Been a while since I updated the story of the Rogues, but I finally got around to sorting through my pictures of Hell Act One (it was almost 150 in total) and then writing them up into a coherent story. In any case, the Rogues had experienced rather a tough time in many parts of Nightmare, and we were about to be introduced to the much more difficult foes of Hell difficulty. Going into this venture for the first time, I was not at all looking forward to the added toughness. Nightmare had been challenge enough! But we didn't even have three dots yet (much less the desired four!) so on it was into the Blood Moor. "Evil Beware!" cried the Rogues. Oh yes, Diablo shall learn to fear the crippled variant team.
We had plenty of problems just getting through the Blood Moor. Nightmare had been tough, but it was still shocking just how many arrows were needed to kill even the weakest foes out on the Moor. The Fire Immune Fallens were no joke, and Quill Rat boss packs racked up quite a few kills on our first venture out into Hell. Losing so many bodies before even reaching the Den of Evil - this is not a good omen!
After a significant amount of time (I think it was more than an hour - seriously) we reached the Den of Evil. Corpsfire was one of the first bosses we encountered, and he definitely put some Rogues on the ground. The transition to Hell was... difficult. For me, it was shocking to see scenes like this pop up on my screen:
Oh my... Sirian, Mr. Ember himself, getting taken out by a zombie? Wow. I'm not posting this picture to poke fun at anyone, but just to emphasize how absoulutely BRUTAL out first few sessions of Hell were. Sirian had only died a TOTAL of maybe 4 or 5 times up to this point. So this was a sign that things were definitely not going to be easy going for the team as a whole, and our massive body count reflected that awkward transition as we moved our Rogues into Hell.
The other thing that was extremely tough to deal with was the fact that our rate of progress slowed to a crawl. It would take us an entire night just to clear the Cold Plains, then another night to clear out the Caves. The big problem was that all of the Fallen were Fire Immune (there goes all our Enchant damage), and their Shamans just kept reviving them endlessly. The Shaman revival range also seems to cover an enormous distance (certainly more than I remembered from D2 Classic). We slowly realized that the only way to deal with these situations was to freeze and shatter the bodies of the Fallen. With Svava being the only character with Glacial Spike, however, things were still slow going. Even worse were when we hit champ or boss packs of shamans, which could easily take 20-30 minutes to play through.
This would hardly be a summary of our journey through the game if I didn't take time here to explain our longest-running joke throughout Rogue Revival. Somewhere around this point in time, when every area was taking ages to clear out, Sirian started making cracks about how we would go through the next area "real quick" and take care of the monsters. Within a short period of time, saying that we would do anything "real quick" was enough to elicit groans from the entire team. Of course, for this very real, that phrase kept coming up all the time. It was particularly effective when used against foes like Bishibosh and crew:
This picture is the end result of roughly a half-hour's work. All of Bishibosh's Fallen cronies have been lured away and killed, then his own Shaman minions laboriously frozen and killed using Glacial Spike. Finally, the big guy himself was cornered with Knockback bows and taken down. We obviously needed to come up with a better strategy for dealing with Fire Immune monsters, and particularly ones that could be revived. As we played more, I would get better at freezing monsters, Sirian would start making heavy use of Frozen Orb, and some of the other Rogues would get used to kicking in their lightning where appropriate. The other big difference was a change in the composition of our team - but more on that in a minute.
We skipped running the Burial Grounds and Blood Raven initially because Jaffa was absent (and we didn't want to have to kill Raven twice). Therefore, the next area after clearing the Cold Plains and the Caves was the Dark Wood. The monster situation there was so bad that we needed to park some enemies just to kill the darned Carver Shamans and get some working room. Sirian took care of that for the team, and snapped these great pictures in the process:
Run away, Brave Sir Robin! Run awaaayyyyyy!
Those pictures do a great job of giving an impression of what we were dealing with on a nightly basis, just acres and acres of Carvers and their fellow brethren. We managed to kill Rakanishu by getting him stuck in one of the little cottages and then plugging him with arrows when he couldn't fight back. I took a picture, but all you could see was the building, so no real point in posting it. After advancing a little further along, we came across another mainstay of Act One:
Treehead was at least not Fire Immune, but his Extra Fast/Extra Strong combo made him one speedy son of a gun. The Cold Immune also made it impossible to chill him down to a proper speed, so the only way to deal with the situation was to have Teleport hot-keyed and ready to go at any second. I'm not sure if Alan is trying to tank for us there or not, but I don't think he could have held his ground for very long! I can't remember exactly, but I think this was a rather tough fight for us that resulted in several deaths.
Shortly after this night's session, we received word from Alan that he was going to have to leave our team for personal reasons. It was nothing bad (quite the opposite, actually) but we were still sorry to see him go. Alan was a great teammate all through Normal and Nightmare, and I hope he gets a chance to read this at some point in time. We soon had a request from ErickSinda to join the group, which was readily accepted, but Erick first had to catch up to Hell difficulty, which would take a little while to carry out.
So with a full team of seven for the moment, the Rogues headed back to the Burial Grounds to deal with Blood Raven:
She raised a gigantic army of undead, way more than we could handle, and the Rogues were forced to retreat back to a safe distance several times to deal with the minions. I'm not sure if there's a limit to have many zombies and skeletons Blood Raven can raise, but after we killed something like 50 of them, she stopped making more and the Rogues moved into to wail on their corrupt sister. From that point on, it was all over for Blood Raven, since we could do a lot more damage with our bows than she could with hers. It's clearly gangbang time in this picture, hehe.
Since I have a picture of us fighting Treehead, that should be a giveaway that we had already made it to the Tree of Inifuss. With everyone present this evening, the Rogues went on to deal with another quest and entered Tristram to find Cain. I can't remember how difficult the town was, but I think we actually had less trouble than in Nightmare, when half the team went clockwise and the other half started going counter-clockwise. That had been a big mistake. The one noteworthy fight that I have recorded in my pictures was with Griswold:
Hey, where IS Mr. Blacksmith, anyway? Jaffa has clearly laid the smack down with his Hydras, so much so that it's hard even to see the big guy! Griswold wasn't particuarly dangerous with his boss abilities (aside from Cursed, which of course he always has) and he isn't exactly the fastest monster in the world. But Magic Resistant/Stone Skin was very much a defensive combo, one that meant it was going to take literally forever to wear out his large hit point total. As a team, we easily emptied 10,000 arrows into him. Maybe significantly more than that, I wasn't exactly paying attention - but I do know I went through 2 full quivers when fighting Griswold. Anyway, the net effect of that was a lot of blood on the ground:
A LOT of blood on the ground! Svava is wading through a sea of it in that picture. Of all things, Griswold's body shattered upon death, heh.
The next couple areas we ran through were pretty uneventful. That's not to say they were easy, mind you, but nothing either outstandingly good or bad made them stand out. Unlike our great adventure with the Countess quest in Nightmare, things were routine here in Hell. Each floor in the Countess dungeon gets larger in Hell difficulty - which actually made things EASIER by giving us more room to work with. So while we still fought a good chunk of boss packs, they never wiped us out as badly as the first go-round in Nightmare. Countess was easily killed, and I don't have a picture of the battle. I think we got her from off-screen, actually.
A bit of a random picture here, but I think it illustrates the sort of slog the Rogues often went through. We're having all kinds of trouble here trying to kill a Blood Hawk nest! Lightning, Hydras - we're doing the best we can, but the thing just has too many hit points. And look at all the enemies we've already killed! Eventually, the thing just bred itself out and collapsed. All that work and therefore no experience - Rogue Revival often falls into a pattern along those lines.
Now this was a nasty customer. I believe this was an encounter on the Pit Level One as we were full-clearing it for a run on the second level in the next session. Multi-shot lightning-spitting boss with cold enchantment to boot. One body is already on the ground and more would follow. I believe we ran into this guy along with a second boss pack, but I can't recall exactly, other than remembering that it was a very rough fight. I have notes saved from all sessions after this point, so perhaps I will start being more coherent and less rambling in my thoughts.
Our goal for the next night's session after the one with the customer you see above was to clear the Pit Level Two; we had already reached up to the Outer Cloiser waypoint in the previous session. Well, we came out of the waypoint in the Cloister and the doodo hit the fan. Boss packs everywhere, absoutely no safe ground, situation totally out of control within minutes. By my count, there were SIX boss packs in the Outer Cloister (yes, just in those four rooms). Two Corrupted Rogue bosses, two shaman bosses, at least one Quill Rat boss, and a Skeleton Mage boss. The worst boss of all was Extra Strong/Might Aura, which Sirian got a picture of below:
That is literally the definition of a one-hit kill boss right there. Note that I have two bodies on the ground on the minimap (one is actually on the screen, heh) and more than that elsewhere. In fact, this was possibly the worst situation Svava ever found herself in. I just could not keep her alive! Lost more than six million experience from deaths even after picking up all bodies. Here's Svava running around naked while the other Rogues fight the baddies:
There's one of the shaman bosses (I again emphasize ONE of the bosses), and his Multiple Shot/Mana Burn/Holy Shock Aura isn't the best draw. Jaffa is firing away there (not sure who the other Rogue is), and I'm doing nothing since I have no gear and can't even get close to the bosses without dying. I resolved to try and avoid personal fiascoes like this again in the future (well, as much as one can in a game like this!)
More nasty boss fights followed in the Tamoe Highlands and on the Pit Level One (which we ended up almost full-clearing a second time before finding the Level Two entrance, argh!) But finally the Rogues assembled at the entrance to the deadly Level Two and prepared to go down the stairs. One of us (almost certain it was Cy) offered up this cheerful thought:
Nice to see how we always remain positive and upbeat, right?
So we head down into the Pit Level Two. Things start out looking good... Kill a few monsters, take a couple cautious steps forward... Then the MOBS show up in force. Tons of enemies, way more than we can handle. A couple Rogues manage to bail out of portals, I try to get to a portal, but get cutoff and surrounded by enemies, stunlocked, and then... well...
Most of the Rogues got killed down there. Just look at all those monsters! Where is the world is the safe ground to work with?! All attempts to work out some safe ground by re-entering the Pit proved to be failures. As a result, the Rogues had to give up on an area for the first time. Not that we weren't still planning to full-clear the Pit - just that we would have to do so on another night. It was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, made no better by the fact that we had to reroll a new map just to get our unrecoverable bodies back. Needless to say, with all the experience Svava lost this night, it did not exactly go down as one I wanted to remember.
At least we did manage to take out the Smith with everyone present after we had started anew on a fresh map from the Outer Cloister waypoint:
Smith wasn't all that dangerous while he was running around; we could have drawn much more deadly abilities than Fire/Cold Enchanted. He was taken down without too much of a problem. The one thing that I did make a note of was that his death explosion (which was both fire and cold) smacked so hard that it killed three Rogues. Wow. That certainly wasn't happened very often to us. 'Ware the big fellow when he's about to blow!
The next session would bring a fresh face onto the scene and see us take another crack at the dreaded Pit Level Two deathtrap.