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Diablo III's Crusader at 70: Post-patch impressions

A crusader fights a demon
The Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion changed the game from top to bottom. With the extra 10 levels came an almost complete reimagining of how Diablo 3 would play: from the relentlessly on-rails story mode to the free-form adventure mode, from wheeling and dealing on the auction house for the items you wanted to hoping for those items to pop out of a freshly slain enemy.

In the wake of the game's sweeping changes, the new Crusader class has been something of an afterthought for many. However, Blizzard hasn't been shy to make adjustments to the newest member of their demon-slaying team. A patch just two weeks after the expansion's launch brought major buffs to the Crusader. This week, another patch featured a long list of changes that revamped the class from top to bottom.

If you're wondering whether you should invest the time to level a Crusader, join me past the break for my impressions. The class has come a long way in just seven weeks, and this latest patch has been a gamechanger.


How does it play?

As opposed to the frantic dervish of the Barbarian or the Monk's tempest of fists and feet, the Crusader feels more weighty and deliberate. It's as if your character is saying, "I have this flail and this gigantic shield and this is what I'm going to do to you."

The Crusader rewards patience. With more and longer cooldowns than other classes, using the right ability at the right time is the best way to succeed. If you want to hit every button on cooldown, this is not the class for you.

Likewise, you don't have as many options for movement as other classes do. Most of your attacks leave you stationary. Steed Charge is the best movement ability, but it has a cooldown and a short duration.

The Crusader is more flexible in its range than you might think. You have the option to go for a wholly ranged-damage build rather than always wading into the front lines. Choosing a mix of ranged and melee skills makes for a flexible variety of attacks.

If you enjoy the defensive spells and group utility of WoW's paladin, the Crusader has similar options. The class excels in multiplayer -- when you can keep up. Until recently, that was a big problem...

The crusade on cooldown

For the first seven weeks of Reaper, the Crusader was a frustrating class. Your abilities were powerful but hampered by long cooldowns. The Crusader is the class with the most cooldown-gated abilities, and many of those were quite long for a hack 'n slash game: 30, 60, even 90 seconds. As a result, you tended to save them for elites. Most of your time plowing through the monsters in between was spent using mouse attacks alone.

When you found those elite monsters, you got to unleash the full fury of your character: activating your Law while calling down a devastating Bombardment or transforming into a mountain of steel as Akarat's Champion. It felt great for those brief bursts, but for the majority of your game time you felt throttled.

Crusader in the swamp

It didn't help that Blizzard put a literal throttle on your character. Heavenly Strength, which allows you to equip a two-handed weapon in your main hand along with a shield, was all but mandatory. By comparison, one-handed builds just didn't offer a realistic level of damage outside of a few specific legendary weapons. But the original Heavenly Strength came with a penalty: it reduced your run speed by 15%, and even capped your maximum run speed too. No amount of stacking could bring you on par with other class's movement.

The idea behind this passive was flavorful. A character wielding a heavy weapon and shield would certainly run slower in real life. In a game like Diablo, however, the concept was flawed. It punished solo players, who ran bounties and rifts slower than everyone else just so they could reach the same DPS threshold. It punished group players, because they couldn't keep up with their speedier teammates. You felt like you were holding back your friends just because of the class you chose.

The long cooldowns compounded the problem. You wanted to use them against elites, but when you lagged behind the team, those elites were half dead by the time you arrived at the scene.

Beyond that, the class suffered from many issues. Without the 30% baseline damage reduction of Monks and Barbarians, the Crusader felt strangely squishy for a guy in plate armor. Heavy resource costs accompanied a resource that was slow to replenish. Wrath spenders hit weaker in many cases than other classes' spenders, every though they cost more by comparison. Lack of damage types limited builds. Oddball passives did little for survival or DPS.

Many aspects of the Crusader felt punishing. I shelved mine for a couple of weeks, waiting for Blizzard to at least fix the run speed issue, so I wasn't holding back my friends. The class wasn't unplayable, but it needed help.

Patched up

I'm happy to report that this week's patch 2.0.5 has addressed many of the Crusader's major issues. Blizzard said in the patch notes that "Crusaders should be the toughest class in the game and currently they are not." As a result, they have applied the 30% reduction to the class.

Heavenly Strength no longer has a run speed penalty. For those who prefer faster weapons, one-handers also got a tremendous buff in the form of a redesigned passive. Fervor now gives you 15% attack speed and 15% cooldown reduction. One-handers now offer not only competitive DPS with two-handers, but also a different style of play.

Many abilities have been buffed to deal more damage, had their cooldowns reduced, or received new damage types. Also, redesigned passives and an Akarat's Champion rune now grant better wrath generation. When you find yourself wrath-starved, you now have options to overcome that.

As a result of these changes, my Crusader feels free of the shackles that were holding me back. I can use more of my skills between elites without worrying. I can keep up in rifts and feel like a full contributor to the team's success. I have more freedom in terms of builds and equipment.

A few nerfs hit the class, too -- most notably Judgment's Resolved rune, Akarat's Champion, and AC's Rally rune. The class remains driven by cooldown-heavy skills, but even so it is much improved. If you didn't like Crusader 1.0, or if you're curious about the class, there has never been a better time to play one.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Diablo 3

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