So, its been just a bit over two months since the games release, and so far I've gotten three of the give classes to Level 60. So here's a quick update on what I've been doing in the game.
I started out with a Barbarian, but once I hit 60, and tried to play a bit of Act 1 Inferno. I quickly realized that I was not geared enough for that level, but instead of grinding it out, I decided to switch to a ranged character. So I decided on switching to a Wizard, since at the time, we didn't have a high level wizard in the group.
Trying to get to level 60 on your first character is the hardest by far. The nice thing with Diablo 3 is now your chest stash is shared, along with your gold. So on your second character, you should have a decent amount of gold, which will allow you to buy items to keep up your gear. Playing the game naturally (i.e. without dipping into the auction house or have friends give you gear along the way) means that you'll never really have gear that is the same level as your character till you reach far into Inferno difficulty. As a result, I was able to get my wizard to 60 relatively quick. Also, I began to use a ruby in the helmet more to get the percentage bonus for experience points to further speed up this process. It also helped that as I played, I tried to keep decent items that I found on the way that I figure would be useful for other classes. This and a couple visits to the auction house really helps speed the game up.
This time, when I reached Inferno, I had a bit more gold, I also picked up a relatively high DPS weapon. Being ranged means I don't have to gear up certain armor items as long as I played smart. I did get lucky and found a few decent items, and had quite a bit of help from a few friends which is always a plus. But I was able to find a viable build (based on Krippi's build that he used to help Kripparrian beat Hardcore Inferno Diablo, more on this build later). I still had to grind it out quite a bit before being geared enough to progress through to Act 2 & 3. My wizard has now progressed to Act 3, but still dying quite a bit in Act 2 & 3, but now I've geared up enough that I can easily farm act 1 without dying. I have also accumulated enough decent magic find gear for me to farm more effectively without sacrificing too many stats on my character.
We do the typical Act 1 farming runs, and have been doing it for a while. Our path starts Festering Woods, then to Leoric's Manor, then to the Cemetery, Halls of Agony 2, Cursed hold, and finish off the Butcher to end the run, and a final check for the Dank Cellar (we recently started to actively look for the Tower which has a random chance of having 6-8 elite packs inside). I've also done a few Act 3 nightmare runs purely for gold. But I began to notice that Demon Hunters would be better suited for such speed runs to maximize gold runs. So I began to play a Demon Hunter.
This time, I leveled up even faster because I focused most of my gear around extra experience points per kill. At one point, I was getting an extra 100XP per kill, plus my 25% bonus from a Star ruby in the helm. After a few days of playing, I got my Demon Hunter to 60 even faster than my Wizard. Also, as this being my third character, I had a lot more gear stocked up in my inventory and I also made it a habit of checking the auction house after major checkpoints. I made sure to always have a socketed helm, and a socketed weapon. I'll elaborate more on this later. I actually had so much gear stored (Yes, I am a bit of a pack rat), that I needed to create mule characters to hold extra gear.
Eventually, I cleared out most of the extra gear because after playing these three characters, I've finally figured out what stats to look for in specific gear.
A few tips that I've learned along the way...
So, enough of my story, here's the tips for leveling up that I suggest.
First tip - once you reach level 15, or so. Socketed items become available. Grab a Socketed helm, if you don't have one already, get it from the auction house, anything will do as long as its relatively cheap. No need to spend a ton on something you will be changing every 5-7 levels. With the socketed helm, as mentioned before, stick the biggest ruby you have and can afford to build in it. At 25% bonus, that is like an extra enemy kill every 4 kills. Once you reach 60, then you can either put in a topaz for magic find, or an amethyst for extra health.
Second tip - Try to get gear that gives you extra experience. This adds ontop of the above tip, for even more XP!. Nice thing is too, if you enter a lower difficulty game, normally you'd barely get any XP, but this way, you are at least going to get something. So you don't lose too much time when helping other friends catch up.
Third tip - Socketed Weapons are your friends, especially in the early levels. I'd say all the way up to the 50's (weapon DPS <500). Sticking a ruby in a low level socketed weapon adds a tonne of much needed DPS. This is the reason why I have two star rubies. One for my helm, and one for my weapon. Once you get high enough level, the ruby won't add that much in relation to the base DPS of the weapon. At that point, I now switch it to an Emerald to increase critical damage. This is more of a new thing for me, but now when I reach the mid 50's, I start gearing for Critical Hit % and Critical hit damage. Its an easy way to increase your effective DPS without spending billions on a big DPS weapon. I noticed that anything in the 800-900DPS range is still somewhat affordable. It may not have the primary stat that you want, but if you have the right gear boosting your critical chance, it'll boost your damage.
My wizard was not geared this way till recently, I was getting by with about 15-17k DPS, and about 35k life for act 1. I swapped out some gear to get my critical chance and critical damage up, and my wizard is now at 26k DPS w/ approx 25% critical hit chance. My Demon hunter sits at 36-37k DPS without sharpshooter, with approx 30% critical hit chance. The base weapon damage for my wizard is in the low 800's and my demon hunter's bow is in the high 900's, and it lacks any dexterity stat. I've pretty much abandoned my barbarian for now.
Last tip - Always get boots with movement speed, it helps you kite more effectively, but it also makes going through all the acts that much quicker. When you have to play them several times through, having the extra speed comes in handy.
These should help you level up fast and give you an idea of what to aim for in gear to effectively play in inferno. How far you get into inferno will depend on how good your gear is, and how you setup your skills. There are some builds that are more effective than others, and that can change based on what gear you have and your own play style.
I'll go into more detail later on my characters and builds as they somewhat change daily.