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December 6, 2013

Dear Reader,

Well, my buddy and I lost our hardcore characters at the very last boss of normal mode in Path of Exile.  I’m happy to say that he died first, so the teasing will flow naturally towards him instead of me.  He also died first in our hardcore game of Torchlight 2, so this just adds fuel to the fire of how much he sucks.

He got pretty miffed – which I don’t use here as an euphemism; it’s an accurate choice for how he was feeling.  He was frustrated but only a little angry.  He’s played hours and hours of D2 and lost hardcore characters before.  I haven’t, though; I didn’t really get into D2 and often play these games more out of a sense of hanging out than really enjoying them (though Path of Exile is a good quality game in that genre).  I thought I’d be angrier, but really I wasn’t.  Part of that reason comes back to why we died, though.

He’d played through the whole game in normal mode in the pre-release beta.  I hadn’t; as a result, he’d have to let me know dangerous boss mechanics before we got to them.  The Act II end boss, for example, had a very dangerous electricity ranged attack that you had to keep moving to avoid it.  My buddy really beat these dangers straight into my psyche.  I was legitimately afraid of dying when we went to fight this boss.  We’d made a suicide pact, too, so that if one of our toons died, the other one would, too, so he was being so terrifying to protect himself as well as my character.

The Act II boss was tough, but not particularly dangerous.  I didn’t get hit by any attacks the whole time; my buddy got tagged a few times, but it turns out on normal difficulty the bolts weren’t instant death.

This same process commenced for the Act III end boss, Piety.  He terrified me more about her various forms and I worked hard to get my elemental resists up; she does a “lot” of elemental damage.  “She can’t one shot you,” he said, “but she’ll whittle your hp down so quickly that a potion can’t save you.”

Again, I went into the boss with high blood pressure and a clenched buttocks.  Again, the boss was no big deal.  She took a little longer, and I was struck a few times and had to drink potions, but overall, she was a breeze.

Afterwards, my buddy and I were flying pretty high, except – wait – we weren’t done.  Unlike in the beta, Piety was not the final boss of the game, some fellow named Dominus was.  We pushed forward into his zone and found it pretty easy.  As we approached the final boss, I stopped and asked, “So, do we want to look the fight up?”

What a stupid question.  Of course we did; this is hardcore.  But my buddy and I were riding the serotonin train to failtown and said, eh, the others were pretty easy.  We can figure it out as we go.

We couldn’t.  There was a mechanic that if you hadn’t seen it before and were ranged characters, you were dead.

The boss had three phases.  In the first, a horde of boss-level minions descends upon you and you have to deal with them while staying alive.  That was hectic, but not particularly deadly.  In the second phase, the boss descends and uses a lot of electricity to wallop you.  When you kill him, he comes back as a nasty Garrosh v.2 type beast that uses blood attacks to whip you.

In our fatal encounter, I was the first to be targeted with an opening blood spray which nailed me.  It didn’t kill me, but as a result, I kept as far away from the boss as possible. That’s part of what got me killed later.  My buddy, a summoner, kept max distance, too, and let his minions do his work for him.  Then it started raining blood, a light rain that slowly melted away my hit points.  The whole platform was covered.  There was no way I was going to run TO the boss and get hit with another blood spray while I was already at half life.

And that’s the decision that killed us.  The boss put up a barrier around himself that you have to stand in to survive the rain.  It was as simple as that.  But my buddy and I, being at max range and being gunshy about being near the boss, never saw the barrier.  As a result, my buddy dropped, and about 20 seconds later, I dropped.

My buddy was angry because “we shouldn’t have to look up a strategy to succeed and survive,” but I pointed out that an average person would have played normal, not hardcore, first, an would have seen the mechanic through experiencing it firsthand by dying in normal mode until they figured it out.  Since neither of us had done that, it’s really our fault that we didn’t survive; we could have been more observant, been less scared of the boss, done research, or been normal people and played through on normal first.  Our hubris over the Act II and III “end” bosses killed us.  Our own arrogance.

He got over it pretty quickly, but I don’t know if we’ll go back to the game or not.  Only time will tell.


Stubborn (and dead)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2013 12:01 pm

    This is why “hardcore” games don’t interest me — a game where you can automatically figure out every mechanic the first time you see it without ever dying just seems like it would have to be really easy or monotonous. A large part of the fun of a game for me is figuring out difficult combat sections.

    On the flip side, I also enjoy games that simply have good story and engaging settings/combat without being difficult — in which case, what’s the POINT of hardcore? You don’t really have anything to prove by surviving anyway, at least not to any significant degree.

    • December 6, 2013 1:14 pm

      I don’t disagree with your point, but this as an example may be erroneous. I had to be told the mechanics by my friend, who’d died repeatedly to them on normal mode on another character, and the one boss he hadn’t seen had a mechanic that we did NOT figure out on our first attempt. That said, I don’t disagree with your point; I like figuring out how to approach problems from different ways, as I mentioned in my last post.

      I think the draw of hardcore is the overt challenge of it. It’s not “will I die?” so much as “how far can I get before I die?” Old arcade and early console games functioned the same way, and that’s where my buddy and I cut our teeth, so I suspect hardcore simply fulfills a desire that many new “save when you want as often as you want” games don’t.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • December 6, 2013 5:34 pm

      “I had to be told the mechanics by my friend, who’d died repeatedly to them on normal mode on another character, and the one boss he hadn’t seen had a mechanic that we did NOT figure out on our first attempt.”

      Er, isn’t that a perfect example of my point?

      My point is that mechanics have to be extremely easy and/or incredibly obvious to make it feasible to do a hardcore run without dying on the first go. And if the mechanics are extremely easy and/or incredibly obvious, then what’s the point of hardcore? To prove you can avoid making a really stupid mistake?

      Or let’s look at the other case where it’s expected you do it non-hardcore first. Well, you’ve already proven you can do a boss fight without dying…so the new challenge is to be able to do all of them without dying? I suppose it’s harder, sure, as you have to get each right on the first time…but it’s definitely more of a bragging rights thing instead of being a genuine challenge.

      I think the similar achievements in WoW are much better. You have to kill a specific hard boss on the first try without anyone dying or make it through an entire clear of easy bosses without anyone dying. It’s contained to either one boss attempt per week for the former or probably 2-4 hours for the latter.

      Maybe what I’m really saying is that it’s the timescale that bothers me. Trying to go 2-4 hours and making it through a game without dying? Sure, I can see that. Dying after investing 100+ hours into something? Not so much — especially with internet issues and game bugs.

      On top of that, USUALLY the way to do “hardcore” games is really, really, really boring. You grind levels safely versus enemies which pose no threat and play everything incredibly safe in general. One of the things I enjoy is seeing just how far I CAN push myself — I still enjoy playing Mass Effect 2 missions and seeing just how crazy I can get without dying. It’s an adrenaline rush of pushing my boundaries and pushing my character to the limit.

      But that’s a really bad idea for hardcore stuff, especially for those 100+ hour investments. Same reason I lost all interest in the WoW “iron-man” challenge (no talents/glyphs/magic gear) — grinding level 70 mobs at level 80 because I might die to a level 80 mob is just…boring. It’s not challenging.

  2. December 7, 2013 7:35 am

    haha..nice story
    I love playing hardcore modes although I’m the kind of person that won’t read up, or practice, or grind safely. I just jump in there and die a lot.

    You remove the stigma of dying when playing for fun but still have that tense feeling during combat that is exhilarating. I think I killed a couple dozen characters in d3 and I had fun with every single one

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