, once Namarie could get close enough to use it without being pincushioned. I tried to stay close to Namarie in this area, to facilitate the use of Tornado with Shockwave (as in the picture above.)
That contrasted with T-Hawk's use of Fissure, the other great offensive weapon on the team. We often got caught up in a back-and-forth on this particular issue. See, Fissure requires targets to move around in the jets of flame to take damage; a monster that's standing still doesn't take many hits. T-Hawk understandably often didn't want me using Shockwave, while Bearlin_Wall (who was getting unmercifully pounded on the front lines) needed to freeze the enemies in place to ensure his own survival. This was one of the more amusing dynamics of the team that was often going on in the background, even if it wasn't being commented upon. I'm sure there are other things that I'm missing, which hopefully other players can shed light upon in their after-action spot reports.
Here's a battle where everything is working perfectly, the boss pack being held in place while they're torn to bits by Fissure/Tornado. Dathon's wolves are actually fulfilling the most important role at this point, posting up the mob while Jaffa and Teddy off the stray foe in the back lines. A nice example of solid teamwork.
Against enemies in the River of Flame subdungeons, the best strategy was often to cast Teddy across the lava and then hit the mob that was stirred up with Fissure. These frenzytaurs were all Physical Immune, making Fissure the only weapon that could do any real damage to them. Zed's chilling would have been appreciated, but he was missing on this particular occasion. In situations where we couldn't work across a barrier, unlike here, the only choice was to tag the enemies with PMH weapons and then let them run around in the Fissures (not stunning them with Shockwave or some other skill). This was difficult, harrowing work and forced a lot of potion use. The frenzytaurs hit HARD and have a lot of hit points.
And so of course we drew the same monster mix in the Crystalline Passage! Now this boss was even worse from a defensive perspective, because in addition to being Immune to Physical he also drew the Magic Resistant and Mana Burn boss affixes, each of which add elemental resistance. He was probably something like 90% resistant to all elements, in addition to being Physical Immune. Dathon eventually broke out the Lower Resist curse charges, which sped things up immensely. Perhaps not dangerous in terms of druids getting killed here, but a tough fight nonetheless for different reasons.
Poor Zed was almost useless in the Frozen River, with so many enemies turning up Immune to Cold. (That's one weakness of these elemental variant teams in D2X: sometimes, certain builds are rendered useless by the monster immunities. Both T-Hawk and Namarie were also superfluous at various points in time.) However, Frozenstein's mob was highly vulnerable to fire and physical damage, so they went down very quickly.
The Halls of Pain featured quill rats and blowdart fetishes. While that might seem innoculous, the air quickly became so full of missiles that dodging was impossible. This boss in particular was very, very dangerous - Cursed/Extra Strong meant he was doing something like 5x normal damage, and Extra Fast meant that the quill rat spines were firing nonstop. Even Bearlin_Wall with his 4500 life couldn't tank against this boss for more than a few seconds at a time before needing to retreat to let potions work. This was one of the rare fights where druids actually died, and it took several minutes of hard effort to clear out all of the monsters.
Speaking of taking damage... do you have any idea how long it takes to refill a life orb with more than 4000 hit points using red potions? You can't drink purples for everything, so Bearlin_Wall was downing the reds like a serious cocaine addict most of the time. I usually had to drink two or three at a time to achieve anything too! A lot of time was spent just standing around, waiting for the life orb to refill itself oh so slowly. This was my first time experiencing something like this, and it was definitely something different.
Nihlathak and his pets, encountered as a large mob. After killing off these clowns, we cornered the traitor and beat him with all sorts of spells/melee attacks until he finally died. Dathon contributed significantly with Lower Resist again. Nihlathak made me look like a fool when I called out "We've got him!" only to see him teleport away to the other side of the room. Heh. Screw you, Nihlathak.
The Frozen Tundra was full of these death maulers, who also turned up Physical Immune. Argh. By the end of Act V it was clear that this was the worst immunity for the team, because against Fire Immunes we could still count on damage from Jaffa, Viking's Teddy, and Bearlin_Wall (along with Tornado). With Shadow having to retire from the team, we were down to just T-Hawk and Zed against the Physical Immunes, and Zed often was running late to our sessions. We were going to reroll this map, actually, until T-Hawk arrived (after posting that he wouldn't be able to make this night), after which the monster draw became playable. Of course, that was after I had braved life and limb to run and secure the waypoint with Bearlin_Wall...
Since we now had a full team, it was the right time to target the Ancients:
All three of them turned up Fire Enchanted, and thus Fire Immune. (Whoops, sorry T-Hawk!) You can see the splatters on the ground where Madawc and Korlic exploded upon death, as all FEBs do. The good news is that none of the Ancients turned up Physical Immune, and Tornado proved to be quite effective against them. We brought enormously more red and blue potions to the fight than proved necessary, as usual. Still, why not? All they cost is gold, and gold is almost useless in D2.
None of the floors in the Worldstone Keep were particularly dangerous or noteworthy. We cleared the first two on a night when dathon and Namarie were missing, and considered doing Worldstone 3 as well... only to head down there and run screaming from Abyss/Oblivion Knights (Immune to Fire, and Fissure was providing all the offense). The only other significant thing to report is that in our absolute last session of the team variant, Bearlin_Wall ran ahead to try and find the stairs down to Worldstone 3... and got swarmed and killed by a huge mob. The very last time I had to do a stairs/waypoint run! This was Bearlin_Wall's first death in Hell difficulty, at the absolute very last point in time where it could occur.
There were Oblivions in the Throne of Destruction though, including quite a few bosses like the one above. Along with vampires raining down meteors, this was a fun draw for the last area. The biggest danger was the Oblivion use of Iron Maiden curse, which nearly did in Bearlin_Wall and did result in a death for Jaffa. (The faster you swing, the harder it is to avoid killing yourself when suddenly hit with IM.) Aside from this minor issue, the druid team handled the area flawlessly, despite some real hairballs at times. By now, everyone knew how to work together within the roles that best fit their character builds.
We fought all the endgame bosses right at the Throne, with no need to retreat (it's nice having area of effect spells!) The Lister fight:
Lower Resist couldn't break the Fire Immunity on Lister or his minions, but that just meant that Tornado was the star of the show here. With Teddy and the wolves doing a fine job of holding the minions in place, Namarie was able to get right up in their faces and cast away. After quite some time (Lister has loads and loads of hit points), the mob was dead and it was time for the final boss.
Baal is always a restless foe, not only walking around constantly but teleporting when he gets cornered. One thing I've noticed is that he seems to fare poorly against large teams, as opposed to single characters. I think that the AI doesn't quite know how to react to swarming attacks like the one you see above. Dathon kept hitting him with Lower Resist, and everyone else piled on their various forms of attack.
Zed arrived halfway through the fight (just in time!) and Baal seemed to become even more feeble once chilled. Apparently his AI has even greater problems when he's been chilled or stunned; whatever the case, Baal stopped doing much of anything once under the influence of Arctic Blast. In terms of ending the game, it was definitely anti-climactic. I still maintain that Baal is a big wuss next to Diablo, who at least makes things interesting with his charge attack.
Game complete. The Nature's Cabal team full-cleared the entire game end to end on all three difficulties, with no areas left incomplete. It was quite a journey, with some very fine teamwork and few deaths throughout Hell difficulty. But there was still one more piece of unfinished business to deal with:
I don't really consider the Secret Cow Level to be part of the game, but rather a side area in which to screw around for fun. And screw around we did:
Zed and Namarie broke out their synergized Hurricane skills, T-Hawk fooled around with Volcano, and dathon pulled out all the stops with a full fireworks show: continous castings of Poison Nova, Bone Spear, Bone Spirit, Meteor, and even TEETH! (see insert) It was all a good laugh, and a fine sendoff for the druid team. We cleared the whole Secret Cow Level with no deaths, and no need for any parking maneuvers either. A major improvement over the visit there in Nightmare!
The druid team began its journey on June 6, 2007 and killed Hell Baal on May 21, 2008 - almost exactly one year in duration. We played one session each week with few interruptions, something on the order of about 45 overall. It was quite a ride, and I can't thank everyone who participated enough for their many hours of time and devotion. I'm sure you had fun as well, and maybe I'll see you again down the road for Diablo 3 (?) It's going to be made eventually!
The following page is devoted to individual commentary from each player.