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    Hardcore is a fickle beast. It was a steep learning curve in D3V that got us to Inferno, and then kept us alive. ROS shakes that up once again with new difficulties and of course new mountains to climb. I recall seeing people die on the first quest in Inferno at launch, and as it stands now I could see a repeat for Hardcore players in ROS.

    difficulty

    One of the biggest things that prevented a lot of HC players from hitting inferno at launch and doing well was the gear they had. You needed Inferno level gear, and the only place to find it was Inferno. So you had people farming pots and barrels, or only killing white monsters in vain attempts to get gear. As those items slowly hit the Auction house people geared up and Inferno became “manageable”. Eventually we saw nerfs to difficulty, and a larger proliferation of gear, and eventually farmability for all.

    ROS shakes it up and eliminates our old modes of difficulty and introduces its own.

    The difficulties

    Normal: Basic regular Diablo here, not much of challenge but with monsters scaling to your level you can be kept on your toes with subpar gear.

    Hard:A nice place to start. I’ve leveled every crusader on Hard and found that it was the perfect pace with the extra xp and a nice little challenge tossed in for fun. I had a few moments and close calls on hard at 70 but nothing that really was too devastating.I found myself farming hard more than anything else post 70 to gear up to tackle the other difficulties.

    Expert: Another difficulty, harder than hard (duh) but very manageable with the right gear. When leveling I found this to actually be slower than hard due to the larger health pools. The extra xp was nice, but not as comparable to the speed of hard. Post 70 it can be a bit of a beast with you becoming extra aware of those health pools and the damage from the monsters whittling you down.

    Master: Master is available post 60 and thus not available for leveling. However I can say throwing a new 60 into master is a recipe for disaster. Unless you are gearing up via leveling 1-59 in ros as your gear just won’t transfer over well enough. It’s a huge gear check and post-70 found myself only entering into master a few times as a check point to see if I was ready for torment.

    Torment: There are 6 tiers to torment. However, I’ve only entered into two, one to test and another to slowly trudge.

    T1: It took me awhile but after hitting my gear wall with my crusader I opted to try the waters of torment and found myself in familiar territory. I hit the wall of difficulty,packs stared at me with large health pools and massive damage output. The best way to deal with it? Accumulate the gear they hide in their corpses. And again much like vanilla I found myself farming the easy routes and slowly trying to get in the zone. The drops were slow to pile up, and with the massive damage output and health pools I found myself running away a lot. The gear check that is torment is reminiscent of pre nerf Inferno and I suspect it may be a gear wall, one that may be tough to scale in Hardcore.

    T6: Jesus, this one had me running for my life at the first pack.

    So what does this all mean? To be honest it really seems like there are far too many difficulties. Each one doesn’t seem like a major improvement. There used to be a noticeable progression in difficulty with normal,Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. Each one brought with it a raised level of challenge and each level more or less prepared you for the next. At the moment each difficulty isn’t as much of a stepping stone as it is a barometer for the final one.The end game for diablo has always centered around finding loot, and doing what is most effective. Each new difficulty seems to serve only as a minor stepping stone to get to the final destination to find that loot. Which I would be okay with if each difficulty really did prepare you for the next one, however with the lack of an AH you become subjected to RNG and can find yourself laboring in a lower difficulty for a long time dreaming of new and shinier loot.

    While I’ve enjoyed not having to repeat the various difficulties just to reach the end point of Inferno, the vast amount of difficulties in ROS feels unneeded. Unless there is a clear progression across them and I can’t imagine it couldn’t be simplified. I haven’t found better items in Expert over normal, in fact most of my characters geared up in normal and their gear has languished on them since. Obviously it’s still early and more patches will come but as of now the difficulties are lacking something to really separate them and create a sense or purpose in running one over another.

    What are your thoughts on the changing landscape of difficulties?

    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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