One life to live: Putting the hard in Hardcore

March 25th 2014! New class, New level cap, new loot, new spells, and new zones/modes are all reasons to be excited for (and to purchase) the expansion. I however am not sold simply on new, newness fades, gameplay doesn’t, and the rigor i’ve found in th e beta has had me on my toes and engrossed more than D3V ever could. Brace yourselves Hardcore brethren, ROS is putting the hard back in hardcore.

Xanth started off RoS in Hardcore...
Xanth started off RoS in Hardcore…

Let’s face it, D3V had us loading up life steal and DPS and plowing through monsters left and right while not missing a beat. That has gone away in ROS in both mechanic and play style. Right now everything poses a challenge.

The Elites

Elites now carry some powerful affixes and some more powerful health pools to keep those affixes causing trouble. You won’t find yourself getting one shot by any packs, but you can quickly find a massive amount of poison under your feet, while been walled into arcane beams. Now as you fight you see your health dip and you need to take action or watch pitfall more. I’ve never felt like it was dropping profusely but I have seen it trickle down to my demise while trying to fight my way out. Each death I’ve had in the beta i’ve had the opportunity to fight down to the last drop, and perhaps with better planning i would have survived. Where elites get real nasty are when you find more than one pack at the same time. In D3V this was never really a problems as you could blow through them rather quickly and move on to the next pack. With elite fights lasting much longer, the combination of 8 affixes can easily mean a retreat is in order to survive. I can only think of a few times i was able to take on more that one pack at the higher levels, and that was due to running away. Fighting elites in tight corners can prove to be especially dangerous now as it can be quite easy to find yourself walled in and whittled down with no escape route available.


Not that we farm bosses, after all this isn’t D2 but they appear for bounties and maybe you’re nostalgic for Azmodan’s soliloquies. Bosses pack one hell of a punch now and can be downright scary, especially since you are stuck in there with them. You know it’s a two men enter one man leaves situation, and you better be the victor. I’ve started avoiding these bounties just to be safe, I can run away from a bad pack, I lack that luxury in a boss fight. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the longer and challenging fights really offer no better reward than that of a elite and thusly the risk/reward nature of these encounters seems off. Had I knowledge that Belial had even a marginally better chance at a legendary I might be more prone to give it a shot.


When was the last time you carried about your life per second? Or even looked at a weapon with life after kill? Let’s face facts nothing will fill the void of life steal, nothing will have that easy button appeal, but if we are to survive we have to figure something out, and a healthy balance of life per second combine with life after kill and life on hit might just keep you afloat. None of them balloon up to a point where your health bar is topped off all the time but it’s about balancing what you can.

In tandem with that you become very cognizant of your health potion and when to use it. I’ve had several fights where I’ve had to use it a few times and been counting down the second where I could again. Health potions are now a valuable asset to keeping us alive and now come in legendary flavors with nice tricks to complement the healing such as: increased defense, resistance, and bursting through wallers blockades. Defeating packs now feels more like an accomplishment as opposed to a guarantee and I like it that way.


The Loot

Oof this is a sore subject in closed beta. I’ve taken two crusaders to level 70 and on the way found a combined 5 legendaries. As legendaries are the creme of the crop this obviously hurts. This has had me scrambling to find the right combination of rares to make things work. My first crusader died because of my own urge to push harder content, and lack of good drops to help make that happen. I was pushing only 85k dps on hard, and should have dropped down to normal but did not do so.  Being entirely self found makes it a lot harder to make these jumps to different difficulties and the current lack of legendary drops only exacerbates that situation.

However I am a bit torn on the drop rate. My current crusader is still wearing all rares and is pushing 300k dps, I know I could jump up and go for more glory (at greater risk), and i’m enjoying the slow build up for harder content but it all feels very familiar to the inferno plateau we saw in the beginning of D3V. If the drop rate for legendaries were tone scaled up just a little bit it might make this jump and the feeling of risk reward better and in turn gameplay as a whole.

As for game changing legendaries I’ve found only one and it was in the F&F beta. I don’t care for the term “game-changing”I like to think of it more as play altering. The flail I found granted wrath generating to sweep attack, so I was able to use a nice dog skill to generate wrath and open up some other options. It didn’t completely change the game, I didn’t insta kill packs but I was interested in changing my style to accommodate it. The 4k dps on the weapon didn’t hurt either.

I’d love to see that flail again but with the drops turned so low I know i’ll be farming for a long time. Which is the main problem I have with the loot system. I’m hindered by what I find, If i want to try a thorns set, I need to find every single piece of it. Which isn’t a problem with a decent drop rate, but feels like a pipe dream in it’s current state.


The Difficulties

I’m still not sure what difficulty I should be farming and what one I want to be farming.Torment can be brutal if you’re under geared, while normal can be a breeze. You can hit packs on hard that make you want to jump to master or above,and quickly follow with a pack that almost ends your life. Unlike soft core we have to worry about death so it’s all about finding the middle ground that allows for effective loot farming in tandem with an acceptable level of risk of death. For me right now that level is between hard and expert with my sights set on master. However with the loot as is I have no real desire to push into anything that’s not really rewarding just yet.

Overall the patch (loot aside) is really good. The game is coming together well and March can’t come soon enough, a few more passes at drop rates couldn’t hurt though. Happy Hardcore Holidays and I’ll see you in the new year!

One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published weekly. Post your comments below, Follow him on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly. For all the archived news about Diablo 3 hardcore check our Archives!

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18 thoughts on “One life to live: Putting the hard in Hardcore

  1. Great article. I share your views on everything you talked about.

    “I was pushing only 85k dps on hard”

    What I really like about the new itemization is that saying things like this is becoming more and more meaningless as you specialize you gear, at least with a Wizard. I’ve found a Frostburn Gauntlets recently (50% chance to freeze instead of chill) so I decided to switch to frost skills from lightning. According my character sheet right now I have 100k DPS, but the truth is that I have much more. My gear has +30% cold damage (could get about 25% more) and 15% bonuses to Blizzard, Spectral Blade and Ray of Frost. Since these are the only skills I use my real DPS is closer to 150k.

    As for my defense, I have 400k EHP (or Toughness) and 2k Healing, but this is not the whole truth either. Thanks to my Frostburn I freeze enemies left and right so I barely get hit at all. I also run the Frozen Storm rune of Ice Armor, so anything that gets close to me or hits me is almost sure to be frozen. I also have Mara’s Kaleidoscope so I’m immune to poison damage and so two of the most dangerous Elite affixes are child’s play to me.

    I really like how items aren’t stat sticks anymore and that as a result summing up our characters isn’t as easy as listing a few numbers. We may see more complicated build guides eventually because of this.

    • One of the ironies of the new affixes is that overall effectiveness is a much bigger question than DPS answers. Bliz tried to simplify things in D3 with better C window and not all the hidden values and hardcaps and diminishing returns, and then 1) included completely hidden/secret proc values for every skill that made a huge diff and that no casual player had a clue about, and 2) now RoS introduces splash value, +%damage to specific skills, and +%damage to elemental types, none of which show on the DPS display.

      As you say, DPS is far from the full story, and it’s actually misleading in some cases. I don’t know that there’s a fix for that, and I don’t really want it to be fixed since I like more complexity, but it’s certainly a change/confusion for casual players.

  2. ^Online dps calculators will adapt to those changes, so people will still be able to compare.

    “”Torment can be brutal if you’re under geared, while normal can be a breeze.””
    What if people go back to just farming “easier” zones on high dificulty…

    Will doing Mira runs on max Torment >>> full normal dificulty 1 shot mobs? for the same amount of time.

    If it is people will do it.

    • Even on Torment 1 Legendary drop chance is greatly increased, either to or by 250%, I’m not sure. If you can play on Torment it should be the best way to get Legendaries.

      The problem is that right now people play Bounties on Normal to get Horadric Caches and then open them on T6, so they completely abuse the difficulty system. The fix should be easy for the devs: Caches should have a data field storing the difficulty they are from.

      • Agreed about that idea. It’s pretty dumb that exploits like that still exist. I hope they’re patched out by release.

        That said, I think it would also be cool if high-Torment bounties dropped a special loot bag as a reward for playing on the highest/second-highest difficulties. I’m not sure exactly what those special bags would do though, since it would be kind of lame to create a special kind of reward that just gives you the equivalent of better MF for the drops. Maybe give them a small chance of dropping special legendary stuff, not like high-Torment-restricted legendaries/sets, but more like a chance to drop Hellfire Ring crafting mats, which can normal only drop from Ubers, or something like that.

        As a final idea (though not something I believe they’d ever put in the game), it would be cool if bosses had a very, very small chance of dropping a unique cosmetic item on death, similar to the Wings items from the CE. As examples, the Butcher could drop some kind of Diablo I memorabilia, since the Butcher himself is a shout-out. Belial could drop an item that made you look like a miniature version of 2nd-form Belial. Azmodan could drop a cosmetic Cydaea familiar to whisper sweet nothings into your ear during gameplay. Diablo could either drop an item that made you look like Diablo (either D2 or D3 form) or a Black Soulstone familiar that whispers evil things in Mephisto’s voice (for Mephisto-lovers). Finally, Malthael could drop his Skeletal Wings, which I and other people had hoped to see from the RoS CE. These would be targeted drops that would create a reason to kill bosses without significantly skewing the balance-of-loot. If you cared about cosmetic items, or particularly liked a specific look, you would have a reason to farm a boss. If not, then you could ignore it without feeling like your normal drop chance was gimped.

        • Both of your ideas are pretty cool and I’d like to see them implemented. Diablo could drop his old soulstone as a cosmetic item for our characters. I’d like to run around with a glowing stone in my forehead. 🙂

  3. From playing the PTR, I think that drops need to be about double what they currently are. The obvious conundrum is if drops are too high, then people get all the good gear too quickly and get bored; if it’s too low, then only hardcore farmers get anything, and everyone else feels bad. My personal drops have been pretty low; I cleared Act I on Normal difficulty a few times and no legendaries dropped; that said, my personal luck is pretty bad, so it might have been bad drops, or it might have been my personal RNG screwing me over. Overall, though, I’d like it if drops went up to a little less than where they were in the F&F beta. I think that was probably too high, but I’m sad that it’s so low now.

    In terms of difficulty, I’m happy that the game is back to being hard. I really like the gameplay of D3, but even without lifesteal (I’m a Wizard any my only lifesteal was 1.5% from Magic Weapon)the game was just too easy to really be fun. My Archon wizard could clear MP 6 while facetanking mobs and almost never die. I’m looking forward to playing on higher Torment levels and actually having to scramble for my life again, instead of just facetanking everything.

    • The Legendary drop rate is definitely too low now. Pre-Torment you can go for hours without seeing one. To be completely honest though this could partly because players still don’t know how exactly the drop system changed.

      What I mean is that to me it seems that right now Unique monsters (the ones with purple names) drop the best loot, not counting Bosses. This is very obvious, since they usually drop 2-3 Rares, while other Elites usually only drop one. Quite a few of my Legendaries came from these guys and I don’t just mean the crafting materials.

      I don’t know of many people who specifically target Uniques, but I think new loot runs should be optimized around these enemies. People with access to RoS can do Bounties of course.

      • An earlier article said that Crafted Legendaries seem to be the in-between item grouping between dropped legendaries/sets (the most powerful) and rares (the standard items). If this is so, then assuming that the legendary/set drop rate in Torment seems fine, perhaps the best solution to the drops problem is for Expert/Master difficulty and above to grant a large bonus to legendary/set crafting design drop chances. This way, the standard that would emerge would be that you finish leveling, and if you don’t have gear good enough to do Torment on, then you’d farm for crafted legendaries/sets. Once you’d crafted some of them, you’d have the power to start playing Torment and get some of the best legendaries/sets to bolster your power, until you were completely decked out in dropped legs/sets and didn’t need your crafted ones anymore. This would make crafted legendaries/sets a really useful and necessary part of the game, also solving the problem of how to get gear good enough to start farming Torment.

        This, of course, assumes that current crafted legendaries/sets are finished, and are not likely to be too much different than glorified stat sticks with higher caps than rares. If these items are, in fact, going to be just as powerful and worthy as dropped legendaries/sets, this idea falls apart somewhat. It could still work, and you guys can tell me what you think, but at least, it’s an idea for bridging the gap.

  4. Oh, meant to add: Wouldn’t it be cool if EACH piece of a set item group gave you a PART of the full buff? I.e., for a three-piece set, the first piece gives you all the buffs on the gear, but at only 25% of its power. Then the next piece gives you 50%, and the last gives you 100%. That way people could say, “Hmm, do I enjoy the buffs on this first piece enough to keep it and look for the other parts.”

    Sort of a try-before-you-buy approach. Or rent-to-own or, well, you get the idea. 🙂

    • I like that idea for some sets, but for others it is too hard to work the full bonus around it. For example, the Danetta’s set (two 1-hand xbows) makes Vault cost 8 Hatred instead of 8 Discipline. How would you work that into a try-before-you-buy version? Most DH-specific items in RoS now come with Hatred generation as a likely mod, so even if you made the half-set bonus be ‘Vault now costs 16 Hatred’ it would still be way more powerful than a lot of other full set bonuses out there. Likewise, for the Tal Rasha set, the full bonus drops a Meteor per element you hit enemies with, with each Meteor having an 8 second cooldown. You could make it so that less pieces meant less elements counted, but still, it would take an awful amount of space wording this effect, and if you didn’t explicitly spell out the interactions here and on other gear, it would be extremely confusing. Overall, I like the idea as a concept, but I don’t think it would really work. The best way to make it work would be if all the full-set bonuses were stat upgrades, since a percent stat upgrade per piece is intuitive and easy to understand. Of course, the problem there is that having set items just be stat upgrades makes them much less interesting than other, more game-changing legendaries, so if they were not overpowered, they would be boring and useless, and if they were, then we would have the same problem as now, where a few cool special affixes exist and nobody cares because the raw stats are more important. I like the idea a lot, but I think that you’d have to build the system around it; I don’t think that your concept can really be applied to sets as they are now without major changes/problems.

      • Good points – I didn’t realize how diverse set bonuses were. Trying to explain “half-way” bonuses would probably end up being too confusing.

  5. I’d like to point out that environment traps are for real now. Those fire traps in Act III can do a lot of damage, unlike today where people completely ignore them and run right through w/o any thought about it.

    • My experience has been the opposite. Fire traps usually kill me in 2 hits but on the PTR they respect the fire resist. There’s some threads on this in the official bug forum.

  6. Unfortunately until Blizzard stops allowing players to lower the difficulty in the pause menu, there is absolutely nothing hard about hardcore. In fact, until blizzard disables that, hardcore is cheezy as hell. As it stands you can lower the difficulty in combat, so if things get dicey, pause / lower diff. and you’re home free.

    Ive made posts on the forums to no avail. Niether the CM’s or many other players acknowledged this. Now that I’ve hopefully made others aware, please let others know as well.

    Really hope this gets looked at….

    Sincerely, SuperNova.

  7. I for one am glad they turned the legendary drop rate down a bit. We have seen the changes they have made to the systems when they delivered the console version of the game, stating it was Loot 1.5… The result: it took me 5 minutes last week to find 2 legendary daggers (same name, but slightly different stats) while playing normal Act 3 on hard… And when I got back to town, I had 5 legendaries (including those 2 daggers), all less in quality then my almost all legendary gear.

    The droprates on the PTR and Beta seem better (I can only play the PTR), but they confront us with a new problem: when starting a fresh account, you are missing the first gear, which is normally all white or even grey. But those drop as rarely as the others. But I have only played some ours, but already found some neat stuff. Even a legendary crafting material and multiple Demonic Essences. So we really need to depend more on the artisans for our stuff and less on the drops. Crafting good stuff and then making them better is the way to go, it seems.

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