Guide: First Steps in Hardcore
Some bold people decide to play Diablo 3 as it should be played, in the hard hitting kick ass way. You can also call it suicidal and stupid, and it is, but that's just the way we like it - Hardcore mode! We round up some observations and tips by our staff and friends regarding kicking it hardcore style, you know, so you won't die as much.
One of the scariest things you have to deal with is jumping into enemy lines in the midst of combat. No one likes to be surprised by a couple of elites or a rare right next to you. If you're entering a game, ask your fellow players if it's safe to join them. A quick way is to simply write "safe?" or "bs?" Meaning simply - is your Banner Safe? Can I press it and teleport to you and not be in grave danger. Communicate with people, ask if they are ready for a boss and consider different tactics to deal with situations that arise.
Do not play with lag. You probably know this but we decided to include it anyways. It takes just 2 seconds of no control over your character to get clobbered to death by an elite pack. In Diablo - Lag = Death. If you experience delay or even worse - lag spikes, stop playing and fix your connection.
Since you'll be prioritizing life over damage, it might take time defeating enemies. As a ranged character you should use a sufficient amount of Crowd Control (cc) spells to keep you safe while you're whittling down enemy health. As a melee character, always check your health while fighting and make sure to have some sort of Escape Mechanism when things go bad. Taking Elective Mode to have more freedom with skills and using more Defensive Skills at the expense of damaging ones is the way to go.
Luckily bosses in the game are scripted encounters with predefined attacks. Learning these attacks will make them easy to avoid, turning most boss fights into a cakewalk. Elite mobs on the other hand are much more troubling. You can never know what you'll end up facing and some mobs can really be a problem. Rares and Elites should not be taken lightly and dealt with caution - sometimes it's best just to let go and not engage them if possible.
Confession Corner: I played my first HC character with a friend that has already lost several heroes. He wanted to rush through act 1 since he's done it so many times. After the Skeleton King we got into the Fields of Misery and I teleported to him. He was just facing 3 angry huge elite beasts that were Jailers. Needless to say they all charged me at the same time while jailing me, and being level 8 with no items, I lost that character then and there.
Items are the main way to customize your character and as you start off, you might have problems finding the correct gear. The most problematic part of playing HC isn't the very high levels, it's the start. Act 1 and 2 on normal difficulty are problematic since you're character doesn't have much options when it comes to skills, and your items get replaced quickly as you level up fast.
Once you hit your twenties around act 2 and as you progress to act 3 you'll start getting proper items and this is where decisions have to be made. At the current state of the game's economy, the best way to get good items is the Auction House. You should ignore the blacksmith completely. This also means selling your items and not salvaging them. A random magical item can be sold for around 80-120 gold, or salvaged to give you simple crafting material and a chance to get a rare material. Putting that chance aside, crafting items (both normal and rare) can be bought for less than the sell price of a single item - this means you are better off just selling your items.
So what items do you want? The answer is very simple, bonuses to Vitality, and bonuses to your damage giving attribute (Strength for Barbarians, Dexterity for Monks, etc...). Nothing else should really matter to you (aside from DPS on your weapon of course). Let's look at my Sorceress, err... I mean Female Wizard at about level 30. I'll search for one handed weapons (not just wands) of my current level and down to 10 levels below. The attributes I'm looking for are Vit and Int at roughly 40 each. I sort by Buyout since I'm cheap and I check out if there's anything better than what I have. 40 for both Int and Vit give some results but they are all too expensive for me so I lower the minimum to 30 and try again. Later I do the same things for armor (search for all armor, no need to look for specific gear) and find some cool new items, I buy what I can according to my budget.
Using the AH goes both ways. If you find an item with a high Vit bonus and another attribute that isn't what you need (My Sorceress doesn't need bracers with Vit and Str), feel free to go on the AH and sell it. Make sure to check for similar items and their price before posting, and then hope for a sell. When you replace an old item with a better one consider if that old item is still viable, and sell it. With just playing the game and selling what you find, you should be able to keep up with a good income that will allow you to keep getting stronger all the time. If it's your first HC character you might have a little trouble at first, but gold is shared between chars, so if you lose a character - you'll start the next one with a load of cash to help you out.
So how are you doing? You want to have a good amount of HP especially going into boss fights. Though boss attacks are simple to avoid, if they do hit you, they hit hard, and you want to be able to take that punishment. For the first act, you want about 1K HP going into the final boss. For act 2 you'll want about 2K and as you reach Beliel (act 2 boss), you want to survive those big punches with upwards of 3K HP.
As for levels, you'll want to be around level 15 when you finish Act 1 and about level 24 when you finish Act 2. It is obviously recommended to play with as many people as possible as having a full team means more monsters and faster progression and thus, more levels. You shouldn't feel obliged to go back and grind, but if you're close to an item hurdle (meaning close to the level where items get better) you might want to repeat the last few quests to level up a bit.
That Bloody Boring Start
As we've stated - the most difficult part of playing HC isn't the higher difficulty levels, it's the start. Act 1 and Act 2 of Normal difficulty aren't just hard, they are also tedious. If you lose a HC character, you have to start over, and the starting acts of the game quickly become rather dull. You'll want to rush through them as fast as you can, and it's certainly possible, but you should look out for several things.
With everything said in this guide taken into account - the most important thing of rushing is having a full team. With a full team you'll gain levels and progress much faster, and even when rushing you won't be that under leveled. As long as you make sure to kill everything in your path, even if that path has no detours whatsoever, you should be able to finish the first act in about 2 hours at level 15. Deal carefully with Rares and Elites and there shouldn't be anything too scary in your way. If you're playing with friends - share your loot and items, it will certainly help pull you through the start of the game where getting good items is problematic.
If you’re daring, and looking for a challenge - Hardcore is the way to go. Diablo 3 has its share of problems, but playing HC is still incredibly enjoyable. That fear of death and overcoming it with friends is a great feeling, and when you beef up you character and beat another boss - another difficulty level, you feel great. All highs come with lows and when you lose a high leveled character, that feeling of loss is great. Have a funeral, go out drinking and mourn your loss, but always know that the next char is around the corner, and the adventure is endless.
Well, at least until you get tired of finishing act 1 for the 74th time ...
Fun Fact of the Day: Diablo 3 has 15 tiers of gems. To go up a tier, you need 3 gems of the current tier, that means to go from chipped ruby (tier 1) to flawed ruby (tier 2) you need to use 3 chipped rubies and have the jewel crafter combine them. To make a Radiant Star (tier 15) from Chipped gems (tier 1), you need 3 to the power of 14 chipped gems. That's - 4,782,969 chipped gems. Happy grinding!
Thanks goes to “Whifra” and his friends for helping with this article.