My Account
× My Account Media Forum Supporter Packs

Last Epoch Forums

Hardcore, Solo, Masochist

…or “how I learned to stop worrying, and love the death screen”

The worst words you can read in LE: “You died to a melee attack from a Skullen”. That heady combination of shame, embarrassment and frustration.

I somehow seem to have become hooked on the combination of Hardcore, solo and masochist, so whilst I’m waiting for the latest patch to download I thought I’d ramble some words into a forum post, so everyone else can laugh at my fumbling attempts to build a character that can survive and progress in this mode. And to provide some feedback on the experience to the devs, and identify if changes made to the base game render this mode absolutely unplayable. And if anyone else is considering it, maybe to put them off the whole idea.

The Basics

Hardcore = permadeath. One death and the character is gone, deleted, history.

Solo = no shared stash. So if the answer to a problem is ‘craft something’ then you’re probably out of luck, unless the RNG gods have been particularly generous. All you have to work with is what you’ve found so far.

Masochist = …well, the flavour text says something like “you do significantly less damage. Enemies do significantly more.” Some highly unscientific testing on unwilling Skullen leads me to believe your damage is halved, and enemy damage is doubled. So that’s a factor of four increase in difficulty, with no safety net. Fun times.

What’s it like to play?

At low levels it completely changes the feel of the game. Since every encounter is potentially the end of the game, it feels less like an ARPG and more like a hardcore run at an old-school RPG like Baldur’s gate. Thinking about what your build will be in 20 levels time is replaced by thinking about whether you’re still going to be alive in 20 seconds time. Any misclick or missed keystroke is probably Game Over, any slip in concentration is probably Game Over, inadvertently pulling a few more mobs than you intended is probably Game Over. Getting confident and cocky is probably Game Over. You get the idea.

At higher levels…how the hell should I know? I’ll come back and update this if I ever get to a higher level. My current record is 13, with an acolyte. I found the unique Hammer that gives you a +1 damage per level (can’t remember the name of the thing), got cocky, and within 20 seconds it was Game Over.

Are any classes better than others for this particular kind of idiocy?

Pets help. Pets help enormously. So do ranged attacks, so Acolyte is probably the best choice. You get the skeletons early, and whilst they are extremely squishy in this mode you can keep summoning a bony shield wall to keep the mobs off you whilst you hammer them with rip blood. It’ll only take 6 hits to kill a single Skullen…

Of course, pets may wander off and pull additional aggro, because they don’t know you’re playing masochist. Which is a downside. And generally leads to Game Over.

Primalist is also good, firstly for the pets, and you can drop totems for extra damage, and you get a click-heal at level 5…but ultimately you’re going to end up in melee, which increases the odds of being hit by a couple of attacks at once. Which tends to be…Game Over.

Mage…I’m just about to give it another go. So far, I haven’t managed to get beyond the tutorial levels. Seriously, four Skullen can spoil your whole day at level 1 or 2.

Sentinel…don’t ask me about Sentinel. I can’t play the damned class without dying all the time at low level on normal modes, so I haven’t even tried. (Disclaimer: as this statement makes clear, I’m crap at the game anyway)

So in summary, why are you even doing this?

I’m really enjoying the change of pace, I’m not worried about whether my build is ‘optimum’ in any way, shape or form, and every combat survived feels like an actual victory, rather than a speedbump on the way to endgame. Finding a good piece of gear at level 2 or 3 can literally make the difference between success and Game Over, Again. It’s frustrating as hell, but for a bunch of different reasons.

And because I just might get beyond level 13 this time. Yeah, this time. This’ll be the one, I can feel it in my water.

“This is how your story ends, Traveler. Despair, or begin again”


That sounds AWESOME!

We need a challenge league out of this.

1 Like

Mage still not great :slight_smile:


Yup - I got as far as the bird-things (apologies to whoever writes the lore, I just can’t remember what they are called) by (a) running away from the Skrullen, pausing occasionally to hit them with lightning from extreme range and (b) getting a couple of drops which had dodge chance on them.

The first pair of the bigger birds did a right number on me, though. Gonna try again, repeating the whole ‘running away’ approach.

1 Like

This weekend, I’m going to try and make a SMHC character and take the challenge :smiley: Wish me luck!

1 Like

That was fun to read, good luck on your adventure, also to @SlaserX. I’m tempted to try Sentinel this way. :slight_smile:


This is absolutely my favorite way to play the game. I can’t wait for them to have a challenge for this mode.

1 Like

So I tried Sentinel, the first 5 minutes were the hardest, at level 4 found it manageable (actually thought this was easier than I thought), after Hammerthrow was available to get rid of those bird thingies, found a nice 2H to use with whirlwind (read: already getting cocky after 10 minutes), ran around a corner to get blasted into oblivion by a fire attack from one of these bird thingies. So, first lesson learned: always go with shield in hardcore. :smile:
I never play hc btw. But this is really fun, the joy when you find a white item belt with 3 slots after that pesky start with those skullen packs…amazing.


I’m loving this, so much fun. Trying as Sentinel!

Edit: Got bopped from 80% life in a single shot at lv13

RIP TerrifiedMasochist

That does indeed sound like a fun break from grinding. It was a great read :slight_smile:

Glad to see I’m not the only one enjoying the suffering that is H/S/M. :smiley:

I’ve decided to layer another level of complexity on the experience, because, lets face it, too hard is not hard enough. I’m currently (trying) to level one of each class. I’ll try to keep them advanced to roughly the same level, which means I’ll end up (re)playing the ‘harder’ classes a lot more.

I’m telling myself this is so I can give class-focused feedback to the devs. Yeah, that’s the reason. It’s not just so I can die, again and again, in a bunch of different ways, when I forget which class I’m playing, or that, yes, on my acolyte that key would have summoned a golem into the middle of that horde of void leeches, but on the primalist, which I’m currently playing, that same key just jumps me into the middle of them, does next to no damage, and leaves me only one way out…

I’ve now got everyone safely through the tutorial levels and into the council chambers. With a varying degree of gear. My latest, very-recently deceased primalist found 3 uniques in his short life. Others have nothing better than some blues. RNG is a big factor in how well things turn out. I’ve replayed the tutorial levels so many times that I can - mostly - be sure I can get through them on any class. Mostly. Venturing out into the archives has been a learning experience, though.

So here’s the scores so far:

(I should explain - in playing and replaying the intro levels, and working out which of the very low-level skills work in HSM, and which don’t, and during frequent breaks to lament the loss of another character, I’ve started imagining that the classes are actually members of a good old-fashioned adventuring party. The time-travel shenanigans means that they’ve all been split up into different timelines, and they’re pushing on in the hope that they’ll meet up with each other at some point.

Hey, adding a bit of pointless narrative helps me cope, ok? :stuck_out_tongue:

So they’ve got names, and I’ve appended a number to each of them to record how many times they’ve died to get to where they are… )

Acolyte - Ula Fey the Third

Currently feeling all smug-ass about being level 10. Chilling in the council chambers after running through the first levels of the archive. Got to the council chambers without too much difficulty, but then forgot - a couple of times - that stepping in the big glowy symbols, or standing in the path of purple stuff, isn’t good for ones’ health.

She’s learned that:

  • rip blood will get you through the first bunch of skullen. Engaging from extreme range is a good idea, as it gives you some time to deal damage before they get into range. The self-heal that comes with it, small as it is, also helps enormously.

  • Once you have skeletons, advance cautiously, hit whatever groups you see with Mark for Death, and send the skellies in to do the dirty work. Don’t wait for them to die before you resummon them - let them get to about half health, then just resummon them in the middle of the dogpile. You can use the ‘A’ key to attack, or just summon them on top of the mobs. Currently running with two warriors, two mages. Because any more advanced ‘build options’ are many levels away… Oh, and ‘display healthbars’ in the options menu is your new best friend.

  • Some mobs will still get through, or go around. Rip blood may kill them before they get to you, or keep you alive whilst they die. Or you can always run away, summoning skellies as you go. (the ability to summon new skellies to ‘bring back’ those that have run off to aggro distant mobs is one of the things that makes Acolyte a lot easier than Primalist)

  • Casters like the Archivists will target you with cold spells even whilst your skeletons are right in their faces stabbing them. Just keep watching the ground for the tells, and move. Don’t think you can tank those hits. You really can’t. Or if you do, that’ll be the point where all your skellies die and you’re left pretty much defenceless.

  • Getting the Golem at level 10 is a game changer. But don’t get over-confident. Or even ‘a tiny bit confident’. Or it’ll change the game to ‘game over’

Primalist - Arbain Bearwood the Third

After a positive start, he’s now back at the beginning wondering what the hell just happened. Had got to level 9, before being caught standing in a glowy-sigil in the archive. Looks like a pattern is emerging, doesn’t it?

He’s learned that:

  • One wolf isn’t as good as a practically infinite supply of accurately summonable skeletons, but it’s heaps better than zero wolves. Sic him onto the skullen, use the howl ability off cooldown, and just dodge/kite any that get past him till he can come back and finish them off for you. When he comes back. If he comes back. I’m sure he’ll come back eventually. Are we even sure it’s a wolf? Because it’s acting a lot like a beagle in a field full of interesting scent trails…

  • Thorn totems work ok as short-lived deployable DPS, which can be used at range and pull mobs together and distract them, whilst your wolf does its thing. Running out of mana becomes a possibility, though. It’s not a particularly exciting way to play, but it keeps you alive.

  • Getting a click-heal at level 5 helps a lot. Keeping that wolf alive is key to keeping yourself out of combat, and hence alive.

  • Fury leap is cool, and all, but wait till the wolf’s done most of the work, then just jump in to take the glory.

  • Don’t confuse the ‘deploy thorn totem’ button and the ‘fury leap’ button. Although it does make for some desperate comedy moments.

  • His job in the early pitched battles - the bird-guys before you get the shard, or all the voidforms attacking Erza just before the council chambers - is just to stay alive and drop totems. Let them and the wolf kill everything, whilst you run away. It’ll work, eventually. Pretty much every variation of ‘stand and fight like a man’ won’t.

Mage - Ellyn Llewellyn the Second

Level 7, and was badly in need of a sit-down and a cup of tea and a biscuit by the time he got to the council chambers.

Minions? Who needs minions? Well…everyone, really, in this mode. Absence of some kind of meat-shield makes things a lot harder. I’ve found mage to be one of the trickiest to get through the very early section, as just having lightning bolt means that you need to run away from the groups of skullen, pausing occasionally to blast the nearest one, until they’re down to a manageable number.

Once you have electric orb you’ve got a bit of crowd control - as long as you can aim it accurately enough. The level of pull that it exerts seems to be quite variable, but it is enough to keep the bears off you long enough to blast them with lightning. Snap Freeze is even better.

He’s learned that:

  • Discretion can be the better part of valour. There are a pair of Osprix warriors in a narrow section of the map just before the Osprix boss-fight. I ended up leaving them alone, as I couldn’t find any way to avoid being cremated by their fire attacks in the narrow area. Every variation of pulling them then running for more open ground had the same problem. Easier to just not start the fight in the first place, since there’s no real need to.

  • Pitched battles - especially the Osprix boss - are a real pain when you have no survivability and no source of fire-and-forget DPS. I was kiting in circles using the nova skill, trying to keep enough distance to avoid being damaged by the Osprix but still keep them in the damage range of the aura. And then the same with the Osprix boss. It took about 3 minutes just to wear his health down, which is probably the best contrast to ‘normal’ modes that I can give as an example.

  • If you’re going to spend a lot of time running away, anything that adds movement speed is useful. Also, at this point, anything that adds dodge. Survivability currently trumps damage.

Sentinel - Robert Hopliss the Second

Honestly, if I was counting every attempt it’d be more like “the seventh” by now.

“Hopeless Bob” finally got over his inability to survive Skullen, and is level 7 and looking like he might yet be a contender for the title of “not as useless as I thought”

Things he’s learned:

  • the combination of small hitboxes on Skullen, and a need to precisely point for the basic attack to hit said Skullen, makes the first level exponentially more frustrating than the other classes. Once you realise that’s the problem, though, you can kite them out into a long line and smack them down one at a time.

  • Once you have Hammer throw, it’ll feel like it’s going to be plain sailing.

  • Once you think it’s become plain sailing, it becomes Game Over.

  • Stun combines well with hammer throw.

  • Warpath gives you a means of doing damage during the pitched battles - so long as you’re careful, and also spend time running to let your health recover.

  • Use your potions now. No point ‘saving them for later’ if there isn’t going to be a later.

So Sentinel has gone from feeling like it’s going to be impossible at level 1, to maybe, possibly, feeling like it may be quite well suited to HSM. Time (and multiple deaths) will tell.

Rogue - Stabitha Pantsblossom the Nothingth.

Currently in a state of non-existence, presumably in some hypothetical time-limbo where she is sharpening her daggers, waxing her bowstring and trying not to sit in the Falcon-poop.

And EVERYONE has learned that anything with the ‘regenerates health’ property is an absolute pain in HSM at low levels.

As a complete change of pace, and to avoid the likelihood of ending up completely burned out, I also started a normal, SC game. After hours of HSM, it’s brilliant - you really do feel absolutely godlike, and it’s a recommended relief.

Just…don’t forget which one you’re playing, ok? And don’t play the SC one first, it really isn’t easy to manage the change of pace back to HSM… :smiley:


I have played for 3 hours so far yesterday, 6 characters died, was on good track with the last one before that mini-boss right before Council Chambers. Still Sentinel. I was going hard in with lunge and vengeance, Hammerthrow was too much of a hassle with the first “boss”. And was taking too much damage with whirlwind. All depends on the gear, of course.
You are absolutely right with the hitboxes on the skullen, never noticed it before, don’t know if it’s because sometimes you are just standing too close to it and just don’t hit it.

1 Like

Wow I’m feeling like a god making it to lv13 and to the surface. I swapped out of Hammer Throw and started using Erasing Strike when I took the “hammers spiral” node and immediately had huge regrets. Erasing Strike was really strong though, I recommend it. Mana costs are nuts though so Rebuke + mana regen + health regen is also amazing.

Going to try an Acolyte now, I have high hopes!

Edit: I’m glad I played Sentinel first because L O L Acolyte is a million times easier to start with. We’ll see how it feels (died to being AFK at lv6 making coffee) as I get further and things hit harder.



i read the thread so also got this a go :slight_smile:
I started pretty careful but after 1 hour my Acolyte managed it to reach “The Precipice”
She is lvl 10 now and 2 times it was already really close for “RIP”

Here is Part1:

I guess Part 2 will be shorter :wink:

Because of loot… dont forget the 2 chests in council chamber, in video @27:15


Acolyte was super strong for leveling up…until I hit that huge boss that spawns behind you around zone level 10. The second phase lightning line cast she uses legit 1-shot me. RIIIIIP.

Gotta be done for the weekend since I’m going away but I might try another Sentinel when I get back. Melee is extra spicy fun.


RIP Lvl11 Acolyte :stuck_out_tongue:
Armory was too much, maybe i should have played on more distance.
And of Course it was a Void Attack.

However, a short Part2…

1 Like

Gonna go to bed now, past 2 am, on my 10th character now, still rocking Sentinel. Level 19 and made it to the Sheltered Woods. Pheww. Was a very fun and tense evening. Best of luck to all of you.

1 Like

Tried my first char with Sentinel, used hammer throw for the range. DIed at level 5 to 2 fire bird dudes with the “Increased Damage” modifier, one fireball hit me for about 3/4 of my HP and stunned me, making me un-able to dodge the second one, RIP.

Seems EXTREMELY hard, but also a challenge that can be overcome by safe play/grinding levels. Should be fun to see how far you can get.


That was my problem with Hammerthrow as well. I’d really recommend Vengeance with Lunge (which I later replaced with Shield Rush), stack up fire protection first (or elemental) and after that void protection (almost had it on every item possible), doesn’t matter how crap the item itself is. It took me two hours before I made it into the Council Chambers, but right before the first “boss” encounter, where you are transported the first time, I ran out of potions, so I ran back to the traveller camp. I defeated the boss right before Sheltered Woods on my 3rd attempt, chickened out two times before that, ran back to the waypoint, really glad that you are not shut into a small arena once the fight starts. And while I found them almost dull in SC (or not that challenging), in this mode these really feel like boss fights. :slight_smile:
And I dreamt that my character died btw, not even joking. Was a tense evening as I mentioned. I will be really, really sad when my character dies. What have you done @Ula_Fey? :wink:

1 Like