Recently having picked up the 2016 action-RPG game Grim Dawn and progressing through the main gameplay, I decided to start over with a new challenge—Hardcore Mode. Available in many other games of the genre (particularly Diablo III and Torchlight II), “Hardcore” denotes a play-through where all progress is lost if the character dies even once. No restarts, no check-points, no helpful teammates can reverse this fate—once the character’s hit points drop to zero, it’s time to start the game over.

This is actually the first time in memory I’ve played a game on Hardcore mode, mainly because I’m usually not huge on extra challenges; I want to enjoy a game I’m playing, not see it as another source of stress. As someone who is competitive to an unfortunate degree, I also hate the idea of “losing” during an activity that is supposed to be fun and casual.

What prompted me to try Hardcore mode was that in my initial playthrough I managed to reach level 40 (out of 100) before I died for the first time, without doing anything special or particularly clever throughout to avoid taking damage. I was playing on “Veteran” mode, designed for people familiar with the ARPG genre, and I found that, as a character who summoned many pets and creatures to do my bidding, they were able to soak up almost all of the damage that was directed my way. In fact when describing the game to a friend, I laughed that if I struck a foe it would do ~30 damage while if one of my pets hit it they’d take 300.

After feeling that I had a fair grip on the mechanics of the game, and learning more about what certain talents/builds could accomplish, I decided to start over with the goal of making a one-shot run through the game. With starter equipment in hand (a barrel lid and rusted ax), I ventured out into the world, ready to make history. Sticking with the idea of a pet-based build—hopefully keeping me safely out of danger during combat—I’m opting to go the route of Shaman, whose powerful summons and aura abilities bring nature to life and strengthen it against the vile forces sweeping across the land.

I think it would be a real accomplishment to actually beat the game on Hardcore mode (as evidenced by the sheer number of achievements and in-game accolades for doing so), and maybe I can find a way to both relax and enjoy the added pressure of a no-death run.

To complete the irony I named my character “The Undying.” The main protagonist’s name isn’t mentioned much in my experience, but it’s still something that makes me chuckle.

Header image clipped from the main menu of Grim Dawn, a game by Crate Entertainment, as I created my new hardcore-mode character.