Hardcore modes pop up here and there but are usually included in action RPGs such as Torchlight and Diablo. They play exactly like their normal mode counterparts with the catch that you have but one life, and if you lose it by screwing up then you must restart your character from the beginning.
Same games let you continue playing in the normal mode after your characters been killed, some don’t, but the idea of hardcore modes is the all the same: It’s an adrenaline-packed thrill-ride and many gamers, myself include, thrive on this style of play. But there’s a certain mentality surrounding the modes that new players should be aware of, so here’s my take on it.
The first thing you should do when you start Hardcore is forget about simple concepts like “winning”. “Winning” a game tends to involve reaching the end of the storyline or the maximum level and calling it a day, but Hardcore modes aren’t so cut and dry. Hardcore mode is less about winning as it is about general progression. It’s about figuring out the best way to play your character in what is, in most cases, the worst-case scenario. You don’t prepare for worst-case scenarios in Hardcore modes: You’re already playing them.
The Contra Comparison
I have a fairly basic mentality when it comes to playing Hardcore modes: Treat it like Contra. I use Contra as my example because it’s not only a prime example of the difficulty some games reached but also because it’s a well-known title amongst leagues of other games that were just as hard as Contra was.
The difficulty of platform games back in the 80s and 90s is nigh legendary for anyone remotely familiar with them. Most arcade games had a simple premise but were incredibly unforgiving. There’s a few reasons why this was which I won’t go into detail here, suffice to say that the difficulty was most likely deliberately designed that way.
Contra is one game where you couldn’t just zerg through it; It was never really expected of you to “beat” the game, not immediately at least. The best part about Contra wasn’t beating the game, it was making progress. It was beating that one boss to get to the next level, even if you ended up dying (and you did) 30 seconds later. Lots of people never made it past the first level but those who did felt immense achievement, even in the face of knowing there were so many more levels to go.
Excitement through risk.
Sometimes I take a look at this generations breed of gamers and I just laugh at the amount of people complaining that a part of a game is “too hard”. It makes me think back to the old platform games I’ve seen and played and I think, “If only you knew”. But I don’t judge these people badly, because I realise that today is much different to how it was back then. It’s a different generation altogether.
25 years later…
…and out pops Diablo 3.
Hardcore mode RPGs are a lot easier in some ways than the old arcade games, and a lot harder in some parts.
It’s easier to take it easy and progress at a slower pace on Diablo 3 than on Contra. Contra is fast-paced, to-the-point action. You die quick and you die hard. In Diablo 3 you have lots of methods to get you out of sticky situations just in the nick of time whereas in games like Contra you not only needed to be quick on your feet but also have a good memory for when you would inevitably die.
Hardcore D3 is harder in some areas, though. Most notably the randomness of dungeons factors into the difficulty of the game. Whilst some argue the true value of this so-called “randomness”, in a hardcore-style mode it’s beyond amazing. It adds a sense of unpredictability to a game which already has that.
Old-style arcade games are largely flat in their level design. The levels and monster placement generally don’t differ much, if at all, per run. Dying on the same level in the same place gets easier each time because you eventually memorize how to do it, whereas in a modern RPG you don’t get that luxury. The amount of enemies that spawn, where they spawns and what type spawns is random, not to forget the fact that the dungeon design itself is randomly generated as well.
For those who thrive on Hardcore modes there is truly nothing better than the simple concept of RNG; “Random number generation”, or simply put: The method of making things appear random using algorithms.
Hardcore modes are an honest-to-God trial by fire experience, and Diablo’s has a history of punishing those who grow too cocky.
We do it for the rush!
There are a number of people who question why one would waste the time and effort to level up in a game-mode where dying ends the game for the character, forever. They question why you’d waste possibly hundreds of hours on something just for the “challenge”, citing many alternatives as more “challenging”.
What these people don’t understand is the feeling you get when you’ve just run into the biggest group of mobs in your characters career, they’ve whittled your health down to less than 5% and you’re banging your fingers as hard as you can on your WASD keys trying to frantically get away when you realise… you’ve made it back to town! But what’s this? You haven’t taken a breath in 2 minutes and your heart’s pounding so fast it feels like it’s about to explode.
That’s the adrenaline rush.
It’s the same feeling that an athlete might feel after a days race, having been overtaken and worn down numerous times but at the end they pushed and pushed until they achieved victory. The athlete put all their effort and willpower into overcoming the odds, overcoming their own previous achievements and they won. For many people it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
It’s an adrenaline rush, plain and simple, and this is just one reason why some people love hardcore modes in any game, not just Diablo.