View Full Version : Hardcore Character Leveling

10-17-2019, 11:44 AM
Hi All,

I've challenged myself to try and get a hardcore character to level 100. I don't normally play hardcore characters in ARPGs so I am taking it really slow. In my softcore play throughs I've noticed the things that tend to kill me are ambushes, bosses with some kind of thorns effect, bosses that deal cold and lightning damage together, and getting mobbed by ranged casters. I've managed to get a character up to level 38 where the difficulty really spiked and I really had to slow down.

I would love to to hear some hardcore survival tips and what to expect from the later difficulty tiers. I've been streaming my hardcore play through on twitch, but I'm not going to post it here since this isn't meant to be a shameless plug, but I'd love to get some live feedback on my build if anyone was interested.

10-18-2019, 12:28 PM
I am playing softcore myself, though with some extra self-imposed challenges attached. So far i am at level 39 without dying and not actually coming close to death for the last 30 levels.

Current Build
The current character build i have is centred around just having Devastating Blow as an active skill. Devastating Blow deals weapon damage plus 1 damage (+0.5 per skill level) per mana point a character has, and consumes all mana in the process. At first glance using all mana for a single strike may seem like a bad idea: A single kill or hit leaves you without any mana for further attacks. However, the idea is that if a character has mana or can generate mana fast, the skill has massive damage potential. And thanks to the mutation system we have a ton of methods to achieve precisely this:

- The basic skill "Soul harvest" grants +7 mana for each kill per soul harvest skill and you can have multiple of those specced. This means each kill recharges our mana pool (and thus damage) for the next attack.
- There are multiple +% Regen skills and items that grant base regen. Stacking these can have rather impressive results, with my current character having 65 regen/sec out of combat.
- the "Energetic" base skill increases mana regen in combat by 60% each time the perk is taken. In fact, multiple instances of this skill ensures we have MORE regen in combat than outside.
- The "Prayer" skill regenerates 5 mana a second while not attacking.

Because "Devastating Blow" translates mana directly into damage it means that having a high mana regen per second equals having a high amount of attack damage. Bottom line: The character currently generates sufficient mana to constantly oneshot any regular mob without taking a break or needing potions.

When facing bosses who have more health its sufficient to take a mana potion to refill the mana pool or kite \ use prayer a few seconds. The size of the mana pool itself equals the maximum potential damage a single hit can do. If one specs "Mana Bonus" one increases the mana pool by 4 mana per point of spirit (And again, mana bonus can be specced multiple times). Currently the character has ~2k mana pool and can hit for about 6.000 damage when filled up(Sufficient to oneshot most bosses, healthstones and Avatars of a similar level to yourself).

As for Survivability:

There are a few fantastic Skills for survivability that are essentially must-haves in any build, and this one is no exception:

- "Unholy Vitality": Grants 10 VIT and 10 STR for just 1 skill point (+10 of each per level)
- "Blessing": Grants 10 VIT for just 1 skill point (+10 of each per level)
- "Void Shield": Increases your defence by 20% (+10% per level).

These three buffs are currently sufficient to ensure one does not need to spend stat points into anything except Dexterity and Spirit (For me a 4-1 ratio). DEX directly increases defence which lowers your chance to be hit. If you take the defence increasing basic skill (1 point = 2.5 defence per dex) a few times you can very easily reach a defence rating where you have 2-3% chance to be hit. Be sure to take the attack basic skill as well to reach 98-99% to hit with +500% chance to crit as well. All things combined the result is that melee enemies can barely scratch you if the few seconds they tend to be close enough to try to hit you.

Combine the above this with the "Leech Life" skill (Heal 2 HP per hit as level 1) and "Defy Death" skill (Heal 5 per kill at level 1) and each attack will also generate 7HP a hit at initial levels. Even more fun is "Bloodlust" which grants a 25% chance to grant 2% lifesteal per level specced on hit (And it can trigger multiple times at the same time). Lifesteal is based on damage done; with Devastating Strike hitting for about 6000 a two-proc lifesteal at level 3 will heal the character for 12% (or 720 health) of damage. Even without a full mana pool a basic hit is currently about 350 equalling about 35 health regained per hit. If you combine that with a weapon that grants a lifesteal on hit chance things grow even more insane (Up to the point where the health orb is essentially always full).

Closing comment:
I admit i get i bit TOO excited over this build, but i just love it when a build ends up working really well. This build should be entirely viable in hardcore: It comes online quickly, and as it is based mostly on skills it does not require any special drops or items to be effective. (My character runs around with gear with some handy mutations, but a lot of it is 10-20 levels behind my level).

Most of all this build is fun to play: Normally when playing a hardcore character you want to be defensive / cautious to avoid dieing. This build actually allows and encourages charging into the fray by healing on kills / healing when being hit while at the same potentially one-shotting everything. There have actually been times where i won a scenario by mowing down a nemesis or boss without even noticing due to me one-shotting it as part of a random group of enemies.

I have to play this build to 100 to be sure, but i believe the build is capable of reaching level 100 without dieing without too much effort or issues. And most importantly: While having fun in the process.

10-18-2019, 12:58 PM
As for Survivability:
- "Unholy Vitality": Grants 10 VIT and 10 STR for just 1 skill point (+10 of each per level)
- "Blessing": Grants 10 VIT for just 1 skill point (+10 of each per level)
- "Void Shield": Increases your defence by 20% (+10% per level).

I also use "Unholy Vitality" and "Void Shield" along with "Unholy Resistance". I'll need to check out "Blessing".

That info on devastating blow is interesting, I'd read the skill but it looks really awkward to use, but it sounds like you need to build around it. I'd actually used the healing on kill skill, but found I wasn't killing often enough, but I do have life leech and bloodthirsty. It sounds like I'm lacking damage though because I am definitely not one shotting bosses. I'll need to try out devastating blow.

I've attached a screenshot of my current build.

10-19-2019, 11:01 AM
It sounds like I'm lacking damage though because I am definitely not one shotting bosses. I'll need to try out devastating blow.

I've attached a screenshot of my current build.

Well, to be honest.... one shotting bosses isn't the norm in almost any build. The build around devastating blow just has massive damage potential which allows it to do so. :)

Looking at the build i believe the reason you're currently having a challenging time is because you are lacking defense. High defense ensures that you are not hit at all, whereas high health and high armor increase your capacity to soak up and reduce incoming damage. I found that speccing defense is a lot more efficient and effective than raising armor or health especially in the higher levels, where enemy damage increases.

Just compare:
- If 10 hostile are attacking you at the same time, (very) high defense ensures that perhaps only 2-3% of these attacks hit. You still have your armor and the health from Unholy Vitality and Blessing to ensure that the ones that DO go through don't hurt too badly.
- If 10 hostile are attacking you, (very) high vitality and armor ensure that the incoming damage is reduced quite substantially. However, you are still being hit about 70-80% of the time a hostile attacks. With 10 mobs spamming attacks that damage quickly accumulates even if the damage you take per hit isn't that bad.

If i were to look at my character build she has (buffed) 622 armor, 12k defense and 2.5k health. In turn that translates to a 3% chance to be hit and 39% damage reduction on hit (With 2.5k Hp to soak that damage up). There is some logarithmic scaling going on of course: At her unbuffed amount of 5.2k defense the chance to be hit is still only just 6%. So overdoing it by heavily speccing defense may not be needed for every build. It is, however, practical to overspec as debuffs (such as Darkness) are effected by the exact same scaling. If you overspec defense a 20% reduction for walking in the dark just translates to a 1-2% extra chance to be hit. Whereas at lower amounts of defense, it could translate to 10-20%.

What you should consider however is that some skills grant a flat percentage change based on your base attribute value. For example, void shield increases your defense by 20% (+10% per level) per level of your basic defense value. If your basic defense is already low, the amount its buffs will also be relatively negligible. If your defense is medium or high, the buffed amount stacks up rather quickly. Aside from this you may want to grab a few more basic skills to make your attribute points more effective. Looking at the screenshot i see your unbuffed 78 Vitality grants a total of 666 health, whereas i end up at 629 with 31 vitality. In my opinion basic skills are initially a lot more valuable than attack skills as they scale so wonderfully over time, so i tend to mutate prioritizing basic skills over attack skills.

Honestly though, your build itself really isn't bad at all. The skills themselves are well chosen and work great together and it actually should work just fine with a few improvements to defense. In fact, my current "Devastating Blow" build was initially a vitality heavy build as i thought some "lifesteal % on damage" skills and weaponry would create a great self-refilling tank. In practice it worked less optimally: At higher levels i kept taking more and more damage from hits and had to spend more and more time kiting things around. After deleting that character at level 30 i made the current version is DEX (Defense) based version that can generally merrily rush into the middle of a group of hostiles without taking any real damage. I think you're in exactly the same situation here - the game is likely starting to get harder over time because you're taking more and more damage that can't be effectively mitigated by increasing your armor and health.

Screenshot is of the current character with unbuffed and buffed attributes. If you're wondering where my Blessing skill is hiding: I had the wonderful luck of receiving it as a mutation on my Prayer skill which saves a couple skill points to actually level it.