So if you were fortunate enough to play the Diablo 3 beta at all I am sure that you realized that the difficulty was not very tough. In fact, I have been in the beta since September 2011 and I have only died once. There used to be champion packs that would spawn hydras that spammed you with arcane orbs. Each minion could summon one as well so you would essentially turn the corner, four hydras would go down all around you, and you were dead before you knew what was happening. I suppose this affix was a little tough for this point in the game which is why you likely never saw it in the beta. So once that was gone there was really nothing left to kill you.
A couple patches later Blizzard unlocked hardcore characters for play if you have reached level 10 on a normal character. For those of you that don't know hardcore is the exact same as regular mode except that it is completely isolated from non-hardcore characters/stash/artisans and if you die your character is no longer playable. You get one life. Now this sounds fun, but in the beta there was really nothing that was going to kill you so playing hardcore was really not much different than playing normal characters except you had to level your blacksmith again.
Enter the naked hardcore challenge. Vyrt, my wife, and I decided we would try to clear the beta on naked hardcore characters. When I say naked I mean you can use what you started the game with, which I believe is a 3 dps weapon across the board. You don't see it right at the beginning of the game, but by the time you are level 5 or 6 things start to take an extremely long time to kill. From the course of leveling from 1 to 8 our damage only went from 3 to 4. There were a couple times where we had to zone back upstairs in the cathedral. As you can imagine the skeleton mobs that summoned smaller skeletons posed the most problems for us because we could not kill them very fast, and this lead to us being overrun a few times. We had a really intense fight against 3 of those. Immediately after we were at the event before the Skeleton King where the four pillars come to life and spawn skeletons until you destroy the pillars. It took us about ten minutes and a lot of zoning and creative kiting to take out this event, but we did it without losing anyone.
At this point we had been playing for a long time since we were still doing 3 damage, and we opted to just try and fight the Skeleton King instead of level up to 13 which is what any sane person would do on release. Our strategy was to kite around and take as little damage as possible while focusing on the Skeleton King when we could. We ignored the adds he summoned because we did not have enough damage to make killing them a viable strategy. Instead we opted to let the Skeleton King kill them, and then to try and snipe the health orbs that they dropped. We tried kiting in a pack, but we ended up getting hit by the Skeleton King at the same time, and the health orbs weren't keeping up. When we spread out we had a much harder time getting him to kill the adds. After about 10 minutes of fighting Vyrt and my wife died within seconds of each other. The fight was actually a lot easier when it was just me (except the whole his health was scaled for 3 players thing). I was able to have him kill his minions in tight packs, and put a little bit of damage on him here and there. After about 5 more minutes solo I made a play for a risky health globe, and I met my fate. Here's a screenshot of the Skeleton King after 15 minutes of fighting him naked.
All in all it was the most challenging we could make the beta for ourselves. Leveling a bit higher and unlocking more abilities would have been a better idea, but as I said we had already been playing for a while. I think if we had hit level 9 and unlocked Soul Harvest it might have gone a bit better, but who knows. I would be interested to hear of anyone else making the beta harder and more fun.
Launch Day Prep
- Buy the game!
If you haven't done this already buy the game! Odds are you're out of luck on the collector's edition at this point so your best bet is to go to your Battle.net account and pre-purchase the game from Blizzard. There's no point to buy the physical copy of the game unless you really like boxes.
- Make your Battle tag
Log in to your Battle.net account and create your battle tag. The battle tag is how the game will refer to you for the most part, and how you will show up to other players so choose wisely. If you already have a battle tag I think you can still use the free change they added. For example my tag used to be Mayong and now it is Myrx.
- Download the game
If you purchased the game through Blizzard it will be on your Battle.net account. Go ahead and download it now. You will still need to download a small (100MB or so) patch on launch day, but you can get the rest of the download out of the way now.
- Installing the game
The installer is locked right now, but it should unlock at 11:01 AM EST on May 14. This means you can go ahead and get the game ready to play so that when the servers go live you can hop right in. You will also be able to patch the game at this point.
- Play the game!
The servers will go live at 3:01 AM EST on May 15. Make sure you have everything downloaded, installed, and patched by then and you will be able to log right in and play.
- Stay off the internet
Not the entire internet. Keep in mind that people have gotten their collector's editions by now. There are spoilers in the art book, and the behind the scenes DVD that are already posted on some Diablo 3 fan sites. Blizzard will be updating their web site, and some people have already leaked a strategy guide. All of these things contain spoilers so if you want to keep the game a surprise just stay off of Diablo 3 fan sites and forums until the game comes out.