One life to live: The torment of torment

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.


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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27 thoughts on “One life to live: The torment of torment

  1. I would really like to know how my survival stacked barb on PTR stacks up on Torment. On PTR, Master difficulty is way too easy, if I lose around 1/4 of total health in scrap with 20 minions at same time, it is almost a miracle.

  2. There may be too many, but I do really like the notion that some are pretty doable, and some are nearly impossible. The problem at launch was that within inferno, there was no difficulty scaling. You were either in Inferno or had to play in hell with level 45-50 monsters. I think it’s a great improvement to be able to scale the difficulty from ‘baseline or easy’ all the way through a spectrum up to ‘nearly impossible/gear check’.

  3. “Unless there is a clear progression across them I can’t imagine it couldn’t be simplified.”

    Why would there be a need for clear progression? We are not talking about the old Normal/Nightmare/Hell structure here. The primary objective of the new difficulty system is to provide added challenge *for the people that want it*. This is why there’s not much added reward until Torment 1, this way you are largely free to chose your game experience. Want to faceroll no matter what like Barbs did in the past year? Play on Normal/Hard/Expert. Want to challenge yourself? Then slowly work towards Torment 6. You can do whatever you want, because the rewards don’t get much better until Torment and I absolutely love this.

    • I agree with you but a lot of people don’t. Anything that is labeled ‘optional’ immediately becomes ‘required’, simply because it’s there.

      I predict the official forums will fill with people calling for a Torment nerf because they can’t faceroll it two weeks after release.

      Never underestimate the ferocious digital gluttony of the newer generation.

  4. If you played console version you may notice that some difficulties are not doable from start. What is the point of difficulty when you cannot survive or kill anything on that difficulty (Master V on Level 1 character).
    When you want to add a difficulty to your game, make sure that:
    1. the difficulty is completelly doable from start to finnish
    2. the difficulty must be balanced properly (no huge diff. spikes)
    3. the difficulty must not be cheap
    4. the difficulty must be fun and rewarding in some way (achievements, better loot, more monsters with different powers, new bosses, etc.)

    Problem with Diablo difficulty is that the game WAS NOT TESTED ON SELF-FOUND on ALL difficulties from START to FINNISH. That is why there are so many difficulty spikes, useless skills or super easy parts of the acts. Diablo2, Titan Quest, PoE and many more games have great difficulties (with few issues of course), Diablo3 has not. To me it looks like the dev team is unable to do anything with it so they are not fixing the broken normal-nightmare-hell patern but replacing it with cheap and lazy level scaling.

    • Difficulties in Reaper of Souls are not doable from the start, true, but that was never the goal. It’s not a coincidence that everything above Expert is locked until you reach the endgame. The game can be absolutely finished on Normal, Hard and Expert even with a completely new account, so I’d say the devs tested self-found and balanced the difficulties quite well.

      • The main problem is the huge damage spread on everything. You may start Act with e.g. 1k dmg and a few hours later your may have 30k and one-shoting everything in another 2 Acts. So your only option is to boost your difficulty (till you’ll hit the diff cap). So because your core systems are horribly designed you must the create artificial systems to “support” them (30x HP on MP10 mosters and so on).

        In this expansion they should be fixing the core issues, not hidding them even more. Because in the next expansion there will be 80lvl cap, weapons with 5-8k dps, 2k main stat on weapons and enemies with 10^10 health with another difficulties like super-torment 1-6 with MP30 power.

        • “You may start Act with e.g. 1k dmg and a few hours later your may have 30k and one-shoting everything in another 2 Acts. So your only option is to boost your difficulty (till you’ll hit the diff cap).”

          Why is that? I’m usually completely fine with playing on Hard and Expert, even though both are fairly easy for me. The reason? Sometimes I enjoy mindless slaughter and I wouldn’t gain much by increasing the difficulty. If I want a challenge? Then I’ll go to Master. What’s wrong with this? Finally the difficulty system is mostly just that, a way to tailor the game experience to how you like it, without feeling like you’re missing out on huge rewards. This actually completely true for Classic players.

          For the expansion the situation is somewhat different. You still get rewarded for going up the difficulty ladder, so there are incentives for pushing yourself. Other than the pure challenge that is. Until Master you’ll only get bonus XP and Gold (gold also means better items because of Enchanting), but things get more interesting after that. Master brings new Gem levels, which are much more powerful than anything you have access to otherwise. Torment 1 brings new Legendaries and increased drop rates for them. Torment level 5 through 6 only increase you chances to get Legendary drops even further.

          To answer Xanth’s question as well, currently I think the new difficulty system is almost perfect. My opinion may change after months of play, but the new system is an all around improvement if you ask me now.

          The way I see it, the only endgame difficulty is Torment and having 6 levels for it doesn’t seem too much to me. This granularity has the advantage the transition between each level is smoother. Eventually T1 will become child’s play if you’re a long term player. It will become the new Normal in a way and at that point we won’t have worry about not having access to certain Legendaries either when we want to have it easy.

          • When they decided to remove elemental resistances and effects on enemies they made a huge mistake. Now you can boost enemy power only by adding more dmg or hp to it. In TQ or D2 they were lowering player’s base resist level and buffing enemy’s elemental dmg so when you hit higher difficulty, you were banished by their buffed elemntal attacks (like chain lightning on spectres in Act IV or lightning enchanted elites) but their hp was not 1000-times higher. On higher difficulties you were also stacking elemental resist or elemental dmg for certain types of enemies which was really great.

  5. “Why is that? I’m usually completely fine with playing on Hard and Expert, even though both are fairly easy for me. The reason? Sometimes I enjoy mindless slaughter and I wouldn’t gain much by increasing the difficulty.”

    My problem is that D3’s difficulty is, for the most part, super easy or super hard (spikes of unavoidable dmg or high amount of enemy hp). The time where everything is “in balance” is really short (you find a new item that boost your dmg by 2x and everything is easy again).

    I would really like to see a more complex (only more ARPG-complex, no turn-based-RPG-complex) system where you must think a bit while you are fighting an enemy:
    … are my cold,light,fire resistances high enough ?
    … i must be more carefull because these are undead enemies so my life steal will not work
    … i need to use my fire weapon/skills because this enemy has fire weakness
    … i need something to reduce my stun duration and stun damage so this boss will not one-hit me
    … if I can slow this boss down, I can interupt his casting so he will not spawn som many minions

    /For example, all of these were taken when I was playing Titan Quest/

    • I strongly disagree about the spiky nature of enemy damage. It was already toned down noticeably on the PTR. The transitions between difficulty levels are generally smoother and you can better predict what you’ll be up against later even after your first encounter with monsters. Some Elite affixes still need to be looked at though. For example, Electrified together with Fire Chains can bring you down surprisingly quickly. Arcane Enchanted can be still quite brutal as well, but it’s much easier to evade than the other two.

      To be honest, I think that ever since the Monster Power system was implemented the difficulty progression was very smooth even in classic D3. D2 handled this much worse than any other game I’ve played with. If you didn’t know Hell like the back of your hand, you were in for some nasty surprises. Some normal enemies were more dangerous than even some Uniques and don’t even get me started on the BS inconsistent enemy abilities like Tomb Vipers had. Things like that really made me flip out about the later patches. Enemies like Gloams and exploding Bone Fetishes aren’t a very good way to create interesting challenges, but it’s excellent at making people ignore certain areas of the game and D2 was full of irritating things like this.

      Your examples to make combat more complex are absolutely fine and I hope that an even deeper combat experience is considered for the future. Your ideas however have the downside that they can easily reduce the number of viable builds. In RPGs you have a certain amount of affix slots on your items and when you increase the number of stats you need to effectively counter enemies it follows that you’ll have less wiggle room to try different things. Classic D3 already struggled with build viability and I think this issue should have priority first.

      Again, that’s not to say that I don’t want deeper combat. Looking at the current design of D3 though I think it may be better if this is done primarily through the skill system, not additional stats. Right now skill switching has no downsides at all and personally if I’d be a dev on the D3 team I’d start experimenting with adjusting enemies so that they can be countered effectively with different skill sets. The goal would be to provide incentives for players to run specific areas with different skill sets and Legendaries that support them. The first Guild Wars is a good example of what I mean, although the system doesn’t have to be that extreme. In D3’s case ideally every area should be doable with any build, but some of them should have clear advantages.

      • “D2 handled this much worse than any other game I’ve played with. If you didn’t know Hell like the back of your hand, you were in for some nasty surprises.”

        This was what I loved about D2 (not spiky damage on Bone Fetishes of course). Everytime you have entered a new difficulty you can feel the SENSE of DANGER of sudden death from zombie elite with lightning enchanted affix (because your lightning resist suck). MP system feels flat and boring. Just more HP and DMG feels incredibly boring. We need enemy resistances and affixes (not the same boring elite affixes as now) on base enemy types, not just elites. So on higher difficulty you will need to change your click-to-kill-everything patern and change the way your build works.

        I also loved when enemy type can spawn on a different area or act on higher difficulty with new name and affixes.

        • I agree that enemy scaling in simplistic. With the current limit of affixes however I don’t think it would be a good idea to introduce many new ones that matter. In D2 you could cover every stat you mentioned in your previous comment, because a single item could have much more affixes. Expanding the stat system would require changes to how items are generated and this would have a snowball effect, because enemies would have to be rebalanced for the new system and probably player skills as well. The stat system, while simple, is finally getting to a good place in RoS, so I wouldn’t mess with it too much.

          The skill system on the other hand is already one of the most flexible ones out of similar games and I think it should be better utilized. This is why I’d prefer if monster composition and abilities would change in a way that would give us reasons to have area specific builds. Introduce areas where only big enemies spawn, so that single target skills are more ideal. In other places we could face spiky damage, so Ignore Pain and similar skills would be more valuable. I would also like to see normal enemies sometimes spawning with one random Elite affix, just to spice things up a little.

          If someone doesn’t like this, well, the good thing is that even with fairly bad gear on Normal, Hard or Expert it probably wouldn’t matter, you could overpower everything anyway. Remember, Torment 6 is not like Hell was in D2, or Inferno in D3, it’s the be all and end all of the game. Technically, if you reached the max level then even Normal is part of the endgame, even though you are missing out on some drops.

          I can’t tell you how much I like this last bit. In this system even the most wacky builds can farm for 99% the same items as the most broken builds can and with almost the same efficiency as well.

          • Damn, meant to say “*not* the be all and end all of the game”. I don’t know why I keep missing words lately, but it aggravates me to no end. I think I’m getting ahead of myself while typing, but I don’t notice mistakes like this even when I’m checking my comments for them. 🙂

          • “The stat system, while simple, is finally getting to a good place in RoS”

            Fully dissagre with you. Stat system is getting nowhere. They are just dancing around it and “polishing it”.

            “The skill system on the other hand is already one of the most flexible ones out of similar games and I think it should be better utilized.”

            While the system is flexible it is pretty much useless. Most of the skill runes are horrible even after ~3-4? iterations. When you get weapon you want (high dmg, high main stat, high as, …) you will always pick the fastest and most effective skill(s) and it’s rune because of the %dmg weapon formula. I own the console D3 and played also the new PTR version and they are alsmost the same. When my wizzard was on level ~35, I have never used any obtained skill runes till level 60. So I waited ~25 levels till i was able to obtain the rune I wanted so I can update my “build”.

            And of course there are no real builds in this game. It has the same skill system as Final Fantasy XIII-2 where your skill path is also strictly linear. So your party or “build” depends on your paradigm configuration (which is fun in FF because the enemies are balanced with this in mind).

  6. @ “To be honest it really seems like there are far too many difficulties. Each one doesn’t seem like a major improvement.”

    I don’t think so. Once the itemization gets fixed in the next patch, there should be a very noteable progression from T1-6.

  7. @ “My problem is that D3?s difficulty is, for the most part, super easy or super hard (spikes of unavoidable dmg or high amount of enemy hp).”

    There are no one-shots anymore in RoS, high damage spikes were seriously dampened. If you are hit, for example, by 3 Torment mortars which would kill you, you now get away with around ~50% HP. If you are hit again, you’ll still have 25%. Just the next fatal error might kill you.

    • And even if the game is too hard for someone they can lower the difficulty (without a restart) and not regret it, since increase in rewards is very gradual as well until you hit Torment. You are free to adjust the difficulty to how you like it and there are definitely no spiky enemy attacks on Normal/Hard/Expert difficulty.

      • And let’s not forget the new monster mod “disabler” items like Rogar’s Huge Stone (immune to arcane & heal/dmg taken), Mara’s Kaleidoscope (immune to all poison & heal), or Blackthorne’s new set bonus (immune to molten, desecrator & plagued).

    • “Just the next fatal error might kill you.”

      Like getting stuck by a waller when one spawned wall pinned your collision to the ground 🙂

      • The 3rd time probably, but you have two tries before. Anyway, any elite pack that takes longer than a voodoo dance (20 sec) to kill tells me that I’m playing in the wrong difficulty level. Kiting is not really an option in D3. 😉

        That being said, I already wrote in my first beta report that walls should become destructble objects in RoS/patch 2.0.x – all problems solved.

  8. Xanth’s post seems kinda contradictory and fickle. You have the complaint that there are too many difficulties, but then that you are stuck with RNG waiting to find an upgrade before you can get to the next tier. It seems to me that the system is fine. It would be far more frustrating if it were like vanilla inferno where act 1 inferno will 1 shot you and the only way to get stronger is to get gear from inferno. With the new system, you should be able to find upgrades once in a while, and as your power slowly grows, you can start moving towards torment 1. Torment 1 is when the end-game farm really begins, because that’s when all the items become available. Progressing past torment 1 isn’t a necessity, but as your gear improves you have the option of tackling harder modes.

    I don’t see how too many difficulties is a problem. It would be a problem if you were trying to play multiplayer and people were spread too thin, but even with the many difficulties being added, it’s no more than the current 10 levels of monster power in the game.

    • “like vanilla inferno where act 1 inferno will 1 shot you and the only way to get stronger is to get gear from inferno.”

      more like

      “like vanilla inferno where act 1 inferno will 1 shot you and the only way to get stronger AND BEAT ACT I & II is to get gear from ACT III inferno.”


  9. Biggest problem was that you couldn’t actually farm very good gear in Hell ACT4. If you could have farmed that and get that ilvl61 gear to enter Inferno A1 with a level of gear that you could pretty much start to farm A1 it would have been a lot better.

    If in Act1 Inf you could have found some more ilvl62 63 items it would have been okey.

    Then you would have been able to farm A1 for decent gear to get into A2-A3.

    About D2 Hell.. You pretty much figured out the mechanics in Nightmare. Nightmare Lightning Enhanced mobs were quite dangerous already if you had low resists. So figuring that in Nightmare you could prepare for Hell.. Seeing resists going down a lot in Hell you figured out you need a lot more Resist gear. General tactic was to get 3 perf diamond shield to hell which generally made you get past hell acts quite easy.

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