Hell Part One
With Nightmare finished, it was on to Hell difficulty and the greatest threats that the game could produce. By and large, we had coasted through most of D2's challenges so far, backed by high levels of Fissure and Tornado protected behind sturdy tanks and minions. I was most interested to see how we would fare once a large percentage of the enemies began showing up as Fire Immune. It was also going to be fun to see how long Jaffa and I would be able to post up against mobs and their vastly-increased damage output, or if the team would have to fall back on Teddy and the wolves. Probably more and more of the latter, I suspected.
The Blood Moor and Den of Evil didn't pose a major threat. They never do, barring some wacked out ubervariant. We did get to encounter our first immunities and three-ability bosses in Hell:
Cold/Lightning Enchanted still produces that strange "cold electricity" effect that can be dangerous, especially for melee characters. But Corpsefire is slow, very slow, and slow threats can be easily managed without much risk. We pinned him and T-Hawk got the kill with Fissure.
Now T-Hawk is one of our most aggressive players; over and over again I would find his character's distinctive red armor paired up with me on point duty. Maybe not the best place for a magely character with no fire resistance! However, T-Hawk skillfully managed threat after threat and rarely found himself in serious danger. That's why it was a bit of a surprise to see him cornered and taken down early in this session:
Cursed + Fire Enchanted = one bad boss for that character! It was a nice cautionary lesson that all of the enemies in Hell move much faster than on the lower difficulty levels, and cannot be taken lightly. Shadow's Molten Boulder did much of the work in this fight, the narrow bridge being a tough location to use Fissures or Tornadoes.
Bishibosh was the first enemy of note to turn up Fire Immune:
And yes, there was another boss in the area that turned up with Fanaticism aura, so we had to deal with that too! Fortunately, the shaman bosses aren't particularly dangerous outside of their resurrection capabilities. We tied up the Fallen with a mixture of Shockwave and summoned pets, then Namarie spammed Tornadoes in the boss' face until he died.
The rest of this first session in Hell was taken up with a very special battle, which you can read about at the link provided.
On the following week, the main goal was the Cain quest, which meant coping with this fellow:
Extra Strong, Extra Fast, Stone Skin - NOT what a melee character wants to see! With Stone Skin adding that Physical immunity, the mages had to do most of the killing. Good thing Treehead doesn't have much fire resistance...
Griswold's boss traits had him sparking all over the place and making it impossible to avoid being cursed. (If even a single Spirit Wolf was hit by a charged bolt, we would all instantly get cursed!) There was too much damage for me to get close, so I let Viking's Teddy distract the boss while the mages took him down. Lightning and Poison immunities - yay! Both irrelevant for this variant team.
As with any group, this druid team had its light moments as well...
It seemed like half the team ended up putting a point into Arctic Blast for prerequisite purposes, and every now and then felt compelled to show off with icy sprays of frost. Also note a rare picture of me in untransformed state, wearing the black armor and holding Bonesnap (unique maul).
There were a number of bosses in the Forgotten Tower (as usual), nothing overly dangerous though. The only screenshot I deemed worthy of saving was the fight against the Countess herself:
Her Fire Enchanted ability gave her fire immunity, but the same couldn't be said for her minions! A Fissure cast through the door is getting kills as we speak, while Teddy distracts the surviving enemies. All in all, a rather easy fight. Maybe if the Countess would actually LEAVE the room she spawns in, she might put up a better challenge...
Shockwave was a lifesaver against hordes of carvers down in one of the caves:
Then once they were all lined up like bowling pins, Shadow knocked them right down with those Boulders - ha!
I've always wondered why Bone Ash doesn't attract more attention as a serious boss. He spawns with five abilities in Hell (same as Kaa) and always turns up Magic Resistant, Extra Strong, and Cold Enchanted. I suppose it's due to the fact that a skeleton mage can't be made too dangerous, no matter how many abilities get added. If Blizzard had made Bone Ash a corrupted Rogue or archer boss instead, this might have been a real torture spot in D2...
Anyway, that's getting a bit far afield. Fire Immune or not, we crushed Bone Ash with our bear tandem and proceeded to squeeze the life out of him. In that picture above, we don't even have the full team paying attention! Things were pretty well under control.
The rest of the Catacombs were uneventful. I didn't even save a picture of the Pitspawn Fouldog fight, so it must have gone well! Andariel's huge size and weakness against fire just made her an easy target for Fissure and Boulder. She sprayed poison everywhere, turned us all green - and that was about it:
You can see her dropping junk in the picture above - spears and poleaxes, argh! The only one who could potentially use those things would be my werebear, and I was set for life with Bonesnap. With Act I completed, we packed up our things and headed east to Lut Gholein.
The Sewers saw rampant numbers of Fire Immune Burning Dead, so Namarie was in high demand when we ran the first quest. Once we had the enemies tied up in some way (pets, Shockwave, chilled, etc.) it was safe to dash in and unleash Tornadoes that would result in quick kills. When we ran into Lightning Enchanted or otherwise "interesting" foes, things became a little more difficult. Radament was handled without any problems, and I decided not to include the picture to save space.
Greater Mummies always made for an entertaining battle, such as here in the Halls of the Dead:
Dathon once again fell into the role of using Necromancer curses to help the team out of dangerous situations, such as Weaken employed here. The curse graphics added even more to the light show produced by our elemental spell effects.
A running fight against Beetleburst and crew out in the deserts. For minions that lacked the Extra Fast ability, these guys were speedy; they didn't stay put long enough for Fissure to get the easy kill. We worked our way through the encounter, but I think we had a death or two in the initial rush.
The Maggot Lair was not a very entertaining area:
The quarters were too cramped to get much use at all out of Fissure, and made the other attack spells tricky as well. (Boulder not working around the many twists and turns, Tornado requiring close contact which was difficult to enact.) With no Teleport or other such mobility skill, we kept getting in each other's way, so eventually we split the team into two parts and worked the level that way. I'm grouped with T-Hawk and Viking here, while dathon, Namarie, Shadow, and Jaffa were somewhere else in the level (Zed was absent at this particular point in time). Then the game plays another joke on us: halfway through level 2, the game crashes and wipes out all our progress! We would have to return later for the Staff, argh.
Now Fire Eye was the first boss to kill me in Nightmare, so I wanted to return and get revenge for that death in Hell. I would get that chance:
He and his minions refused to leave the central room (I really don't understand that AI programming...) so instead of charging in there and getting killed, I played it safe and helped guard the door, while other team members took him out in safety. Shadow's Boulder really worked well for this sort of situation, rolling through those narrow doors to explode on the monsters inside. As with most Fire Immune opponents, Namarie's Tornado did a huge amount of the overall damage.
Then it was on to the Arcane Sanctuary, one of my favorite parts of the game:
I saved the picture of the Summoner fight, which was pretty much a joke. Viking recast Teddy up on the platform, and he and Jaffa took down the sorcerer in about ten seconds. Out of the normal monsters, the Spectres and their Physical Immune + mana-draining capabilities proved to be the biggest danger. We had to lure them over "solid ground" as much as possible, where they could be taken out by Fissures. (Tornadoes do physical damage, and were thus useless.) The goats and vampires could be constrained by the terrain features of the Sanctuary, and thus didn't rise to the same threat level as the ghosts.
The False Tombs presented a variety of threats as always. I liked this picture best out of the ones I took:
Extra Strong, sparking pinhead with a huge club! Jaffa and I are both backing away from that mess, leaving the Spirit Wolves to hold the door (uh, good luck!) A Fissure cast into the next room is already getting in some hits, and will eventually result in most of the kills.
And then we faced Duriel... but whoops! I was away at a basketball game the night of the Duriel fight (sitting in town with no one behind the keyboard) so no pictures from this battle. My apologies. You'll get shots from the end-bosses in the upcoming acts, I promise!
On to Kurast and Act III.