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    With a few weeks in the beta and Hardcore now enabled I thought for the next few weeks I’d look at the experience with each class and my trials and tribulations leveling them to 13. Up first the the Barbarian ( the title should have told you that)

    third time's a charm

    I started with the Barbarian because it was the class I was looking forward to the least. I loved the Monk but wasn’t sold on this throwback to Diablo 2. From previous playthroughs in October, the skills felt off and uninteresting, and when I did seem powerful I was at the level cap.

    Starting off I chose the male Barbarian( I always choose male now that I have a choice) and named him of course HCXanth (shameless twitter plug). Since it was my first character since the patch 15 wipe I was truly starting fresh. No stash, no artisan, just an axe and the second best beard in the game.

    The first six levels are easy, kill zombies, save cain, kill Haedrig’s wife and voila. In that time I noticed I was having fun smashing everything I saw, rushing in swinging frantically and cutting my foes down. With the increase to monster health I felt like a warrior fighting for survival and if I wasn’t careful I would be overwhelmed.I grew attached to my Barbarian and in the blink of an eye he was gone. My beta attitude is trying to figure out how far can I push each character to find their breaking point. How much is too much? What happens when my back is against the wall? All good things to know early on before you get going, and things that later on will come in handy, and some lessons already learned with this humble Barbarian.

    My group wandered into the den of the fallen. We quickly cleared the first wing and I made it down to the second before everyone else. As the den began to sprawl I went left as they went right. I found myself smack in the middle of a pack of molten bats. In a second my screen was red, I quickly hit my potion and tried to get out of harm’s way. I mistimed my leap and found only more monsters and less health. Before my group reached me I was dead. That pack went on to slaughter two more characters who also couldn’t get out of the fray.

    With the tougher monsters in group play I set out with my new barbarian to just play with myself..or by myself. Kill zombies, save cain, kill Haedrig’s wife and back in business. This time I was more familiar with my skills, had a small amount of gold to work with and quickly found myself in front of the Skeleton King. Having bested him many times I figured I was in for a walk in the park again. On entering into his domain my town portal was turned off, the exit was sealed and I was left to my fate. We fought back and forth, but in the end he got the better of me. Potions on cool down and being a little to low level to handle all that was before me lead to my down fall.

    So I started again. Kill zombies, save Cain, kill Haedrigs wife. This time however, I went back joined public games and redid those quests a few times. I was level 10 and with a group before I took on the Skeleton king. Even then there were close calls and potions used, not just by me but by my group as well. Eventually I maxed out at 13 and was loving this class, so what changed?

    With the enhanced monster life I was finally able to play the barbarian the way I believe the developers wanted. It was no longer one shooting everything but I had to be conscience of my surroundings, of my potions, and my cool downs. I needed to stomp and stun that pack that was swooping in, or leap as I was being swarmed because I wasn’t going to survive anymore.

    Now as for the hardcore aspect I would be lying if I didn’t say I would be hesitant with a melee character right now. Since most of my skills with a barbarian involve standing next to the thing I want to kill I saw my health bar dropping frequently. In hardcore we are going to have to do a lot of backtracking, repeating a lot of the same quests to make sure we’re not walking in underprepared for what is ahead. We’ve lost spamming potions, and using town portal during tough situations and now are completely reliant on our skills and choices.

    The barb skills I found myself using most

    DiabloWikiLeap: Simple and effective. Gets you out of harms way or pushes you into combat ready to clobber your stunned foes.

    DiabloWikiGround Stomp: Being able to stun and slow my enemies was literally a life saver when combined with leap. I was also able to stun the Skeleton king and wail on him a bit.

    DiabloWikiCleave: Being able to hit multiple monsters seemed more helpful than just one. I found myself being swarmed often and this skill coupled with the rune that causes monsters to explode on death helps clear the way.

    In the end I found myself wanting to do more with My Barbarian, I experienced death and the drive to not have that happen again with this class. It won’t be easy taking a Barbarian to 60 ( or any melee class for that matter) but it’s an appealing idea and one I might find myself embarking on on may 15th.

    Next week: Demon Hunter

    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 me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly.

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