A list a list a LIST!!! Torchlight 2 is good fun. Torchlight hardcore is crazy tense awesome fun. We’ve played hardcore since the release (and many of us in the beta back in May got on the Hardcore train) and lordy we have learned some harsh lessons and want to impart them to YOU dear reader (and Matt and Steve who are waiting for the Mac version). By Hardcore, I mean hardcore Elite– so the most damage to your character, the most hit points on monsters and whatever nastiness Runic wanted to throw deep inside the Elite hole. We started with a blind run (well, those of us not in the beta) so we haven’t seen most of the game and every piece of content has had to be EARNED with hardcore deaths (sometimes piles of them). Only one of us has gotten beyond level 20 (sensless) and they died shortly after while heading back and farming ACT 1 (!?). Here’s stuff to help you get to level 20. It’s not easy but with these tips and some conservative play, you may yet survive.
- Choose your class carefully for Hardcore. The Berserker has the most exposure to damage and the most risk/reward when he goes berserk, so we’ve found that that class takes the dirt nap more than the others. The Engineer heal bot helps a lot– but a lot LESS than you think early levels. The Embermage and Wastlander are ranged characters, so they get to sit back and shoot stuff from a somewhat safe distance.
- Defense > Offense – There’s quite a bit of importance in not dying in hardcore because, well, that’s it. So Defense is a core focus. Vitality should be the number one stat increased. While this is tough to do when you know your damage deal out isn’t very high, it’s much better to have armor and health than to take down those Ratlings a second or two faster. While a good offense usually trumps a good defense, you can worry about doing tons of damage later.
- Make sure your elemental armor is up to par. You can likely ignore elemental damage at lower difficulties, but, at Elite, if you have a weak area, say fire, you will get burned to the ground. Make sure you are using your elemental ember specks in your armor sockets whenever you find them. Once the gem orcs unlock, upgrade your gems when you find the larger types. It makes a huge difference.
- Remember to RUN AWAY. There are points where your character (or group of characters) cannot possibly survive a fight. For example, I woke up the lightning boss in Skull Hollow and ran directly into the “Chest Trap Valley.” I thought he was far enough away to lose aggro from Mr. Lightning and popped the chest. As the swarm of skellingtons rose out of the ground, I saw him up on the ridge ready to fire lightning down. And he did. Good bye level 5 Wastelander!
- Use your rare specks. As soon as I pick up a rare speck, I drop it in a socket. Don’t save these, use them! You will find FAR better gems later in the game.
- Shared Stash is your friend. About the only way to “advance” when your hardcore character dies is to make sure choice (and low level) items are in the Shared Stash for your next character. Make sure you fill your stash when going up against bosses or phase beast challenges. This is called “Making your Piece.”
- Play as a group! TL2 is fun alone but Hardcore is simply meant to be played as a group. The group dynamic, from being able to have a bunch of heal bots around to going crazy with Embermages increasing elemental damage or freezing enemies so they can be pummeled, just makes the path to level 20 easier. Sometimes due to your lack of elemental armor, you have to sit back in some fights. While in a group, you will still get experience in the same area. This makes it harder on the other characters (with the increases in damage and enemy hitpoints) but can help in a pinch.
- Phase Beast Challenges are deadly. Be very careful when entering the portal from a murdalized Phase beast–these are no joke.
- Basic monsters to watch out for: Pirate Ghosts with Pistols, Skellington Archers, Chest Ghosts (their first attack is a doozy), Infernal Skellingtons (fast runners with fire damage)
- Bosses to Watch for: One Eyed Willy will punch your ticket – I’ve seen many characters bite it in the One Eye Willy quest because they go in overconfident. There is a potential Teleporting Boss Stormbeornennnenen in the beast highlands that is brutal if you don’t have a lot of armor, but the worst is the Wraith Boss in the Bone Dungeon (Modox) that summons ghost bats. He slows you down and then you get swarmed by the bats and put inside the ground right quick. Soloing this guy at low levels is near impossible with a close combat character and even as a group, it’s a tough fight early on. Last but not least, prepare for death the first time you fight General Grell if you are lower than level 17-18.
So that’s the 10. Once you hit the Winter area things get a lot more difficult, especially with elemental damage (obviously ICE armor should be your first priority). Get it up to at least 80 if possible as a ranged character– over 100 for a melee type is really going to make it easier not to be hurt so bad you can’t live.
Looking for tips after level 20? Here you go!