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DiabloDec 10, 2020 10:00 am CT

How to get to Diablo 3’s essential hidden zones

Is there any joy quite like when you uncover an in-game secret? It’s part surprise, part glee, part feel-like-a-champ-for-figuring-it-out-even-if-you-didn’t-do-anything.

Like most players, my first encounters with the hidden zones of Diablo 3 happened by accident. But that doesn’t mean I want to wait and cross my fingers to ever return to those secret spots. Some of Diablo 3‘s favorite Easter eggs do demand luck of the draw, but others aren’t so sneaky. Here’s what you need to know about six of the game’s most popular, essential secret levels.

Not The Cow Level

This has to be both the best meme and worst-kept secret of the franchise. The Cow Level’s existence or lack thereof has been a gag since the game’s early days, and it has gone through a few different iterations in Diablo 3. In the current approach, there are two paths to the udderly ridiculous secret level.

Path one is through Kanai’s Cube. If you put the Bovine Bardiche in the cube, it will reveal an unmarked transmute option. Click on the question marks and the weapon will be destroyed, leaving behind a portal to Not The Cow Level. Path two is, like so many Easter eggs, all RNG. There is a chance that Treasure Goblin portals will lead you to Not The Cow Level instead of to The Vault.

Going to Not The Cow Level is one of the more rewarding Diablo 3 secrets. You’ll find chests with varying levels of fanciness, plus gold drops from all the dead farmer corpses. Face down waves of guerrilla Guernseys and adversarial Anguses, then square off against The Cow Queen and the spectral Cow King bosses. Prepare for gallons of puns and milk the available loot for all it’s worth.

Whimsyshire and Whimsydale

The only thing better than one technicolor, cotton candy secret level? Two technicolor, cotton candy secret levels! That’s right, you can double your childlike delights in Diablo 3‘s Whimsydale and Whimsyshire levels. They feature the same tilesets and most of the same enemies — such as Unicorns, Teddy Bears, and Pink Flowers — but getting to each level takes a slightly different path.

The route to Whimsyshire is an involved crafting experience. You need the Staff of Herding, which takes these materials:

  • The Black Mushroom in Tristram Cathedral in Act 1
  • Leoric’s Shinbone in the fireplace at Leoric’s Manor, also in Act 1
  • Liquid Rainbow, found in a Mysterious Chest inside a Mysterious Cave in the Dahlgur Oasis
  • Wirt’s Bell, available from Squirt the Pedder in the Act II starting location
  • Gibbering Gemstone, lootable from Chiltara in the Caverns of Frost in Act III
  • Plan: Staff of Herding drops from Izual in Act IV on your way to the Crystal Arch

Bring the finished staff to the Old Tristram Ruins and after a conversation with the Cow King, you’ll be able to get all the whimsy you can handle. Keep an eye out for Sir William, the one unique mob in Whimsyshire, who drops an item that allows you to proclaim your mastery over cuteness with a rainbow portrait for your character.

Whimsydale is the RNG counterpart to Whimsyshire. When you’re fortunate enough to have a Rainbow Goblin spawn in your game, kill it to open a portal. The rare mob you’ll find is Princess Lilian, a unicorn that drops Cosmic Wings.

The Vault

Anyone who’s been playing Diablo 3 for this long probably isn’t hurting in the finance department. But too much is never enough, right? If you’re playing in Adventure Mode and are at level 70, you can get the very definition of “too much.”

Most players discover The Vault, also known as the Treasure Realm or Greed’s Realm, by chance when killing a Treasure Goblin. Sometimes the little beasts will spawn a portal on their demise. But if you want the more consistent way to gather gold, then place a Puzzle Ring in Kanai’s Cube. Just like with Not The Cow Level, transmuting the ring will destroy the jewelry item and launch a Vault portal. An Ancient ring can unlock an even more expensive version of the secret level known as The Ancient Vault.

In either case, when you get to The Vault, you’ll slaughter hoards of Treasure Goblins, Hobgoblin Sentries, and Peons. The fight culminates in a boss battle with Greed in her Inner Sanctum. Expect to leave millions richer than when you arrived.

Development Hell

Blizzard has had several people become the public faces for their games, but those folks tend to be the creative directors, or maybe a lead writer or designer. But the company is a sprawling enterprise, and its titles require large teams make and maintain every game.

We may not see these folks on stage at BlizzCon, but Diablo 3 does have an Easter egg offering some tongue-in-cheek recognition. Development Hell, a state of game creation both well-known and deeply feared, is a secret level where all the zombies you massacre have the names and jobs of the Diablo 3 development team. It’s an odd way to thank these folks for their hard work, but if that’s how they decided to program the game, I’m not going to question it.

Like much success in the video game industry, getting to this zone is just luck and random chance. Once in a rare while, if you wander around the Cemetery of the Forsaken in Act 1, you may notice a fourth passage. Instead of the usual Defiled Crypt, it’ll be named Development Hell.

Quality Well

If developers are the under-appreciated backbone of game creation, then the quality assurance testers are the chiropractors. QA works out the kinks, improves overall wellness, and brings all of a game’s hypothetical vertebrae into alignment. That’s about as far as I can stretch that metaphor.

Diablo 3’s nod to its testers is a dungeon full of monsters named after the QA team. The dungeon can appear in Act 1, either in The Old Ruins or on Old Tristram Road once you’ve completed a normal mode playthrough. You’ll also need to be on Nightmare difficulty, and then it’s just a matter of luck and random spawns.

There are plenty of hidden gems scattered all around Diablo 3, but these six are popular for the lore, the loot, and the legacy. Happy secret hunting!

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