This Paladin report was written in December 1999, after Diabloii.net's visit to Blizzard North. It was the most comprehensive Amazon coverage ever, to that point. It's hopelessly outdated at this point, of course, but can still be read for archival value.
We had always known it would be "our duty" to play each of the characters in Diablo II. And we decided that rather than going for a character that already appealed to us on paper, we'd put our faith in Blizzard's 'fun-factor' pledge and take the reins of one of the less appealing [to us] characters. And so there was a mental toss up between the Barbarian and Paladin. One point of thought was that, not being much of a "mum, look at my big muscles" fan, we could opt for the Holy Warrior. We have to say, though, that our preconceptions of the Barbarian being a bit of a 'blouse' were way off the mark [as you can read in our Barbarian report], and our opinion of the Paladin was greatly improved by playing him as well.
The Paladin is the epitome of 'team player', his auras are your auras in effect. As long as you stay in range of an aura'ed Paladin you'll benefit from whichever defensive or offensive aura he has activated at that time, whether that's healing himself with Prayer or Cleansing himself of poisoning effects. Stick by him and you've got yourself a free lunch. That's not to say that the Holy Knight's uses in the field extend only to that of a good Samaritan, he's a warrior after all and has at his disposal an entire tree dedicated to enhancing his combat skills.
Just as with the other characters, who have many ways in which to play them, there is more than one way to play the Paladin. One route to follow is to concentrate on his Combat Skills and, coupled with a lot of investment in good equipment, develop him solely as a Mighty Warrior, and a Warrior, we might add, with the ability to heal himself.
Another route to explore is to have him develop his Combat Skills but mix in some Offensive Auras as well, so he has a melee and ranged attack, but still basically relies solely on equipment to provide the defensive protection.
A third way is to focus almost exclusively on the Defensive Auras and serve as a Healer and Protector for a friendly group. (Remember with this option that with the benefits of Shared Experience, the Paladin will still attain levels up and skill points even when serving in a mostly non-combatant role.)
One other option is to use Defensive Auras for protection and equipment for his offense. And a final way is to play an "across the board Paladin" and invest in both Offensive and Defensive Auras, as well as hone his combat skills.
Basics on Auras
Auras are intangible halos of magical effects which emanate from the Paladin affecting all those they come into contact with, either positively or negatively, depending on the aura and in the case of other players, the Player Setting. Adding points to auras will increase the duration, radius and strength of the aura's effect and sometimes the mana used to cast it. The radius for all auras increased as such: Level 1 = 4 yards, Level 2 = 8.6, Level 3 = 10, Level 4 = 11.3 and Level 5 = 12.6 yards. Below is a selection of images which illustrates the variations in graphical appearances.
Mana is needed to cast an aura but no mana is drained once it is activated [with one exception detailed below]. If another player is within the radius of the aura and thus affected by it [positively or negatively], no mana will be drained from the Paladin. Other friendly players [and their minions] will reap the same benefits from an aura that the Paladin does. So for example, with Might at a Slvl of 3, the aura will increase damage dealt by each affected player by 70%. Of course that's 70% of their individual damage potential, not everyone inflicting an additional 70% of the Paladin's damage capabilities. All players [and in some cases, foes] affected by an aura will have the same glowing graphic circling their feet which will appear after a short time delay in the case of other friendly players.
One aura works in a slightly different way from all others. Prayer will not only require mana to cast but will continue to deplete mana whilst it is activated. The mana used for Prayer will not increase if other friendly players are within range and benefiting from it. This is something that was previously cause for concern. If a Paladin was in mid-battle with Prayer activated to keep his health up, and some friendly players came into range of the aura, could we find our Paladin dead on the floor before he had time to realise his mana was suddenly depleting faster? Thankfully, and quite rightly so, this isn't the case. No extra mana usage regardless of how many other players are affected by the aura.
The Paladin can only have one aura active at a time. Casting another aura will replace whichever one he has active at the time with the new one. As auras are classed as Passive skills, they do not cast like the Necromancer's curses, which are readied first then cast with the mouse button. As soon as auras are readied in the right skill button they are automatically cast. Changing auras with the use of your assigned hotkey or selecting from the 'S' menu will replace the aura after a second or two. Multiple auras by more than one Paladin can stack though. We didn't test this out at Blizzard as there was only one Paladin in the multiplayer games. However, we do know that if one Paladin casts, for example, Might and another casts Holy Fire and they are within range of each other's auras, the auras will stack and the benefits of both [increased damage and fire damage] will be reaped. This of course applies to non-Paladin characters within range of the active auras too. You can imagine eight Paladins, eight different auras and a horde of monsters. Carnage.
The only aspect of Auras we are not clear on is whether two of the same auras cast by a couple of Paladins will multiply the effect. It seems a reasonable assumption, but imagine eight Paladins, each with Holy Fire activated, waltzing into a room only to witness everything spontaneously combust. As amusing as that promises to be it's certainly a balance issue that only Blizzard knows the answer to at this time.
Basics on Combat Skills As well as offensive and defensive auras the Paladin has a tree dedicated to combat skills. These work in much the same way as the Barbarian's Combat Skills, imbuing weapons and shields with magical properties to increase his accuracy, adding bonus damage, stun potential, projectile attacks and even a smattering of minion control. These are executed differently to Auras. They are readied, usually in the right icon box, and then cast. None of these skills are transferable to allied players.
The Paladin starts off with a basic sword [1-4 damage] but no armour. Initially, this appears woefully inadequate equipment to be marching out into the battlefield with, but with health potions often surrendered by those you kill and slowly regenerating mana it's not too much of a struggle to get by until you can get your first skill point and lob it into Prayer.
As a warrior-type character your desire to start enhancing your offensive or combat skills is high, you want to get stuck in there and start dealing serious damage, "hold me back", "let me at 'em" but by the time you've been through a few rounds with the hordes and see the crimson in your health globe deplete faster than you're comfortable with, your gut instincts tell you that first precious point is going in Prayer, no two ways about it. Although health potions are dropped by monsters, they are of inferior quality [as are bought potions] and really aren't sufficient to replace health you lose in melee battles. Fine for a stop-gap but the belt is of more use stocked with full health and poison antidotes, especially from Act II onwards. With no auras available at the beginning you have no choice but to go toe to toe with your 1-4 sword and naked torso, relying on inferior health potions, so your health globe is constantly monitored out the corner of your eye. A point in Prayer and you feel a little more at ease, as do your comrades who for some reason seem to be attached at the hip now:)
The Paladin's starting statistics are comparable to those of the Warrior from Diablo, Strength - 25, Dexterity - 20, Vitality - 25 and Energy - 15. Not long into our first session of gaming the Paladin came across a piece of armour, nothing great, armour class 3, but certainly of more use than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Actually, by around a character level of 3, still fighting within the wilderness, the Paladin had a basic belt, armour, a found Book of Town Portal with 2 charges in it and a few keys, as well as a handful of inferior health and mana potions and basic equipment not required, ready to sell.
As we weren't aiming to build up characters for the long haul, not as much consideration was given to how the individual characters were to be developed, as far as skill tree management was concerned. We were aiming to dip in and out of every tree, throwing caution to the wind to see what was on offer. The Paladin's first three points plus the Den of Evil quest reward point were applied one each to Prayer, Might, Smite and Sacrifice. This seemed a sufficient combination to deal with most early situations.
Offensive Aura. Might increases the damage you deal, and it proved a wise choice to start adding points to this early on. Starting at a 50% increase in damage at slvl one it rose 10% with each skill point and you really did notice the benefit, especially when the Paladin had Sacrifice bound to his left mouse button, further increasing damage plus improving accuracy.
Combat Skill. Smite was of most use in one particular situation. When dealing with the spear women [Corrupt Rogues], who really do sweep in around your character very quickly, surrounding you, leaving no exit. Here it was used to bash one backwards, stunning her, giving you a valuable split second to escape the throng so you could fight from the outside. Fallen swarm too but you're never in much danger of being unable to retreat, as killing one will cause the rest to scatter, as they do in Diablo, but for fun factor 'smite 'n' hack' drew a certain wicked satisfaction.
Of course as every character has the innate skill of Kick this could be used to break out of a pack too and inflict minor damage; yet, with Smite you got the added bonus of stunning the foe also, enabling you to land the first blow. The stun aspect of the skill appeared pretty negligible at the lower levels and it would have to be at a skill level of 3 to get a full second of stun. This seems a pretty balanced climb but when there are other skills which promised to be of more immediate use we moved on. The distance an enemy was forced back at slvl one wasn't that far but at much higher levels the distance is greatly increased, as you can see from the animation in the Paladin section. At slvl one you are looking at +15% to damage with 0.6 seconds of stun. At slvl 2, a bonus of +30% damage and a stun of 0.8 seconds. Mana cost to cast remained at 2 for both those levels.
Combat Skill. This received one skill point. This was more often than not assigned to the left mouse key so the affects were applied with each attack with whichever weapon he was using. Sacrifice increases the accuracy and damage dealt but on the flipside it decreases the Paladin's own health. At a skill level of one the Attack Rating was improved by 20%, damage increased by 80% but the Paladin suffered a further 8% of the monster's dealt damage himself. If we'd applied another point to this skill it would have increased the Paladin's damage from 80% to 200%. Sacrifice uses no mana.
Defensive Aura. As stated earlier this skill had the honour of the first skill point of the game. This was the only skill at the time of our visit that used mana to sustain the aura, not too much though. This was used mostly when leaving a battle, activating it so that you would heal as you travelled across uninhabited regions. It was also used on occasion to retreat and heal, or to heal when fighting whilst poisoned [more on that later]. At a slvl of two Prayer would heal by +3 around every second at a mana cost of 1.1. At slvl three +4 heal at a cost of 1.3 mana and at slvl four +5 heal at a cost of 1.5 mana.
As stated above the radius of all auras increases with more skill points also, so at slvl one comrades wishing to benefit from Prayer would have to be within the 4 yard radius for a few seconds before it started to take effect on them. But it increases quite rapidly as more points are added and by a slvl of five your aura's radiuses are spanning 12.6 yards, which from our recollection, appeared to be around 2/3rds of the visible screen. So you could be fighting separate packs of monsters a good distance apart and heal yourself and the rest of your party.
Combat Skill. To deal with the abundance of skeletons and zombies it was necessary to deal some points into Holy Bolt. This worked reasonably well at Slvl one but there was a marked difference adding just one more point. At Slvl one it would take 3 Bolts to fell a skeleton, sometimes 5 if due care and attention wasn't paid to your aim, but with one extra point one or two bolts would take a skeleton out.
Offensive Aura. This was so much fun and most effective. When within the radius, small balls of fire would ignite up the bodies of enemies. This is where the lack of direct projectile attacks seemed to balance out, at least when you get to a higher level of skill in the 'Holy' set [fire, freeze & shock]. At a skill level of 5 the Paladin's aura radius reaches 12.6 yards, enough to keep you at a goodly distance from your foe and still inflict damage, circling around them and back again, watching the fire ignite. Puff! Until they dropped. Of course if they turned out to be fire resistance it threw a spanner in the works and swiftly took the smile off your face. But with 'cold' and 'lightning' not far down the tree you can see this trio being incredibly useful if Holy Fire is anything to judge them by. The first screenshot of Holy Freeze has just very recently been released and you can see how useful it becomes as the radius increases with more skill points. The Paladin here has created a much less hazardous passage to the Greater Mummy by momentarily slowing the skeleton's walk and run movement and swing speed. Holy Fire would inflict fire damage every second or so at a rate of slvl 1 = 0.5 - 1.0, slvl 2 = 1.5 - 2.0, slvl 3 = 2.5 - 3.0, slvl 4 = 3.0 - 3.5 and slvl 5 = 3.5 - 4.0.
Offensive Aura. Here our Paladin started using the monster's own attacks against them. At the time of our trip the damage returned was quite sizeable and possibly a little too much as even at a slvl of 3, again with Sacrifice on the left mouse button there was little trouble dropping a Thorned Hulk or two. At slvl one this returned 330% of damage back, slvl 2 = 360%, slvl 3 = 400% and finally at slvl of 4 = 450%. Of immense use in melee attacks.
Combat Skill. Our Paladin only got the opportunity to apply one point to this skill but even with that you could see that Zeal had its uses when fighting a pack. It allowed our Paladin to attack multiple enemies with a single strike. Much like the Amazon's Fend skill, he can target one monster and automatically and very rapidly strike it and others nearby.
Combat Skill. No, no, no. This really didn't cut it. Interesting animation of a duplicated ghost character trailing behind the Paladin as he ran towards his prey, but really at the lower levels running and Smiting was as effective. The Paladin seemed to run just marginally faster than with regular 'run' selected and could charge to any foe it selected on the screen, even if he was at one edge and his target at the other. Perhaps with more points he runs super-faster, faster than a normal character run and the Bash aspect inflicts more damage. But with disappointing initial results the urge to risk more points wasn't there.
Offensive Aura. Here, one point only was applied before moving onto Concentration below and this would increase the Paladin's [and friendly player's] % chance to hit. No stats on the % increased by for the level one we reached unfortunately.
Offensive Aura. We applied the last skill point of the game to this skill which increased the % chance of administering an uninterrupted attack. As it was only available for a short time of play we didn't have a chance to observe how much difference that one point made as it wasn't immediately apparent.
Hotkeys were assigned in the same way as they were in Diablo. Bringing up the Skill Overlay you just hovered over a skill and hit the desired hotkey. By the end of the weekend most skills were bound to the following hotkeys.
- F1 = Prayer
- F2 = Might
- F3 = Smite
- F4 = Holy Bolt
- F5 = Holy Fire
- F6 = Thorns
- F7 = Zeal
- F8 = Blessed Aim/then Concentration
- Sacrifice = either inactive or assigned to the left mouse button permanently.
- Charge = Used just a couple of times.
11 skills were used in all, 19 were unused so just over 1/3 of the available skills were experimented with. Following is the order in which skills received points.
Character level 2 - 5
- Prayer - Defensive
- Might - Offensive
- Smite - Combat
- Sacrifice - Combat
- Prayer - Defensive
Character level 6 - 11
- Might - Offensive
- Holy Bolt - Combat
- Holy Fire - Offensive
- Holy Bolt - Combat
- Thorns - Offensive
- Holy Fire - Offensive
Character level 12 - 17
- Might - Offensive
- Charge - Combat
- Prayer - Defensive
- Might - Offensive
- Thorns - Offensive
- Zeal - Combat
Character level 18 - 20
- Thorns - Offensive
- Blessed Aim - Combat
- Concentration - Offensive
Combat Skill. Another skill we got to try out on a souped-up character was Blessed Hammer, the character level 18 skill from Combat Skills tree. We were in Act III, in the caves at the time and the skill level was around 5 or 6. This produced a whirling orange hammer which would travel to the target in a horizontal arc. We successfully made contact with a foe possibly only once. More often than not it would circle the foe and then finally disappear into a wall. The hover description read 'Spiralling magic hammer missile' and it did 'spiral' and it was a 'hammer', it just didn't make contact.
Fist of Heavens [Hand of God]
Combat Skill. Up until recently this, the highest skill in the Paladin's Combat Skills tree, was called Hand of God, but the name has now changed to Fist of Heavens. At the time of our visit a beam of light shot down, hitting the target square on the top of the head producing a crackling lightning effect. Four Holy Bolts would form in an X shape striking surrounding monsters. The skill inflicts both lightning and holy bolt damage and at around slvl 5 it had no problem dropping the Fetish in Act III in one shot.
The Paladin didn't experience much of a problem covering the expansive wilderness's, apart from when he had no clue where he should be heading. Most of the time it was a matter of click to the end of the screen to run, then click again at the end of the screen to start again and so on. This seemed to work a lot better than keeping the mouse button continuously pressed until he had completely drained his stamina reserves and then having to wait a few seconds for it to start replenishing. During Act II, searching for the correct Horadrim Tomb entrance in the desert wilderness, the Paladin had to resort to stacking up a slot in his belt with stamina as we were running around like headless chickens for extended periods of time, desperate to find the tomb entrance. In that particular situation we would keep the mouse button pressed and just gulp a white vial of stamina to instantly replenish. Vigor [previously known as Stamina] would be ideal in these situations as it speeds up stamina recovery and walk and run speeds. A skill level of one will see an increase of +13% to both of these.
Attributes & Inventory
By character level 13 the Paladin was fully equipped, complete with identical rings adding life and an amulet adding some mana. He had a scepter we found, with a bonus of +6 to cold resistance and +3 to Dexterity, and with Sacrifice from his Combat Skills assigned to the left mouse button, attacks were now increased to 11 - 27 damage at the loss of a small amount of health.
As you will see from the screenshot, the majority of attribute points were applied to Strength, next Dexterity with Vitality and Energy both, at this stage, having 13 attribute points applied. From this moment on the focus of point distribution shifted, in order, to Dexterity, Vitality, Energy and finally Strength. The ear you see there is the product of a spawning bug that occurred when the Amazon he was playing with died by the hand of a monster. You can see the purple Full Rejuvenation stack in the number four column of the belt.
There was an abundance of items found and a fair few were socketable, mostly containing one or two gem slots. It wasn't long until his stash and inventory were full of 'okayish' items so it was necessary to decide which to sell. As it was a case of 'six and half a dozen' there was no easy way to decide what to sell, so it boiled down to whatever fetched the highest price from Fara, the Blacksmith in Act II. In the end we sold a Jade Mask of Remedy, the golden shield and axe you see in the picture for around 2,000 gold in total.
Not long into Act II the Paladin's Player Durability Icon appeared top right of the screen indicating that his gloves, shield and belt were now at low durability [yellow] so we visited Fara in Lut Gholein to repair. The Paladin had a fair amount of gold so it was no problem to repair the three items which amounted to around 500 gold pieces in total.
As the Amazon had came across an unidentified One-handed Axe we decided we'd identify and see if it was of much use. It was at this point that we decided to test out the Player Trade window and even though we were in the same room and could easily verbally discuss our trade, we still ended up typing to each other, as you would normally do on battle.net. This meant we had to come out of the trade interface, press enter to chat, then back into the Player Trade window. Quite fiddly and time-consuming, so the Amazon threw the Axe on the ground and the Paladin picked it up. Without a chat capability in Trade we can see the 'on the ground' method being used more.
The identified Axe turned out to have 3 gem slots and the Paladin already had a Lighting [Diamond] and Cold [Sapphire] Gem so we visited Fara in Lut Gholein to see if there were any others for sale. We managed to pick up a Poison [Emerald] gem for around 300 gold pieces. Inserting it into the Axe, the Paladin ended up with:
Gemmed Axe - One-Hand Damage 3-11
- Durability 24
- Req Strength 32
- Axe Class - Normal Attack Rate
- +1 to poison damage over 3 seconds
- Adds 1 - 2 Cold damage
- Adds 1 - 4 Lightning damage
Not hugely fabulous but it added 3 types of elemental damage and we kept Sacrifice bound to the left attack key to raise damage some more. You'll see that it has a 'class', as do all weapons. There are four classes, Slow - Normal - Fast - Very Fast and all the weapons the Paladin came across were of the 'Normal' variety.
Hazad - Mercenary Man
Sometime during Act II, the Paladin hired the services of a Warrior Mercenary, by the name of Hazad for around 300 gold pieces from Griez. Most of the time Hazad stuck close by the Paladin but on occasions he would wander off screen in pursuit of an enemy or simply not catch up with the Paladin when moved on. Sometimes we had to go back to where the mercenary was located to 'pick him up' as it were and force him to follow us to a safe place so he could be healed with Prayer. He wasn't as effective as the Rogue Mercenaries from Act I but with the Paladin's Might or Thorns activated and Hazad benefiting from those also he improved. He must have remained alive for about 10 minutes tops, before we realised he wasn't going to be catching up this time.
None of the monsters immunities/resistances were displayed so you had to play it by ear and hit them with a selection of skills and then remember which one was effective so when you met that type again you'd know immediately how to deal with them. There's an exception with some bosses where it will display "Resists Magic".
One extra benefit of having a gemmed weapon was that it served as a warning system that a monster you were fighting has resistances to certain spells. For example, if an Amazon shot a bolt that was enhanced with a Sapphire, but on certain monsters she failed to see the "blue" effect of the cold spell, then she knew that monster had resistances to cold damage. So, too, with the Paladin, whose sword might have a Ruby, but yet when he used it upon certain monsters never registered with fiery effects. In this case, the Paladin would know, in future, that the monsters in question were fire immune.
We came across various monster generators which spawn limited amounts of monsters. After clearing the surrounding area we had a chance to watch for a moment how the generator worked. The animation of this Act One generator [pic on right] was fairly squeamish and quite fascinating to watch. Something akin to watching a queen bee give birth, as a short tube contracted and expanded spitting out Fowl Crows. The crows were generated about every 4 seconds and after a second orientating themselves, caught sight of the Paladin and attacked. Not that hard to kill and with around 4 seconds to deal with just one crow he plonked himself just outside the exit tube, a bit to the side and disposed of each monster as it came out, one by one. He could have destroyed the generator, a few hacks with his sword would have put it out of action, but with this easy source of experience points that would have been foolish. Never look a gift-horse in the mouth, no matter how squeamish it makes you feel. We are unsure of the total amount of monsters produced by generators or whether volume and rate of production fluctuates according to the the number of players in the area. In this particular situation we were in the area no more than 3 minutes, before it self-destructed cutting off the easy XP supply.
Working with an ally with ranged attack, we experienced a bit of a settling-in period learning just the best way to go about it. The passageways are, in places such as the Sewers, quite constricted. If the Paladin's partner, the Amazon, was in the front of the duo when they came across monsters, she was in the direct line of assault. And being a far better ranged fighter, and not long on health points, she really wanted to be a little bit out of the line of fire. The Paladin, on the other hand, excels at hand-to-hand, and he was ready and eager to be in direct contact with monsters, yet with the Amazon blocking his way, he couldn't get up close and personal with them. What the partners would do, then, is retreat to a room or a widened spot in the passageways and reverse order, so the Paladin went in ahead of the Amazon.
This worked very well, until and if the Paladin suffered sufficient damage that he needed to retreat, either to restock his belt with health potions, to refill the mana slots, or to rest up and let the health recharge with Prayer. At that time, with the Paladin nearing the point of having suffered a few more hits than he could safely endure, his partner needed to move out of his way and let him hustle off to a corner to take care of business. This wasn't a problem at Blizzard North - we were sitting less than 10 feet apart, and whomever was in danger could say "Coming through!" or something a little less polite:) and the other would step aside, let him/her pass by, then continue the attack, or perhaps join in the retreat. But after a period of having to give verbal signals about health - after all, we were newbies - the answer to this minor problem was easy to see, and was as close as the little allied character portrait in the upper left corner of your interface. That icon isn't just there to look good, it actually serves a purpose - revealing the health of each of your allies. If you monitor the health meter below your partners' portraits, you will be able to tell when they're in danger of death, and you can act accordingly.
This corridor scenario also presented us with an exploitable opportunity. In addition to restricting characters to single file it also applied to packs of foes. In situations of 'room for only one', such as the corridors of the Sand Maggot Hive, you would meet and fight monsters one at a time. Flashbacks of the doorway bottlenecks you find in Diablo. The nature of these particular corridors is that they have been carved by the Queen Maggot burrowing her way through the sandy rock so it's appropriate that they are only slightly larger than herself. Solutions could be to make the Queen Maggot larger and in turn her burrowed corridors or allow her minion beetles to clamber up the sides of the walls, no higher than a character obviously as you're unable to direct your attacks up but enough so that you could be attacked by one at your feet and one slightly up each side of the wall. Another, more simpler, alternative would be to increase the strength of the minions so that one at a time is challenge enough. We did raise this with Blizzard at the end of our trip and they were aware that this specific situation would need some attention.
Dealing with Act II Shamans
We couldn't just go wading in and retreat when things got overpowering. You became surrounded far too easily, that's where the Sorceress's teleport skill would have come in handy but a fat lot of good that does the Paladin.
One thing you'll have to think about is killing Shamans and they're always [or seemed to us to be] right at the back of the room with their minions in front of them. If you can't dispose of the Shaman you have to keep killing and re-killing their minions, a never-ending cycle, for which you gain no extra xps. This was one of the tactical dilemmas especially in the Tombs of Act II - how to get to the back of the room to kill the Shaman [Hollow Ones] without getting beaten to a pulp by his minions or poisoned to death by his projectile poison cloud en-route. The Paladin's level 2 Holy Bolt really didn't help either and more often than not it would hit a skeleton in the line of sight. Sometimes you'd make it all the way to the back of the room, other times half way through you'd realise you were going to die if you didn't retreat immediately. Of course if you did retreat to heal, the minions would be resurrected and waiting for you by the time you returned. So you had to rethink your tactics. Sea of Poisons There was no way to avoid getting poisoned by the Hollow Ones, the clouds filled the screen so you had to run though an entire sea of the stuff. It depleted health, but very slowly and to speed up health regeneration Prayer was activated. At one point in the game the entire area was just amass with poison clouds and the Paladin's health was so low it was most definitely time to flee. He had no health potions at this time. They had been given to another player who was more in need of them and it seemed Prayer would always see him through. Anyway, we fired up Prayer and retreated to a quiet-ish spot where his health toggled between 1 and 3 as the poison ate at his health and the Prayer replenished it. Although there's no real penalty in dying you still find yourself sat there, holding your breath, staring at the health orb as it shot back down to one and then finally it started to slowly increase. You can see how a room can easily fill chock full of poison in the image on the left where the Amazon demonstrating her Poison Javelin skill. Now take 3 Hollow Ones positioned in different spots of the room, each offloading a bucket-load of poison and get through that lot. The Paladin's skill Salvation that protects against poison would have come in most useful at this time but alas as a level 30 skill that wasn't even an option yet. After that point we made sure to buy some poison antidotes [black bottles] and keep them in the number 4 slot of his belt.
To deal with the Greater Mummies, in this case Hollow Ones we needed some way to dispose of him at range but none of the Paladin's auras were of sufficient radius to reach him at that distance. So it was decided to stock up on throwing potions [poison and exploding 'fulminating']. It takes a bit of practice though. Initially, he was way off and we swear we heard the minions snigger as the Paladin demonstrated his shot-putt skills. But once we'd got our bearings it wasn't too difficult to land one right on top of the Hollow One. At one point 3 landed right at his feet and he took the full force. He remained standing. The only option was to lob a few exploding potions clearing a path to him, taking out or seriously damaging his horde of minions and advance into the room finishing them off toe to toe. On reaching the now damaged [by 3 potions] Shaman it was relatively easy to dispense of him with one or two hacks of the sword boosted by Might and Sacrifice. This worked well when a room had only one Shaman but when there were 3, the resurrecting was fast and furious and there wasn't a sufficient stock of exploding potions to use this tactic on all three. But at this point you'd be at the back of the room, through the mass in the middle and could leg it round the walls to the other camping Shamans.
During our visit throwing potions of the same type would automatically stack in the inventory taking up one space, so once a potion was equipped and the 'throw' skill was selected they would automatically re-load until the stack was exhausted, at which point you needed to re-equip a weapon or a stack of different throwing potions, retreating first if necessary. This is where it became a bit fiddly and you could find yourself in a few tight spots as you'd lose track of how many potions you had thrown and suddenly find yourself out, trying to throw thin air. You had to then open your inventory and re-equip your chosen weapon, in this case the Paladin's sword. More often than not it was easier to just leg it out of there. More player-friendly would be stackable throwing potions in the belt, but that would require the Paladin to automatically swap his weapon for a stack of potions and back again when the potions ran out and hot-keyed equipment will not be included in Diablo II. Its unfortunate as they were pretty effective but weighing that up against 'fiddle-factor' the potions had to go.
Since our visit this has changed slightly, thankfully. The equipment you were using before you equipped your throwing item will automatically re-equip when your supply of throwing items has been exhausted but there is still no fully-fledged hot-keyed item mechanism in place and it's unlikely there will be.
By the end of the three days the Paladin had reached a character level of 20, having taken time off for restarts, lunch breaks, chit chat and generally nosing around the Blizzard offices, it works out to around 24 hours actual game time. There's no doubt that the Paladin can hold his own, toe to toe verses the monsters, he dealt with many packs on his lonesome. The most challenging encounter was with the Hollow Ones with their poison attack in Act II. With one or more skill points in his level 12 defensive aura Cleansing [next down from Prayer] that particular situation wouldn't have been so perilous. In fact other than Prayer, his Defensive Aura tree remained untouched and whilst this wasn't too much of a problem until later in Act II, [where Resist Fire would have helped tremendously against the Fire Turrets], the spell casters of Act III and IV [we presume] will force him to pay attention to that tree.
We mentioned the monster difficulty at the end of our visit and Blizzard have since increased this as it was something they had been considering also. Perhaps this is why we didn't dedicate much time to searching the NPC traders for a better weapon for him, it wasn't bleeding obvious that he was struggling toe to toe. Now with increased difficulty in monsters the quest for improved weapons will be more paramount.
The Paladin proved equal to whatever was thrown his way. His ability to fight hand to hand, coupled with the impressive array of offensive and defensive auras, make him a very well-rounded character. To those who say "he's weak," or "he's one-dimensional," we challenge you to give him a try - like us, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Not only did he do well, he did indeed live up to that famous Blizzard "fun factor."