The Most Suspenseful Gaming Moment I've Encountered Happened In Diablo III, And I Could Only Watch

A capable party of three was accidentally whittled down to one last night while playing Diablo III, an unfortunate event that predicated 10 minutes of tension and anxiety unparalleled in any other game I've played.

My level 14 Barbarian, accompanied by another Barbarian, level 16, and a level 17 Witch Doctor, were just about to enter the lair of The Butcher, one of the classic Diablo villains reimagined for the third entry in the series. I had already fought the boss several times on my Demon Hunter, so I wasn't worried about taking him down with a team of three. Sure, he'd be three times as powerful, but these were experienced players; this would be a cakewalk.

As our parted descended the steps to The Butcher's lair, the Witch Doctor announced that he had to stop by home base to empty his inventory. As he did that, the slightly higher level Barbarian initiated the boss fight. Doing so brought up a pop-up, asking if I wanted to join. Figuring we'd just wait for the other guy, I declined.

This left the other Barbarian alone with The Butcher; a version of the boss tailored to a party of three, all by himself.

Did I mention we were playing Hardcore Mode?

In Diablo III's Hardcore Mode, the player's character only has one life to live. If your hit points reach zero your character dies -- permanently.

Playing through Hardcore Mode normally is tense enough. At one point during the evening my screen flashed red (indicating severely low hit points) and I swear my heart started palpitating. It was only 14 levels, but the level of investment in this character -- this survivor -- was exponentially higher than that of a normal character with an infinite number of resurrections.

The Witch Doctor returned, but it was too late. We were locked out of the instance until either The Butcher or the Barbarian perished.

We sat there for 10 minutes, watching the Barbarian's health bar emptying and then filling again in rhythmic fashion. When it dipped precariously low we held our breath. When it filled again we urged him on. We knew he couldn't see our text; he couldn't afford to look.

"This is probably worse for us," my non-engaged companion commented. I agreed. If the Barbarian fell, I would feel personally responsible for the death of another player. What would I do? Would I immediately log out in shame? Would I send the Barbarian a friend request followed by a heartfelt apology? My mind raced.

Eight minutes in the Barbarian earned a trophy, and the two of us cheered -- until we realised it was the achievement for using healing wells 50 times. The Butcher's den features two conveniently placed healing wells. These are key to surviving the encounter, a fact our Barbarian friend seemed well-aware of.

The tension relaxed, but not much. Two minutes later, when the "quest complete" box flashed across all of our screens (we got credit for his kill), the feeling of relief was staggering. After congratulating my Barbarian hero for a job well done I excused myself, went outside, and lit up a cigarette.

Now my Hardcore Mode character sits idle. His sense of reckless barbaric abandon has been dampened somewhat by this experience. I'm sure it's only a temporary state of affairs. But the next time I step into those furry boots it'll be with a stronger-than-ever appreciation for my virtual life.


    LOL this is what i love about the game, the tension and suspense is incredible.

    Cool story bro.

    Not, it really was. That was great. I really like the idea of playing on Hardcore, but unfortunately the ping I get here in Australia is so woeful and prone to lagspikes that I just know he'd die a stupid, senseless death because it didn't register me hitting the Q key fast enough for the server to recognise it.

      Yeah same here, I really love the concept of hardcore but I've already had a few occasions in normal mode where I keep leashing endlessly back to the same location as monsters beat on me relentlessly until all my escapes and potions are gone, presuming they even fire off at all.

      I know that magical 200ms ping is possible here in Aus, and the game feels so much better when that ping bar turns green. Alas, no hardcore until that green bar is the rule and not the exception.

        I've been playing Hardcore here and it's been fine for me most of the time (I'm still in act 1 though, so it's not so scary yet...). Though the first time I died on my normal character was against regular mobs in a massive lag spike, so I'm just hoping it doesn't happen in Hardcore either :(

    Uh, minor spoilers? I guess it doesn't really matter at this point.

      Uh but yeah that was a cool story I guess. Hardcore mode is going to be fun, I can tell.

        Yeah, had a laugh as well even though I have yet to play.

    This is the sort of appeal you get from Dark Souls and apparently get from Dragon's Dogma - Always being on the edge of death can really give people an adrenaline rush, especially when that death means something.

    Now, the thrill of being on the edge of your seat as you get a disconnection notice while fighting The Butcher... less satisfying, more infuriating...


    My Hardcore mode- playing with the shitty lag on normal mode.

    A similar thing happened to me on the exact same fight. We had a group of four but somehow two others decided to decline (Morons) and the resultant fight was rather epic!

    Another point, I'm Australian and my lag was 427ms, and the American i was playing with had a lag of 347ms (playing in Tampa, wherever that is) so the lag issue is not just for Aussies....

    Why didn't you leave the game!? The minions get weaker if you leave.

    Lol smokers.

    Cool story. Liked this article

    ROFL!!!! scumbag hardcore friends -- stay in game & keep Butcher 3x more powerful

      Good point. If they'd just logged out he would've been facing a 100% powerful Butcher rather than 250%.

        haha so true, then again it probably made that guy feel even better...nothing better than going up against the odds and risking all and coming out on top...what a rush, though it feels bad when you risk all and fail, really bad.

    Wait - one guy does all the work, and evreyone else gets the benefits?

    What year IS this? Have we not evolved from this cheat-inducing game mechanic yet? Or just Blizzard?


      Did you not understand the part about the boss being harder?

    Top tip : you and the other dude should have left the game that would have reduced the boss back down to a normal 1 person lvl, just like when you die in hardcore its polite to leave the game immediately.

    Similar situation happened to me whilst fighting Belial for the first time. Took me nearly 10 min to down the boss by myself whilst tuned for 3 people.

    Instanced bosses....seriously!?

      It's instanced for exactly this reason - so a pop up comes and people can accept or decline the event.
      It stops one person starting the boss fight when other's are not ready.

      On another note, if someone declines the event, the people who accepted get a message confirming if the want to continue with less people or wait. It's your own fault if you fight a harder boss by yourself because you didn't read the pop up message...

    You guys should have figured out immediately that leaving the game would have made it exponentially easier for him to survive. What did you mean to accomplish with him staying? You could always kill him on your own later to catch up with him, staying to leech the quest off a friend who is fighting for his characters' life was absurd. Common sense isn't so common I guess. *sigh*

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